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DATING

Meet the matchmaker hooking up US soldiers with German women

With thousands of American military members and personnel in the Wiesbaden community, there is certainly a market for foreign singles looking to settle in. And that's where matchmaker Jessica Dreyer steps in.

Meet the matchmaker hooking up US soldiers with German women
Matchmaker Jessica Dreyer. Photo: private

When Wiesbaden native Jessica Dreyer started working at the US Army Europe headquarters in her hometown, she noticed an interesting phenomenon. At work, her American male colleagues were eager to find out if she had any single, German friends that they could meet. And in her personal life, her female German friends inquired about the potential availability of any of her US army co-workers.

“I thought, ‘I could make a business out of this’,” Dreyer tells The Local.

And so she did last summer, launching her matchmaking service under the name “US Love Wiesbaden”.

Business started to really boom after a few months when local media noticed the novel dating firm, and now she receives on average 60 to 80 new inquiries from Germans and Americans combined each week.

While she gets calls and emails from all kinds of people, including men seeking men and women seeking women, Dreyer says her biggest client base is German women seeking US military men and vice versa.

This, she says, is simply because of the numbers: The US Army counts 3,100 soldiers, 3,900 American civilian workers, and 1,100 retirees as part of its Wiesbaden Garrison. And around 85 percent of military personnel are male.

For a city that has a long history with the American military, such pairings between American soldiers and German women are also perhaps not so uncommon. Wiesbaden was captured by US forces in March of 1945 during the Second World War, and remained under American occupation after the war’s end. Troops have been present in the Wiesbaden area ever since.

Even beloved American superstar Elvis Presley spent some time stationed near Wiesbaden – a fact which the city proudly boasts about online – and made sure to carve his and wife Priscilla's initials into a Wiesbaden tree.

Plus, Dreyer also works with clients in nearby Kaiserslautern, where tens of thousands more American armed forces and government affiliates live in the largest US military community abroad.

But even though Germans and Americans have long lived with one another in the area, stereotypes on both sides persist, which perhaps drives some of the mutual interest.

“A lot of German women want to meet an American because they say they like the culture, the way of life, the music, being in the USA and the way they think American men are… They find a man in the US armed forces very attractive,” Dreyer explains.

“The way American men look and act, they seem very friendly and like they will be good partners because they are easy going. They think German men are not so easy going in life, and are too picky with things.”

And Dreyer’s American male clients sometimes have just as many preconceived notions of German women – including quite romantic ones.

“American men say they like the women here, they’re taller on average and seem a little more natural. A lot of American men say they love the idea of an international romance. They might like the accent, or the different heritage.”

Dreyer also makes it clear that she’s not doing this to help arrange marriages for legal purposes, like gaining citizenship. And for the most part, neither are her clients.

“To the people who say they just want to meet and marry [for citizenship], I say I’m not a marriage agency. This is about dating and relationships, not about getting a green card or something.”

To set up the matches, Dreyer meets with prospective clients in person to get a sense of who they are, as well as to ask them what they’re looking for in a mate. Her customers tend to be aged 35 and up, which she attributes to the fact that older singles are looking for more discreet and direct ways of meeting someone than dating apps with online profiles.

Dreyer charges men €189 for their first match – €50 more than she charges women, who she says she charges less because they generally earn less than the men. Fees for subsequent matches are then the same: €95.

An important factor in the matchmaking though, is that the German will almost always have to speak English: her American clients rarely speak German well enough to have a conversation, if they speak it at all.

“Most Americans don’t speak German well, but most Germans speak solid English… but if they say they don’t speak English, I have to tell them to consider how they think they can have a relationship with an American this way.”

But when it comes to dating norms, Dreyer says there aren’t the same barriers. Germans and Americans tend to have similar views on courtship, such as questioning who should pay on the first date. Just as in the US, in Germany the answer to this depends on the individuals, Dreyer says.

One thing that is a bit different is the question of marriage. Still, given that her business kicked off less than a year ago, Dreyer hasn’t had any couples get to this point yet.

“Americans expect marriage to come sooner. In Germany we tend to wait years before getting married. We want to make sure we have the right person on hand.”

READ ALSO: Six expert tips on love and dating in Germany

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RELATIONSHIPS

How Berlin couples are navigating open relationships during the lockdown

While Berlin’s clubs, bars and restaurants are currently closed due to the national shutdown, the pandemic may have also forced other aspects of life to close, including open relationships.

How Berlin couples are navigating open relationships during the lockdown
A couple in Berlin. Photo: DPA

With strict rules in place on meeting up with people outside of your household and social distancing, getting up close and personal with others has never been so complex.

Germany’s contact restrictions still state that ‘members of one household may only meet with one other person from a different household’.

The government also stated that social circles should be ‘constant and as small as possible’. These measures will remain in place at least until March 7th when the shutdown may be loosened depending on numbers.

