You’ve met someone online, and you’ve got a date in the diary.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a little bit nervous about meeting them in person for the first time.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a dating app/site veteran or this is your first venture into the world of online dating, butterflies have appeared.
And that’s totally normal.
We all get nervous before dates, and the digital aspect of how you met this guy can add an extra layer of nerves. The unknown is always a little bit scary.
If you’re anxious, it might be because you’re not very ‘good’ at dates in general. Or it might be because you’re not sure whether the etiquette and protocol is different when you’ve made contact virtually, rather than meeting face to face.
But relax. Just because you’ve met someone online, it doesn’t mean you need to get worked up about meeting them in person.
Dating should be fun, not a chore or something that fills you with dread. You should have butterflies, but not whole swarms of them.
Read through these simple tips for making sure that a first date with someone you met online goes as smoothly as possible.
If you tend to get nervous about dates in general, I can’t guarantee that these tips will calm your nerves entirely…
…but they should help you to feel well prepared and confident, and just enjoy the experience.
After all, you never know what’s going to happen. Your next first date might just give you a funny story to tell, it could lead to a new friendship, it might be the start of a love affair, and it could even be the last first date you ever have!
1. Take things offline quickly.
Don’t spend weeks chatting to someone online before meeting with them face to face.
That is, of course, unless there are practical reasons why this is the only choice (e.g. you are currently in different locations for work or a vacation).
It’s easier to assess whether someone is partner potential when you actually meet and speak to them in person.
2. Don’t exhaust all topics of conversation before you meet.
A big mistake some people make with online dating is having long, detailed conversations via app or text.
They cover huge amounts of conversational ground, but then find that there’s not much more to discuss when they finally meet up.
On top of that, people can express themselves via text very differently to how they do in real life. So if you spend too much time speaking to them online, you might get the wrong impression of their personality.
3. Take the online conversations offline.
The key is to start conversations online and then dive further into the detail once you are there with each other in real life.
That way, you can avoid some of the awkwardness that comes from not knowing what to say to someone.
You will have some threads to pick up on and this can help break the ice in those first few minutes.
4. Manage your expectations.
If you’ve seen a few photos of someone and chatted with them online, it can be easy to create a picture of that person in your mind.
But what you see and read online doesn’t always translate to the real world.
Sometimes it transpires that the spark you thought you felt doesn’t actually exist.
So don’t allow your virtual experience to build your hopes too high. Just manage those expectations and keep your thoughts and feelings under control for now.
5. Meet on your own turf.
When meeting someone for the first time, why not suggest somewhere yourself rather than leaving it up to them?
Opt for a place where you’ve been before and feel at home. That way, you’ll know your way around and will feel more comfortable.
Knowing small, seemingly insignificant things like what you want to order off the menu, or where the bathrooms are, can give you a real confidence boost and stop you from feeling awkward… or as awkward as you would otherwise.
If you have any dietary requirements, then this is particularly important, as you can pick a favorite spot that caters to your needs, but that you know they’re still going to like.
6. Make sure it’s a public place.
Wherever you decide to suggest for the date, make sure that it’s somewhere open and busy.
The vast majority of people on dating sites are totally genuine and trustworthy, but it’s best to take sensible precautions just in case you should be unlucky.
7. Let someone know where you’ll be.
Tell someone you trust where you’re going and who with and check in with them after the date has started to let them know it’s all going well.
Essentially, when it comes to safety, just take all the precautions you usually would when meeting a stranger and use your common sense.
8. Keep it to coffee.
If you want to make your first offline meeting as casual as possible before you figure out if there could be any romantic attraction between you, then you could suggest meeting for coffee/tea and cake.
Dates like these never last for more than an hour or so, and are a great way of feeling someone out and breaking the ice without sacrificing an evening, which is good if you’ve got a busy schedule.
There’s also none of the weirdness of trying to figure out if you’re just doing drinks or having dinner too.
9. Mix things up with an activity.
Contrary to what many people think in modern western society, it is possible to go on a date without drinking.
