It’s no secret that dating is different in the post-lockdown era. Whether you and your quarantine boo didn’t make it or you’ve been single for the long haul, making social or romantic connections in person is a bit more difficult than it used to be. Beyond the effects of isolation — like unexpected social anxiety brought on by the extended time you spent alone baking banana bread or learning a ridiculous amount of TikTok dances — figuring out how to meet someone to date IRL has essentially become a collective struggle for many singles.
When it comes to putting yourself out there and meeting a potential beau, there are times when simply being mutual friends on Instagram or matching on Bumble doesn’t cut it. If you’re a social butterfly (or even if you’re not), getting out of the house and into a social setting might just be the key when it comes to meeting someone organically. While some online dating options are starting to get savvy with the ways you can show your real personality, like Hinge’s video prompts, there’s nothing that can truly replicate being able to pick up on someone’s physical energy or mannerisms when you’re face-to-face.
You could go out on the town with your BFFs to a party, but that can just as easily get stale after a few unsuccessful rounds of trying to flirt over the blasting music. To this end, it’s all about getting creative — and, according to certified matchmaker and dating coach Margot E. Finley — it’s also important to do what is comfortable and organic to you when looking for other singles. Her tip? You’ll find the best match when doing something that’s in line with your personality.
Whether you join an intramural kickball team or take a pottery class, engaging in a fun social activity will likely attract the kind of partner you’re looking for (while giving you an opportunity to do so). Below, some expert-backed tips on how to meet people outside of the online dating world.
1. Join A Social Group Or Activity
“Joining a group that meets monthly or weekly is most conducive to meeting a potential partner because science tells us that simply by seeing someone repetitively, our brains register a mutual affinity,” Finley tells Bustle. Try out an intramural sports league in your area with a friend or take a dance class. You can also check sites like Meetup to see if there are young adult social groups where you live and join in on one of their events. Bonus: You’ll already have something in common with whoever you meet in the group.
2. Never Skip Work Happy Hour
Even if you know, for a fact, that you will never date any of your coworkers (which is probably a good thing), you never know who they might ask from outside the office to tag along. Those harmless office friends? They might have a cute buddy. So if a coworker invites you to go someplace else after happy hour, join them.
2. Check Out What Events Your Friends Are Attending On Facebook (& Go)
I don’t mean inviting yourself to whatever events aren’t “public,” but if you see that one of your Facebook friends is going to an art exhibit opening or a reading at the local bookstore, RSVP and go. It's a great way to find out what's going on and to get slightly outside your comfort zone without having to show up somewhere completely alone.
3. Always Go To Friends' Birthday Parties
I know, I know. Getting up and going out — especially this time of year — seems like cruel and unusual punishment, but if you’re going to meet someone IRL, you have to venture out into the real world. Expanding our social circle — or at the very least, keeping it intact — is very important when you're trying to meet someone.
4. Take Public Transportation To Work
If the Instagram account Hot Dudes Reading has taught us anything, it’s that the subway is an oyster of attractive people who may be your ideal match. (Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re all single.) Next time you see a hot person reading a book you love, consider striking up a conversation with them about it. Making eyes at the cutie across from you the whole ride? Consider handing them a piece of paper with your number before you get off the train. Sure, it's brave — but it's also a thrill.
5. Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering is awesome in more ways than one. For starters, you’re giving back, and secondly, you’re putting yourself in a group of like-minded individuals who, like you, are obviously saints. Consider volunteering for a cause you care about and see who you meet. At the very least, you'll make friends (with more potentially cute buddies).
6. Don’t Close Yourself Off To Talking With Strangers
Yes, randoms who think it’s OK to talk to you when you’re clearly deep into tweeting something about your coffee can be really annoying, but sometimes when you give strangers the opportunity to talk to you, they can actually be cool. (But you’ve seen hundreds of rom-coms, so you know that.)
Of course, you need to be safe and should never feel harassed— but sometimes, society has made us believe we're always in danger, when in reality, we might actually sometimes enjoy the thrill of talking to a stranger.
7. Adopt A Dog (Or Borrow One To Take For A Walk)
As a person who loves dogs more than humans, I’m not suggesting that dogs are some sort of accessory. But they are magical, furry gifts that, if you have the time, not only make you a happier person but get you hitting up the dog park. That right there is opening you up to meeting new people — dogs are truly a staple conversation starter.
8. Take A Class
Even if you haven’t been to school in years, you can always learn something new. Sign up for a cooking class, a pottery class, or finally learn how to scuba dive. Remember how it was so easy to meet people when you were in school? You can do that again.
9. Agree To Be Set Up
So maybe being set up by your Aunt Edie is going to result in you being bored because Aunt Edie never really understood you. But if a friend wants to set you up on a date, do it. Your friends know you well enough to know what type of person will click with you. This is your best-case scenario for meeting people IRL, so don't roll your eyes at it.
10. Become A ‘Regular’ Somewhere
There’s something about being a fixture in someplace you’re comfortable (that isn’t your home) that gives you the confidence to talk to people. Find your favorite cafe, bar, bookstore, restaurant, or place to listen to live music and see how it feels to become a regular.
11. Take Yourself On A Solo Date
At first, it may seem uncomfortable to venture out into the world by yourself, especially when you’re doing something that you’d normally do with a partner. According to professional matchmaker and dating coach Thalia Ouimet, however, that is precisely what you should do when you’re trying to meet someone in person.
“I recommend going to your favorite restaurant and sitting at the bar by yourself,” she tells Bustle. “The pro tip is to become friends with the bartender so that they have your back and can help you navigate if your crush walks in, or if you get stuck talking to someone unpleasant — you can give the bartender hints to help you out.” Although grabbing a cocktail solo sometimes takes a bit of extra confidence, rest assured that no one is really paying attention or judging the fact that you’re alone. In fact, they might think it’s awesome that you’ve learned to be comfortable doing things by yourself.
12. Host Get-Togethers With Other Singles
For some people, joining a pre-existing social group or activity requires working up confidence. For others, hopping into new crowds is like riding a bike. If you are one of those people, try putting a group together yourself. “Make a positive difference for the other singles in your life and you may be rewarded for the kindness when you meet your own special person,” Finley says. “Suggest monthly get-togethers — like happy hour, casual dinners, Saturday morning easy hikes, etc. — where each person brings another single person.” If you’re able to put this together with your single friends, you might have a great chance of meeting your perfect match — after all, who knows you better than your friends?
13. Make “Business” Cards For Personal Connections
Finley recommends that you create and print “business” cards — but for dating. Think of it as a unique take on the traditional career networking tactic. Rather than fumbling around to add each other’s phone contacts or Instagram handles (and to save face for a potential rejection), having a small card with your personal cell number or social media accounts to give to potential partners is an easy way to signal your interest, and put the ball in their court — no DM sliding needed.
Margot E. Finley, certified matchmaker and dating coach
Thalia Ouimet, professional matchmaker and dating coach
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