Anyone over 18 can join, but Bumble BFF’s main userbase is women from overseas or interstate.
It’s not entirely surprising. In Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey about 14 per cent of Millennials and Gen Z globally named their primary career goal as having different experiences, seeing new things, meeting new people and working abroad. Many quickly discover that while moving to a new city is shiny and exciting, making new friends as an adult can be hard.
Users upload a profile picture and write a bio. They list factoids such as whether they smoke, their relationship status, and by far most importantly, their astrological star-sign. Many also connect their Instagram to their profile.
“New to Sydney from UK,” writes Chloe, 22, an atheist Leo. “Enjoy being active, going for coffee, brunchin’ and always up for a good day/night out! Love the beach and music. A huge foodie and love finding new places to explore/travel! Needing friends to do this with!”
“I’m from the UK, just moved to Brisbane so looking to make friends ASAP!! I’m up for adventures, a chill and a face mask and also a night out … all in moderation! :)” writes Aimee, 29, a non-smoking, active Scorpio.
Jenny Dalgleish, 31, who works in digital media and marketing, found success on Bumble BFF when she moved to Sydney from Scotland in 2017.
“I love my husband dearly, but I really want to have like, my own friends. I wasn’t necessarily looking to make friends at work because work was work, so, I just thought, well I work in digital, it’s 2017, there must be some way to connect with people that isn’t a meet-up group,” she says.
Tinder wasn’t even a “thing” when she met her partner over nine years ago, so Bumble BFF was her first dive into the heady world of swiping apps.
She met up with three different women for in-person “dates”. Stephany, who moved to Sydney from the US, was one of them.
The duo embarked on weekly catch-ups, and within two months went on a gals’ weekend-away winery tour in the Hunter Valley. Stephany even flew to Scotland for Ms Dalgleish’s wedding.
Ms Dalgleish says while that initial meeting is harder as an adult, the thing that’s easier is “just maturity”.
“When you connect with someone, you just know. Sometimes when you’re younger, it’s probably whoever is fun in that moment, you gravitate towards. But when you get older you become more selective, you don’t need to have 100 friends, a couple of close ones is much more meaningful. So that pressure to have this big group and go out and say ‘yes’ to everything to keep that big group is less, because when you connect with someone, it’s more about the quality of the friendship,” she says.
People are often excited to learn how Ms Dalgleish and Stephany met.
“I had a bit of a hesitation about it at first, when people were like ‘how did you meet?’ like ‘ah yeah, I met my friend online’, but actually, everyone thinks it’s great,” she says.
“There’s less of that stigma around it these days, which is interesting when I initially thought, ‘Oh is this really embarrassing to have made a friend online’, but apparently, everyone thinks it’s really cool.”
Stacey Sharpe, who also 31 and Scottish, met her best friend and now roomate Cara, who is from the UK, on Bumble BFF.
Ms Sharpe came to Australia on a working holiday visa back in 2013 (“one day I just decided I was bored”) and made Melbourne her permanent home in 2015.
She thinks Australians are “friendly” and “welcoming”, but she decided to avoid Bumble BFF users from Melbourne because she thought they might already have more established social groups.
“The hard part when you come to a new country is that everyone has their friends already. The app was definitely the best way to make friends. I’ve made some friends at work, but I think the app, because you kind of know that they’re after the same thing, I found that the best way,” she says.
For their second “date”, Ms Sharpe and Cara hired a hotel room in Melbourne’s CBD and bonded over their shared love of a good night out.
They have since created their own Melbourne girl squad, which includes two others they met through a Facebook group, a couple of mates from Edinburgh and the UK, workmates, and a woman from New Zealand.
Jenny, Stephany, Stacey and Cara are all part of a growing cohort of overseas visitors aged 20 to 39 who make Australia home for a period of 12 months or more.
Just short of 500,000 people in this age bracket arrived in Australia in 1999-2003 (right around the Sydney Olympics); that number swelled to 974,000 in the next five years, then climbed to 1.55 million in 2009-2013, and hit 1.8 million in the five years until last year.
The top two reasons cited by this age group for coming to Australia have remained consistent: education and employment.
That’s a lot of people eager for ways to help ease their transition. And Bumble has been quick to cotton on to that opportunity by expanding into BFF territory.
Sure, many of Ms Sharpe’s “matches” didn’t go anywhere. And not everyone is as lucky to actually find “the one” via their smartphone.
But to anyone else in her situation, she advises to “just put yourself out there”.
“You’ve got nothing to lose.”