One of the greatest challenges you face when online dating is transitioning from the virtual world to real life.
You may be getting the feeling that you know each other quite well after spending weeks chatting till late in the night, but the first face-to-face contact is always a unique experience full of excitement and even awkwardness.
Like everything else, dating is a skill. Think of it as a chance to see if you are as good of a match offline as you are online.
It’s what makes the first date after long online interactions so scary:
What if they don’t like you?
What if you don’t like them?
Thoughts like this might be daunting, but the risk is worth taking.
We’ve put together a few tips that should help you plan a successful first offline date.
Tips for the first date after meeting online: the DOs and DON’Ts
Make sure you are in the right headspace for the transition
Before you plan your big date and start worrying about being self-conscious, you have to be emotionally ready for the meetup. Whether you’re ready or not is affected by things like whether you have successfully let go of your baggage and the demons in your closet.
Another thing that determines whether you are ready for the first meeting after online dating is how long you have known this person and whether you have built a deep connection.
If you are going for something long-term, it would be better to hold off a little until you are more familiar with each other. The last thing you want is to spook each other out. However, if you are looking for a hookup or a casual fling, you can do it as soon as you feel comfortable.
Find the perfect time to propose the meet-up
Timing is everything when it comes to transitioning from online relationships to the real dating world.
Don’t plan that first date too soon after you start talking with someone online.
You just don’t know enough about the person to know whether they are worth investing time in or not.
That said, don’t wait too long either, or the other person might lose interest.
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Consider common interests when planning the date
One of the biggest challenges of transitioning from online to offline romance is figuring out what the perfect first date should be.
Do you go out for a fancy dinner and get all dressed up? Do you go to a gallery opening and pretend that you actually like that weird abstract painting to impress your date?
The best thing to do is to keep things simple – you don’t want to get locked into a 3-hour movie with someone you have zero chemistry with!
Consider common interests when planning your first (simple) date:
- If you both enjoy the outdoors and nature then maybe a walk and a picnic at the park would be perfect.
- If you are both indoor types, then maybe a casual lunch or coffee date would do.
Keep it simple
If this is your first time meeting in person, you may want to keep things short and simple. A coffee date is great if you are unsure whether a face-to-face conversation will flow as smoothly as online chatting.
Another great way to avoid awkward silences is to go for drinks at a pool-and-darts bar, a place with board games, or go bowling. If you don’t like the energy, you can end the date as soon as the game is over.
Meet in a public place
Meeting in a public place is, without a doubt, the most important rule when it comes to meeting someone for the first time. You may have been communicating with them for a long time now, but remember, you are still dealing with a stranger.
For your first date, plan to meet in a public place and stay away from private and isolated locations (at least until you are sure who you are dealing with).
For example, a coffee date at your local café is a perfect safe date option. Or a picnic at the park or beach. That way, you’ll still get enough privacy to get to know each other better without compromising on your security.
Always tell a friend or family member where you are going
Two common things can cloud your judgment while on a first date – alcohol and lust. It is easy to forget that you’ve never met this person before, especially if sparks are flying everywhere. But safety, despite being the least interesting part of a first date, has to be your highest priority.
If you are meeting your date somewhere unfamiliar, let your friends know where you are going. This is especially important if you have to travel to a different town, city, or even country to meet your online partner.
Telling your friends all the details of your date is important for your safety and ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts should anything go wrong.
Have a backup plan
We all hope for the best when meeting someone new, but unfortunately, not all first dates go well. This person may look suspicious or nothing like the pictures you’d seen.
The worst thing that usually happens is a totally boring date with zero chemistry. The conversation doesn’t flow, and you seem like from two different worlds with nothing in common.
Or, they can seem very off and even dangerous, which is a case when you really want to be out that door.
If you don’t feel comfortable simply leaving the table, have a friend call and bail you out. Another thing you can do is arrive early and instruct the waiter to bring the check as soon as you give them a sign.
Don’t be (too) late
Ideally, you’d like to arrive on time when meeting a person for the first time. Keeping them waiting for longer than a few minutes is a sign of disrespect. It also shows you are not taking this rendezvous nor this person seriously.
Of course, life is unpredictable. If something urgent comes up, you should immediately let them know that you will be running late. No one wants to spend time in suspense, wondering how much longer it will take for you to show up.
This is a challenge that both guys and girls have when it comes to first offline dates.
What should you wear? Do you want to pull out that evening gown or those dress shoes? Or are you in a show-stopper mood with that little black dress being all you can think about?
With the first in-person date, it is best to keep it simple. It does not in any way mean that you can wear slacks, flip-flops or sweats. Just make sure you look nice but do not go overboard. The secret is finding the perfect balance between attractive, practical, and comfortable.
Show up smiling and keep the atmosphere positive
You are probably super nervous going into this, and that is completely understandable. But guess what, so is your romantic partner. It would be great for you to step up and shift the atmosphere in the right direction.
You don’t even have to be a super extrovert to do this. You just need to smile. Yep, it’s that easy! A smile creates a sense of serenity and positivity that will melt both of your fears away. It’s a guaranteed way to have fun banter and an overall great date.
Once you have established this mood, maintain it by keeping the conversation positive and warm. Some topics you can discuss to keep a light mood include:
- Fun childhood memories
- Your hopes and dreams
- Romantic banter if your relationship is at that point
You can also talk about deep and dark experiences as long as you maintain a welcoming and supporting vibe.
If you’ve met online, this is probably not going to be your first conversation. However, chatting on the Internet and talking with someone in person (especially if you are crushing on them) are two different things.
Conversations don’t always flow, and words can be hard to find. Throw the butterflies and all that tension into the mixture, and you are now sitting in awkward silence.
To avoid putting yourself in such a situation, think of a few conversation starters, something you know they like or are a fan of.
