My round-the-world adventure finding tips to turn Britain into better daters
Back in May, I was picked by match.com from more than 750 applicants to take on its role of Date Explorer; a job which involves travelling the globe to investigate other dating cultures and picking up tips for British singles. Since early June, I’ve been doing my dream job: dating all over the world and soaking up new singles cultures. And now I’m back on home turf, I can finally share everything I’ve learnt. I’ve travelled to some of the best destinations across the globe and met amazing people along the way. My journey started in New York and followed through to Rio De Janeiro, Rome, Paris and Stockholm. In each country I learned something new which completely changed my perspective about dating. Before I was given this once in a lifetime opportunity, my opinion on dating was very old-fashioned and like most Brits, I believed that dating should be taken very seriously – but now? Let’s just say that that’s all changed…
Ahh, the dating scene in NYC. It’s a veritable jungle of beautiful, educated and driven young professionals. The best of the best from all over the globe and from all walks of life. The boroughs are all so close to one another that you can go on a different date every night or, like some singles that I met, even go on up to 3 in one night! In case you didn’t already know, New Yorkers like a drink. It’s a party town, so first dates are almost always over a few cocktails. As you can see, the dating scene in New York is fast paced with very little in the way of expectations or preconceptions, and it completely changed my perspective on dating. My thoughts before heading to The Big Apple were very old-fashioned and I believed that dating should be taken very seriously. You know, the whole dress and heels dinner date, and followed with a string of texts which then leads onto a relationship. But now, I look back and ask myself what on earth I was thinking?! New York taught me that dating should be fun and not taken so seriously. When you’re going on a first date, scrap the dinner – head out for some drinks and get the conversation rolling in a fun environment. I think dinner dates can make things a bit too serious for a first date. First date outfits in New York for women fit into the “I look casual but really it took me 2 hours to get ready” bracket. Casual outfits for a first date are a must, with natural makeup to match. Women are a lot more expressive than men (surprise surprise!) but also come across confident and independent. On a first date people love to discuss their hobbies, travelling and talk about family and what they do for a living. Around 85% of the time the guy will offer to pay, but women do not shy away from showing that they’re independent and don’t need a man to pay their way so will always (at the very least) offer to go dutch.
Top 5 places to go on a date in NYC:
- The High Line – this place is great to walk on, and gives a nice romantic view of the city. It’s a large walking area with iconic views that has been made out of a disused stretch of railway line.
- Rooftops – Rooftops are a big thing in New York. They have fantastic views of the city and always have a great atmosphere with music playing all night.
- Happy Hour Bars – The most popular thing to do on a date in the Big Apple is to hit a bar for Happy Hour. It’s a great environment to get to know somebody and… it’s cheap!
- Central Park – Beautiful views for a romantic date.
- Coffee Shops – When you think of dating in New York you probably think of Starbucks or a coffee shop. Coffee shop dates are a great way to meet with someone on your lunch break and see if there’s a spark!
Top bars to go to in New York on a date:
- VU rooftop bar
- The Raines Law Room
- Soft Spot
- Boat Bar
Top Dating Tips, New York:
- Happy Hour for first dates – Happy Hour is perfect for a first date. It’s cheap, cheerful and lowers the expectations.
- Never date on the weekend, weekends are for friends – In NY, weekends are for friends. Instead of waiting for the weekend to come around – make your date more casual by meeting up after work on weekdays.
- Dress casual – First dates don’t have to be about dressing in your best suit/dress to impress the person you’re seeing. The more comfortable you feel, the more confident you’ll feel.
- Have more realistic expectations – When you go into a date with the expectations that the person you’re going to meet is the potential “one” then you’re setting yourself up for a fall before it’s already began. Chill out – don’t expect too much.
- Don’t take dating so seriously – Dating should be fun, not a chore.
