Germans don’t do dates. Either they magically fall in love at school or their workplace, or – standard procedure – they get wasted, randomly hook up and simply end up staying together for a long, long time.
I like dating culture, though. Personally I think it’s one of the most exciting (read: catastrophic) ways of getting to know someone. First of all, the idea itself will tell you something about the other person (mainly how boring they are versus how much effort they put into it). Second, I hate being stuck in a bar / restaurant loop, like, if you don’t have a similar circle of friends or can’t naturally do activities together, then you’re face-off all the time. BORING. And we’re not ready yet for disgusting Netflix/Sushi in bed combos. What now?
I’ve thought of a couple of things that are always fun to do and will spice up your routine. Most importantly, they aren’t necessarily romantic. So if you want to treat a good friend to a cool birthday, or if you have visitors from abroad that don’t want to do typical sightseeing stuff, some of these points on the list might be an option. It’s more fun if you’re getting laid afterwards though.
1. The KaDeWe Experience
Everybody loves the KaDeWe, but even more so when you combine a luxurious field trip with a Schnitzeljagd. Because KaDeWe is big and expensive, I usually restrict my game to the food court. The mission is to find something (below 10 Euro) that you think the other person will enjoy or that describes their character. You can go crazy here. And if you don’t know the person very well yet (and you’re scared to be a complete flop), save this particular idea for a second or third date. Someone once bought me 7 Euro Tuna, and I’m not sure what that says about me.
To finish off with a bang, treat yourselves to amazing seafood, some oysters & champagne (or New Burger, they’re… new) and a Spritz. You’d think this is a lame idea, but if the sky is clear, you’ll have an almost perfect view of the sunset as well.
2. The Boring Bootsfahrt
There’s a three hour (!) long boat trip from Jannowitzbrücke that goes on the Spree and the Kanal.
Look. I am not a fan of those all-tourist activities, but this is perfect if your mind is blank and/or if you’re hungover. You’ll probably still need to impress with your personality, but at the same time, those trips can a) get you talking b) have more to offer than sitting in a café and c) if your date doesn’t know the city, you’ll also have the chance to explain why the Landwehrkanal smells like dogshit between Kreuzberg and Mitte. Because those boats have proper restaurant service, you will also delightfully get wasted. Negative points: you’re stuck with your date for 3 hours and jumping into the Spree is not an option.
3. The Spielhalle Gentrification Starter Pack
You know those creepy little Casinos on every corner of the city? Yup, you’re going there. Each one of you gets 10-20 Euro to go crazy with. Don’t use the Slot Machines, this is not Las Vegas. You will not figure out how to play them (or maybe you’re smarter than me) and lose everything immediately. I usually stick with Roulette. This is real fun: first of all, you get to hang out with weird people who spend their whole lives in these money swallowing boxes. But never underestimate the fun of gambling! Make sure to set your limit ahead of time. You can also make this a competition – the one who loses his money first has to (insert something kinky). It can be a little bit of a dare for both parties if you’ve never been in one of those Spielhallen, and you can stick with the theme afterwards if you go to a creepy little corner Kneipe to drink a Herrengedeck and play cards or watch Hertha losing on a big screen. Don’t forget to treat your babe to some nasty street food, because that’s all you can afford now.
(On a side note: my favorite is the Spielbank Hasenheide. Since it’s a state-legislated Casino, it also has the better winning opportunities. Please don’t take your date out to the ghettoest casino you can find, I mean, I’m no expert on this, but this is supposed to be funny and not dangerous… or addictive).
4. The Arcade Airhockey Tournament
I remember, back when I was young, almost every big city would have a proper American Arcade hall. Entire mall levels were dedicated to computer games like Street Fighter or, later, Dance Dance Revolution. Arcade Gaming was a big thing, and my siblings and I would spend most of our afternoons in the summer break wasting our money (all in all probably 7,40 €) in there. I think the highlight of our Arcade life experience was when our parents took us to the States and we discovered Chuck-E-Cheese. Best time of my life.
Anyway, so maybe that’s just my personal nostalgic 90’s empathy, but I just can’t think of a person who wouldn’t enjoy arcading. The bowling place on Hermannplatz have an Airhockey table and a couple of other games. And we all know that Airhockey is the best game. You can easily spend half an hour playing against each other. Ignore the Bowling around you. Get drunk. Get your date drunk. Then SMASH them with your Airhockey skills.
(Alternatively, a Kicker/Fussball tournament is also a good idea, UNLESS YOU’RE A REALLY, REALLY COMPETITIVE GUY, THIS COULD GO WRONG FOR YOU. )
5. The Cheapskate Symphony
You’re sophisticated, smart and culturally invested in this city, but you can’t afford tickets to the theatre/opera/concert because your intellectual work is economically stagnating? You feel like a full-blast rave on the first date could be too much (and Coke isn’t free either, you know)? Here’s a perfect plan for an ambitious date without breaking your meager budget:
1) Find any vernissage in Mitte. There’s always one with free drinks. If you can find more than one or two in the same area, even better. Vernissage hopping is great for seeing your date interact with people, as well as finding out if they’re willing to snatch a bottle while you’re distracting the curator. Don’t worry about the art, just pretend you’re here because you just have to be. If you can’t find a vernissage, look for a book launch, a shop opening, a pop-up Späti. I’m pretty sure I could find a free-drinks-event for every day of the week.
2) Go to the Salon Christophori. Small, intimate environment of classical piano and reading performances. You’ll have to sign up before, but then: Free concert. Not only can you basically let someone else do all the emotional work for you, the whole experience is very unique to Berlin. And it’s free. (Alternatively, try the lunch concerts of the Philharmonie Berlin. Every Tuesday at 1 PM – for free.)
It’s even more fun to be a cheapskate if your date knows about your tight budget. You can practically make it your little adventure to spend a whole day with minimum money but maximum output. This will prepare you for the rest of your lives together. At this point, I honestly think my relationship advice should be sold in couple’s therapy.
6. The Schlauchbootsfahrt
If your first boat trip went well, you might want to raise the stakes and get closer to your date. Get the smallest Schlauchboot you can find, bring a sixpack or some ganja, some snacks (dry Ramen chips what’s UP), wait for the sun to come out, throw yourselves into the Kanal and let the magic happen while drifting away slowly from the city. I have no idea how you get back, you’re on your own now.
7. The 36 Questions
If you want to get right to the point, play the Game of 36 Questions. These questions are built and phrased in such a way that answering them honestly will tell you whether you will fall in love or not. I tried it once and it didn’t work, but this is the perfect idea for awkward Tinder dates. It can be your personal pub quiz, but do it in one of those slow-sipping high class bars in Charlottenburg (Rum Trader, Fasanen 47) or Schwarze Traube in Kreuzberg. This will elevate the experience beyond your typical bar night.
Here are the 36 questions, but I’m sure there’s an app for that.