Stories from my life and travels as an American expat in Germany!

Dating in America: A Guide for German Expats

Dating in America: A Guide for German Expats

Dating in America. If you’re a single German moving to the USA, you might be wondering what the dating “scene” will be like. This article covers the differences (and similarities) between America and Germany when it comes to dating. I’ll also share the best places to meet your potential American boyfriend or girlfriend.

Where to Meet Mr. or Ms. Right

Statistically speaking (incidentally, the best way to speak in Germany), most German couples meet through friends. A large survey from 2012 revealed that a full third of German couples met that way. A small 2018 survey of about 1,000 participants had slightly different results. They found that just over a quarter met through friends, 18 percent met online, 15 percent met at work, and a mere 14 percent met at a club or bar.

In America, things are a bit different.

Online

dating coffee date
How I Met Your Father…After Messaging Him on Tinder

Once upon a time, online dating was seen as a last-resort for the desperate and otherwise undateable. In 2005, only 44 percent of surveyed Americans said that online dating was a good way to meet people. Now, that number is nearly 60 percent.

In fact, the majority of American couples now meet online; either through dating apps or social media like Snapchat and Instagram.

The most popular dating app is Tinder; especially among people in their early-to-mid 20’s. Tinder has a reputation for being just for hookups, but these days some people are finding serious relationships by swiping right.

If Tinder’s not the app for you, there are still plenty of other options.

Other popular apps include:

  • OkCupid for those of all orientations in their late 20’s and 30’s
  • Match and E-Harmony for the (typically straight) 40+ crowd
  • Bumble for anyone who want the woman to make the first move
  • Her. if you’re a woman seeking other women
  • Grindr (mainly for hookups) or Chappy (serious relationships) for men seeking men

The “Old Fashioned” Way

dating america bar
Let’s be honest: you probably won’t find a girl this pretty at a rural bar, but you can hope!

If you’re not interested in using dating apps, you can try bars and clubs. Over a quarter (27%) of American couples still meet during a wild night out. If you live in a small town, your options will be fairly limited; both in terms of bars and potential dates. If you live in (or visit) a big city, though, you should be able to find a place for niche interests.

Not interested in online dating or going out to bars and clubs? You can still meet someone through your new American friends! In fact, this is the third-most popular way couples meet in America.

Other options include cafes, bookshops, board game groups, church…basically, anywhere. You just have to be brave enough to start a conversation, and respectful enough to know when it’s not the appropriate time or place.

Making a Move

So, here’s the bad news for shy German men, and good news for shy German women: most Americans still expect the man to make the first move in heterosexual relationships; both in person and on dating apps.

Why? Blame lingering conservative ideals. Many Americans still have outdated ideas when it comes to dating, even if they’re progressive in all other aspects of their lives. A lot of American women believe that making the first move will make them seem desperate. What those women don’t realize is that, not only do most men want women to make the first move, making the first move actually makes women more successful in finding love.

So don’t change a thing if you’re an assertive German woman. While all of the American women are busy hoping a guy will notice them, you’ll already have his number.

Before the Date

dating America
Wow, German women are great! I don’t have to do any planning at all!”

After you’ve connected with someone, the generally accepted “sweet spot” is to spend at least three days texting with them before suggesting a day and time for your first date. Asking any earlier might make you seem desperate. It’s OK to wait longer than three days, but try not to wait longer than a week.

Waiting too long to plan a date might make the other person think you’re not really interested or (in the case of online dating) catfishing.

While it’s common in Germany to take things slow, Americans tend to move on quickly if they think the other person isn’t interested. Especially if they’re using dating apps.

The Date

Congratulations, you’ve got a date! So, what comes next? Where do you go? Who pays for what? Are you driving together, or arriving separately? Will they “go home with you” after the first date?

Location

dating America ice cream
Dave knew Zehra was the one for him when she suggested ice cream for their first date

First dates in America usually (but not always) include drinks and food. A classic American first date is dinner and a movie. Modern guides will tell you to skip the movie, though, since you can’t get to know each other while sitting in silence.

If you met online, don’t be surprised if your date prefers your first meeting to take place a public space, during the day. Especially if your date is a woman.

If you’d rather do something more active than meetup at a bar or restaurant, that’s great! Just make sure you pick a public place. For example, the beach or bowling can be a great first date. A secluded hike? Not so much.

Getting There

Unless you already know and trust each other fairly well, you will probably arrive separately. Although online dating is popular in America, people are still fairly cautious about going to a stranger’s house or getting in their car.

The Bill

dating paying bill
“Bill? What bill? I don’t see a bill…”

So, the date is over and the bill arrives. Who pays? In America, the majority of people still believe men should pay the entire bill.

It’s worth noting, though, that it’s mainly men holding on to this old-fashioned belief. While there are women who think men should foot the entire bill, they’re now in the minority. These days, the majority of women think either person can pick up the check, or that it should be split.

If you’re a German man, don’t reach for your wallet right away when the bill comes. Wait and see if your date gets her wallet as well. Ladies, go ahead and offer to split the bill; your American date will (probably) be relieved.

Heading Home

Unless you met on Tinder, you’re probably going home alone after a first date. Although things are slowly changing in America, sleeping with someone on the first date is still frowned upon if you’re a woman. Especially in rural/conservative areas.

There will always be exceptions, of course; but don’t get your hopes up too high if you’re a straight man hoping to get lucky after one date. It’s probably not going to happen.

Getting Serious

dating getting serious
A serious discussion about their relationship, at a very serious place

One of the biggest differences between how Americans date and how Germans date is deciding when you’re “officially” a couple. Germans tend to just “let it happen,” rather than having a talk or making an announcement to their friends and family. It can be months before Germans consider themselves a couple, even if they haven’t been seeing other people.

Americans, however, expect there to be a discussion about exclusivity before they commit. It’s very common in America for people to “date around.”

Unless you’ve had the exclusivity talk, you should never assume that they’re not seeing other people. Yes, even if you’ve slept together. While some Americans might save that for exclusive relationships, not all of them will.

So, what’s the best solution? Ask! Not all Americans date around and, if you’re not comfortable dating someone who is, you should make that clear from the very beginning.


This guide to dating in America was the third part in a series of guides for Germans moving to America. The first part covered making friends in America, and the second covered social norms.

I am an American woman living in Germany with my German husband. We met while he was an expat in America, on a three-year work contract. Through my husband, I met other German and European expats, and learned the difficulties and annoyances they had while living in America.

If you have any questions about this post, or other aspects of life in America, feel free to ask in the comments below!


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