The new rules of a successful first date

Article by Mark Gambino /
Executive Style /
August 10, 2017 /
Click here to view original /

Hands up if you’re single and locked in limbo on the dating scene? Sure, some people have a ball being single, but for others, it can be a real snake pit.

If you’re trapped in the latter camp, don’t worry; you’re not alone.

“But we had such a great time. Why didn’t they call me back?” The refrains are as common as they are depressing. If you’ve ever dipped your toe in the occasionally dubious waters of online dating – either via website or app – it can feel like things get even more complicated.

Despite the huge changes to dating culture over the past 10 years, there are actually a number of basics that many people still overlook, most of which come down to common courtesy, etiquette or honesty.

Everybody lies

For those who like to take liberties with the personal details of their dating profile – don’t put up your hands, we all know who you are – be warned: you will be swiftly found out.

“Think of those montage scenes in every single sit-com,” said Dr Lauren Rosewarne, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Melbourne. “Punk after geek after someone with a parrot on their shoulder. It’s actually a reality. Almost universally, people do lie in their dating profile.”

“If your date is obviously shorter or heavier, then you know they’ve lied about something that’s easily proven wrong. You’re then in a position to decide, is that enough to end the date.”

The simple error to avoid here is to give in to the allure of creating a curated online version of oneself.

Rule of thumb: be honest.

Let’s get together

The thought of chatting online or texting for days or weeks may seem enticing – fire off a few witty replies, build a little rapport – but once you’ve attracted the attention of another human, you’re then faced with the inevitability of the first date. This is when a little etiquette should kick in.

“We’ve become incredibly casual now on all levels of communication,” said Zarife Hardy, a nationally acclaimed etiquette coach and Director of the Australian School of Etiquette. “But if you’re interested in someone, you should at least ask them out via phone call – it shows strength of character and says a lot about a person.”

“It’s important to at least see over the phone if we have a level of rapport first. There’s no investment with online dating.”

Pick up the phone

This approach can also help you avoid a common pitfall.

“People go into that first date with so many expectations because they got along so well online,” said Dr Rosewarne. “It’s easy to feel you have chemistry with someone, then you meet them and you simply don’t. The dissatisfaction comes when you’ve had six weeks of chatting with the guy or girl, then it fizzles. It’s a crushing blow for some people who don’t realise the manipulating nature of words.”

The next rule: don’t spend all your time chatting online; pick up the phone instead.

The big moment

The day has finally come. You’ve chosen a place to dine – “Whoever has arranged the date should book the venue,” said Ms Hardy – and you’re nervous as hell. Hopefully, the butterflies will kick up in your stomach as you lay eyes on your date; then you’re off and racing.

“It’s lovely when a man pulls your seat out or stands when you leave the table,” said Ms Hardy. “That’s a very personal thing. I think 99 per cent of women still like this. How somebody feels when they’re with you – do they feel special, do they feel safe – that is true etiquette.”

It may sound old fashioned, but simple acts of respect can go a long way. Along those lines, there’s bad news for Pokémon Go players.

Put it away

“One of the biggest signs of disrespect in society is that our mobile phone is more important than anything else,” said Ms Hardy. “So, your mobile phone should not be seen the entire time. It should be turned off and in a pocket. We have voicemail for a reason.”

“When you’re with someone, face-to-face, they should get your undivided attention. You want to feel that person wants to get to know you. Competing with a mobile phone immediately makes you feel like you’re not important.”

The rule here: nothing and no one else exists, except your date.

Picking up the tab

The date is coming to an end. By all accounts, it was a success. You’ve laughed at each other’s jokes. You’ve bonded while sharing your experiences of dating in a modern age. You’ve dazzled with your intimate knowledge of David Hasselhoff’s pre-Baywatch career. The last thing left to do is pay the bill.

“There are endless debates around this kind of stuff, but generally speaking, there is still a skew of women who expect a man to pay on the first date,” said Dr Rosewarne. “This is usually women who have dated before the internet. Younger women will expect to go dutch.”

With changing times, also comes changing etiquette.

“Traditionally, it’s the person who does the asking who pays,” said Ms Hardy. “But women shouldn’t rock up expecting the man to pay. Now, it’s fine to say on your first date, ‘It’s our first date together, let’s go dutch.'”

The rule of who pays: to prevent embarrassment, always prepare to go Dutch.

In reality, there are no hard and fast rules that apply to every date and situation, but if you stick to these few simple principles, hopefully your first date isn’t also your last.