When was the last time you did something for the first time?

You might have noticed that this post’s headline is a question – and a very thought provoking one, I would guess. In my impression, we often lose ourselves so much in our daily routine that we forget how important it is to get out of our own comfort zone every once in a while and try something new. So last week I finally I did something new again, something that I have wanted to do for a long time, something that has challenged me in a completely new way: I gave my very first Zumba class.

Some of you might now say: “Why is she making such a fuss about this? She hops around in a Zumba class every second day, so by now she should be able to perform some Salsa steps in front of a few people without much ado.” I’d like to say: “Yes and no.”

Almost everything in life can be done in three different ways: bad, satisfactory and exceptionally good.

A bad Zumba teacher might not know his moves, he might occasionally forget to cue and his body language might tell you, that wearing colorful clothes and dancing to Reggaeton is not his favorite way to spend his time. A teacher that does his job satisfactory performs flawless moves and smiles bravely the whole hour, but he does not get the party going. An extraordinary teacher will leave you soaked with endorphins and longing to come back to class – something that happens rarely, but when it does, will leave you in a state of utter bliss and happiness. To not be a bad teacher is easy, even being satisfactory can be achieved without much hassle – but being really, really good is hard and takes time and practice. Of course I aimed to be at least okay during my first class, but getting the nervousness under control was harder than I expected. I did neither know the gym that hired me or the people working there, nor did I have a clue what kind of teacher the participants were used to.

So I stood there in front of this place called “Happy Fitness”, forty-five minutes early and everything but happy, sweating already and pathetically trying to remember the cool-down moves that I had thought of the day before. It was horrible. But I made it through the one-hour class – and guess what? It went okay. The people were friendly, they liked the music, we did some chit-chatting and everybody was polite enough not to mention how red my face had become during the workout. When I walked home, was soaked with endorphins.

And then I realized: making it through tough situations or accomplishing something special that seemed out of your range of capabilities is the best guarantee to experience a little high once in while. So why don’t we do it more often?

When I fell into my bed that night, exhausted and then finally happy, I made a half-year resolution: I will try to experience more “first times” from now on. And I will not limit myself to anything specific – it might be something creative, like a Japanese cooking class, a challenging activity like an Alpine crossing or simply taking a detour on the way home to check out the new café in the neighborhood (who wants to go with me?).
“Firsts” are not only fun, they can also teach us how to handle situations we are not familiar with – and this is a skill everybody can profit from, since you never know what life is gonna throw at you at some point.

So, in order to keep the promise I made to myself I will report here regularly about my “firsts” – and maybe you will get inspired to leave your comfort zone as well and throw yourself into unchartered territory. Because whatever happens, one thing is certain: you will always return by one experience richer.

 

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Throwback Friday: Romance in a one-way street

I wrote my very first blog entry in August 2005. I was nineteen, the internet was still relatively new at that time and blog-tools, that one could use for free, were very rare. It was exciting. For every entry I wrote into my live journal I selected a specific song that was listed above the article itself and matched the topic I tackled in my text. Often my entries were extremely personal and related directly to stuff that had happened to me at that time. Most of the time I remained true to my core theme: love in all its facets. Unfulfilled love, love gone to pieces, long- and short-term relationships, having crushes on the most impossible people or relationship-stuff that had happened to me or somebody I knew. There is one text that still speaks to me very strongly since its thesis remained stuck in my head for all those years. I want to re-post it here, although it is in German and the movie-reference is outdated (I still love this movie, though, you should check it out if you haven’t seen it yet). It’s about unfulfilled love and why this can sometimes be so damn romantic.


