8 Pointers For Brits Dating in America

You may find yourself on a day-time date with NO alcohol. (TAOM)

You may find yourself on a daytime date sans alcohol. (TAOM)

I may not have gone on a first date in over a decade but this much I know: dating in Britain happens at night. There’s alcohol involved. And if you don’t end the night with a snog and cursory fumble then it’s safe to assume that one or possibly both parties was more turned on by the cutlery you used at dinner than the person sitting opposite. Here in the U.S., different rules apply.

Prepare to juggle multiple potential partners
In the U.S., serial dating is as common as eating cereal for breakfast. There’s not a one in, one out policy. Furthermore it’s okay—expected even—for you to mention that you’re also seeing other people. But this is not—I repeat NOT—code for “I am having sex with everyone I’m dating.”

Dating is like a hobby here
Americans approach romance like it’s a recreational activity. The word “dating” is a U.S. invention designed to sanitize the process of mate selection and make it seem less murky, awkward and heart-rending than it actually is. And so Americans discuss dating like they might talk about being on a bowling team. Brits traditionally take a more bumbling, less formal approach.

Don’t assume someone’s into you just because they agree to go on a date
As mentioned above, Americans are dating hobbyists, so you might find people prepared to go out with you just to keep their hand in, so to speak. They may not actually fancy you even a tiny bit. On an American date, it’s perfectly acceptable to turn up with platonic intentions, admit this early on and still have quite a nice time.

Daytime dates are a thing here
If they can avoid it, Brits don’t do scary stuff by daylight. Americans are bolder beasts and think nothing of meeting for a romantic midday coffee or an afternoon stroll in a scenic graveyard, which is how one of my expat friends spent her first date with her current American squeeze.

Furthermore, Americans date sober
I can picture some Brits reading the last point and thinking, “No problem. I’d just order a beer or take a bottle to the graveyard.” Let me quickly scupper that particular master plan. This will likely guarantee your exclusion from most second dates with an American. They don’t tend to be huge drinkers so Dutch courage in the daytime isn’t usually a socially acceptable option.

You might feel like you’re being interviewed
Americans on a daytime date can look like they’re having a business meeting—or a job interview. It’s not unusual, according to my expat singleton friends, to begin a date where the couple has never met before with a firm handshake. Then, the eligibility checklists come out: Where did you go to college? How much do you earn? Where do you see yourself in five years?

You don’t have to have sex
Based entirely on the flimsiest of anecdotal evidence, I’m concluding that Brits have sex in relationships sooner than Americans. Hopping into the sack after an initial encounter isn’t at all unusual back home. Here, it happens, but it’s much less common, and reasonable people meeting for the first—or second or third—time don’t expect it. Possibly this has something to do with the fact that so many Americans do the serial dating thing. Understandably, fragile singles often want to be sure they’re the one and only before removing any underwear.

You will need to discuss—not assume—exclusivity
Brits tend to “see” one person at a time, so if the relationship progresses to a second or third date, the boyfriend/girlfriend tag emerges without a conversation actually taking place. And you’d be appalled if you discovered that your new significant other was dating multiple partners. In America, however, until you’ve had the exclusivity talk, you’ll want to presume that the guy or girl sucking up spaghetti seductively across from you is also slurping noodles with other people.

Join @MindTheGap_BBCA tomorrow (Wednesday, January 22) at 2 pm ET on Twitter to discuss British vs. American dating rituals. Our guest co-host will be author and blogger Meagan Adele Lopez (@meagan). Tweet your questions using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a complete collection of Gavin & Stacey episodes on DVD.

See more:
So You Want to Marry an American…
A British Woman’s Guide to Dating a Brooklyn Hipster
How to Date in America
Eating Out: 10 Differences Between Britain and America
Life After DOMA: A Guide for Gay Brits in America

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis
  • Simon Smith

    I haven’t seen so much wrongity-wrong or sweeping generalization in a single post. Either that, or DC is very different

    • expatmum

      So – which side was the wrongity-wrong on, IYO? I can’t see much of it; perhaps a tongue in cheek opinion of the Brits, but no judging.

      • Simon Smith

        Daytime dating.
        Sober dating
        Multiple partners
        Discuss exclusivity.

        Maybe I just got lucky…

        • expatmum

          OK, maybe I”m being thick today but still not seeing the judgement. It’s not “wrong”, just different.

          • http://www.meaganadelelopez.com/ Meagan

            I’m American, and I can say that I absolutely have to drink on most dates. After all, I want to actually like the guys! Although, if after the first and second and third dates there is still a lot of alcohol, clearly something is wrong here….

