These couples met online, but not on dating apps

PHOTO: Nur Atiqah Mazlan and Mohd Afandi Mat Saat.

When people think about meeting a partner online, it's the usual laundry list of dating apps and matchmaking sites that come to mind. But given the multitude of services and communication tools online, it's not surprising that there are couples connecting through other means.

For Nur Atiqah Mazlan, 30, and Mohd Afandi Mat Saat, 32, it was GrabFood that brought them together - though Atiqah pointed out that ­technically, they first crossed paths while working for competitor UberEats.

In April 2018, they bumped into each other three times in a day around Kuala Lumpur -first while delivering food to a condominium in Segambut, then while waiting at a riders' pit-stop, and in the evening while picking up food in Bangsar.

"It felt like a sign," she said, though they didn't make a connection beyond ­trading polite ­greetings.

However, UberEats ceased ­operations in Malaysia ­shortly thereafter, prompting them to switch to GrabFood. By coincidence, they were added into the same work chat group by the Grab administrators.

In the group, Afandi posted about getting into an accident but not ­wanting to go to the hospital due to his fear of getting stitched up and being rendered unable to work.

Atiqah reached out to him ­privately, meaning to scold him for such ­reckless behaviour, but then noticed his profile photo seemed familiar. Remembering the time they met before, the two started chatting and hit it off.

Being busy riders, the couple didn't have time to go to the movies or ­karaoke like other couples, instead making time to hang out at the same pit-stops to chat between food orders.

"I wasn't looking to find a partner, I just wanted to work. While some of the riders (can be) quite naughty, being married but still wanting to get to know me, he's the one that really looked out for me," she revealed, ­adding that some of the other riders also poked fun of them for being a cute couple.

After getting to know each other for two months, the couple decided to take the plunge and got engaged last August. They also set a target for each partner to raise RM5,000 in five months for their wedding, but ended up exceeding their goal.

Though both admit to being workaholics, they did take time off for their honeymoon, going to Langkawi for four days and three nights. Part of the money raised also went to their pre-wedding photoshoot. As a nod to how they met, Atiqah chose to go with green-hued wedding outfits.

When their wedding photographer found out about their meet cute, he suggested they take it one step further and use their GrabFood delivery bags and motorcycles as props. Now married, Atiqah has slowed down on her deliveries, taking more days off, though Affandi continues to ride full time.

Eris Choo decided to meet Neil Mogol, whom she met on language app HelloTalk, while on holiday to his hometown of Manilla, the Philippines.Photo: Eris Choo

While most couples usually get their start from having something like work in common, for others, sometimes it's the differences that pull them together.

Kuala Lumpur gal Eris Choo wanted to learn Tagalog due to her love of Filipino culture, while Manila boy Neil Mogol was looking to sharpen his English and meet new friends.

In 2016, the two met on language app HelloTalk, which connects native speakers from around the world to people wanting to learn new ­languages. The app aims to teach through conversation rather than ­listening and repeating prerecorded words and book-based learning.

Planning to travel to the Philippines for a holiday, Choo made an impulsive choice to meet up with Mogol. "The fact that I was also going to meet friends in Manila emboldened me, because I knew they'd have my back if I needed help or if he turned out to be a psychopath," she said with a laugh.

Upon meeting, Choo found Mogol to be true to how he was in their chats and messages. "So at least I wasn't being catfished!" she half-joked. After getting to know each other for a few more months, the two decided to commit to a relationship.

"He often jokes about Jerry Maguire's 'You had me at hello' phrase. He said he had me at kamusta (Tagalog for hello), which is what he sent in his first message to me on HelloTalk," she recalled.

She likes that they met over HelloTalk, rather than any of the usual dating apps like Tinder, Badoo or Coffee Meets Bagel.

"To my understanding, the app has security measures in place to prevent abuse. They ban you if other users report threatening or lewd ­behaviour, and you're discouraged from sharing personal details such as phone ­numbers or emails, so most if not all of your interactions will be through the app where things are monitored," explained Choo.

She admits to using dating apps before, though she warns there are a lot of odd people on dating apps, with some only looking for hook ups while others send unsolicited explicit pics.

"I have met people on dating apps who later became friends, so it boils down to luck and your ability to filter out people with less-than-decent ­intentions. Which is the same in real life," she says.

Asked how her friends and family reacted to her meeting someone online, she says they were accepting, ­especially after meeting Mogol a ­couple of times. "Maybe it's because I'm getting old/older and they want me to get hitched ASAP," said the 28-year-old, whose ­partner is 32.

She believes this generation already does a lot of communicating through the Internet, thus connections made online feel like the norm and that ­people are more comfortable with ­talking to strangers than they were, say, 20-30 years ago. "Back then you had pen pals, now you have chatrooms and streaming services," she reasoned.

She warns that it is a double-edged sword: on the one hand you get to 'meet' amazing people from around the world, but there are also a lot of ­dubious characters using these ­platforms to find victims.

Though the couple no longer use HelloTalk, they still depend on the Internet - in this case Skype and social media - to stay in touch while in a long distance relationship (LDR).

Nadhirah Zamani met Shayiful Mohd Eusoff through Vine, and decided to get together after meeting him in person and seeing his IRL personality.Photo: Nadirah Zamani

For local YouTube star Nadhirah Zamani, finding out a person's real life personality differed from their online one was what drew her to Singaporean social media personality Shayiful Mohd Eusoff.

The two met on Twitter's six-second video hosting service Vine and then started collaborating on videos. As the two were then based in different ­countries, they would film separately then edit the footage together.

"At that time we were just normal online friends that discussed ­videos, until Epul (Shayiful's nickname) ­decided to come to Malaysia to meet all the Malaysian Viners," said Nadhirah.

She added that was how she learnt of his authentic personality: shy, polite, ­family-oriented and humble in contrast to his boisterous online persona. "This got me interested in wanting to know the actual him more," she said.

Like her, Nadhirah's friends and family were quite shocked at their ­pairing, judging from just his videos.

"When they all met Epul, they ­drastically changed their perspective towards him. Friends and family became more welcoming and were convinced that he's not the type of guy that they thought he was," she recalled.

Asked how she felt about Vine being shut down, she says it isn't a big deal as they smoothly migrated to YouTube and Instagram, where some fans had even uploaded compilations of the ­couple's Vines together.

Nadhirah believes this generation is more comfortable with connections made online, as they can be more ­verbal and bold behind screens ­compared to the real world, though that isn't necessarily a good thing.

"If I didn't meet Epul face to face, we would never have gotten together due to not knowing his real personality. Imagine if it were the either way round and the person you thought was ­trustworthy turned out to be hiding evil intentions," she said, warning those considering finding love online to be wary.

Having been together since 2014, the 26-year-olds got married on Aug 18 last year.

Though they usually post most of their lives online due to their ­profession, they decided to keep the wedding location and date private to keep it more ­intimate. She adds they happily shared the news and videos online after.

"A certain lack of ­privacy is part of being in the public eye, you can either accept it or leave it all behind for the sake of your mental health. As for me, it took some time to get used to it," she said.

"Some things are better left private such as your current location, images of your home's exterior, relationship problems and sensitive ­topics such as religion and political issues," advised Nadhirah.