This past week elite dating app The League made its foray onto London’s social scene. The launch, appropriately titled The London Pre Games, involved a week of straight partying with two or three events a day. Although I wanted to go to them all, I just had time to check out the Shoreditch double decker bar crawl which was just as bonkers as it sounds.
In short it was three cool bar-stops in the heart of hipster land on a branded party bus. What could go wrong? Apparently nothing. It was great networking for the group of 40 like-minded invitees and a totally refreshing change of pace from the “what do you do, where do you live banter” of typical London social mixers.
Being based in New York, The League is presently skewed American. I’ll preface this piece by offering one fact about myself. By nationality, I’m neither British nor American. I’d like to say I’m a neutral third party on the way the English date versus Americans, but there’s no doubt about this app: it’s designed for Americans. It was a topic that came up in several conversations throughout the afternoon/evening along with the obvious, how is dating different in London versus New York?
But we haven’t been introduced…
One southern belle from Texas accurately pointed out that meeting men in London would have been impossible without the help of apps. She felt that no one seemed to want to talk to strangers when out at the pub: “English men are so polite they won’t even approach you without having been formally introduced.” A financier from New York agreed with this sentiment. He pointed out that after having been in London for almost a year, he had yet to meet anyone offline. The sole Briton in the small group discussing the matter chimed in wondering how anyone ever met anyone before 2012, the year dating apps became a part of the zeitgeist.
Prior to The League, elitist Londoners have relied on The Inner Circle and to a lesser extent A Small World (which isn’t officially a dating site, but you can bet it was used for just that). The Inner Circle promises a pre-screened user base “ensuring compatibility and mutual interests prevail”. Although it shares this mandate with The League, that’s where all commonality ends. The Inner Circle is like a more exclusive version of OKCupid. My biggest issue with this particular app is its dated interface and the annoying feature that allows users to see who’s looking at their profile in real time. I don’t understand why this is helpful. It was especially unhelpful after my last breakup when I saw my ex stalking me on the site. I felt judged for moving on so quickly and immediately deactivated my account.
Another quirk of The Inner Circle is the fact that their team vet who is and isn’t accepted. Although a number of my friends have made the cut, several have not. Of those rejected, I have an identical educational and career profile and it comes off as fairly random. At The League launch, another member of The Inner Circle pointed out that it likely came down to a checklist the curators are looking for. In some cities there are too many women on the app and gender is enough to keep you on the waiting list. Also being a European app, social pedigree is held in much higher regard than in America. Anyone can work their way into high society across the Atlantic. Here it’s a birthright, but only for a select few. You can be sure to find them on The Inner Circle.
With regards to The League, the site does not let anyone that doesn’t meet your requirements see your profile. The app also automatically blocks your connections on Facebook and LinkedIn from viewing you for privacy reasons. With a 21 day match period, your matches have an expiry date. The app does your social media research on your potential dates for you, no Googling required. By ensuring your must-haves are already there before you even have a chance to go out, it sounds like the smartest way to date. But will this decidedly American app work in London?
I will say this: from personal experience, I find American men far easier to read. I know when they’re interested and when it’s just a fling. And when they are interested, they take the courtship game to the next level; lavish dinners, elaborate dates and sometimes even trips abroad are just the beginning. English men are far more reserved; unless I’m told in no uncertain terms what our relationship is I actually have no idea. The cheap guy with the great pedigree may be smitten, but I was none the wiser.
After all those years I spent in New York City, perhaps my fluency in American is just more evolved. And don’t get me started on the French.