          • Matt

            I think it depends on where you are. In NYC and many other urban areas, drinking is less taboo and meeting in the evening is more convenient. That said, I would definitely a take a first date more seriously if it’s during the day on the weekend and over a cup of coffee. Overall, I think this is a fairly accurate assessment, and if you’ve ever dated abroad you may notice these things as well.

            Also stating the obvious here for some of trolls: dating can vary from individual to individual, so while the list may not be fully applicable to everyone in the US, it does cover the general differences you may likely encounter.

          • Charles Martin

            In the midwest, a daytime beer is not looked down upon, but the usual.

        • keti

          You just got lucky. This is absolutely an accurate description of dating life in the US, in my native experience.

          • Eamonn

            I agree. This seems to be a reasonably accurate description. Obviously there are lots of exceptions but still it seems pretty true to mine and my friends lives.

        • Mairéad Scully

          Discussing exclusivity is definitely the norm. Before that, you’re just seeing whether or not you like someone and are perfectly free to see others. Not a fan. Daytime dating is definitely super common, but I’d have to disagree with the drink-free one. Since when were Americans not open to drinking? I’ve been in both rural & conservative and not-so-rural liberal areas and no, that’s definitely not the usual. Though to their credit you don’t typically get hammered in the afternoon, just have a glass and enjoy the other’s company. The real drinking typically happens at night.

  • Sara

    Why would someone who has not “gone on a first date in over a decade” write an article about dating in America? All credibility is lost.

    • expatmum

      A bit like many writers and journos who write about stuff – interviewing people, general research etc. I haven’t been on a date in over 20 years but am intimately informed (rather too much) on the whole scene by my friends who are now on their second time around,, and by my college daughter. Believe me, there’s not much I don’t know.

      • http://www.meaganadelelopez.com/ Meagan

        I agree with @expatmum:disqus – writers can absolutely write about something they don’t have first hand experience with. That said, the chat will be driven by people like you who have a chance to voice their opinions! Should be fun.

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  • Dannon

    Apparently I’m meant to be dating in Britain, not America.

  • saxonchap

    LOL fabulous and hilarious article! Wondering if no alcohol led to the high divorce rate in the USA ;-)

    • http://www.meaganadelelopez.com/ Meagan

      Really good point! Hard to sustain a marriage without a bit alcohol fun.

  • Miranda

    I swear the more of these articles I read the more I think I was born in the wrong country. I am painfully English yet born in America.

    • rayne

      I have the same problem

  • Tyler Vert

    Ha.
    We beat you in the Revoltionary War.
    ‘Merica.

    • ProudYankee

      Oh, Tyler. I really hope this is satire about British stereotypes of Americans’ wit and intelligence, but I fear it’s not.

      Maybe start with something easier to spell like the War of 1812 and move up from there next time?

      • Mairéad Scully

        I think that was pretty obviously a typo. And a joke.

    • TMarius

      You are banished to timeout in Florida.

  • Gillsies

    To be fair to anyone reading this you have to do nother one on dating in UK..it is very different…lol

  • Jen Sams

    Clearly I should have been born in the UK since it seems I may not be a traditional American dater…..

  • Bakewell tart

    Brilliant! As an expat married to an American, I still constantly raise with our friends how odd it is to me that they “date” multiple people, who in turn are dating multiple people….

  • happyhappy

    This is so full of generalizations (on both sides I am sure) that it can hardly be useful.

    • dw

      Rings mostly true to me (another UK-to-US exile).

  • woodroad34

    My dating experience as an American in America from a smallish town in the Midwest (on both sides of the relationship) has more to do with how the British dating scene has been depicted than how the American dating scene is pictured. I find the shallowness of serial dating/multiple dating boring and selfish. From what I’ve seen illustrated in British shows, their dating scene is incredibly forthright and randy. Something seems a trifle “through the looking glass” here.

  • Logan Monkey-Boy Aparicio

    Wow! Some of this was on point but others I was thinking “I’ve never had a date like that.” But that one bit about Americans like dating sober all I could think “I don’t know about that. Maybe some do if they are on the wagon so to speak”. Personally I like to knock back a few drinks and get a little tipsy on a date but not sloshed of course. Makes the evening more enjoyable and sometimes bearable if the date isn’t going well. If anything I learned from this article is some insight on how the Brits date.

  • Heather

    what kind of skanks is this person observing in America?

  • Mrs Baum

    I wouldn’t base your opinion of dating in the UK generally on what you see on TV or read in the media! Not everyone is jumping into bed in the first five minutes. Some do, obviously, but I wouldn’t say that’s the norm.

