First dates can be nerve-wracking. It’s natural to feel nervous about meeting a stranger, especially if we think that stranger could end up becoming a significant part of our lives. But unfortunately, nerves can make us say or do things we wouldn’t normally. Happily, we’re here to help. If you’re wondering what not to do on a first date, here are the top 10 things to avoid.
1. Forget your manners
Hold doors open, say please and thank you, and eat with your mouth closed. Be friendly and polite. Your date will often judge you more on your treatment of others than your treatment of him or her.
2. Skimp on personal hygiene
First impressions are important. You rarely get second chances, so make sure you feel at your best. Shower, shave, brush your teeth, and change into clean clothes. Remember to wear deodorant and try a perfume or aftershave. Treat each first date like a special occasion; you could be meeting your future life partner, after all.
3. Forget to ask questions
When it comes to what not to do on a first date, talking about yourself constantly is a big no-no. When you’re nervous it can be easy to fall into that trap and forget to ask your date anything. Remember that they want to tell you about themselves too. Aim for equal airtime during the date, and when you do ask a question, remember to pay attention to the answer.
4. Talk over or for your date
Most people find it extremely rude if they’re asked a question and someone answers on their behalf. Never order food for your date, unless he or she has expressly asked you to. And never speak over them. It makes you look like you don’t care about their opinion.
5. Comment on what the other person is or isn’t eating
What not to do on a first date? Comment on their appetite! Whether your date isn’t eating much – or they’re eating a lot – I can guarantee that they don’t want you to make conversation about it. By all means check that they like the food, but don’t go beyond that.
6. Get too drunk
Most people indulge in a little Dutch courage on a first date, but try not to let yourself get too drunk. Alcohol can loosen your tongue and make you say things you didn’t plan to share. It can also lower your inhibitions, which might lead you to take things further than you’d planned on the first date. There’s plenty of time to get to know the other person better. And remember, never leave your drink unattended on a date with a stranger.
7. Use the words ‘my ex’
This may seem like an obvious rule but you’d be surprised how easy it is to start thinking about your ex when you’re in a romantic setting. No matter how your last relationship ended, avoid talking about it on a first date. Dwelling on the past will make it seem like you’re not ready to date yet, and mentioning an ex will make your date feel like you’re making comparisons.
8. Get too awkward or confrontational
There are certain topics of conversation that just don’t work well on first dates. Avoid discussing anything too serious or confrontational. While it’s good to find out whether you have shared values, certain topics can be uncomfortably inflammatory. It can also be difficult for people to accurately represent their feelings with a total stranger.
9. Mention marriage and children
If the person is right for you, there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss marriage and children in the future. Don’t bring them up on a first date. It makes the date seem like an awkward interview. Even if the other person has the same aims as you, bringing them up within minutes of meeting is only likely to scare him or her away. Be patient and enjoy the date for what it is – a chance to get to know someone new.
10. Be cheap when it comes to paying the bill
Research shows that most men and women still expect a man to pick up the bill on a first date. If you’re choosing the date venue, suggest a location where you’re happy to pay for both people. If you’re lucky enough to have someone pay for dinner or drinks, always offer to pay your share. Even if someone intends to pay the full bill, it comes across badly if you don’t at least offer to chip in.
Charly Lester is one of Britain’s most recognised dating experts.