Like many women who left a small town to move to the big city, I had a few (read: a lot) of unrealistic expectations about what New York would be like. While my career has absolutely surprised me — and I’m thankful for how happy it makes me —when it comes to dating in a big city...well let’s just say I’ve built an entire blog (and written a book) based on mostly bad experiences about my love life in New York.
Of my five-and-a-half years in New York, I’ve spent four of them single in the city. I’ve definitely met some pretty amazing people, along with an equal amount of terrible ones. I’ve had cringe-worthy encounters and moments that seem like they fell out of a romantic comedy from the early '00s. I’ve tried my best to give New York City the benefit of a doubt — surely, dating is always a roller coaster, regardless of where you live.
But is it? What’s the dating scene like in some of the biggest cities around the world? Before I book a one-way plane ticket to another place that doesn’t seem as harsh, brass, cold, and as Manhattan, I decided to ask people to describe what dating is like where they live:
1. New York
"No one moves to New York City to fall in love. It's hard to meet someone here who's more interested in you than they are in following their dreams — or even willing to try and balance both. More often than not, you're weeding through the ones who are looking for a girl to bide their time with, but not commit to. It's New York City, there's always a better restaurant, a better bar, a better coffee shop, a better apartment, a better gym, a better slice of pizza. Dating in NYC comes with a lot of FOMO — we always think we can do better because for the most part, we can. So we date reluctantly, always on the lookout for something better. Never fully committing, just in case a more appealing option presents itself." -Marie, 27
“The London dating scene is full of variety. You’ll meet singles from every age, culture, profession and personality known to humankind. It’s one of the biggest metropolitan locations, so it makes sense that you’ll meet someone from anywhere. On the first date, it’s fine to go for brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks, coffee or activity first dates. After you go on a first date with someone, you are more or less ‘in a relationship’— but not in the way Americans think about it. We don’t date multiple people all at once, but instead we figure out if it’ll work with the person and go on a few dates. So while you might have a ‘relationship’ they usually don’t lead anywhere. Most people in London wait to settle down until later in life.” -Kathryn, 30
“Charlotte dating scene is a great time. Online dating has been my go-to since I have such a busy schedule. I am a planner by nature, so meeting someone online is ideal for me. It gives you the chance to weed out the good and the bad before meeting in person. Statistically, in Charlotte, there are more single women than single men, and while that can be frustrating for the [heterosexual] ladies, there are still plenty of good men out there. I believe Charlotte is a great city to meet a potential partner, and it is also a place with endless opportunities to explore the city with someone special. I already have my next date planned, and we are going brewery hopping. With any great city, as long as you put yourself out there, and keep your confidence high, you will have an abundance of fun and success dating in Charlotte.” -Amanda, 27
4. Los Angeles
“Dating in Los Angeles can be difficult because everyone is isolated in their cars and their neighborhoods, so you don’t bump into a cute stranger like you could in a more walkable city, like New York City. That being said though, people in Los Angeles are very active, so if you join a sports league or go to the same CrossFit class every week, it forces you to strike up a conversation with someone. I’ve also found that guys in Los Angeles don't buy women drinks or hit on you the way they do elsewhere. A lot of people say it's because they are lazy and cheap - but who knows? I will say that I don’t find men as approachable in Los Angeles as they are in other places, and often times, I’ll be somewhere and watch singles staring at their phones instead of each other. But maybe that happens everywhere?” -Ellie, 31
"Miami dating is essentially one big, real life Tinder experience: don’t like someone? No big deal. Walk down the street and you’ll find 10 more potential matches! It can be a little difficult and intimidating to date in Miami because everyone — and I mean everyone! — is gorgeous. No one puts a real effort into dating because you know you will likely meet someone out in a few days, so you don’t need to. It can also be a little flashy and superficial — everyone is trying to one-up someone else. At least with the gorgeous weather, there is no lack of rooftop bars, outside bites and drinks or a reason to wear a summer dress all-year-’round.” -Laura, 27
