Cover Photo: Mohamed Hassan/Pxhere

Nervous about that first date after being in lockdown for so long? Try these tips from certified life and dating coach, Joanne Ng

With a reassuring smile, Joanne Ng acknowledges that the post-lockdown dating game has its challenges.

A certified life and dating coach of five years and CEO of elite matchmaking agency Dateworks, Ng has spent a great deal of time lately helping her clients prepare for the realities of post-lockdown meetings, including the awkwardness and anxiety that come with being back out in society after months of self-isolation.

"At this time, just meeting our own friends and family members is still a concern, what more with a date," she says. "That said, the worries will never end; it’s how we manage them, I feel, that's more important." 

On September 7, Dateworks announced the introduction of its private dating rooms for fully vaccinated singles to meet in-person once again, all in compliance with social distancing SOPs and compulsory masking. 

See also: Online Dating During Covid-19: Thoughts From 2 Matchmaking Experts

"Our focus with this is to ensure that singles have a safe space to meet in-person, as many singles have put their relationship goals on hold for more than a year, due to concerns for their safety. The prolonged closures affect not only the nation’s economy and businesses, but also the wellbeing of all Malaysians. Many singles are emerging from the pandemic craving more interaction than ever before but feeling woefully out of practice." 

To help ensure a smooth post-lockdown date, Ng offers these simple tips for a more meaningful and happy outing. 

Dine out with a friend or relative first

"For many of us, the first time going out to dine in a restaurant after an extended lockdown can be very scary," Ng says. "I often tell my clients to find a friend or family member that they're close to, and go out for a meal with that person first to get comfortable with the idea of being out again. Of course, safety is top priority and SOPs should be followed."

Subsequent outings will become less of a source of anxiety, and you'll also develop a good idea of what health SOPs to expect when dining out.

"Honestly, I think all of us in some ways are going to be a little socially awkward," says Ng. "But we all play a role in getting back to some degree of normalcy. Last weekend, I told my kids that I was going to book a private room for them because I wanted to take them out so they could learn how to dine-in again in a restaurant and practise social skills, as well as double-masking, wearing a face shield properly, and so on!"  

Related: Dine-In At Hotels In The Klang Valley: Opening Hours & SOPs


Pre-date preparation is essential

"Planning the date is the fun part!" enthuses Ng. "For your date, make sure to find a restaurant or venue that has outdoor seating and fewer crowds. What's a place that will be comfortable for both you and the person you are meeting? When's the best time to go? If you don't feel comfortable in a certain environment, you likely won't be able to enjoy the date."   

See also: Hannah Lo Shares The 9 Favours A Modern Woman Can Do For Her Wellbeing

And remember, presentation matters. Whether it involves a quick trip to the barber or a little extra effort in your beauty routine, don't be afraid to put your best foot forward.   

Set expectations and boundaries

A helpful tip that Ng has shared with her Dateworks clients when preparing for their first post-lockdown date: visualise the date and write down your expectations and boundaries to help dating turn into something you can look forward to.

If you're worried about awkward silence, have some questions ready in the back of your mind to keep the conversation going.   

"Pen it down: What do I expect from this date? What would I like to learn about this new person? What would I like this person to know about me?" shares Ng. "Prioritise your health and safety. Set healthy boundaries: if you're concerned or uncomfortable about something, voice it out politely. Be present during the date, and more importantly, be kind!" 

See also: Datin Sharifah Shawati's Etiquette Tips For The Post-Covid Era


You don't have to be nice to be kind

"It's important to respect everyone’s different attitudes and opinions towards risks. Some people are Covid-conscious while others are more relaxed. Some people may advocate vaccination while some may not," says Ng. "Ultimately, we have to be kind to ourselves and to others. I always tell my clients, 'You don’t have to be nice to be kind'.

"We are taught to be nice all the time, we don’t know how to say 'no', we're taught to smile even in uncomfortable or awkward situations, just be nice, end the meeting quickly and leave. But for me, being kind to myself and to others is letting them know in a polite way how I feel, and what this person is doing or saying that is making me uncomfortable."

See also: What Life Will Look Like After Coronavirus

Don't look for someone to complete you

"I always tell clients, 'Do not date for the wrong reasons.'" Ng shares. "I often hear words like 'I'm impatient so I need to meet a patient and understanding person', or 'I'm not very ambitious, so I hope to meet someone who can push me to be a better person'. Stop looking for someone to complete you. Work on yourself first, and remember that only complete individuals will have a complete and healthy relationship." 

See also: From Highschool Sweethearts To Proud Parents, Bryan Loo & Sally Quah's Love Is For All Time

  • IllustrationMohamed Hassan/Pxhere