The number one goal of online dating is very simple, and it’s the same for everyone.
That goal is to arrange a date, and meet face to face in the real world.
One of my early mistakes (and one that I made far too often) was to spend too long communicating online. I would ask practically every question under the sun apart from the most important one: “would you like to meet up?”
It’s often the case that whilst chatting online you get on like a house on fire, but when it comes to the real world – there’s not even a single spark. You’ve then wasted precious time typing countless emails, time that could have been invested in someone else if only you had asked the question: “would you like to meet up?” a little sooner.
When Should You Ask for the First Date?
I really recommend pulling this question out of the bag sooner rather than later.
There are few advantages to waiting, but plenty of disadvantages.
You will of course need to find out if you share anything in common, and build a certain level of rapport before meeting in person, but this (in my humble opinion) should take no longer than three to four emails.
One of the most common reasons that people wait – is to find out more about the other person. But personally, I can find out 100 times more about someone during the first ten minutes of a date, than I would have found out in over a dozen emails.
I can understand that some people may feel uncomfortable meeting a stranger from a dating site, especially if you’re an online dating virgin. In this case, it’s best to take as long as you need until your instinct tells you that you are ready to meet. And if you are the person asking, and your recipient expresses reservations about meeting, don’t apply too much pressure. Instead put yourself in their shoes and let them know that you are happy to wait until they are ready (within reason).
I found that using the approach of asking for a date after three to four emails usually resulted in: 60% of the people I asked saying yes, 20% telling me they were not yet ready, 10% ignoring the question, and another 10% I would never hear from again.
I’ve also tried asking after just one email. The yes replies were reduced to only 10% and a valuable lesson was learned, don’t be too quick out of the blocks!
If they politely decline and say that they are not yet ready, then this is perfectly fair. I would then usually ask again after two or three more rapport building emails, but never more than three times; this for me is stalking territory. If they continue to say no, then politely tell them you joined the dating site to meet a partner; and as much as you have enjoyed your conversations, they don’t appear to be progressing to a date.
You must remember that it’s important to spend your time getting to know people who are willing to take the next step. Online dating sites are not meant for finding pen pals.
What About a Phone Call First?
Phone calls are tricky because this often means revealing your number to someone that you don’t know very well. You can maintain your anonymity by using Skype or Google Talk, but personally I find the quality sometimes makes the conversation difficult, especially if you are not used to each other’s accents.
So I prefer to avoid the phone call and skip straight to a face-to-face meeting. Only if the other person insists on talking over the phone, and I feel like we have lots in common, will I then make an exception to this rule.
But again, the main goal is still to meet up in person. So if you do chat on the phone, and it goes well, then make arrangements to meet before your phone bill sky rockets.
How Long Should the First Date Last?
Try to keep your first date short. The benefit to a short date is that if you don’t like each other, you won’t have to sit through a three-course meal together, and nor will you have to pay for it. If you do click, then you can easily extend the date, or plan something longer for next time. Finding out about one another in small bites is also a lot more appetizing.
Almost everyone that I know who has dated online, prefers to keep the first date short and sweet. But many also like to make up an excuse, as to why they can only spare an hour of their time. Personally I prefer to be honest. Just tell them directly that you think an hour would be plenty of time for your first rendezvous, and 99% of the time they will be of the same opinion.
I once happened to work very close to one girl I met online. So I suggested we meet up over our lunch breaks. This was ideal since we both really did only have one hour to spare. It also felt a lot more casual and relaxed since we had not spent hours getting ourselves ready and let the nerves play havoc with our minds.
First Date Locations
Your first date is all about getting to know each other. If your chosen location is so loud that you can’t hear one another talk, or there are so many distractions that you can’t keep a conversation going without interruption, then it’s unlikely that you will learn much about one another.
Loud bars and cinemas are always a first date killer, and sporting events are best kept for a second or third date. Your home is not an ideal location, since it can be risky with someone that you don’t yet know so well.
Coffee shops, restaurants, parks (not secluded), pubs and bars (if they’re not too loud), all provide a good place to meet where you can focus on each other.
If you decide on a dinner date, then try to pick somewhere that you know your date will like, and with a menu that offers both meat and vegetarian dishes. Although your favourite dish might be a 500g rump steak, it doesn’t mean that it will be theirs.
Whilst living in Stuttgart my favourite location to meet a first date was always the city park, called the Schlossgarten (castle gardens in English).
