Going on a date can be exciting but can also create some awkwardness when you aren’t sure what is expected of you by your date. What to do or not do to leave a lasting good impression that can earn you points and make your date look forward to having another date with you.
The awkwardness may come from how to handle communication, to composure, to what to order and also handling the financial aspect of the date. Sticking to the etiquette guidelines for going on a date puts you in a relaxed state as you will always approach every date situation with ease because you are confident on how to handle yourself.
The guideline listed below will help you as a person of finesse who is conscious about how you carry yourself, build self-respect that leaves an unforgettable, respectable and lasting impression on the mind(s) of your date(s).
-Put your best foot forward: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well”. One of the most important aspects of your date experience will be your attitude throughout the duration of your date. Have a positive one even if your date happens to act in an offensive manner. It may not be intentional but the way you act or react to situations during your date could make or ruin your date. So, keep your attitude positive even when you begin to prepare for your date.
-Choosing a venue: The host is the person who invites the other on the date and most times, it’s a gentleman who asks a lady on a date. When a lady is asked on a date and further asked to choose a venue, it’s because the gentleman wants her to choose a place that she’ll be comfortable with, considering both the environment and the food. This is therefore, not the time to choose the most expensive restaurant in the city. I recommend you choose a restaurant whose food you like and can afford to pay for. As a civilised person, always go on a date prepared. If your regular restaurant happens to be amongst the choicest, then that is fine.
You don’t have to downplay your standards for others to fit in but if you can only afford an average restaurant, then let that be your choice. It’s up to your host to suggest something of a higher budget. I always go for a restaurant with a serene environment where you can have a decent conversation. Know your level and play the part, your date is looking for someone real.
-Dress up: No matter what your style is, top it up a notch but don’t be excessive.
For ladies, this is when you may want to wear your nice high heel shoes, elegant dress, get your nails well-manicured, hair neatly done, wear nice fragrance perfume, carry a classy clutch, etc. This isn’t a jeans and T-shirt affair, just maintain elegance.
For gentlemen, that freshly laundered shirt that makes you feel like you own the restaurant, neat pair of shoes (the ladies always notice it), well-groomed hair and nails, and of course your favourite oud cologne, or any fragrance of your choice. We ladies love guys that smell good.
-Be punctual: Keeping your date waiting is one of the first turnoffs after you’ve accepted a date invitation. You must let them know if you can’t help but run late not to talk of if you’re unable to show up and this must be communicated on time. Getting ready for a date can be expensive and you don’t want to take these efforts for granted.
-Avoid showing up with friends: It is very unethical to show up with a friend unannounced on a date. Most people will be offended and rightly so. If you must show up with an uninvited friend for a genuine reason, make sure to inform your date and get their approval. I will advise you altogether avoid this, especially if you’re just getting to know one another.
-Seat the Lady: This old fashion act of chivalry is still and will always remain a class act. If a gentleman walks in with a lady, he asks her where she prefers to sit except they already had a fixed reservation, and when they approach the table, he pulls out her chair and helps her adjust back the chair as she takes her seat before he moves on to take his seat. If he was already seated before she got in, he gets up and helps her with her chair. This doesn’t make the woman “weak”, it shows respect for her presence while the lady receives this act gracefully with a “thank you” or a smile.
-Mind your order: Most times, a waiter comes around as soon as you take your seats to give you the menu. Be mindful of what you order. If you didn’t pick the restaurant and are not familiar with the food choices on the menu, you may take a cue from your host and ask your host to recommend something for you, that way, if you end up not liking it, then it wouldn’t be your fault as they made a wrong choice.
This will be understandable as you’re both getting to know each other. Another advantage of asking your host for recommendations is that it gives you an idea of the cost of food or drink item that is comfortable for them to handle. Whatever the case may be, I advise you only choose what you can comfortably pay for. As a guest on a date, you don’t even want to be the one to order the most expensive wine on the menu even if you can afford to pay for it. A date isn’t a show of affluence, just keep it modest.
-Communication: This is an essential part of building and sustaining relationships especially on a first date. Keep your language clean by avoiding profanity and cuss words. Avoid talking about old relationships, marriage and children, finances, and controversial topics that maybe uncomfortable. If you want to know what they do, you may ask what industry they are in and speak in general terms. Ask them about their likes and so on and let the communication naturally unfold. Try not to dominate the conversation by making it all about yourself no matter how interesting you may think you are, it’s sometimes a turnoff.
-Show interest in your date: It’s also a great part of effective communication to show interest in the person you’re with. This is not the time to occupy your mind with other thoughts. Even if your date is boring, act interested, humour them by laughing at their joke as far as it isn’t offensive or disrespectful. Remember, it’s only for a short period of time, you may decide not to go out with them again if you find them uninteresting, but whilst the date is on, keep the energy positive.
-Put your phones away: It’s totally unacceptable to be distracted by your phone while on a date. Put it away throughout the duration of your date. You may refer to my article “Cellphone Etiquette”.
-Drink decently: A decent amount of wine to drink on a table is one glass. If you’re sure that taking more than one glass isn’t going to get you overly excited, you may have one refill, but be sure never to over drink or get tipsy on a date, be it the first or the fifth date. If the date gets interesting and you both decide to move on and take a drink by the bar or to a different location altogether, still maintain a glass or two, you can altogether avoid drinking alcohol if you know you can’t handle it. “No, thank you I’m good with a mocktail” is still classy, don’t outplay yourself.
-Who pays the bill? This very important question stirs a lot of controversies in this day and age of gender and role confusion. An agelong standard still reigns supreme, that whoever initiates the idea of going on a date or extended the invitation pays. This is irrespective of gender. But because statistics has it that 90 per cent of the time, the gentleman does the inviting, then the gentleman is expected to pay for the date.
If a lady as a guest feels the need to split the bill, she may subtly ask and see how the gentleman responds to it. If he is okay with it, she happily pays for what she ordered after all she only ordered what she can comfortably pay for. If he insists on taking the bill as a gentleman should, she lets him take the bill while she tips the waiter. The idea is that you express a sense of responsibility. But, at formal/business situations, always offer to split the bill irrespective of gender or who plays host.
I will also mention that I’m always flexible about this act as I mind who I offer to split the bill with. If I know my host is very stable financially and might be offended by my offer to split the bill, I may avoid offering to pay and enjoy the treat.
Some men get offended when you offer to split the bill, while others appreciate your gesture as being considerate whether they accept it or not. A little bit of psychology is required to effectively deal with the situation. If you encounter a situation where a gentleman gets offended by your offer to split the bill, politely explain that you just wanted to contribute something and won’t try it next time. If a gentleman politely rejects the offer but doesn’t take offense, then you may occasionally still suggest that you take the bill on subsequent dates. Everyone’s financial strength and ability to spend on you isn’t equal, even if they greatly appreciate you.
The fact remains, you really don’t know who will expect you to pay for your bill and rather than get embarrassed, always go prepared.
-Mind the time: Dates are unpredictable sometimes, you only know when you’re stepping out for it but are never sure when you’ll actually return. If you enjoy the company of your date, it could last much longer than anticipated. It’s okay to relax and enjoy the moment but it’s also better to leave when the applaude is still on going, that way you know you will be missed and your date will be looking forward to another experience. So, say your goodbye in good time and try never to overstay your welcome.
-Check-up: After you’ve returned from a very successful date experience, check up on your date and ensure they also got home safe. Let them know you enjoyed their company whether you’re looking forward to another date or not.
(For your personal refinement training(s), please visit www.etiquette.ng)
Keep it classy always.