Rio de Janeiro
If you’re expecting Brazilians to be hopeless romantics who set up candlelit dinners on the beach and samba dance into the sunset then you couldn’t be any more wrong. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Brazilians take “laid back” to a whole new level. Dating in Rio is very chilled, similar to New York, but they’ve gone that extra step further. Unlike in the UK, dating in Brazil is very last minute. There are rarely any plans set out days before a date and things tend to be very impromptu. Also, don’t be surprised if you’re invited out to date in a group. ‘Crowd Dating’ is a very normal thing in Rio De Janeiro. For example, a guy might invite you out for Happy Hour and his friends will just join in with the night. It sounds bizarre, but it’s actually a great approach to breaking the ice and avoiding any awkward silence. Before you know it, you’re speaking with his friends about why your parents wouldn’t let you out to a concert when you were 16, or your favourite movie as a kid. Throughout the evening you’re bouncing back in conversation with your date and their friends while enjoying the atmosphere and good vibes. Another thing… Brazilians aren’t shy to compliment a woman. It can be a bit overbearing if you ask me, but may be that’s because I’m British and the thought of a guy complimenting me all night is seems little OTT. On that note, ‘PDA’ (Public Displays of Affection) is very much a thing here. Before my Date Explorer trip, PDA would make me feel uncomfortable and awkward, but now – hey, I’ve seen it so much that it’s made me question why Brits think that it’s so unnecessary? Ok, I get the whole “leave it for the bedroom” thing, but we women like to be shown off to the world and being placed on a pedestal, so don’t shy away from showing how you really feel once you feel comfortable with one another. If something as small as holding hands walking down the street boosts her confidence that extra bit? Then heck! Be more like the Brazilians! As I mentioned before, Brazilians are super laid-back, and so are their outfits. More than 50% of people take less than half an hour to get ready for a date, but they still manage to look great! On a first date a casual ‘day-to-night’ dress is a must have for ladies and jeans or shorts with a t-shirt is a normal outfit for the guys. Hobbies and families are always topics of discussion on a date, while people will do anything to stay away from talking politics.
Top 5 places to go on a date in Brazil:
- Yumê – very romantic Japanese restaurant, with an open sky view and a nice aquarium on the floor. Located in a charming neighbourhood.
- Aprazível – The restaurant is located in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood. There are many reasons to visit this restaurant: the view of Guanabara Bay, the poetic evening, the leafy trees (refreshing in summer and protective in the winter), the cosy environments and the music in the background that make the trip to the restaurant a true sensory experience.
- Bar D’Hotel – The Bar D’Hotel was the first modern bistro in Rio de Janeiro. With a retro-modern decor and an innovative and classy atmosphere, it’s decorated with antique objects from all over the world. The atmosphere is bursting with beautiful and interesting people topped off with a nice view of the Leblon Beach.
- Vizta – Offering impressive views of Leblon beach and Vidigal, here you can also feed the soul. Privileged by its location on the second floor of the Marina Palace Hotel, the Vizta has come up with a wine-friendly proposal, where people can taste a good wine and experience a contemporary and unique cuisine.
- Palaphita Kitch – With a gorgeous view of a beautiful lagoon in the moonlight, this is an place to cuddle up with someone you like, with some blankets to beat the cold and very nice food and drinks.
Top Dating Tips, Brazil:
- Crowd Date – This is a cool way to break the ice on a date. Introducing your friends lets your date get to know more about you in a fun environment!
- Be more open-minded – Brits tend to be quite set in our ways. We need to be more laid-back and be open to more suggestions.
- Don’t be embarrassed to express yourself – Around the world expressing how you feel is second nature. Stop holding back what you’re thinking and say it! (if it’s appropriate, of course!)
- Happy Hour for first dates – Happy Hour is perfect for a first date. It’s cheap, cheerful and lowers the expectations.
- Never go for dinner on a first date – Dinner dates are so 1900’s. Drinks are the new thing.
Rome, the city of impeccable style, good food and sweet nothings. Many have tried and failed to mimic the Italians approach to dating that sweeps women off their feet but can’t figure out what these Romeos on Vespas do to make their dates swoon. Two things: listening and style. Nobody dresses better than Italians. Love it or hate it, it’s the truth, and we women appreciate a well-groomed man. Before you meet your date, make sure that you’re looking the part, because when you look good, you feel good – it’s human science. Unlike the other countries I’ve visited, Italians are the only men who admitted they take longer than half an hour to get ready for a date (on average they spend between one hour and 90 minutes getting ready for their dates). First impressions are everything, and I think all men should have this attitude! The Italians listen and absorb information about the people they’re dating. I mean, really listen – not just pretend and nod along. They take an interest in really getting to know someone and hang on their every word. Italians have an old soul when it comes to dating and the man will always pay, no matter what. Italians are very family orientated and love to speak with their dates about their family (and even their future aspirations to have one!) on a first date.
Top 5 places to go on a date in Rome:
- Villa Borghese – The most central park in the city, it contains the beautiful Borghese Gallery and museum. The villa has large green areas with stunning gardens and fountains
- Villa Torlonia – A typical Italian park with art nouveau buildings as well as Villino Rosso and the famous Casina Delle Civette.
- Ponte Milvio – This area of the Eternal City is very trendy, fashionable and elegant. It is also where the majority of nightlife is in the north of the city.
- Monti – The Monti district is one of the most beautiful areas of the city with its bohemian style and artistic philosophy.
- Trinity College – Irish themed pub with live DJ’s – you don’t always have to be a culture vulture!
Top Dating Tips, Rome:
- Dress to impress – When you look good, you feel good. Simple!
