At first this might seem like a pretty simple (even stupid) question with a pretty simple answer. But if you were to ask ten of your friends to define ‘dating‘ I’m sure they would all give wildly different answers.
And before we get in to the nitty-gritty this article is referring to relationships between humans (although there are some people who would state that they are dating or ‘in a relationship’ with a non human animal or even an inanimate object like one gentleman who claims to have had intimate relationships with over 1000 cars!)
‘Dating’ is highly culturally and geographically specific, for instance in the United Kingdom when one a person is ‘dating’ another person that is usually considered that they are exclusive and are not physically or romantically involved with anyone else, whereas in the United States a person who is ‘dating’ may have a number of people they are involved with in a quest to find a partner they are most compatible with, with the end goal to enter a relationship with just one person. In the respect that if a British person is dating a number of people they might be considered unfaithful and might be perceived in a negative light, whereas in the United States dating a number of people at the same time is quite acceptable.
In many conservative countries, cultures, and religions a man and woman who are not related (through blood or marriage) may not even be allowed to be together in public places unless they are married. Up until very recently in some strict Middle Eastern Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia a man and woman who are not married were not permitted to share a hotel room, even if they are just friends, whereas in the West going on holiday and sharing a hotel room with a friend of the opposite sex is quite normal and acceptable. And in some cultures ‘arranged marriages‘ are the norm and the parents will choose their offspring’s partners, ‘dating’ in the conventional Western sense doesn’t really even exist.
Due to a gender imbalance in China (and in many other countries tbh) where men outnumber women due to a preference for male offspring competition for female partners is fierce ‘dating schools‘ for men have sprung up and are becoming more and more popular.
In Japan a ‘Goukon’ is a dating practise where a group of singles will go out together, often inviting their single friends with the intention of meeting a potential partner, this might also be referred to as ‘group dating’, however this is not to suggest that people participating in a Goukon are seeking relationships with more than one person, but keep reading for information on that…………
Dating in the West in Europe, North America and other English speaking countries has many different definitions to many different people. While of course romantic/intimate relationships have existed even since our species evolved and probably way before that, the advent of the Internet and international travel have highlighted the huge variations in human definitions of ‘dating’.
Online dating and dating Apps such as Tinder have really skewed the Oxford dictionary definition of dating and opened up and whole new world of possibilities to some people and made many others realise that what they thought was a unique to them is actually quite the norm.
To most millennials, Gen X and Gen Zers the modern dating scene is all that they have known and getting a date via an app is no different to getting a pizza delivered, while their parents in their 40s or 50s are probably both surprised and envious of the huge choice and ease at which meeting someone for a ONS or a serious relationship is today.
Luckily there is a huge selection of dating sites and apps for people of all ages, shapes and sizes, in fact the number of niche dating sites is both massive and sometimes comical, whatever you’re into or looking for, there will be a site catering to it. Take a look at our A to Z of dating sites to see what is available, from Amputee Dating to Zohra Dating (yeah, really!). Harry Potter fans will be pleased to know there is even a ‘Dating for Muggles‘ website.
If you consider yourself a Nerd or Geek, or would just like to date one, there are a number of sites for you too. Seriously, whatever you are looking for in a romantic partner, no matter how obscure you might think it is, we can guarantee there is a site or app out there to match you with ‘The one’ as Mark from Peep Show is endlessly and hopelessly search for. And just because its topical, there is even a Coronvirus Dating Site!
While online dating is now quite widely accepted and most people in the West have no problem admitting that they have used, or do use online dating services, it hasn’t always been like that, prior to sites such as Match.com founded in 1993, meeting people on the Internet for a romantic or intimate relationship carried a certain stigma. Match.com could be considered a pioneer in the online dating scene, especially for their inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people looking for love online. They really set the scene (no pun intended) for LGBTQ dating, a demographic which had been overlooked by many other dating or ‘match making’ services, although figures are difficult to obtain, the percentage of people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual has been estimated at between 0.6% and 4.2% of the UK population according to ONS figures and detailed in an Independent article.
Although figures on sexuality are notoriously difficult to obtain, partly due to an unwillingness to divulge sexuality, prejudice, stigma surrounding sexuality, the fact that in many countries around the world being gay is actually a criminal offence and because sexuality is considered by many to be a spectrum, working on the estimation that 2% of people are gay would mean that approximately 156,00,000 people globally are gay, that’s a big market which many dating services are only just starting to cater for. While most people are aware of the dating app Tinder which is primarily aimed at heterosexual relationships, it is not widely known that the gay dating app Grindr was launched in 2009 and actually predated Tinder and was most likely the inspiration for Tinder.
In a recent article by TechCrunch claims that 30% of US adults have used some form of online dating and 12% found a committed relationship online, we’re not statisticians but those figures don’t sound right, firstly the 30% figure seems a bit low and if it is correct out of that 30% over a third, that’s one in three people who have used online dating have ended up in a committed relationship from it! Anyone who has used Tinder would probably laugh in your face if you told them that 1 in 3 serious relations started on the dating App! Obviously the guys over at TechCrunch need to check their figures, the 12% sounds plausible, that around 1 in 10 serious relationships started online, but this is assuming that far more than 30% of people have used online dating.