Rather than meeting up at a café or bar, why not think outside the box a little and suggest an active date?
The options you have open to you will depend on where you’re based and what your shared interests are.
The great thing about meeting someone online is that you should be able to figure that out, at least in part, from their dating profile and your prior conversations.
If you’re worried that they might not be up for the activity you have in mind, however, leave it for the second date and go for the classic first date format.
10. Start with a drink.
If you do opt for an evening meet up, then follow the standard first date protocol and kick things off with a drink.
That way, if you’re not feeling it, you are not obliged to make a full evening of it or spend a fortune on a meal.
11. But make sure you eat.
If you’re going out for drinks, consider eating dinner before you head out for the evening, rather than waiting to see if the two of you go for food.
After all, you can always eat twice, but the last thing you want is to suddenly find that you’ve had a few drinks on an empty stomach.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting tipsy, but you probably don’t want to be too drunk around someone you’ve just met, and ‘drunk-you’ might not make the best decisions.
12. Get there on time.
Punctuality is more important than ever on a first date, because being late could suggest to them that you don’t value their time enough to turn up when you say you will.
Plus, no one likes waiting around for a date, wondering if they’ve been stood up. If you’re going to be a little late, make sure you let them know.
13. Make sure you listen attentively.
It’s important to be chatty on a first date, but it’s equally important not to dominate the conversation and to let them talk too.
When they talk, make sure you give them your full attention.
Ask questions that show you’re genuinely interested in knowing more about the things they’re telling you.
14. Split the bill.
This is still a controversial topic and opinions vary from culture to culture, but in my book, everything should be split down the middle.
Unless, of course, your date has taken you somewhere incredibly fancy and ordered a bottle of champagne, in which case they’re quite welcome to pay for it.
You can also do rounds, with one of you buying the first drink, and the other getting the second round in if things go well between you.
No matter what your gender, it’s good practice to be the one to buy the first drink if you were the one to ask the other person out.
If money is a concern, that’s another good reason for you to pick where you meet, as you can choose somewhere with budget-friendly options.
15. You can always leave.
Rude as it might seem, if you arrive at a date and it’s immediately clear to you that the two of you have nothing in common, or you feel at all uncomfortable, you’re quite within your rights to leave.
Don’t be rude (unless they’ve done something to deserve it), but tell them calmly and politely that it’s been lovely to meet them, but you think you’ll head home.
You shouldn’t need to make an excuse, as we should all be grown up enough to accept that not everyone is going to love us.
If you find it too awkward, though, you can always fall back on the classic tactic of having your housemate ring you to say the kitchen’s flooded, or whatever it may be.
Just know that your date will probably see straight through your excuse.
However uncomfortable cutting a date short might be, there’s no sense wasting your time or theirs if you can see that you’re fatally incompatible from the word go.
16. It’s all about the way you look at it.
Some people see online dating as a bit of a chore. They can’t believe they’re forced to spend their time on apps and having average first dates in order to find someone special.
And if you look at it like that, of course you’re not going to enjoy it.
Instead, look at each date as a fun opportunity to get out and about and meet someone new.
Don’t go in with high expectations, or low expectations, just expect to have fun. And if you don’t, you don’t have to see them again. Simple as that.
17. Don’t mention the ex.
As with any first date, steer clear of mentioning the ex.
Exceptions to this might be if the breakup is very recent and you feel that anyone new should know that you’re still fresh out of your previous relationship.
Or if there’s anything else about your past relationships you feel they should know from the very beginning.
18. Go with the flow.
Some people like to decide on strict rules like absolutely no kissing on the first date – god forbid anything more – but I don’t think those rules are particularly helpful.
Just go with the flow. If things are going well, and you want to extend the date or kiss them (only if it’s clear they want to kiss you back), or anything else that takes your fancy, just do it.
You only live once, so listen to your feelings and your gut, and led the mood and your date’s behavior guide you.
You never know where the evening could take you.