Sex + Dating

Why Dating in Charlotte Is Different Than Everywhere Else

Charlotte is a city that’s quickly coming into its own. It’s no longer the kid sister to Atlanta, but it’s also not as massive (or, at times, unmanageable) as New York or LA. The Queen City has hit that sweet spot: now fully in possession of its own culture and rhythm, yet still brewing with possibility about what could be. In addition to great food, drinks, and great local coffee, you’ll also find some unique rules about dating. If you’re looking to meet that special someone in Charlotte, here’s what you need to know.

You’re choosing from a relatively small pool

While Charlotte has over 827,000 residents (and growing), matching with the same person on two or three different apps isn’t unusual if you’re dating in the Queen City. Pull up the app du jour at brunch, and it’s likely that one of your friends is either talking to someone you’ve matched with or has gone on a date with them before. Is it going to get weird? Depends. If they were in the “pen pal texting but never actually met up” phase, probably not. But you might want to check before you fall head over heels and start envisioning your Tinder-themed save the date.

Six degrees of separation doesn’t exist here

Your date might be new to you, but you almost certainly have another connection. She’s your best friend’s cousin’s co-worker.  He grew up in a girl in your yoga class’ hometown. You might not know it yet, but get a couple dates in and soon all will be revealed. Charlotte is a freakishly small big city.

If it doesn’t end well, you’ll see them again

They ghosted. You ghosted. Things got weird. You move past it, until you turn around to see who’s trying to nudge past you at a brewery one sunny Saturday afternoon and bam! There they are again.  As The Eagles once crooned, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

A lot of people are just passing through

Ah, the sweet disappointment of the business traveler. The Charlotte airport is such a hub for finance and other industries that you might start having an awesome conversation with the would-be (employed and successful) love of your life --  only to realize that they’re just in town for work and will soon be heading back to their home hundreds of miles away. Prep yourself for long distance, baby.

It’s hard to find someone who’s single, but also ready to settle down

Charlotte is a unique blend of people who got married right out of college and those who are in their mid-thirties (and older) just having fun. We don’t blame anyone for wanting to imbibe at the city’s many great bars, enjoy some lesser-known nightlife, or use dating as an excuse to eat at every new restaurant. Finding someone who’s still single but ready to be serious can feel like a tall order.

Cultures merge for a fascinating melting pot effect

Most people aren’t from Charlotte, which means you’ve got people from very different backgrounds going on dates. Will the SEC school alum and former frat guy build a connection with the Northeast girl who traded in her parka for warmer weather and her first bite of Chick-Fil-A? Only time will tell (insert dramatic reality show music here).

You’ll go to the same handful of places over and over

When your date suggests a meeting spot, before they even make their pick you know they’re choosing from a short list of places you’ve frequented on first dates of Christmas past. If you’re going to Sycamore or Wooden Robot, you know you’re in for a fun, low-key evening with an easy out if need be. When it’s warmer out, head to Brazwell’s or Angry Ale’s for excellent and people watch when there’s a lull in conversation. If your date throws you a curveball and has reservations at Soul, you could be stuck waiting two hours for a table with nothing to say. Dater beware.

Since no one is from here, so getting set up with mutual friends can be tricky

In your hometown, you have a deep pool of friends and friends-of-friends to consider setting someone up with. The kid from your Sunday School class that you used to have a crush on in middle school. In Charlotte, most people are transplants who are still beefing up their friend groups, so they don’t have as many long-standing connections. It means that everyone is anxious to develop that network, but it also means that they typically don’t have as many eligible bachelors or bachelorettes to throw your way when you’re in the market for a good first date.

People get comfortable in their neighborhoods

When you live in South End, for example, you get caught in your neighborhood bubble and might feel like you need a passport to get out to NoDa. And heading to Ballantyne? Forget about it. You’ll feel more comfortable on dates inside your neighborhood, but beware of bringing in too many strangers and losing your comfort zone. If you happen to meet someone IRL, they probably live around there too and you might date the same kind of person over and over.

Dogs are a pick-up strategy

Since so much of Charlotte is dog friendly, you’ll see pooches everywhere -- at breweries, trotting down greenways and the Rail Trail, twirling around tables as their owners sip lattes. There are even bars dedicated to their very existence. A dog can be the perfect icebreaker and  an effective way to tell if the cutie you’re eyeing is single. If a guy is holding onto a little fluffy thing with a bow, it’s probably safe to assume that the pup’s mom might be in line for the bathroom.

It’s easy to go in with preconceived notions

Charlotte stereotypes are alive and well. While it’s fun to joke about them (your date works for one of the banks so they’re going to act one way,or they live in Plaza Midwood so they’ll be into a particular set of activities), it’s also easy to let stereotypes color your approach to meeting someone new if you’re not careful.

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Lauren Levine is a freelance writer who has contributed to The Huffington Post, Hello Giggles, Bustle, Thought Catalog, The Charlotte Observer, U.S. News & World Report, and others. She’s also the co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Say hi on Twitter @lifewithlauren1.