  • Stacy Kenaga

    Guess I’m meant to be British? Or at least dating one. Not your typical American gal I guess. I’m ok with that!

    • John Schrader

      As I read the description a British first date involved alcohol and a romp.

  • MontanaRed

    So, so, so glad I am not navigating these dangerous waters, especially after reading the comments! LOL

  • PinkZiab

    Sober dating? Americans not big drinkers? Maybe in the bible belt, but social lubricant is a MUST on a date for most folks (unless they are full-on teetotalers, and as for American not being big drinkers, well, that’s just laughable.

    • TMarius

      I’ve never had a first date involving drinking, actually. I interpret it as a sign of comfort if there’s been a one-date delay on inebriation during the date.

  • SuperCritic

    Apparently the American Midwest is kind of British…

  • Sara

    You described the dating concepts very well. One of the reasons I think the lack of alcohol on the first date & the daytime dating are popular is due to safety issues when meeting someone for the first time. At least that’s what went through my mind.

  • Sarah

    I would definitely agree with your assessment of British dating- it really is more of a courtship here. We would never go on a date with someone we didn’t really like or with whom we had no intention of beginning a relationship. I have to say that a large part of the reason for this is the difference between the British and the American countenance- Americans are much friendlier. That must be nice in day to day interactions, but it does mean that Americans are able to keep themselves at a bit of a distance from people. In England being so nice is seen as somewhat of a veneer. We hate fakeness, we would far rather see someone be kind of sardonic and rude than overly nice. But it does make us vulnerable- on a date you can’t use friendliness to hide your genuine, weird personality (with no pressure to be nice, there’s a lot more room to express yourself so many people develop quite eccentric personalities here), so going on a date with someone is a real commitment. If that person casually said that they were dating a few other people, we would be devastated.

    • TMarius

      That’s pretty normal to assume that if you haven’t discussed your intent to see each other exclusively, you should be expect the other person to date others as well.

      Usually, however, when two people find each other and make a good match, all of the unsuccessful courtiers will usually only experience a mild bruising of the ego.

      • John Schrader

        Or your’e an alcoholic.

  • Joy Prys

    I would have to say that is is very common in America to have a first date meet up with you for drinks. Especially now that most eating establishments have bars right in ‘em.

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  • dw

    Without alcohol to grease the wheels of relationships, the British population would go extinct within two generations.

    • TMarius

      The British seem so classically Greek in their enculturated tendency towards stoicism.

      Americans are definitely much more Roman. Culturally we are very passionate about romance, and conflicts are often resolved by fighting and make-up intercourse.

      You guys just need to watch some episodes of Jersey Shore in order to re-train yourselves in new mating behaviors.

      • pandoraann

        No, no, we have Geordie Shore* but they’re about as representative of British people as I imagine the Jersey Shore Cast are to most Americans. dw is right, we need the alcohol!

        *Disclaimer: I am a Geordie and those people are not representative of me or my city!

  • Irené Colthurst

    About the only thing recognizable from this article is a greater likelihood of not involving alcohol — “would you like to get coffee sometime” is a first date cliche in the US.

    Exclusivity, well, perhaps this is just me, but “I’m seeing this [one] guy, [and we'll see whether it gets serious or not]” seems to be more common than, “oh, I’m just causally lining up first dates with several guys.” I mean, who does that?

    “Stringing someone along” is not actually seen as a good thing — the stuff of sitcom fodder, but surely that proves the point.

  • Lindsey

    I found the last bit especially interesting. I’m American dating someone from the UK. I told my friends and they asked, “So, did he ask you to be his girlfriend yet?” To which I responded, “No.. is that supposed to happen? We’re only seeing each other, so isn’t it just sort of assumed that we are ‘together’?” Haha, so apparently I think like the Brits in that regard. I find it so strange that after dating someone for weeks, a couple has to have a talk to determine they are boyfriend and girlfriend… so what exactly were they up to that point, then? I don’t know, just seems a bit silly…

    • TMarius

      It’s pretty common even in Texas.

  • Mary Owens

    I am apparently a Brit. lol!

  • Random reader

    “Serial” means one after another – pretty much the opposite of what you’re trying to say, I think. Try “in parallel” or “simultaneously”.

  • Marie Shanahan

    He’s pretty much, right. That is, basically, all true. Having said that, Brits don’t seem as fond of us Americans these days. Paining to see, but it sounds true. I don’t think I’d be comfortable enough to visit England or date an English guy now. We’ve been friends for forever, but it’s become a lot of ignorance and, let’s be honest, thinly veiled, hostility toward Americans. Hope we work things out.