In the initial stages of lockdown, when just about everyone seemed to be baking banana loaf or honing a new skill, many of us turned to dating apps for comfort and consolation.
In partnership with Hily.
There was a boom in March for dating apps that has marked a ‘golden age’ for video dates and long-distance relationships, or the prospect thereof. Hily reported that the number of active daily users on weekdays has risen by 82% since mid-March and concluded that we’re engaging in more meaningful conversations. “It seems slow dating can be the silver lining, since you take more time to get to know people,” says Hily co-founder, Jake Vygnan.
Whether virtual or standing two metres apart, a socially distanced date means getting creative. Parks are the new pubs; tourist hotspots are empty and there’s nowhere we’d rather be than the great outdoors post-lockdown. Here are some fun ways daters are moving forward as restrictions are eased.
The Great Outdoors
Parks are the new pubs
We all made jokes about resorting to G&T tins in the park when lockdown measures were eased. After weeks of being stuck inside, the park has had something of an enhanced renaissance; the art of the picnic refined and polished to perfection. With safety at the forefront, bring separate blankets to maintain a socially distanced tête-à-tête and spice things up with a holiday-worthy picnic overlooking a spectacular sunset.
Now’s the time to see tourist hotspots to beat the crowds. Rediscover the hidden paths and cobbled back streets of Bloomsbury or amble together along the Thames. Set a theme, such as ‘architecture’, and pinpoint the most obscure buildings with sweeping staircases on a map—the paper kind to be extra playful. Even if the date doesn’t go as well as planned, that’s a good dose of exercise worthy of a take-away pint on the way home.
Virtual Wine Tasting
The days of sipping Chianti in a Tuscan vineyard or a hip bistro just off Borough Market have been put on pause for now. Self-proclaimed wine enthusiasts might want to book a simultaneous wine tasting session hosted by a top sommelier. It’s just as fun handpicking the wines and an ideal way to take the taste buds on a mini vacation to rural France and back, minus the commute.
In our new normal, Ocean House hotel has brought intimate seminars to housebound wine lovers in a private session with the hotel’s Director of Wine on Zoom. They’re also offering a complimentary webinar on the relationship between wine tasting and music at the end of June.
Restaurant dates are quintessentially romantic. Creating the experience can be just as enjoyable, either cooking up a recipe together or ordering a fancy take-away from each other’s local independent. Cooking at the same time is a shared experience and means you can sit down, compare the food and dine together.
Though we too miss the flourish of a waiter refilling glasses and wafting over with a fresh batch of bread, the privacy of your own space means that conversations can be prolonged and more intimate. “That’s why dating apps have introduced new features that enable personal conversations and help people connect on a deeper level. That’s the only thing that safety-conscious users can do right now,” says Hily.
Virtual Happy Hours
So many artists and DJs have been hosting live (virtual) sets during lockdown to keep us sane. James Blake performed several live concerts on IGTV, Robyn’s tea trolley of funk with Club Domo has to be a highlight. These portable gigs can be brought to the park or enjoyed over doorstep drinks.
Keep an eye on Le Sirenuse hotel’s stories for sporadic live DJ sets, or check DICE for upcoming virtual shows.
Is a shared love for museum hopping not exemplary of a true meeting of minds? Other than, say, music taste and food—arguably the two markers of a long-lasting romance. Saunter (virtually) through the British Museum with Google Arts & Culture from the safety of your couch.
Delve into Impressionist and early modern masterpieces at the Guggenheim in New York or transport your minds to Paris’ Musée d’Orsay. Artworks by Monet and Cézanne are likely to spark some interesting conversations for weeks, months, even years to come.
Watch a show
The virtual show goes on with theatres closed for the foreseeable future. A virtual date to the theatre isn’t so unconventional these days and it’s also an excuse to get dressed up. Live performances from the National Theatre are streaming weekly on their YouTube channel. Shakespeare’s Globe will be screening some of the Bard’s greatest works.
Time to dust off the swimming cossie, summer may yet be saved. Whether it’s date number three or five, wild swimming is definitely one way to get to know someone. Are they the sort of person who jumps straight in? Or do they teeter in slowly for a laidback paddle? Who’s the first to suggest a skinny dip?
Perhaps it will inspire a romantic getaway to Italy’s hot spring flows or Spain’s natural pools on a preliminary trip together, to let the imagination unfurl a little. Either way, the UK is shrouded in pockets of natural spots to keep things interesting.
When we think of romantic bike rides, we think of BBC’s adaptation of Normal People. A carefree afternoon cycle around the sun-drenched country paths of rural Italy wearing a spaghetti strap sundress, stopping for ice-cream in an Italian piazza.
Stuck in the city? The roads are particularly quiet, and a lot of a parks and canals are yet to be explored. A day trip out to Ardingly in Sussex with the bikes can be especially romantic. Stop for a spot of lunch by the tranquil reservoir or follow one of the many trails for romance at its most secluded.
Yoga with a backdrop
There could be something light-hearted and comical about a virtual yoga date. It’s so wholesome and clumsy, with wellbeing an added benefit to alleviate lockdown tedium.
One idea might be to scratch that wanderlust itch by live streaming a yoga class backdropped by the bountiful gardens of the Wilderness Safaris. Or take to the Alps with Courmayeur Mont Blanc’s Saturday classes. It’s one way to holiday from home and connect on a deeper and more spiritual level, which seems to be a widespread priority amid the pandemic.
Long Distance To Love
Hily found that almost 40% of their users have started to consider more committed relationships since lockdown began not so many moons ago. In having our hyper scheduled modern lives put on pause, we suddenly have more time to develop deeper connections online and at a distance. With the prospect of physical intimacy off the table, daters are doing the next best thing: having conversations.