Note:  This is the fourth of a series of posts I am writing about online dating.  If you’ve missed the previous three, be sure to check them out before reading this one:  Your Expectation, Your Profile, Your Opening Email.

So you’ve exchanged a few emails, and you decided to meet face to face.  Now what?  I am a big fan of meeting up at cafes (or tea lounges for those who don’t drink coffee) for the first date.  This is true of people I’ve met online and offline, and it’s a trick I learned from my married friends.

Cafe is a good meeting place for several reasons.  First, it’s public and therefore a safe location for two strangers to meet up.  Second, unlike meeting up for a meal or an activity, there’s no designated length of time for cafe dates.  If the date is going well, you can easily extend the meeting to several hours (either at the cafe or elsewhere).  Conversely, if you find yourself uninterested or otherwise disengaged with the person, you can easily end the date early without causing any awkward moments for either of you.  Third, cafes and tea lounges provide a relaxed setting that is conducive to getting to know each other because it is neither too quiet nor too loud for dialogues.  Fourth, coffee (or tea) is relatively inexpensive and won’t break your bank.  This is especially true if you meet up with many people in a short period of time (as can often be the case for online dating).  Fifth, the way coffee orders are taken at cafes easily allows you to pay for your own cup of joe.  This is important because you never want to feel as if you owe your date any favors or future dates due to his generosity.

I’ll admit I have not always followed my own advice although the most memorable dates I’ve had were cafe meet-ups.  There were two in particular that stood out for me.  The first one took place in a cafe located within a bookstore.  We were both so engrossed in our conversation that we practically closed down the cafe.  The total conversation time?  Almost four hours!  We would be hard pressed to chat for that long at a restaurant or anywhere else.  The second one took place in a small cafe that is extremely popular among the locals.  Again, he and I chatted about many things and covered a vast range of topics from the Olympics to human psychology to our travel experience.  Had it not been for our prior commitments, we probably would have closed down the cafe as well.

I think the key to both great dates being as memorable as they are is the relaxed environment afforded by the cafes.  I honestly do not think we could have been as comfortable with each other as we were if we had to worry about vacating our table after our meal in a restaurant, or deciding who was paying what portion of the tab.  Instead, the cafe setting gave us the freedom to really get to know each other.

If you missed my other posts on online dating, be sure to check them out:

Part I – Online Dating 101: Your Expectation
Part II – Online Dating 101: Your Profile
Part III – Online Dating 101: Your Opening Email