Woody Allens aktueller Film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” bietet alles, was ein perfekter Film für mich enthalten muss: eine verzaubernde Geschichte, schöne Bilder, grandiose Schauspieler und interessante Gedanken, auf die ich selbst noch nicht gekommen bin. Einer dieser interessanten Gedanken manifestiert sich gegen Ende des Films, als sämtliche Beziehungen zerbrochen sind und die Protagonisten mit letzter Kraft versuchen die Scherben ihres seelischen Trümmerfeldes beiseite zu räumen. Als Erklärung, warum wir alle immer wieder destruktive Beziehungen eingehen, uns das Herz brechen lassen und immer wieder aufs neue hoffen, dass Menschen sich ändern, wird hier eine sehr sinnige und zutiefst melancholische Begründung geliefert: Nur unerfüllte Liebe kann romantisch sein.

Je mehr ich über diesen Satz nachdachte und ihn einsickern ließ in meinen Sumpf der vergangenen und aktuellen Erfahrungen, umso bewusster wurde mir, wieviel wirklich darin steckte. Ist es wirklich die Suche nach Romantik, die dafür sorgt, dass wir uns in Menschen verlieben, die wir nicht haben können? Ist es die Sehnsucht nach Sehnsucht, die uns die Kraft gibt, über einen langen Zeitraum hinweg alles für einen Menschen zu geben, ohne, dass man etwas zurückbekommt? Ist es wirklich ratsam, die Geschichte des leidenden Werther für sich selbst neu zu schreiben, nur um intensive Gefühle zu erleben?

Beschäftigt man sich ein wenig mit dem Begriff der “Romantik”, so stellt man schnell fest, dass diese besondere Epoche der Zeitgeschichte geprägt ist von genau denselben ambivalenten Elementen, die auch diese These beinhaltet. Das “Schöne und Erhabene” als Kernaussage der Romantik bezeichnet alles, was den Menschen fasziniert, ihn reizt, anregt und geheimnisvoll wirkt, als das Ideal. Perfektion ist der Tod und wird als langweilig angesehen.

Die unerwiderte Liebe ist somit ein nicht perfektes Beziehungsgerüst zwischen zwei Personen, das inspiriert und den Liebenden zu Höchstleistungen antreibt.

Liebe wird definiert als ein “Sinn für- und Glaube aneinander”, dessen größter Ausdruck die Hingabe ist, wobei diese durchaus auch nur einseitig erfolgen kann.

In der Romantik war die unerfüllte Liebe ein die Sinne anregender Zustand, der die Liebenden durch den wohligen Genuss des sich-in-Melancholie-suhlens belebte. Ist es heute auch noch so? Wenn ich zurückdenke an die letzten Jahre, dann muss ich mit etwas Widerstreben selbst zugeben, dass auch ich die romantischsten Gedanken und Gefühle meist in Zusammenhang mit einer einseitigen Liebe erlebte. Oft ist es gefühlsmäßig viel intensiver jemanden von der Ferne aus anzuschwärmen, als dann mit ihm im gemeinsamen Bett zu liegen. Vielleicht sind es die ganzen Fantasien, Hoffnungen und Erwartungen, die wir bei der unerfüllten Liebe auf den anderen projizieren, welche die Romantik nähren. Denn ist man dann erst einmal zusammen, holt einen die Realität leider oftmals sehr schnell ein und zerschlägt all die Luftschlösser, ehe man sie überhaupt komplett aufgebaut hat.

Hört man sich bezüglich dieses Themas ein wenig um, so stellt man schnell fest, dass die meisten Menschen sehr desillusioniert mit dem Thema Romantik umgehen. Bei einem Dreh im Staatstheater sprachen sogar die derzeitigen Hauptdarsteller des Stücks “Romeo und Julia” auf eine sehr nüchterne und leicht verzweifelte Art über ihre Beziehungserfahrungen. “Mit 18 war das anders…jetzt bin ich realistischer und vorsichtiger geworden” sagt der Romeo-Darsteller. “Alles für die Liebe aufgeben…. das würde ich heute nicht mehr. Es kommt sogar vor, dass ich mich aus einer Beziehung zurückziehe, wenn die Gefühle zu intensiv und mir gefährlich werden könnten.”