“I think dating in Sydney is pretty similar to New York City, except you can replace the douchey frat guys in finance with boys who never want to grow up... and probably don't have that great of jobs. It feels like everyone in Sydney has that ‘Peter Pan’ syndrome and they don’t want to grow up: they want to surf, drink, relax, hang around, but they’re not as interested in building a life. It's hard to find someone who won't go on one date with you and then disappear forever into the dating abyss. When you do find a good one, it seems like the mere mention of being serious will send them running.” -Courtney, 30
7. San Francisco
“There’s absolutely no stigma to dating apps in San Francisco since almost everyone works in tech of some sort. The weather also gives you a lot of options for dates. Yes, your first date will still be a drink somewhere, but after that by date three or four, it's likely that you'll be hiking up to Sutro Tower or kicking it a Dolores Park. I’ve also found that the city is a bit couple-y. I remember someone saying that to me prior to me moving and it's pretty true. There's so much to explore in and nearby SF that it does seem like folks are looking for a partner to adventure with on the weekends. The best part of dating in SF is that everyone is really, really open: it's totally cool to talk to strangers, so it's likely that you'll start up a conversation in a Lyft Line or Uber Pool that may lead to a date. (I really did want my Lyft Line to Love Story to come true, but he disappeared after the fourth date... so the phase out happens everywhere!).” -Charlie, 29
"It seems like expectations for love in Rome get higher year-by-year. If you want a real chance at dating someone, you have to wear your most expensive clothes in your wardrobe, slip on new shoes, wear the best perfume and take your nice car to a well-known restaurant and cocktail bar. The first date is the most difficult one because even if you book the best table at the best restaurant, it's not enough to win over her heart. You need to invent a tour around the city for your date: so you jump in your Vespa special and ride to all places that Federico Fellini would have shown in the famous film La Dolce Vita — Colosseo, Fontana Di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, San Giovanni, Piazza Venezia and more. This is could be your ace in the hole but the ladies, today, are not like our moms, therefore you have to complete the tour at the most expensive cocktail bars with a special view of the city or otherwise they are not happy." -Fabrizio, 32
“Chicago dating was super fun, casual, laid back. Most of my dates were exploring hole-in-the-wall bars or at sporting events. There is something very genuine and adventurous about dating there. I never felt like I had to impress anyone or be someone I'm not. I also found that men were definitely nicer. It didn't really matter if they were originally from the area or not, they all had that midwestern charm. They were the kind of men who could get along with anyone. I could actually be vocal about feminist issues and most of them could carry on intellectual conversations. The downside about Chicago being such an educated city though is that everyone is so busy with work/research/grad school that long term relationships were hard to come by. I never had a problem with first or second dates, but after that one of us would fall into a ‘I'm so busy’ rut.” -Ashley, 28
"I found dating in Seattle to be very difficult. Being a full-time employee, my only option for dating was online. Whenever I met someone online, their profiles were awesome, but meeting in person was difficult. I was met with no eye contact, awkward silences, and it was mostly me carrying the conversations. Seattle has been known to be very passive aggressive (the Seattle ‘freeze’) and it holds true in dating—very cold, hard to read, and very difficult to get to know. It’s exhausting!” -Katie, 30
"French people still don’t have all the dating rules that exist in America. It’s much more spontaneous. You don’t set up dates. You meet people at work, at parties, in school and it’s much more casual. The aim is not getting married or having kids right away, it’s to have a lover and a romantic relationship. So things move faster because you don’t have the pressure of a set path. You enjoy each other and see where it leads. That being said, Tinder and other dating sites have been catching up in France because as they have here, so it’s getting harder to meet people as you have careers or get older. So things are changing in the way people meet. It’s less spontaneous. Though the goal still stays focused on enjoying each other not setting up lifetime goals right away." -Severine, 35
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