To comply with the isolation measures in place, many open relationships have been forced to alter their dynamics.  For some, this has meant closing the relationship completely, while for others it has resulted in seeing one other person outside of the relationship.

In a city that is known for being notoriously unattached, Covid-19 has led to polyamorous and non-monogamous couples renegotiating their rules.

READ ALSO: What's the advice for sex and dating in Germany during the coronavirus crisis?

Changing their rules based on Germany's rules

For Hugo, 38 and Lotte, 30, who are based in Berlin, their open relationship has mirrored the lockdown situation in Germany – becoming monogamous when the measures are in place, and open again once they have been relaxed. 

The initial conversation about monogamy, Lotte says, first came about at the end of March 2020, Germany introduced its first lockdown amid rising Covid-19 numbers.

“I did not want to say anything at first because I did not want to make a decision that would affect Hugo on my own but because of the pandemic I didn’t feel comfortable and I had to say something. I felt guilty at first, but Hugo respected it.”

Photo: DPA

Lotte says it was not just the risk of catching the virus herself, but due to the nature of her job that she felt compelled to stay safe.

“I am working as a psychologist, and last year I spent a lot of time in the clinic and I was encountering those from high-risk groups,” she said. “So, I was more concerned about giving the virus to other people.”

While Hugo says that his perception of the risk was low, he was happy to compromise and close the relationship while government measures were in place.

“I was not enthusiastic about being monogamous, but I recognize that I am less risk averse than Lotte, and so it is on my side to compromise to ensure she feels comfortable.”

When the lockdown measures were relaxed in June 2020, Hugo and Lotte said they opened their relationship once again. They said that the experience of monogamy did not change how they feel about their preferred model of relationships.

“We know that we both prefer to be open, but we were fine when it was just the two of us. We accepted the external circumstances, but it did not fundamentally change our ideas about relationships” explained Hugo. 

READ ALSO: 'Sex is easy to find in Berlin': Foreigners on love, hook-ups and friendship in Germany

When the case numbers started rising in Germany in the autumn, they once again decided to be monogamous, but it remains to be seen for how long. Lotte shares that if the shutdown were to last for many months, they would reopen the discussion and find another solution. 

However, they both agree that the lockdown measures brought them closer due to the amount of time they were spending together.

“When the pandemic started in March 2020, we had only been dating for a couple of months,” said Hugo. “My guess is that the lockdown got us to spend more time together. We came out of it knowing we want to be in a relationship.”

New lockdown, new rules

For others, their polyamorous relationship has not become monogamous, but has instead taken on new rules. Frederike, 30, who lives in Berlin, has been with her partner, Eike, for four years and three of these have been open.

However, since the global pandemic started, Frederike and her partner decided they would just see one other person outside of their relationship. 

“We wanted to respect the restrictions that were in place, and we didn’t want to contribute to the situation becoming worse. We were already both in other relationships at that moment, so we continued to just see this one other person, and it has been like that since the lockdown began.”

While Frederike says that the experience has not changed her opinion on relationships in a significant way, she has discovered that she has enjoyed the consistency of seeing one other person for a longer period outside of her relationship.

“I felt a bit more relaxed. Sometimes it felt like there was a lot going on and it was causing some trouble between my partner and me. I realized that I like having constant things in my life,” she said.

Frederike says one of the most difficult things she faced was when she had to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who had the virus.

She shares that while she was in isolation, her partner continued seeing the person he was involved with outside of their relationship. 

“Eike and I were planning to go abroad together as he had a work trip planned. But then I had to isolate and I wasn’t able to see him before he left Berlin. During this time, he was meeting with the person he is still seeing now, and it felt awful that they were able to meet each other and I couldn’t see him.

“I did not want to restrict him, but knowing that they could meet and I couldn’t see him before his departure was pretty hard for me.”

“I was always concerned that if one of us had to quarantine while the other one did not, it would create jealousy. However, we have discussed that if this happened, we could be monogamous for this period.”

Photo: DPA

'It's irresponsible not to communicate'

For those at the beginning of their relationships, the conversation of exclusivity is coming up more quickly than usual. Claire, 28, based in Berlin, is currently using different dating apps to meet new people but says she is more wary about multi-dating.

READ ALSO: Dating apps: The unlikely tool that helped me settle in Germany

“Usually, I wouldn’t ask early on if the person I am dating is seeing other people, but as the case numbers are still high, I feel it is irresponsible not to communicate about this sort of thing.”

Although Germany’s lockdown measures are expected to be relaxed soon, it remains to be seen when life will open fully again. In the meantime, Berlin’s polyamorous and non-monogamous couples continue to navigate the changing rules and regulations around the pandemic. 

For Hugo, the end of lockdown is not just about meeting new people but returning to his way of life: “When the first lockdown ended, I was excited that our relationship was open again, not just in a sexual sense, but it gave me the feeling that things are returning to how they were before the virus.

“It gave me that reconnection to a normal life again.”

 

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