Aber selbst wenn die Liebe unerfüllt ist und einseitig bleibt – nimmt man nicht immer etwas für sich selbst mit, und wenn es nur die Romantik ist? Ich für meinen Teil bin froh festgestellt zu haben, dass man sich auch nach einer Serie von liebestechnischen Misserfolgen noch genauso stürmisch und vorbehaltlos verlieben kann wie mit 16. Man kann diesen Mechanismus unterdrücken und verdrängen, aber verlernen kann man ihn niemals. Und wer weiß, vielleicht hält die Romantik ja auch irgendwann länger an, als nur in der Anfangsphase einer Beziehung. Einen Versuch ist es immer wert.

The one time I was unreasonable or: Two nights at the Marina Bay Sands

Some things are really hard to justify: A third piece of chocolate cake on a single afternoon, staying in bed after having slept twelve hours already, skipping the gym in order to binge-watch the third season of “Love” on Netflix – and spending six hundred Euros on two nights in a hotel in a city where you could have rented a totally fine Air BnB for ten percent of this hilarious sum of money. But sometimes you have to be unreasonable. And as so often, it’s worth it (I am virtually winking at you right now). But first let’s back up a little.

One cold winter night in Nuremberg, after having visited the gorgeous Christkindlesmarkt, I was told by a colleague that the famous infinity pool crowning the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore has recently been made accessible to hotel guests only – which came as quite a shock to me since I had planned to go up there during my vacation in Singapore and shoot some awesome pictures of all those rich people swimming 191 meters up in the air. Solution-oriented as I am (yes, I am winking again) the first thing I did back in my hotel the same night was to fire up Google and check out the prices. The second shock was not long in coming: The prices for even the most basic rooms were beyond everything I was prepared to pay. So I went to sleep, disillusioned and a little annoyed. To cut a long story short: two months later I booked a room anyway. Why? I had been carrying the thought of not seeing this gigantic pool and the view from the top of the hotel with me for two full months. And just as you should throw out things you haven’t touched or used in while, I believe you should try to make the things happen that get stuck in your mind for a certain amount of time. So I whipped out my credit card and made it happen.

The room

The most unbelievable thing happened upon checking in: we got an upgrade and were given a fancy premier room on the 40th floor with a view of the Gardens by the Bay. 
A-m-a-z-i-n-g. You can see the room in the picture gallery below, it featured sand-colored interior design, a curtain that opened and closed automatically whenever you entered or left the room, a stylish lightning concept, a little balcony, a huuuge bathroom with a separate shower-room, a freestanding bathtub, well-scented organic bath products, slippers and bathrobes, free mineral water and basically everything else that makes the few times you stay at your room during a vacation and are actually awake more pleasant. Also, at night there was a wonderful peace and quiet so that one could sleep well. I loved it. Another special feature: the chambermaids created little towel elephants that they placed on the bed – check out the cutie below.

The pool

Words cannot give enough credit to what it feels like to swim in this pool and enjoy the incredible view from the top. I am not exaggerating. We were lucky weather-wise and experienced a beautiful sunset whose colors were reflected in the water and made the atmosphere even more magical. We went from blue skies to shades of bright orange and finally deep purple (wordplay not intended) with scattered clouds. It was definitely one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in one of the most special locations on this planet.

What else can you expect? The pool was not as crowded as I had feared, but be prepared to see lots of people posing and taking selfies for a tremendous amount of time. Also, do not be scared to turn into one of them yourself, since nobody should leave this place without at least one goofy picture at the edge of the pool.

The rest

Besides nice rooms and the infinity pool there a lot of other things that make staying at the Marina Bay Sands worthwile:

  • Since the Marina Bay Sands is right next to the Gardens by the Bay you can easily walk there, which is quite convenient and definitely a nice way to spend an afternoon.
  • In the food and shopping complex adjacent to the hotel you can choose between 65 different restaurants – most of them extremely expensive – and an innumerable amount of luxury brands shops. I cannot recommend any shops since shopping is not my thing, but I had very delicious dumplings at Din Tai Fung. Going there during the main lunch and dinner hours is not a good idea because people will be queuing and you will have to wait first for a table and then for your food – so try to come somewhere in between. We got a table right away at 4pm and waited for our freshly made dumplings half an hour.
  • Even if it should be a matter of course in such a hotel, I would like to emphasize that the service was very good. The people at the reception were very nice and helpful and also the check-out went smoothly without a long waiting time, although there were a lot of people who wanted to check-out as well. It was no problem to store our luggage till 8pm the same day and we were also offered to take a shower at the gym before the taxi took us to the airport.

