A Matchmaker’s Guide to NY-LON Dating
Written by Nana Wereko-Brobby
Let’s face it, Londoners are not nearly as au fait with the dating scene as New Yorkers. But contrary to popular belief, the lack of romance that we are so globally – and erroneously – famed for, is not to blame. There are in fact several factors working against us when it comes to dating.
To begin with, we lack that pragmatic work-play approach that so many New Yorkers adopt in attempting to navigate their hectic, have it all lifestyles.
Our American contemporaries use networking as a reason to – at all times and in all places – have a business card at the ready for the next potential dinner date or deal. As much a product of the American myth of self-made men (you make your own luck son!) as the desire to meet someone great, the dictum is to be date-ready at all times.
I’ll never forget a year spent working in New York’s buzzing Midtown, pacing 8 blocks daily up Sixth Avenue to my little grey cubicle. Stopping at the traffic lights en route, it was not unusual to be chatted up by a suited commuter waiting for his time to cross.
“Wanna grab a coffee sometime?” Sure!
Of course in London, I’d rip up the business card and run, but in this town, it was different. I’d genuinely consider my options, and around one in four times, would agree to meet my new companion for a casual Chipotle lunch. Not a comforting glass of wine or mood-lit banquette in sight. Oh brave New Yorkers, you do yourselves proud!
Though back in London, we are getting braver. The ‘it’s not who you do, it’s what you do’ mode of dating is the new big thing.
The US start-up that got people talking last year was How About We, a dating service that matches people based on dates they want to go on, rather than traditional profiling. Now in the UK, we have sites like the recent DoingSomething which is based on a similar model.
And there’s also a wealth of new location and taste based apps out there, including the excellent TrueView, matching members based on where they’ve ‘checked in’ around London. The idea is that if you like this burger joint, and I like this burger joint, then we’ve already at least got one thing in common. Good start.
Similarly, young professionals are becoming more open-minded about attending dating events.
At Social Concierge, the online side of the business is a just a recommendation site for great bars and restaurants to take your date. However, the core of the company is the activity that goes on offline.
The hook for clients are our cocktail parties in the newest and quirkiest spots, secret supperclubs with scenester chefs preparing 5 course meals at home, and one-on-one dates where unique experiences are arranged specifically by us.
Throwing the focus back onto the experiential, clients tend to find the whole idea of a blind date, group date or dating party suddenly more palatable. People can introduce themselves with casual lines like “I just always wanted to check this place out”, and shirk some of the culpability of the date itself.
And why not? Most people taking time off dating say the same thing: that going on a date is uncomfortably similar to attending an interview. It’s a fallacy that you can just drink a few cocktails, have fun and see where it goes. Like a first round interview, you have to be entertaining enough to get them hooked, but save enough killer convo for round two, should you make it through.
Drink too much or appear too keen on the first date and – British booze culture aside – your chances of getting a second date are low. And unless you have a modicum of self control (which I do not) this enforced formality can make dating pretty tedious.
There are certainly international dating rules that are not specific to us. However, a vital difference comes in our interpretation of ‘experiential dating’ compared to Americans.
Whilst websites like How About We might suggest something like volunteering (NY Cares is a big dating trick), Londoners tend to focus their suggestions around places to eat and drink. Drink being the key word here.
Most young professional guys I meet can’t think of anything better than a date in the pub, whilst the New Yorkers I encountered were set on serving me coffee, with alcohol as the silent partner.
Drinking is one of the most prominent characteristics of London dating, and in a way that it certainly isn’t in New York. While the characters who attend my events are well-educated, charming and sociable types, the parties and dinners rarely end gracefully. Nights close with tipsy kisses, hastily exchanged numbers and a few good-natured transgressions. And this works for us. For most guests, the events lead to second and third dates, and for many, to relationships.
We’re just not that keen on day-dates and actual activities. If I was to follow the LA mould and send a date on a mountain hike followed by sushi and smoothies they would blow smoke in my face, turn on their heels and organise their own pub session.
So who’s getting it right, if any of us?
Well, I’ve tried several sober dates, and while they’re fine for a quiet tête-à-tête, they’re hardly ever as fun as their alternative, with un-dulled nerves inevitably getting in the way.
The key here is not to binge drink, but rather to binge date: chatting into all the hours of the night, giving it a proper shot and seeing if it clicks.
The Londoner will meet for drinks at 7 and continue as far into the night as possible. This is the result-oriented, instant gratification scenario that we seem addicted to, whether to our detriment or not.
And if the date lasts less than an hour, unlike the optimistic New Yorker, we admit defeat.
Nana Wereko-Brobby is a professional matchmaker and date curator based in London. Upon returning from a stint in New York, she set up the offline dating agency Social Concierge. Now – having paired up countless 20- and 30-somethings – she recounts the twists and turns of the NY-LON romantic rigmarole.