Keep it light and easy. Focus on getting to know them, but don’t give them the third degree.
Try to read your date’s body language
Do you want to get really good at dating? Then, learn to read body language!
The subtle communication of our bodies reveals a lot about the emotions we are going through at a given moment. For example, if your date is leaning in and paying attention, it usually means that they like you.
Psychology suggests that mirroring a person’s body language will show them how much alike you are and make them fall for you faster. Having the power to catch subtle signs and cues will help you figure out whether your date likes you or if they’re not that into you.
Ask the right questions
As you’re preparing for the big step, you must be wondering what to talk about on a first date when you finally meet.
Well, when moving your relationship offline, there’s probably a lot of uncertainty in your mind. From doubts about how ready you are to insecurities about the other person’s feelings, you will have many questions you need answers to.
So, why not start by asking them?
We aren’t talking about simple questions like their favorite food, color or who they wanted to be when they were a kid (although questions like this are great icebreakers!). We recommend asking serious questions that will give you a better idea of whether you are a great match or better off going separate ways.
Discussing things like their value and belief systems, priorities, views on past relationships, as well as their expectations makes for an interesting conversation!
Pay attention to what they’re saying
As important as body language is, what your date is saying is even more important. But to hear, you need to listen first. And listening is not as easy as it seems, especially with all that excitement and butterflies flying around.
Try not to dominate the date completely by letting the nerves talk through you. Instead, let them share as much as possible about themselves without jumping in and interrupting their thoughts.
It’s your first date, after all, and you’d want to see if there is a potential for something more than just a casual meet-up.
Keep your phone out of sight
A basic Bon Ton rule says that keeping your phone on the dinner table is a big no-no! You wouldn’t like talking to someone who has their head buried in the phone all night long, right?
Unfortunately, first meetings can go south, and you may want to have your phone at hand for your friend to make an “emergency” call.
But ultimately, it’s all about leaving a good impression. Don’t let them think you are uninterested, especially when meeting someone for the first time.
If you really need to text, do it quickly and put the phone away. It’s respectful to them and their time.
Watch your manners
Your table manners can be a reason for a second and third date or be a total deal-breaker. No one likes a caveman with little to no dining etiquette.
You can be smart and attractive, but not being able to use cutlery or eating with your mouth open can be such a turnoff.
Flirt with them
Are you hoping for a second date or what?
If YES is your answer, you better start flirting before they think they are already in the friend zone.
Obviously, flirting behind your phone screen comes much easier than face-to-face, but it’s definitely worth trying, especially if you like this person.
But respect their boundaries
This one should be a given! Treat people the way you want to be treated! Meeting someone for the first time is not easy, and the date can quickly go wrong if your match feels like you have pushed their boundaries or broken into their personal space.
If they are not okay with a hug and a kiss, stick to a friendly handshake. Steer clear of making snarky remarks and dropping sarcastic comments.
You should also be respectful of their faith, dietary preferences, or the choice to leave the date. Simply put, make them feel comfortable and accepted and pave your way to a second date.
Give genuine compliments
It’s your first date, and common sense dictates putting some effort into looking presentable for your potential partner.
We all want to be noticed and feel appreciated, so don’t be afraid to compliment your date.
You don’t have to get poetic and flaunt big words. Keep it sweet and simple. Complimenting their haircut or outfit should do the trick.
Don’t drink too much
A few drinks can make you a better flirt, but one too many, and you can quickly find yourself in sloppy date-land.
No one likes to sit at the table with a person who doesn’t know their limit, especially if that’s your first date in person.
On top of it, you are putting yourself in danger, especially if you need to get behind the wheel later.
Don’t move too fast
If you went online looking for a serious and long-term commitment, patience is the key to success. Do not move things too fast! It might mean taking your love interest home after the first date is probably not the best idea.
Get to know more about this person with more dates and more online conversations. This allows you to build trust before you take things to the next level with your relationship.
Manage your expectations
Simply because your interactions survived the online phase doesn’t mean that your search is over. You might end up with a complete disaster of a date that will have you back to square one in no time.
When going on these first dates, it is best just to be cautiously optimistic. Keeping your expectations low lets you avoid disappointment.
Don’t share too much too soon
When you first meet your online date, the most important thing is to get to know them better and share more details about yourself as well. Just be careful with what and how much you share.
Just like with your first online interactions, the first real world date should be a time to gauge interest. Let them earn your trust before you go sharing your deepest darkest secrets and your home address.
Offer to pay the bill
Since this is your first date and we have left gender norms well behind in the previous century, it’s not such a bad idea to go Dutch. Don’t burden your first meet-up with money conversation and who should get the bill.
Show some sophistication and offer to split the cost of your date. If there is some activity included, like going to the movies, it’s even better because you can simply pay for your ticket and popcorn.
Be honest about your intentions
Being open about your true intentions allows you to see if you are on the same page with your date or if they are looking for something completely different.
Let them know whether you are hoping for casual dating or a more committed relationship. It’s okay if you are not sure either, and you are just going with the flow. Tell them that too.
When the date is over, don’t make false promises saying you will reach out again if you already know that’s not going to happen. No one likes to be led on and have their time wasted.
Try to have fun
Finally, make sure to have fun on your date. Meeting someone for the first time is nerve-wracking, but do not let the jitters ruin your date. Whether you go bowling or take a walk along the beach, let loose, laugh lots, and just enjoy yourself.
Remember, when planning the first date, it is all about testing the waters. Important tips for the first date after meeting online are keeping things casual and focusing on getting to know more about each other. You also need to protect yourself not just physically but also emotionally.
So take baby steps as you did when you first started the online dating journey. With time, you will get to know more about your love interest and build a relationship that could land you on the online dating sites’ success story list.