And since pictures tell more than a thousand words – enjoy 🙂

 

Hot stuff in Singapore

Traveling large distances always seems very magical to me. You step on a plane, wait for a couple of hours and end up someplace totally different – for example in Singapore, if you’re lucky. Singapore is way more than just a stop-over city. During my 3-week vacation in March I have spent seven days and six nights in Singapore and I have not run out of cool places to see or awesome stuff to do. Since a lot has been written about this great city and its main attractions already (the Lonely Planet offers a solid information basis, as usual) I would like to tell you about my personal favorite places beyond the mainstream that include the most amazing coffee shop (believe me, I have tried a lot of different coffee shops!), the cutest bookstore selling mainly poetry and hand-stitched notebooks, the best place to indulge in some insanely delicious (and expensive) cake paired with an insane city view, the nicest location for some quiet time in this busy city and where to eat the best Michelin-starred hawker food.

But first, coffee! – at “Free the robot”

You know I love coffee and I never leave out an opportunity to taste a new coffee-creation, especially when traveling. So, in Singapore, while I was strolling through a district called “Outram”, I came across this very cute coffee shop called Free the robot that is located on a beautiful street called “Telok Ayer”. The first thing I noticed was the creatively painted exterior wall that featured a red robot that reminded me a bit of the Android logo (in a positive way, of course). Sneaking a peak into the cafe I noticed a very hipster interior design that featured dark wood and retro furniture, combined with awesome graphic art featuring the little robot. So obviously I had to go in and check if the taste of the coffee matched the very appealing appearance of this place. And yes, it did! I ordered the Free the robot signature coffee that contained coconut oil that had been fused into the coffee, as the friendly lady behind the counter explained to me upon asking – and mhhh, what a treat! I have never tasted anything like this before. If you are not into hot drinks while having to endure hot temperatures I can also recommend the cold brew that comes in a flask, as you can see in the picture in the gallery below. It tastes slightly sour and will cool you down immediately. Make sure to plan a coffee break when you are in the neighborhood.

Food for thought at BooksActually

While some girls can spend hours hunting for clothes in huge department stores I can easily spend hours browsing through bookshelves – especially if a bookstore is as nice as BooksActually in Tiong Bahru, a very cool district of Singapore. I usually buy one book for my book collection when I am traveling to places far away, but at BooksActually I really had to restrain myself from piling up books in my arms until I probably would have exceeded the maximum weight of my suitcase allowed for the flight home. Not only was this bookstore unbelievably cosy and well curated, it also featured a vending machine where you can purchase a “mystery book” if you are passing by (you can see the vending machine in the picture in the gallery below).

BooksActually sells all kinds of books – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art and design, travel guides and much more. They also have a little room in the back – guarded by two adorable cats – where you can find little presents or souvenirs to take home. I decided to buy a poetry book with the very promising title Poems for a world gone to shit that you can also order in the online shop if you feel the need to “to make even the most f**ked up times feel better”. And if you manage to head there physically to choose your own book grab a cake at the nearby Plain vanilla bakery afterwards. It will be the perfect afternoon.

20 layer chocolate cake at “Lavo”

You might already have seen the picture of the giant piece of chocolate cake in the gallery below, but: the picture actually does not give credit to this piece of cake because it was so BIG that no normal human being would have been able to eat it in one sitting without passing out due to an overdose of blood sugar. But I need to start from the beginning.