- Be patient – Being impatient is a big no-no in my books. You’re not a child, stop throwing your toys out your pram.
- Listen to your date – Genuinely take an interest in what they’re saying, don’t just nod your head along to everything.
- Men always pay – There’s no going Dutch in Italian. It’s in the unwritten rules… plus, it’s polite.
I overestimated how romantic Paris would be. I was expecting to see couples walking around with bouquets of roses and laughter in the air but found myself looking at more Happy Hour dates. Parisians approach to dating is a little different to what I expected. They’re very forward and, like the Brazilians, aren’t shy of a PDA. The Parisians are traditionalists, and like to get to know someone the good old-fashioned way, at a party or by being introduced by a friend, so don’t be surprised if you’re approached in the street or in a bar. Rather than dating for fun like New York and Brazil, dating in Paris is all about finding love. Saying that, being British and all, I found it a bit strange for men to be so forward. I like being reserved, reading body language and listening to the person I’m speaking with rather than someone gazing into my eyes like a lost puppy. Maybe as Brits we need to loosen up a bit. I mean, if you’re on a date with someone and they’re clearly interested in you, why do we find it uncomfortable to keep eye contact and stay so reserved? Let your hair down! Parisians are very much searching for “the one” when it comes to online dating and really take an interest into what their date is saying and their body language. The majority of the time dates last between two and three hours and always take place over dinner and wine. Women will dress timelessly, with bright colours and minimal makeup, and eye contact is key! Women never pay for dates but 90% of Parisians believe that this should change as the relationship progresses.
Top 5 places to go on a date in Paris:
- Institut du Monde Arabe / Le Zyriab – Dinner date with great views.
- Les Bateaux Mouches – Want to see Paris differently? A trip in a “Bateau-Mouche” along the Seine will be both typically touristic and timelessly romantic.
- Berthillon – Ile St Louis – In the afternoon, for the fun, for the taste, for the tradition, have an ice-cream at the “salon de thé” Berthillon, the most famous Parisian ice-cream maker. You won’t be disappointed!
- Jardin Musée Rodin – Combining culture and greenery, take a break at the Garden of Musée Rodin.
- Mama Shelter – A trendy restaurant and a great example of Paris’ amazing food scene.
Top Dating Tips, Paris:
- Eye contact is key – I’m not asking you to stare into the guy’s/girl’s eyes for the whole duration of the date because that would just be weird, but eye contact is key. When they’re talking, keep eye contact – it shows confidence.
- Compliment your date – We all love a compliment. Throw in a few compliments here and there but nothing too OTT. One or two maximum!
- Read your date’s body language – Body language is key – our minds unconditionally recognise these symbols from our caveman days and our intuition has only improved over time. Someone’s body language can tell you exactly what they’re thinking without saying a word.
- More PDA – Brits need to chill out – it’s only a kiss, cuddle or holding hands. Don’t look at PDA as a big no-no!
I really enjoyed studying the dating scene in Stockholm – the atmosphere here is so chilled and laid back, not to mention being surrounded by stylish and beautiful people 24/7. It’s as if they just jumped out of a magazine! So in terms of appearance, the Swedes have got this mastered: well groomed, great bone structure, effortless style and always on-trend. One thing that I learned in Stockholm is to have more realistic expectations. Now, I don’t mean go in with the idea that you’re going to settle for less, but have an open mind to not expect a Disney Prince Charming because you’ll only end up disappointed. When you go on a date with someone in the UK, 9 times out of 10 the man will offer to pay. Now I’m all for independent women (Destiny’s Child and the whole shebang) but it’s ‘The Rules’ right? In Stockholm you’re expected to “Go Dutch” (pay half for the bill) on dates, which obviously was news to me – I’ve never heard of this being a thing in a country before. Their theory is that men and women are seen as equal, so things are split right down the middle. The Swedes have a typically laid-back approach to dating and don’t do the whole dinner date thing, but instead meet at a bar and go for some drinks. The ‘multi-dating’ culture I encountered in other locations definitely hasn’t spread to the Nordics – it’s definitely not the done thing to date more than one person at a time. Stockholm also taught me that we girls need to step up to the plate. No more of this fluffing around and being too shy to ask a guy for his number – if you’re shy in Stockholm, you’ll be single forever! No matter what Swedes wear they always look good and dating attire ranges from casual to a ‘dress to impress’ look. Guys tend to go more smart-casual with their outfits, whereas the ladies love to throw on a pair of heels and a dress. Like New Yorkers, it isn’t rare for women to approach guys in a bar or online – confidence is key.
Top 5 places to go on a date in Stockholm:
- Gröna Lund – Just a 20 minute walk from central Stockholm (located at Djurgården) you can go on a roller coaster ride at Stockholm’s amusement park Gröna Lund.