As well as being an exceptionally beatifically location, it was also very peaceful; and the only distractions were the flowers, fountains, and ducks swimming on the water. It also offered plenty of seating areas, and didn’t leave a hole in my wallet. But in the winter months when the temperature could drop down to -20 degrees, I preferred a nice quiet cafe for coffee and cake.
First Date Etiquette
If you want to increase your chances of a second date; then there are some simple first date etiquette rules that you should follow. They are:
1. Make an effort
Making an effort is a clear sign that you care, and want to leave a positive impression. Your first date should definitely be void of bad personal hygiene, dirty clothes, and a face that hasn’t seen a razor blade in the last week.
Try to dress for the location. A flash restaurant will require a different outfit to a walk in the park. And jogging trousers are most definitely not appropriate, even for the park!
Bad manners are a real turn off. So make the effort to arrive on time and if you are going to be late, let your date know. Turn your phone off when you arrive, and guys definitely keep your eyes focused on their face, not their cleavage. And for the ladies, please don’t display ample amounts of bosom on the first date; it really does make it challenging for us guys to concentrate.
If your behaviour takes a turn for the worst when intoxicated, then go easy on the alcoholic beverages.
2. Be kind
You may discover that after meeting the person in the flesh for the first time, that you’re not actually attracted to them. But that’s not an open door to be rude and hurt the other person’s feelings.
So treat your date exactly like you would want to be treated yourself. Be kind and leave a positive impression, even if you will never see them again.
3. Leave your baggage at home
You only want to bring good positive energy to your first date, this means leaving your problems – no matter how large – at home.
Now is not the right time to talk about ex partners, debt, or your boss that you would like to string up. Just like with a job interview, you want to sell your strongest points, not your weakest.
If however you are asked a question like: “have you ever been married?” Then give a truthful answer, but leave out the gory details.
4. Be yourself
It’s important that you bring the real you to the date, and not somebody that you think they will like more. You want this person to be attracted to you, not your favourite actor or best friend who is always inundated with date proposals. Your goal is to find someone who likes you, simply because you are, you.
5. Be a good listener
The saying: “everyone loves a good listener” is very true. So make sure your ears are wide open and pointing in the right direction before you sit down. If you like to talk that’s great, but try to allow the conversation to flow both ways.
It’s important that each person has the opportunity to learn about the other. So listen tentatively, and respond appropriately.
6. Don’t judge too quickly
We all know the saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover” but how many of us continue to do this?
First impressions can often be misleading, especially when first date nerves can play havoc with one’s true personality. It may often take more than one date before the real person starts to shine.
If you are too picky and have a check list of deal-breakers, you might just be missing out on something wonderful.
It once took me ten dates before I realized how great somebody was. I’m very glad that I didn’t judge too soon and walk away after only the first date.
How to End the Date
Probably the most awkward time of the date (besides the initial meet and greet) is the end.
By this time you will be thinking one of three things:
1. I’d love too see them again
2. What a waste of my time
3. I’m still not sure
If it’s number one, and you feel like they have enjoyed your company too, then there’s no time like to present to suggest a second date. Simply say something like: “Next time we’ll have to make it a little longer”. It tells them that you’ve had a good time and opens the door for a second date, but without putting the pressure on them to agree; as unlike you, they might not be so sure. There’s no need to arrange a time and place there and then, but do follow up with them the next day.
If it’s number two, and you are 100% sure that it could never work for you, then politely say so. Don’t promise a second date if you have no intention of making one. If you can’t tell them there and then, then tell them the next day at the very latest.
If it’s number three, and you are not yet sure how you feel about a second date. Then simply end the date by saying something like: “I’ve had a really nice time getting to know you better”. Leave it at that and say your goodbyes. But don’t dwell on it for too long. Try and decide by the end of the next day whether you want a second date or not, and let them know.
Whatever you do, don’t play any immature waiting games. Three day waiting rules are for kids. As soon as you know how you feel, say so.
If your main concern is paying the bill at the end of the date guys, then you should have opted for coffee instead. But if you have gone out to dinner, then personally I prefer to pay and not make a big deal out of it.
What about a hug or kiss goodbye? Well, it depends on the culture of the country you are in, and also on you as a person. In Germany a light embrace and a kiss on each cheek is very common, but in England I would never do this after a first date. If it feels right, then a quick hug is often a nice way to say goodbye. But if you’re not very confident in yourself or the situation, then it’s best just to stick with words for now.
I hope you have found some value in my words. If you have, please say yes by liking and tweeting my buttons below. And if have your own opinion or story to share, you can also add your comments below.
All that’s left to say is: “Have a great first date!”