So I had booked two nights at the Marina Bay Sands (there will be a separate post for this memorable experience) and after checking in I had a craving for cake. The first thing you do at this awesome hotel is of course to check out the rooftop pool (which is only accessible to hotel guests, by the way) and the rooftop restaurant which is called Lavo. Upon investigating Lavo’s menu I found a very promising dessert section that listed a slightly expensive “20 layer chocolate cake”. Although twenty-four Singapore dollars seemed a lot to me I thought “What the hell, it’s the Marina Bay Sands” and ordered it. A few minutes later a lady with a black minidress that barely covered her buttocks handed me a plate with a piece of cake the size of my forearm. After having overcome the first shock I dug my fork in this creamy, peanutty chocolate-wonder and enjoyed it all: the sugary taste, the view from the top of this architectural masterpiece and the feeling of being a completely spoiled, perfectly happy human being. This bliss of course ended after five bites because your body can only take so much sugar – but the lady with the short dress packed the remaining two thirds of the cake in a to-go bag for me and thus I was able to extend the enjoyment of my cake two more days. So all in all the giant piece of cake was worth it’s price and matched the giantness that is the Marina Bay Sands very well – an experience to remember.

Swing yourself to rest at Fort Canning Park

Fort Canning Park is probably a location that is listed in every major travel guide for Singapore. It is an “…iconic hilltop landmark [that] has witnessed many of Singapore’s historical milestones. The hill once sited the palaces of 14th century Kings and served as the Headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and British Army Barracks.” If you are not as keen on historical details as I am it will be enough to know that this park is an oasis of peace and quietness that will let you escape the city hustle for a while. There is a big lawn on top of the hill with beautiful trees and a few Hollywood swings where you can sit and relax and calm down. Have a look at the picture below – it was my favorite spot this particular afternoon.

Hawker Chan’s chicken in soy sauce

A few days before my holiday a former neighbor of mine, who happens to be an Asia-expert, mentioned that there is a guy selling hawker food in Singapore who has been awarded a Michelin star for his exquisite chicken in soy sauce. Upon googling I found lots of reports and reviews about Chan Hon Meng and his famous Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle dish – so of course I had to go there and check it out! You can find Hawker Chan’s restaurant right in Chinatown surrounded by various other stalls and restaurants. Since he got very famous over the past year you have to expect a queue and a short waiting time before you can indulge in your chicken in soy sauce (check out the picture of the dish below). This taste experience in Chan’s rather modest restaurant will cost you only a few Singapore dollars and it will be something you remember – because where else would you get a Michelin-starred meal as delicious as this for this price? Sure enough, the serving is not very large, but look on the bright side: this way you’ll be hungry enough to try even more of Singapore’s awesome cuisine.

Minimum viable dates (and what to expect from them)

Everybody loves Spaghetti

This week I had dinner with some colleagues (mixed Gyoza, Sushi and half a piece of Gateau au chocolat at iimori Gyoza-Bar, in case you are wondering). One of those colleagues at the table was Dennis (this is not his real name, obviously). Dennis is very active when it comes to dating and he also loves talking about it – which I enjoy, since I love talking about that topic too. Last year Dennis and me went to the Frankfurt book fair together and I remembered that he had bought a book that was named something like “How to get some in the digital age”. So I asked him very bluntly – after having checked out pictures of his most current tinder matches – what he took away from the book in order to improve his dating routine. “Well” Dennis replied, “…stuff like: When you take a woman out for dinner, go to an Italian restaurant, since the atmosphere is always pretty romantic there, the food is not too complicated from an how-do-I-eat-that point of view and also: everybody loves Spaghetti. Make sure your date gets a good and comfortable seat, hold the doors for her, let her order first and pay the check at the end.” Then he paused and I used the short break to mention very casually that all of this – except maybe for the not very contemporary fact that the guy is supposed to pay the bill – seems to be pretty basic stuff to me. “Yes” he said, “it might seem basic to you but nowadays this cannot be taken for granted.”

The conversation continued for a while but I somehow got mentally stuck at the question: How the hell is dating supposed to work in the year 2018? What can I – as a woman – expect from an evening with a man I have met somewhere in the real or the digital world? And most importantly: What is the minimum viable date (MVD) I should look out for and what behavior is simply out of scope? (By the way, I found this very adapt cartoon when I was googling “minimum viable date.”)

