An old trend has found a new audience in Paris - speed dating. In France, it is better known as soft or flash dating. While the trend grew up in American bars, the French have put their own twist on it by hosting it in their homes.
Any foreigner visiting the City of Light hoping to meet new people knows how difficult that can be. The French are a people consumed with self-satisfaction and privacy, and they are not known for being warm and friendly towards strangers.
Speed dating, created by an American Rabbi named Yaacov Deyo in Los Angeles, California, went global in 1998. However, it was not until 2003 that it began gaining momentum in Paris, particularly for young professionals. Not only has this new way of meeting become à la mode for men and women of all ages, but Parisian singles are also signing up for memberships to dozens of free and low-fee websites.
As recent as a decade ago, there were few options for single people in Paris to meet one another except through an introduction by friends or family. Flash dating has now changed the singles’ landscape in the City of Light.
Last spring I attended a soft dating session at an apartment in the 6th arrondissement located near the trendy cafes and shops of the rue St-André-des-Arts. The dining area was arranged to accommodate seven parties of two, and the tariff was paid directly to the host. The price of admission depended on the dating age group. Younger participants paid less than older professionals. Everyone received a nametag and a number, and conversation was limited to 10 minutes per encounter. The tête-à-tête ended at the sound of a small silver bell.
The discussions were pleasant and mainly focused on jobs and hobbies. The evening was over in an hour. It was a great evening and a big step for the French in opening up their homes to strangers, albeit, for cash – but a step nonetheless.
Flash dating is a more modern development from the dating services that were set up in Paris around 1992. Many of the previous companies were situated in chic districts while others were located in backrooms of office buildings with ‘’after hours’’ operating schedules. The services offered and integrity of the owners varied as much as the costs.
Socializing in Paris as a new resident or tourist does not have to be a long grueling experience. Now you can make new friends in a ‘’Flash.’’