Chua Enlai plays scientist and plastic surgeon Dr Arthur Loh in "Mixed Signals".
These days, with the increasing popularity of online dating apps, finding love can be just a “swipe right” away. But for tech noob Chua Enlai, who admits to finding even online shopping challenging, real-life interactions are the way to go.
During our chat with Enlai about his latest Channel 5 drama Mixed Signals last Tuesday (Nov 5), the actor told us he prefers finding love the old-fashioned way, much like Victor (Hon Kahoe), the protagonist of the 13-episode series based on Michael Chiang’s 1989 stage production of the same name. The drama centres on Victor and his search for the girl of his dreams, Vanda (Udaya Soundari), who ghosts him after they make a connection at a speed dating event.
And while Enlai, who plays scientist and plastic surgeon Dr Arthur Loh in the show, hasn’t tried speed dating first-hand, he’s no stranger to it. The 39-year-old tells us he's hosted a few mass speed dating events - think 500 singles looking for love in the same place - and has made quite a few observations along the way.
Victor (Hon Kahoe) and Vanda (Udaya Soundari) meet at a speed dating event.
Dating on steroids
Apart from the obvious benefits of speed dating like the increased efficiency (you get to meet plenty of singles in a short amount of time) and minimal awkward silence, there’s one major pro: there is little chance of getting scammed or catfished.
“I don’t do online shopping because every time I buy something that I like, it doesn’t look the same in real life and I’m scared my potential partner will also turn out like that. Hello, Meitu! Just look at anyone’s Instagram account. Does anyone look like how they do in real life? NO. But if you go speed dating, you see the real deal with no Meitu. And I can cover 20 dates in an hour,” he explained.
“The other thing that also makes me feel uncomfortable are face changing apps - how do you know that the person you are communicating with is showing his or her real face? Artificial intelligence technology can already mimic a human’s voice. You don’t know where this could lead!”
That’s certainly some food for thought for those considering dipping their toes in the world of online dating.
The actor went on to share with us the ins and outs of speed dating, as well as tips on navigating the scene (more on that later). Having helped so many singles break the ice at such events, surely he has given some thought to his own elevator pitch to impress his potential suitors - or so we thought.
“Oh gosh, no!” exclaimed Enlai, before muttering, “Hello, I am Enlai. I sleep at 4am every day. I drive. I live in the east, so if you live in Jurong or Yishun, sorry but it’s like you’re living in a different country. I don’t really snore but I talk in my sleep sometimes. And I don’t like online shopping so you’d have to go shopping with me.”
Erm, not the best way to sell yourself, but we’re sure he will be able to charm the socks off potential dates with his wit and comedic timing when the time comes.
Read on for Enlai’s unconventional – but practical – advice on speed dating.
1. Bring anti-bacterial wipes or hand sanitiser
“This is the OCD in me talking. I cannot deal with shaking 500 people’s hands. [Even if you only shake hands with one gender,] 250 is a lot of hands to shake, you know? You don’t know where those hands have been. This is why I cannot be the President. (Shudders)”
2. Don’t show up with an empty stomach
“Eat before you go so that your mind is not just thinking about the free food. Otherwise, you are going to keep thinking, ‘I want to eat the prawn fritters!’ They usually prepare quite a lot of food, much like a buffet spread, but you shouldn’t get distracted. It is not all about the free food.”
3. Dress appropriately (smart casual is a good gauge)
“A lot of Singaporean men wear very chin chai (make little effort) clothing. [I haven’t seen anyone go to the extent of turning up in] Bermuda shorts or slippers, but can you put in more effort? Grooming is a bit more difficult but you certainly have more control over what clothes you wear. And for the ladies, please tone it down. Sometimes, when I’m on stage and I look down, I think to myself that this is a bit much for a Sunday afternoon. They over-accessorise with one too many hair clips.”
4. Don’t get distracted and take every opportunity to get to know your dates
“There was a break [during the session] and suddenly this group of girls came up to me to take selfies instead of chatting with their prospective dates. I’m like, ‘Sure, but I think you should just pay attention to the guy you were talking to just now’? I just felt uncomfortable for the guys.”
5. Loosen up and have fun!
“Everyone is usually a bit tense and awkward at the start but you just have to relax and chill. Don’t be so self-conscious and too hard on yourself. Even if you don’t make a connection, just get up and try again. Don’t lose hope.”
Mixed Signals airs every Tuesday at 9.30pm on Channel 5. You can also watch the series on Toggle.