So Valentine's Day is here. Yes, that unavoidable annual reminder that this whole love thing probably hasn't worked out for you just yet. Time to watch out for all that 'helpful advice' about dating apps your friends feel compelled to share with you. The coupled-up ones will insist you try the app that worked so brilliantly for them (that one you've already spent hours swiping through), while your fellow single friends start swapping swiping strategies like this is nothing short of all-out warfare. It's enough to make you want to delete all dating apps... so why don't you? Give your romantic life a digital detox this year and try some of these ways of meeting people in *gasp* the real world.
Start going out (again)
Yes, an easy one but a biggie. To meet new people, you'll actually have to leave the house and hang out with friends. All of those invites you accept with good intentions but then ignore the day they come around are what we talking about. WhatsApp messages about friends' birthday parties, ticket releases for club nights on Instagram that your bestie tags you in, plus the Facebook invites to your sister's exhibition opening - stop avoiding these.
If you think you don't have the time and money to go out regularly, just remember how much time you've spent recently swiping through various apps and money you've burnt through having dates with unsuitable people. Now you're traversing the exciting wilds of offline dating, you'll have more time on your hands (and cash in your pocket) to go out and have fun. Chances are your friends have great friends and the interesting events you go to will also be filled with other interesting people.
Embrace your passions
If you were to think about things your dream partner would be interested in, what would these be? Not surprisingly, they'd probably have similar interests to you. So whatever your passion is - from climbing to languages - now's the time to reinvest in this. Sign-up for that neighbourhood running group or a capella choir you've put off joining and see who else shares your passion.
If you're struggling to think of your passion points, try imaging what your dream partner would do spend their time doing. If your ideal person is a coffee snob who loves film festivals and volunteers at a homeless shelter, there's probably a big chance that these are things that you love too. So, become a regular at a pretentious café, hang out in the cinema bar between films at your next festival splurge and start volunteering for a local charity. You'll almost definitely meet new friends and maybe even new partners who share your passions too.
Learn how to talk to strangers
This is a big one. You need to learn how to strike up a conversation with a random person. Few things are more nerve-racking than approaching a stranger that you fancy, so it's ok to be nervous, but it is one of those things that gets easier the more often you do it. Meeting people offline means there's no profile or social media for you to mine for information to talk about. You'll just have to, you know, ask questions.
The first thing to remember is that you should avoid trying to 'chat someone up' and just be genuinely friendly. Do not come up with a generic opening line that you think will work on everyone. Instead, find a way to open up a genuine conversation that's specific to them. Avoid complimenting the person on the way they look (no matter how nice their hair, eyes or smile is) as this can seem creepy and rather open with something less personal. Are they wearing interesting trainers? Reading a book you've meant to check out? Have sticker on their laptop for a band you like? Start with something like this.
On the flip side, you also need to get better at talking to strangers who approach you. Too often, we're so surprised when a stranger strikes up a conversation that we don't know how to respond. Obviously, if you aren't interested, you're under zero obligation to talk to someone. But if a cute stranger starts asking where you got your backpack from, try to keep the conversation going. You never know where it might lead.
Submit to a set-up
Yes, seriously cringe-worthy but let's face it, so are most Tinder dates. We're not talking the date that your mum wants to set you up on with their friend's cousin's son (oh hell no) but rather the one your friend suggested with their workmate who they think you'd hit it off with. Your friend could get it totally wrong but they may also know you better than you give them credit. If none of your friends has ever offered to set you up with someone, just ask. Challenge every one of them to set you up with someone single they think you'd be good with. It's highly likely that at least one of those people will be a better match than anyone you'd find on an app.
Find your wing person
We all need an extra boost sometimes, especially when it comes to approaching attractive people, and this is where a wing person comes in. They will navigate you across a crowd to make sure you're both standing next to the cutie you spotted at a gig. They will strike up the conversation with the group of people next to you at a bar because they know you're trying to find a way to speak with their good-looking friend. They will come to that cycling event with you because you don't want to go on your own. Word to the wise though: confidence is attractive. If you're going out with your wing person, make sure you're as equally bold and chatty as they are, or your object of desire could end up fancying them.
Get out there and see the world. If you feel like you've already seen every single person in your city on dating apps, then change your scenery. Get out of your comfort zone and go somewhere new. Make this your year. Discover new destinations, new festivals, new friends. Experience holidays like The Ski Week and The Yacht Week are the perfect way to meet new people who share your passion points. Spending a week making new friends is also a fantastic way to get to know people in a way you would never have the chance to in the real world. You never know who you could meet.