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It’s a match: meeting someone
Berlin boasts a reputation as the city of singles, with half of its residents living alone. Those looking for love don’t easily have luck in the transient place with party vibes. That’s why dating coach and American expat Talya Shoup was in for a challenge when she set up a matchmaking service there, geared for people looking for serious relationships.
To date, half of her clients have begun seeing someone she initially introduced them to. "The difficulty in dating Germans isn't so much dating them but meeting them,” says Shoup, who has worked with both Germans and expats alike.
In the US it’s easy to go to a bar or a club and begin chatting with a potential mate, whereas in Germany, “people tend to stick to themselves,” says Shoup, who now works with singles throughout the country. It’s more typical to get to know someone through an existing circle of friends, through work or through neighbours, she observed.
Canadian expat Laurel Robbins encountered similar challenges in Munich. Recently single after a 10-year-long relationship with a German, she headed to an Irish pub with some friends, noticing that no one there was mingling with strangers - even after a couple beers - as they would in North America.
For a breath of fresh air, she turned to one of her favourite hobbies: hiking. There she found it easier to strike up a conversation with other expats and Germans, both platonically and as potential flames. Yet there was still shaky ground when she found herself on a date with someone from the group.
“German men don't have the best idea how to flirt,” said Robbins, who runs the blog Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel. “In North America flirting is fun but Germans take it much more seriously. In North America, it’s playful on dates whereas Germans treat it as a job interview.”
Many Germans’ detailed and analytical nature, however, has boded well for online dating, observes Shoup. They often tend to be more private people who like that it’s easy to cautiously get to know someone online first. “With online dating, they can go by lists and by facts,” says Shoup.
While every person is different, there is no doubt that dating websites and apps in Germany are booming, with one in five people using one to meet a potential partner in 2018. Stephan, 38, a German living in Berlin, turned to okcupid.com with the hopes of eventually finding another relationship after one that lasted 12 years had ended.
He found himself in a more difficult landscape than in his 20s, when he met his long-term partner through work and after a few dates decided they were in an exclusive relationship.
With online dating, he has had no problems meeting women, but instead of the third or fourth date evolving into something more serious, it usually ends. “Dating here is definitely difficult,” he said with a tone of resignation. “Everyone thinks they can find someone who’s a better fit, and people often don’t really try to get deeply involved with each other anymore.”
Shy about approaching a woman in German or English, Max, 30, turned to the app Tinder to find a partner, contrary to its application as an app for easy hook-ups. “I think people see it differently in Germany than in the U.S., for example,” he says. Yet in the end he met his girlfriend after a stand-up comedy show. “I guess it’s easier to start talking to someone when you’re already laughing about the same things.”
Outside of Berlin
Shoup herself turned to online dating when she did not meet anyone with serious potential in Berlin. In the end she met her dream man - only he lived in Vienna. Now the two are engaged and set to be married in Hamburg, where Shoup has seen a culture more conducive to serious relationships.
“All cities have a different vibe, and Hamburg is much more family-focused,” says Shoup, who was struck by all the mini-vans she initially saw on the street. “I have advised people to go there if looking for something serious, but with patience I think you can meet someone anywhere.”
Even in cities such as Berlin, she advised Germans and expats alike to get involved with meet-ups, whether cooking or dancing, to meet people with similar interests. The group InterNations is another resource for both expats and internationally minded Germans, and where a handful of people she knows have met their mates. She also urged singles to give speed dating a shot - even if just for practice making small talk with strangers.
Max said Germans are usually as open to meeting a fellow German as an international resident, “but are cautious about moving forward with anything serious if they know someone is just going to be here for the short term,” he said. “In Berlin, most single expats are coming and going and not putting down roots. Where I’m from [in southern Germany] anyone you meet who is not a student is usually there for the long haul.”
The double-edged sword of dating a German, observed Robbins, is that they will exhibit honesty from the very beginning to the very end. “Germans seem to value their time a little bit more and have to really like you before they will agree to meet. Germans won't say ‘it's nice to meet you’ unless they truly believe it's been nice.”
The same culture applies to break-ups, said British expat Laura, whose German boyfriend of three years one day told her that he thought their relationship should end. In vivid detail, he explained he was interested in an acquaintance and wanted to see where it would go.
She contrasted her own story with that of another friend, who found out her American husband was cheating on her when an alert popped up on her phone when she wasn’t in the room. “At least I can say that my ex was honest with me,” says Laura.
Robbins adds that when it comes to dating, she can always rely on Germans to be honest. “I always know that if a German says he will call, he will call," she says, "whether he is interested or not."
SEE ALSO: 10 reasons why you should date (or even fall in love with) a German