Sick of dating apps? Here’s how to successfully date IRL (and it’s far less intimidating than you think!)


Sick of trawling Tinder? Cringing at people’s Bumble opening lines? Done with being ghosted, retroshaded and houseplanted on dating apps whilst just minding your business trying to get a date? 

We get it, modern dating can be an absolute minefield. Yes, dating apps help us connect with people we probably wouldn’t cross paths with at the local pub, but they can also over-complicate things and anyone who has spent months chatting someone up online only to realise they have zero chemistry IRL can attest to this. 

You’re not alone; according to The Inner Circle, 3 in 4 UK singles would still prefer an IRL meet-cute, a staggering 76% of people are open to being chatted up in real life, yet singles only approach someone they fancy IRL only once every 2.4 years. We think it’s time we took it back to the old school and started real-life meets again, especially after being cooped up inside for years and forced to trawl dating apps from our sofa (cheers, Covid).

Inclined to take things old school? Thankfully offline dating is rapidly gaining momentum and appeals to people keen to reestablish in-person connections—and it’s a lot less intimidating than you might think.

“The best way to meet people IRL is to put yourself out there and think of any location as an opportunity to run into interesting people, such as at the gym, coffee shop, public transportation, and even on the street,” says Limor Gottlieb, Doctoral Relationship Researcher. “People are always looking down on their phones, probably even checking their online dating apps while sitting next to a potential partner on the tube. So being present and scanning your environment for potential partners is important.  Keep your eyes away from your phone and try to engage with others—and if you’re shy there are many non-verbal cues you can send to grab someone’s attention and flirt.”

Keen to get yourself out there? We asked Barbara Santini, Psychologist, Sex and Relationship Advisor at (PS), Hope Flynn, head of content and iPlaySafe App and co-founder of Feed Me Female, and Limor Gottlieb, Doctoral Relationship Researcher, for their top offline dating tips so you can take things old school…

Ditch the apps

While dating apps seem helpful for singles and people looking to find matches, research says otherwise. Most people on Tinder and Bumble sign up because of peer pressure and media. Of these people, only around 8% have an ‘urge for dating’. It means the majority are not after love but something else, maybe passing time. Therefore, it is best to delete all dating apps, and start considering physical meet-ups. Practice communicating with strangers through smiling or eye contact. Talking to strangers may be overwhelming, but I recommend starting with coworkers, church members or neighbours. Use strong cues like smiles, which can reduce unfamiliarity and elevate approachability. 

Go on a night out 

Ok, so this might seem like an obvious one but do not underestimate the power of getting ready and hitting a bar or club. It really is a great way to immerse yourself in a room full of (hopefully single) strangers. There’s nothing like a little dutch courage to help you start a conversation or to ask someone if they’d like a drink. Check out someplace new or even venture to another city—if you stick to the same places you’ll end up seeing the same faces and that’s not going to help you find a new date. 

Public transport 

Now this one is for the more brave-hearted as you risk being rejected publicly but how amazing to think your new partner could be getting on at the next stop? It’s a great place to meet someone new in real life but you do not have the luxury of being shy as you don’t know how long the person’s journey will last. You can make a subtle move by commenting on the commute or pointing something out that’s going on around you. But be quick because your new date might be getting off at the next stop. 

Blind date 

Who needs Cilla Black when you’ve got friends that can set you up on a date? A blind date is a win-win because you get to meet someone new IRL and the responsibility of setting it up is down to your friend. If the blind date doesn’t work out then just ask another friend to have a go. 

Eye contact

If someone catches your eye when you’re out, there’s no harm in letting them see that. Eye contact serves as an acknowledgement that I am checking you out, and would love to approach you for a conversation. When someone is flirting, eye contact also tends to be more intense and more frequent.

If you’re looking to turn the heat up between you and the other person, holding eye contact for longer than usual could be the way to go. Sustained eye contact can lead to feelings of love and can draw their attention away from the others.

The next time you are in a public place or social event—let’s say you’re at a party—if you see a person you like, just look at them and smile. If they look and smile back at you, you can interpret that as a sign of approachability. If the person looks away quickly, drop it and move on.

Ice breakers for approach

You can just go up to the person and say “hi” or if you have noticed something about their outfit, you can compliment them for example, “that’s a really nice hat”. Or if you’re at the supermarket and you see someone you find attractive grab a bag of chips, you can ask “are those good?” and then pay attention—if the person uses an open smile and continues the conversation, that’s usually a sign that they’re interested. If they don’t smile and answer abruptly, then just say “thanks” and move on—remember, don’t insist.

If you’re at the gym, you can use the so-called “smoothie method”. So, for example, if you see someone you like, you can ask if they know a good smoothie place around, or if your gym has a smoothie bar, you can ask them which one they recommend. If they’re interested, they will continue the conversation over a smoothie.

React to their jokes

Picture the scene: you’re chatting with someone you’re into and they keep cracking jokes. Don’t play coy. Laugh out loud and let them know you find them hilarious. Giggling at someone’s jokes can be effective because laughter indicates liking. Humour is one of the most desirable traits when seeking a partner. This simple sign shows a potential partner that you find them funny and interesting, and they feel heard and validated. Also having a shared sense of humour speaks to compatibility.

Use appropriate touch

When you’re chatting to someone, gently touching their arm could let them know that you’re interested and allows you to form a bond. Touch also releases the hormone oxytocin that helps you feel bonded with one another. The more touch that takes place, the closer you feel to one another. Disclaimer: make sure you keep consent in mind when touching other people.

Get a pet

Pets are a great way to get chatting to strangers—we recommend getting one from an adoption agency and get a rescue dog.

Start a new hobby

If you want to meet people in real life, it’s best to maximise the chances of being around the masses. It helps increase your probability of finding someone you like. You can perhaps try volunteer activities or gigs, including travelling groups or hikes.

Speed dating and singles nights 

Now the idea of being on a conveyor belt of dates in one night might seem overwhelming but speed dating and singles nights allow you to meet a lot of singles in a short space of time. Everyone there is in the same single situation so there’s no need to be nervous or shy about it. And even if you don’t manage to get a date then at least you got to spend a few hours making new acquaintances and having some fun.

This article first appeared on

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