The volume of my television is always on an even number. I won’t walk under ladders or over three drains. And whenever I get ready for a night out, I’ll put on the same ’90s R&B playlist and turn my speakers up to a level my neighbours would probably describe as abusive.
Habits, superstitions, routines – whatever you want to call them, my life is threaded with little rituals. Even my dating life.
For my friends and I, said ritual is basically a steady spiral into demented panic. We have the WhatsApp equivalent of a UN summit every time one of us has a date lined up, asking one another more questions than you’d be greeted with if you strode through customs with a suitcase jam-packed full of meth. ‘What if I get stood up?’ ‘Is it really that bad – and hear me out here – to turn up half cut?’ ‘What shall I wear? I don’t have anything that goes with an apparently dwindling supply of useable eggs and passive aggressive comments about my marital status at family parties.’
But, though we tend to live vicariously through each other if ever any of our love lives are looking a little stagnant, our conversations about dating are a knotting of opinions. From the believability of the ‘out call’ (you know, the one that sees you mumbling a non-commital, ‘So sorry, I’m going to have to go. That was my friend. She’s having an emergency,’ as you thrown money at the table like you’re trying to make it rain and get the hell out of there) to whether or not you should bang on the first date.
Which got me thinking, if there are all these different viewpoints floating around in one little group, how many must there be across the world? Just what does the first date look like against another continent’s backdrop?
Angelica Vargiu, 22, Italy
‘In Italy, a lot of couples tend to meet through friends. Dating apps like Tinder and Happn aren't a big thing here like they are in the UK. At high school, my friends and I would meet guys through MSN Chat or Facebook but now that we're a little older, we prefer taking our dating offline. That said, it’s still pretty common to have a check out on social media your date before you meet in person, or interrogate any mates that know you're date. It's better to be safe that sorry. Kissing on the first date isn’t a big deal in Italy. If you like them, why not just go for it? If it had gone well, I’d probably text the guy thanking him then leave the rest up to him. If he likes me too, he’ll keep in touch. My dream date would involve an element of surprise. Something like the guy just telling me to get ready and then taking me to a musical. I don’t have any pearls of dating wisdom per se, it’s just about having fun and being yourself. A bad date isn’t the end of the world. It’s a cliche, but maybe remember, you’ve gotta kiss a few frogs if you want to find a prince.’
Carolina Troncoso, 24, Chile
‘A typical date in Chile is going for some casual drinks. I’ve done the whole dinner date thing a couple of times, but it’s a bigger risk - if you don’t click, you have three awkward courses to get through. I’m from a small town and it can be difficult to meet people, so apps like Tinder are pretty popular here. I’ve been on a few Tinder dates myself. I reckon you get more confident texting rather than face to face. I’d only meet up with him if we’d been talking for a while and have a good vibe. I’ll ask for a Facebook first. Nowadays people tend to pretend to be someone else, so I try to minimise the risks. I don’t want to end up getting catfished. I don’t like the idea of kissing on the first date, but if it went really well I consider a little goodbye peck. Being Latin, I think I sometimes intimidate guys with my personality. European countries are more reserved, whereas we’re open from the beginning and we say what we think – maybe sometimes too much. I’ve been on a few dates with English guys and they seem a little shyer than boys back home. You can see how nervous they are during the date and I sometimes feel like I’m over-talking to compensate. English guys are less romantic than Chileans, but this isn’t a bad thing, I like the challenge of finding that romantic side of a person.’
**On Yin Amy Li, 22, Hong Kong **
‘First rule of thumb here: stalk on social media as much as possible before the first date. It sounds shallow, but you’ve got to scope out what he looks like. Of course, looks aren’t everything, but they do count for something. In Hong Kong, people meet each other a lot through classes. Dancing, gym, languages – that kind of thing. Date venues typically tend to be quite posh. Girls from Hong Kong love a selfie and showing off pictures of social media, so swanky Michelin-star restaurants always go down well. Typically, you’d head for dinner around 8-9pm, then about 11pm, go to clubs. The guy will buy drinks the whole night, or book a table at the club. Personally, I hate it. It is just showing off. Saying that, guys in Hong Kong tend to be quite shy underneath it all. I’ve got three golden dating rules – never be too drunk, don’t go home with the guy on the first date, oh, and be yourself.’
**Mairead McLaughlin, 23, Canada **
‘Here in Canada, we like a good old fashioned pub to meet people. House parties are also pretty good, especially in the winter when it’s too freezing to properly venture out. Almost everyone I know has dabbled in apps or dating sites, but more for a quick hook-up than an actual lasting relationship. I would try to limit how much we talk before the actual date as I wouldn’t want to have run out of things to say before we’d even met. Venue wise, I’m all about the activities. Bowling, mini golf – that sort of thing. My boyfriend took me to a shooting range for our one year anniversary, it was fantastic. Every girl over here will say kissing on the first date is a no no, but when you’re there, saying your goodbyes it can be hard to resist. I’d say a quick peck is fine, but maybe stay light on the tongue. Canadian guys are very laid back and less forward compared to some other nationalities. For example, once when I visited my cousins in London, I accidentally elbowed a boy’s beer off the bar. In Canada buying a guy a drink when you’ve spilt his wouldn’t be seen as flirty – just good manners. However, this guy took it as an invitation to follow me round all night. My number-one dating rule is probably a universal one – try and avoid the crazies. I once went out with a guy who got so nervous before he’d turned to a little… Ahem, herbal relaxation. Trying to hold a conversation with somebody high as a kite, too engrossed in the menu to even speak to you is not something I’d recommend.’
Joanna Yeo, 25, Singapore
I might be alone in this, but I wouldn’t stalk a guy online before a date. It’s just not my thing. People tend to meet via friends of family, so I guess you already have somebody to vet potentials partners through. There’s also an app called PakTor that people love over here – I think it’s similar to Tinder. I have a strict three-day rule. Even if it went well, I’d leave it three days to call. It can be tough if you really want to call, but I’d just keep myself busy to resist temptation. Kissing on the first date is a no go, as is talking about your complete sexual history. I once went out with a guy who just retold the tales of all his between-the-sheets voyages – it was so off-putting. Guys aren’t very outspoken here, but they’re very romantic. Holding doors open, pulling out chairs – that sort of thing. I think the dynamic between couples differs around the world. It’s all to do with differences in gender equality and power play in various cultures. One thing that is common here is asking for hand in marriage from a girl’s family before living together. I know elsewhere in the world couples would perhaps move in together before getting engaged, but it’s just not the done thing in Singapore. Underneath all the rules and customs, the main thing is just to be happy.’
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Picture: Eylul Aslan
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.