Just a few days before the international ‘day of love’, aka Valentines day, a group of savvy people created a mock dating site based on the biggest online superstore, Amazon. AmazonDating looks and feels just like the real Amazon shopping website but features one commodity not many people would openly admit to buying: a date! While we think (and hope) it’s either just a joke or a smart publicity stunt, it could also be a comment on the commercialisation of the modern dating world. As of writing, Amazon have not commented on the site, while we are pretty sure that they are in no way connected to the site, it could be a double bluff – stranger things have happened online or in the name of marketing. Remember the guy who got his girlfriend to streak at a Champions League game wearing a swimsuit promoting his adult video streaming website last year? That apparently earned the couple £3.8 million, not bad for 30 seconds work!
As mention earlier ‘niche dating’ services, websites and Apps have really started to gain ground and cater to people’s unique desires for partners. A play on the name of the gay dating app Grindr, a newish app 3rder is aimed at people looking for a relationship involving 3 people, while it has a rating of 4.7 on the Play Store, many reviewers of the App complain about having to pay for a subscription to actually be able to chat with matches, unlike Tinder and Grindr which offer a ‘freemium’ service, where a basic service is free but with the option to upgrade to a paid subscription which gives users more features.
Dating Around the World
Goukon is a term originating in Japan and is the equivalent of a social mixer where a group of single people attend a social event with the intended outcome of meeting a partner, it is sometimes called 'group dating', but this does not imply that the participants are seeking anything more than a monogamous relationship.
Dating Schools (China)
Due to the imbalance of males to females in China, with there being more females than males, the old addage 'there is someone for everyone' just isn't true. This isn't down to some sort of biological factor, it is simply, as in many countries and cultures, a preference for male offspring. Female foeticide is practised, where females are aborted before they are born, or sometimes killed once they are born, in addition to popular, but completely erroneous gender selection pills and medication. China's now defunct 'one child system' also played a part in favouring boys over girls, although parent may now have more than one child, a preference for males still persists.
These factors combined have lead to more males than females and hence fierce competition exists, which means that males feel compelled to ensure they are as desirable to females as they can be, and the modern phenomenon of male Dating Schools, similar to female 'Finishing Schools' have emerged.
United Kingdom (The Pub)
In the UK it is very common to go on a first casual date in a British traditional pub as they often provide a relaxed social atmosphere in a familiar social setting. First dates, whether they are just a prelude to a hookup, or the start of a serious relationship, often start over a pint and a package of pork scratchings in England.
The people of France don't really even have a word for 'dating'. The classic European attitude extends to dating, which no one does in the country with the most romantic city in the world. Most French people would simply say they are 'seeing someone', that 'someone' could easily be a 'few people'. Even when the French are in a committed relationship or a marriage having a mistress or another partner is not something to really get to concerned about!
The Spanish tend to take relationships a bit more seriously and having a succession of casual hookups is harder here than many other countries in Europe. Spaniards usually meet someone they like and it moves pretty quickly into something serious.
The Swedes like to keep it casual when it comes to dating, which again they don't have a word for. Dating in Sweden is more than likely to revolve around going for coffee and cake.
And despite the country being famous for attractive people, hookups aren't really a thing in Sweden with most people preferring a monogamous relationship.
Arranged marriage is still very commonplace in India and many other countries around the world where parents and other close relatives organise marriage for their children so 'dating' in the conventional sense that we are used to in the West is less common. This is not to suggest that people in India never date, but if you are used to dating in the USA, UK, Australia then you will probably be in for a surprise if you try dating in India.
Dating in the United States is a pretty casual affair with 'seeing' or 'dating' a number of people at the same time considered normal and it's not until you are in a 'committed' relationship that dating two people would be regarded as cheating.
If you start dating a guy or girl in Mexico you should expect to engages in a lot of PDA, while still a very conservative country when it comes to relationships and dating with rigid gendered roles, when you are in a relationship kissing and holding hands in public is quite normal.
The Italians are famous for being romantic, and this is not just a rumour. Italian men are considered to be some of the most romantic men in the world, they are also known to be some of the most unfaithful too! Italy was the home of the most famous lover Casanova after all!
Some people have suggested that gender roles in Russia are a little dated and out of kilter with the rest of the world, where men are expected the be chivalrous, opening doors for women and always paying the bill. And women are expected to conform to 'feminine' stereotypes with regards to their appearance and roles in a relationship. Remember that picture of Vladimir Putin shirtless on horseback? Yeah, that's kinda how some Russia men still think that's what women are looking for in a guy...…..
According to an article in the The Economist the best place to find a date in Nigeria isn't Tinder. It's a friend or relatives wedding!
These type of social events or mixers, as some people might describe them are ideal places to meet people who are looking to meet a future husband or wife. Like many countries with a relatively short life expectancy compared to the West, of just 54 years in Nigeria, many people are eager to meet someone, get married and start a family in their 20s rather than spend it on meaningless hookups.
Many Conservative Muslim Countries
Within many strict and conservative Muslim majority countries women's rights and freedoms are greatly restricted and in some of the most prohibitive countries, such as Saudi Arabia where a Male Guardianship System operates, a woman must always be accompanied by a male relative (usually husband or father, but sometimes brother, cousin, or even son) whenever they go out in public. Breaking these rules carries severe punishment. Going on a 'date' or even considering a random 'hookup' is almost unthinkable.
While Saudi Arabia is probably the most extreme example, many other Muslim countries have similar unwritten social rules or codes of conduct. Of course young men and women in these countries still go on dates and hookup, but they just have to be a little more discreet about it!
As you can see from some of the examples above that your experience of 'dating' may be very very different to that of someone from another country or continent. And while we are all human and it still takes one man and one woman to form a conventional relationship, the route that they take to get there can be very different depending on the lottery of life which decides where you are born.