Romance is required

I guess for me personally all those practical things like holding the doors open, paying the check and letting me go first when the waiter asks for the order are really not what constitutes a pleasant date. Although those things are “nice to have” – what would they help if the guy sitting opposite of me was really boring or showed no interest in me? My minimum viable date would also not necessarily have to take place at a restaurant (although I love to eat, as you might have noticed). It could take place in a park, at an airport, at the gym, in a boulder hall, on a plane, during a dancing class, on a playground or at a funfair. I strongly believe that if two people have a connection they find ways to be romantic with each other everywhere. Plus: Spending time in rather unusual situations right from the start might be good in order to find out how open your date is for trying out new things (which is a very important character trait for my personal taste).

Two of those rather practical minimum requirements for a date, in my eyes, would be punctuality and focus. While “punctuality” is pretty straightforward, “focus” for me essentially translates to “Keep your hands off your phone”. Yes, even in the digital age I strongly hold the opinion that real people who are present at this specific moment in time when a date takes place should be more interesting and more attention-grabbing than all the other people digitally sending likes and beeps and tweets to your phone. The worst case and an absolute out-of-scope-action for me would be if a guy “managed” his upcoming dates while sitting next to me on a park bench. In a world where attention has become a currency there is nothing more flattering than complete and utter focus on the person you are spending your time with. And that includes mental focus as well – I expect a guy to listen to me, remember the stuff I told him and apply that knowledge at our next meeting.

Let’s get physical

Could all this be too much to ask? Is all this way too complicated considering that most people are just looking for a fling, a digital quickie that has been transformed to real flesh and blood for one evening and that can be consumed as easily as it has been set up? Well, in my opinion: no. People seem to forget that a date is a physical meeting between two people and that it differs profoundly from what they do when they continuously swipe left or right (whatever the correct side for “I think you are hot” is) on Tinder while binge-watching Netflix with half their attention. It seems to me that everybody has to define his or her own rules for minimum viable dates – even if they contain requirements that have been pretty standard in the pre-digital days. Because how else are we able to determine whether to give a five or a one start rating for a guy or a girl, considering the sheer amount of dates the average online dating user is going on?

While indulging in our delicious desserts Dennis told me that he is using Tinder less and less these days. “Getting to know someone in real life is totally different and gives you way more information about a person” he answered after I asked him why. “You do not waste days or weeks texting someone who might turn out to be a totally different person in real life. Instead you get a pretty good first impression of somebody’s personality and whether you might like that person or not. So it actually is not only a nicer way to meet people, it is also more efficient.” I smiled as I picked up the last piece of my chocolate cake. Romance and efficiency? Those two things usually do not go together. But hell, as long as the real world overrules the digital world I am happy. So let’s get physical!

Highs and lows in Austria | 2

Day 2: Four pieces of cake and one wish

The weather improved and I went for the first guided hike – finally! We went up Ahornstein, a rather tiny mountain with an altitude of about 1800 meters. The wind blew fiercely and sometimes rain dribbled down on us – but the harsh weather made stopping for a bite to eat at the Zachhofalm even cosier. After a delicious Kaspressknödel and a herbal tea I felt strong enough to keep on walking and luckily we also catched some sunbeams on the way back. Those very few sunbeams were enough to give my forehead a weirdly-shaped sunburn which made me look like a total dork – I would have to wear my bangs straight down over the next couple of days in order to cover-up this facial mishap.

At today’s walking-tour there was one very peculiar moment for me: At the summit cross our hiking-guide asked us to make a wish. I felt uneasy at first but after pondering this task for a while I realized something really fabulous: I like the way things are at the moment. Life is good. I couldn’t think of any specific great wish that I would want to be fulfilled. It sure hasn’t always been this way.

What would I have said one year ago, I wondered, if somebody had asked me to make a wish?

