Dating Etiquette


By: Ian Fortey

7 Min Quiz

Image: mikroman6 / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Did you know that dating only dates back about 120 years? Which is to say, yes, couples have always gone out and done things, but the idea of calling them dates, referring to dates on a calendar, is something that has only happened since the very late 1800s. You were often considered to be courting someone before that time, or maybe just calling on them. 

The rituals of relationships have changed a lot over the decades and centuries. In bygone years, courtship was always a precursor to marriage, and a gentleman would call on a lady by making arrangements with her family. It was almost a business transaction.

You can't stop progress, though, and society has changed along with the rules of dating. Women have become more independent and in charge of their own choices. Dating is not necessarily a precursor for marriage, but perhaps the initial phase of a less structured kind of relationship. We finally have the chance to get to know people and decide if we want to spend more time with them without everyone else judging us. We can have fun! Ahh, romance! 

No matter how far we've come, though, there will always be certain rules to follow. If you think you have them all down, take the quiz and find out!

Who pays for a first date?

Traditionally, the man pays for a date, although if two men or two women are on a date, this tradition helps no one. Instead, accept that it's a bit of an awkward discussion and just mention it during the planning phase. It's OK to say you'll cover it or you want to split the cost.


Which of these would likely be a bad choice to order at dinner?

Lobster and foie gras may be the tastiest thing you ever ate, and it may be the house specialty, but on a first date it's not the best choice, simply as a price point. It's probably better to be modest on that first date in terms of what you order, even if you're the one paying. Otherwise, it could look like you're showing off.


What do you always want to have with you, just in case?

Regardless of the plans you made for the date, whether you're paying, they're paying, or you're splitting the bill, make sure you have money to cover it and any incidental expenses. You never know what might happen, and you don't want to get left high and dry.


You've heard the expression "fashionably late"? How late can you be for a date?

"Fashionably late" is a terrible term that means nothing, really. Don't be late for a date. If anything, show up a couple of minutes early. Obviously, emergencies happen, but if you can't be there on time, you need to tell the other person, with as much notice as possible.


Where's a good place to keep your phone during a date?

You're not going to leave your phone at home on a date — no one expects that. But you don't need to be on the thing, either. Wherever you keep it, you should have it turned off for the duration. Nothing tells someone you have no interest in them like ignoring them in favor of your phone.


First dates can be pretty awkward. What's a good way to deal with that?

First dates are weird, and we all know it. You're engaging in this ritual that's meant to be a precursor (maybe) to romance, but with strange rules. Since you both know it's weird, you can be forthright about it and mention it to relieve that tension.


When's a good time to bring up your ex?

Discussing your past relationships is bound to come up someday, but maybe the first date is the wrong time to do it. It's such a heavy topic, often a bitter topic, and has too much baggage attached for what should be a fun first encounter.


What topic should you bring up on a first date?

Are you looking for something fun and casual? Are you down for a long term romance? Do you just want someone to hang out and watch Netflix with, with no chilling? Whatever your dating goals are, it's best to lay them out in the beginning so everyone is on the same page.


What's something you should lie about on a first date?

You don't want to lie about anything on a first date, even if it's a little embarrassing. If you're going through a rough time, if you're sleeping on a friend's couch — whatever it is — you should just lay it all out at the beginning. It's not really fair to the other person to hold back important stuff like that.


If you want to show interest on a date, what's a good thing to do?

Eye contact is important in establishing any good relationship. It's hard to do for some people, and that's OK; no one's saying you need to eyeball the other person the entire date. But when you're talking, make sure you hold that gaze sometimes to show you're engaged and interested.


If your date is talking about something you have no interest in, what should you do?

It's hard not to judge someone right away if they go off on a tangent that either bores you to tears or is something you disagree with. Try to give someone the benefit of the doubt and redirect the conversation to see if there's still some chance that you might click.


Is it rude to ask many questions on a date?

You can't get to know someone without asking questions. You could let someone just talk non-stop, but that doesn't engage you in any way. Ask questions frequently to get to know who they are and what they're all about. That's the best way to determine whether you're going to click or not.


What's something you want to avoid when conversing?

If you usually swear like a dockworker, that's fine for you, but you're making a first impression here! Keep the swearing to yourself on a first date, just as a matter of politeness and decorum. If you develop a rapport, maybe it'll be appropriate down the road.


Is it ever a good idea to drink on a date?

If you like a drink now and then, there's no reason not to have one on a date, but you need to keep it within reason. Getting drunk on a date is not just inconsiderate — it could be dangerous for you. Know your limits!


How far in advance should you plan a date?

Obviously you'll have exceptions to this rule, but in general, you need as much time in advance of a date as possible if you're serious about it. Give the other person time to prepare, and make sure they're free and available. It's just considerate.


If you suggest a time to go out and the person says they can't make it, what should you do?

The fact is, sometimes people are legit busy next Friday night, so when you propose a date they really can't go. They also don't need to explain why if they don't want to. If the person says they can't make it, suggest an alternate time. It's what you'd do with any appointment you can't make, right?


