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

In her native UK, writer Miriam Partington was ready to ditch dating apps. But in Berlin she found them to be the perfect tool for getting settled, free from frustration.

Dating apps: The unlikely tool that helped me settle in Germany
A woman on her phone as she waits for Berlin's tram. Photo: depositphotos/GaudiLab

Dating apps: the 21st century’s fast-track way of finding the perfect partner. At least for some.

I’ve tried them all. Upon the emergence of Tinder in the U.K, I downloaded the app to see what the hype was about and proceeded to spend my bus journeys to work participating in the endless swiping game. 

Pictures of men with their shirts off tensing their muscles, geeky-looking guys in glasses and serious hikers clad in thick coats and hats popped up on my screen and unfortunately disappeared into my “sorry, no” pile. 

I even went on a few dates. The guy who ended up having a long-distance girlfriend in a city three hours away, the man who pretended to be a chef in a high-class restaurant when he actually owned a vape shop in a town outside Brighton, and the character who declared I would be better looking with a different haircut were among my favourites. 

READ ALSO: 'Germans are a distinct people': Finding love, hook-ups and friendship in Germany

Yes, my brief stint with dating apps was fun, but it also got old quite quickly. If anything it was just too much admin. 

Swiping through a hellishly long reel of people’s profiles became akin to wading through a sea of emails on a Monday morning. Trying to arrange a time to meet with elusive people that would only ghost me a few weeks later became as dull as watching paint dry.

My frail attempts to build rapport with the few eligible bachelors on the app ended up being just another, rather sad, way to procrastinate during the working week. 

Yet, it wasn’t until I arrived in Germany in January 2018  – clueless with no friends and a suitcase crammed full of clothes I would probably never wear – that I began to realise the true value of dating apps.

Not just a search for love

Big cities can be lonely places. The sheer number of people in any bar, restaurant or club often choke the chances of meeting anyone new.

Amid battling with the masses for the last spot on the underground, pushing our way to the front of the queue at the supermarket or swiftly grabbing a coffee-to-go at a cafe, we often fail to be tuned in to the people around us. Of course, the language barrier also doesn’t help when in a foreign land. 

What dating apps serve to do is filter out the many people you would never in a million years click with and increase the probability of finding someone that you might just want to get to know. 

Feeling swallowed whole by this new, overwhelming city, I downloaded Tinder within my first few days of arriving in Berlin with the hope that this might just happen to me. 

Dating apps are also tools for foreigners in big cities, writes Miriam Partington. Photo: depositphotos/luna123

Almost instantly, the stigma I had long associated with dating apps being places of overzealous wink faces and strange pick-up lines began to dissipate. Many willing people from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities popped up on the app offering their advice on where to go, what to do and how to survive in a place as wild as Berlin.

It was as if I’d had this resource under my nose for a long time – even while jumping from city to city in the UK – and had never quite tapped into its potential. 

Successful dates and city insights

Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, you name it, are all canny tools for foreigners in big cities. Beyond curing loneliness, they act as a soft landing pad for foreigners needing info to get around. 

My first successful Tinder date happened on the banks of Maybachufer in Kreuzberg. It was sunny and scenic and an opportunity that not only found me a friend but a job and a flat too. (I’m not kidding.)

As I began to make more connections via the app, more of the city seemed to unfold. There were countless times when fellow internationals or friendly Germans helped me find out things about their city: from underground bars, vintage shops filled with quirky emblems from the GDR to the best places to bike, swim and buy groceries.

My oldest friend in Berlin even found a candidate for a job at her workplace through a connection she made on Tinder. She tells me that they’re good friends, as well as colleagues, to this day.

Depending on which way you look at it, Berlin is a notoriously hard place to date. Often touted as a place of experimentation, liberalism, and round-the-clock parties, the city draws in many expats that seem reluctant to put down roots. But it’s so much more than that too.

READ ALSO: 'It's not impossible': The ups and downs of dating in Germany

A few dates into my new life in Berlin, the city revealed itself as a place brimming with people willing to help and accommodate any confused newcomer – an aspect I may never have discovered if it wasn’t for tinder. 

Using these apps for networking purposes has perhaps been easier in Berlin than in the U.K. simply because my status has changed. I’m no longer a Brit that knows the lay of the land, but a baffled international that still often needs some wise words from an experienced local.

And while I remain proudly single, I’ve learned that success on online dating apps doesn’t have to mean finding true love or securing as many dates as possible. It can be as simple and rewarding as meeting other like-minded people who can help you settle into life in a new city.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.