I probably would have wished for more than just one specific thing: A better job, more time for my hobbies, more energy to do all the things that are on my mental bucket list…to name just a few. And now? It somehow all came true as a package due to my new job. At this moment at the summit cross it became clear to me how lucky I was and that instead of always wishing for more I could also take some time to be thankful for what I have right now. And so I did exactly that and saved my wish for later. I would surely need it some time in the future.

Back at the hotel I drowned my worries about tomorrow’s weather forecast in a big cup of coffee accompanied by four pieces of cake (chocolate cake, marble cake, a cream puff and apple tart, in case you’re wondering). In the spirit of making the best of suboptimal situations I must really say that staying at Vital Hotel Post is the best choice – their great cooking and baking skills will make you forget that you came to Austria for hiking and biking in the first place.

So what did I take away from this day?

  1. You can get a sunburn even if there is no sun.
  2. After the third piece of cake all your worries will have vanished into thin air.
  3. Having to wish for nothing is a blissful state and you should remind yourself more often of all that is good in your life.

The magic of the seventh second

Science tells us that it takes only seven seconds for us to decide whether somebody is boyfriend or girlfriend material. For me this is a fact that is hard to digest: How can a possibly life-changing decision be made upon a vague and highly superficial impression of a human being, whose character is composed of a multitude of interests, opinions and experiences?

After pondering this question for a while I realized that – being a hopeless romantic – my train of thoughts had a major flaw: The seven-second-phenomenon is not about the character of a person, it’s not about what somebody thinks or does or loves. It’s quite the opposite – a rough assessment of a person’s appearance based on the most primal instincts that have been governing our brain since the stone age. In those seven seconds we form an opinion about the looks of a person (“Is she hot?”), about the level of self-confidence and impact on others a person has (“Could she as my girlfriend enhance my self-worth as well as the way others perceive me?”) and about how “available” a person is (“What would it take to get her to go home with me?”). If what we perceive in this first impression of somebody leads to satisfactory answers for our inner questionnaire (with a special focus on the hotness factor, obviously) our brain seems to tick a little checkbox that is labeled “This could be my future girlfriend”. So what do we make of this regarding our day-to-day dating routine?

It was pointed out to me recently that the app Tinder perfectly picks up on the implications of the seven-second phenomenon. What might seem superficial (Is her photo hot? – No, I’ll just swipe to the next one) is essentially a technical implementation of what our brain does anyway. It’s an assessment of a person based on a minimum of criteria, except for the fact that we pick up on some body language clues in the real world as well. So why have I always been so upset about apps like Tinder, when all they do is provide an efficient platform to act out on our most basic instincts?

I guess I am missing the magic of it all. Having to accept that everything that becomes less important in a long-term relationship (looks, self-confidence, being easy to get) is what counts when it comes to falling in love is hard and strikes me somehow as illogical.

Sure, being asked whether I have ever fallen in love with somebody who did not appeal to me at first glance I had to think hard. But there were people who did certainly not make the cut during the first seven seconds. It’s usually the more quiet ones, the ones that do not stick out in a crowd but thrive when you are one on one, who become appealing at second glance. And it also works the other way around: People who seemed great at first turned out to be horrible after the first date. So how much can we really rely on those seven seconds, when we are looking for more than a one night stand?

I have to admit, the last major crush I had, had been a crush from the first second on – although our first encounter happened on the phone and in an environment that could not have been less flirty. According to science the most important factor for assessing this person was missing (the looks!) but I enjoyed getting to know him in kind of the wrong order: voice first, writing second, looks last. I can’t say how I would have reacted if his looks had turned me off, but I am sure that, having fallen for his personality already, the pressure on an appealing outer appearance was reduced. Through this gradual immersion into a state of being in love I learned that we can stretch out the magic of falling for somebody to more than seven seconds; that we can oppose ourselves to the fast-forward dating culture brought to us by Tinder – if we want to. And maybe things last longer if we take more time and effort to get to know somebody.

Maybe it’s worth to keep counting after the seventh second.