What should you do if you've suggested a couple of dates or times for a date, but the other person says they can't make it?

If you suggest going out Friday night and they say no, try suggesting Saturday. If they say no to that and still haven't offered an alternative, they're likely letting you know they're just not interested. No need to keep pressuring; just say "OK" and move on. It gets weird and potentially creepy if you keep at it, and that's not the impression anyone wants to give.


What's something you should plan for, just in case?

Always have a plan B. Sure, you want to go to dinner at the cool Mexican place that just opened, but what if they gave your reservation away? What if the power went out? What if they got shut down by the health department? Always have a plan in mind in case your date idea doesn't work out, even if it's literally the restaurant across the street.


Which of these do you not want to assume before a date?

It's best to assume nothing before a date. Back in the day, it was a given that the man would pay, but we've come a long way since then. You can't take anything for granted if you didn't discuss it beforehand, and that even includes the weather holding out or the food at an untested restaurant being divine.


What should you do if you can't make it?

You want to be on time, of course, but if you can't make it at all, then let the other person know ASAP. We all have things happening in our lives, and if it's something worth your time, they'll understand. Reschedule for later!


What's the best way to dress for a date?

A date isn't a job interview or a funeral — it's a date. If you're going to a fancy restaurant, dress up a little. If it's more casual, dress down a bit. Wherever you're going, that's what you want to dress for.


When's the best time to call someone for a second date if you enjoyed the first one?

If you were super into each other, you might plan a second date while you're still on the first date, but, for the most part, you should look at about a three-day window for planning a second. Too super soon might put pressure on the other person, and too much time makes it seem like you don't care. Use that one- to three-day window.


Should you open doors for your date?

This is a vague answer, but "maybe" is what you get. It's not impolite to open a door, so try. If the person you're dating doesn't want you to, they should say so. Traditionally the man opens the door for a woman, but times have changed, and, again, if two men or two women are dating, then that tradition is clearly meaningless.


What's a good way to greet your date?

A sincere compliment is always a good way to start your date. It doesn't have to be super poetic and Shakespearean in nature, just something you really believe and something that will show your date you're paying attention.


When should you kiss the person you're dating?

There's a lot of history behind the idea of kissing on a first date. Some people never do it, and that's OK. Some people will do it, and that's also OK. Which is right? Both. You should kiss someone when it feels right to both of you, and that doesn't need to have a time limit.


How do you know the best kind of flowers to bring as a gift for a date?

Flowers are a bit of an old-school romantic gesture, but if you really want to know the best kind, then you should ask your date what their favorite flowers are. You could guess and maybe get lucky, or you could get something they hate or are allergic to.


Which of these do you want to avoid if you've just met this person for the first time?

If you're a touchy-feely kind of person, you may want to curb that instinct on a first date. Touching someone you don't know well is never a good idea because it makes them uncomfortable, and it's an invasion of personal space. Even if you think it's just a friendly gesture, you need much more rapport with someone to get to that place than a first date.


How do you decide where to go for a date?

You want to base your date around what's fun and interesting to both of you. Planning the date yourself means you'll have what you want but maybe they won't, so don't pick your favorite bar or restaurant and just hope your date digs it.


The person you went out with doesn't call for a second date and won't return your calls. Now what?

Rejection is a part of life. You'll get rejected from jobs, from loan applications, from all kinds of things. If someone doesn't want to date you, try not to take it personally. Not everyone in the world is your type, right? So you can't be everyone else's type either. Just leave it and move on — it'll make you happier.


How many different people should you date in a month?

The point of dating is to meet someone you feel a connection with. If that means you need to date eight different people in a month, why not? No one says you have to be sleeping with these people or anything else; you're just trying to get to know them. Don't settle for someone you don't like.


What's the best kind of pic to use in an online dating profile?

You really need a current pic on your online dating profiles — it's the most accurate one you have. The person you're dating is going to meet you eventually, so don't lead them astray. Pretty much everyone has tried using a 10-year-old pic in which they look hotter and thinner, but it doesn't do you any favors.


You had your date, and you really didn't enjoy it, but the other person did. Now what?

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to rejection. You won't help the other person or yourself if you don't play it straight. Tell them you're not interested, and make it a clean break. Don't feel bad about rejecting someone; it would be worse to string them along or force yourself into a position that makes you uncomfortable.


When should you use self-deprecating humor?

People like self-deprecating humor, and it can be funny, but try to avoid that during the first couple of dates. If you talk badly about yourself, even in a joking way, you set a tone for how you feel about yourself and what you might be willing to let others say about you.


How much texting is too much?

People used to worry about when to call someone, but odds are you're texting the person you want to date to work out the details. You don't want to blow their phone up, but you don't want to be a ghost, either. Everyone has their phone on them pretty much all the time, so a few texts here and there are fine. Less is more, in general, if you're just working out details.


Who should make the first move?

There can't be a rule that dictates feelings. You can't know who has to make the first move or when — that wouldn't make sense. When you feel that the situation is right, when you feel a mutual attraction, that's when you make a move. And, hopefully, they reciprocate.


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