- Djurgården – Meet up at Djurgårdsbron and take a 20-minute walk to Djurgårdens Riding School, then saddle the horses, and ride around romantic Djurgården.
- Skansen – If you love animals you must visit Skansen (located at Djurgården). Here you can see Nordic animals, as well as old Swedish historic buildings and shops, and eat some typical swedish food.
- Fjärilshuset – Visit Fjärilshuset (A butterfly garden) and then walk to the Bergianska trädgården and see the amazing gardens and thousands of different flowers and plants, end the date with a late lunch at Gamla Orangeriet, or just a “fika”.
- Hagaparken – Play some tennis outside and enjoy beautiful Hagaparken (a big park just 15 minutes from the city). End the date with a lunch in the park, for example at Koppartälten.
Top Dating Tips, Stockholm:
- Go half on the bill – As they say, “Go Dutch” on the bill! Who say’s men should always pay?
- Have more realistic expectations – When you go into a date with the expectations that the person you’re going to meet is potentially “the one” then you’re setting yourself up for a fall before it’s even begun. Chill out – don’t expect too much.
- Women make the first move – Women – don’t shy away. When I say make the first move I’m talking about approaching a guy. Don’t stare at him across the bar or at his profile waiting for him to notice you, get in there first.
- Be honest and upfront from the start – Be yourself. There’s nothing worse than finding out the person who you’re getting to know isn’t really the person they said they were… it’s a waste of their time and yours.
After travelling around the world, visiting different countries and researching the cultures dating habits/approaches it’s taught me quite a bit. Overall, I’ve picked out these seven tips that I think could make us Brits into much better daters:
- Crowd Dating – Crowd dating is a very normal thing in Rio De Janeiro. For example, a guy might invite you out for Happy Hour and then his friends (and often their dates too) will join in for the night. It sounds bizarre to us Brits, but it’s actually a great way of breaking the ice and avoiding any awkward silences. Before you know it, you’re speaking with his friends about anything and everything, and bouncing back and forth between different conversations. You say you never really know someone until you meet their friends – so why not cut to the chase and do it straight away?
- No dating at weekends – New Yorkers have a much more relaxed attitude to dating than the Brits, and this shows in the fact that they keep their weekends reserved for hanging out with their friends. Going on a date in NYC is no big deal: so much so that I met singles who have been on up to three in one night! These engagements often last no longer than a quick cup of coffee or a single Manhattan cocktail. Because New York singles know that there are always plenty more fish in the sea, they do their dating on week nights after work and keep their weekends free for their buddies.
- Be a realist – I was always told to keep waiting and eventually ‘Mr Right’ would come along, but I’ve now seen that this gives us unrealistic expectations for every date that we go on. The typically pragmatic Scandinavians I met in Stockholm taught me that expecting to meet ‘The One’ every time you embark on a date is setting yourself up for a fall before you’ve even begun. Just chill out, don’t expect too much and see where the night takes you. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- Dress to impress (but not to excess) – ‘Date night’ to me used to mean heavy make-up, heels and little black dresses, but now this seems way over the top. Natural make-up and stylish but casual attire are the order of the day for singles the world over, which makes me think that we Brits are over-thinking things and putting too much emphasis on what should really be a short, chilled-out meeting. However, this absolutely doesn’t mean not making an effort, and the men I dated in Rome could really show the English a thing or two about how to dress to impress. We women appreciate a well-groomed-man, so guys, take a few extra minutes to pick out a relaxed, but stylish, outfit for your night on the town and it could make all the difference.
- Ditch the dinners – Although it still feels like a staple of the British single scene, nowhere else I visited did dinner on a first date. Sitting down to a full meal means you’re committing to a good hour or two in that person’s company, which puts more pressure on both parties and means the atmosphere is less relaxed. It also leads to a whole world of issues with smelly foods, table manners and dietary requirements which I’m sure we could all do without!
- Shorter is sweeter – We Brits tend to make such a big deal of every date that we go on that we then expect them to last an entire night. Elsewhere, a single drink or a coffee is considered long enough to make a decision on whether you like someone enough to see them again or not. If you do then great, but if not it’s no big deal – and you haven’t wasted a whole evening (and half your pay check) finding out.
- Embrace the ‘PDA’ – Before my trip, PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) would make me feel uncomfortable and awkward,” says Laila. “But I saw so many in Paris that it’s made me question why we Brits feel that it’s off-limits! We women like to be shown off to the world and being placed on a pedestal, so don’t shy away from showing how you really feel once you feel comfortable with one another. Even if it’s something as small as holding hands walking down the street, it can give both parties a little extra confidence boost, and that in turn can make the date more enjoyable. I don’t say this too often, but perhaps we need to be more like the French!