This is the worst city in Australia if you’re trying to date.
This is the worst city in Australia if you’re trying to date.

This is the worst Australian city to find a date

A COUPLE of weeks ago, I went on a date.

It was a typical Sydney date on a typical Sydney evening: we had dinner at a chic inner-city restaurant and then shared cocktails in a little bar before taking a slow stroll around the harbour. We admired the view, we kissed goodnight, and then in typical Sydney fashion, we never spoke to each other again.

It's not that we didn't get along. I thought he was great and unless he's the world's best actor, he didn't think I was too bad either.

No, the date was good, and we had connected well, but upon parting ways for the evening we begun a tradition as classically Sydney as doing the Bondi to Bronte walk, shelling out half of your pay cheque to rent a tiny room in a packed terrace, or having a rogue ibis steal a potato cake right out of your hand.

We'd had a great first date and finished the evening knowing that we would never call, text, or see each other again. And in case you think this is strange, let me reassure you: this is normal. This is Sydney.

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When I moved here from Melbourne four years ago, the biggest culture shocks didn't come from the change in coffee quality or access to public transport: it was the dating scene.

It often took weeks of messaging back and forth with a potential date to actually confirm a time that they wanted to meet in person and when the night was over, I would rarely hear from them again.

Of course, at first I thought it was my fault: perhaps I had been a terrible date all this time, and no-one at home in Melbourne had ever bothered to tell me? But after years of attempting to date in Sydney - with the only two relationships I've had here being long-distance, with people in other cities - I've begun to suspect that maybe my experiences are indicative of a wider dating culture across the city.

"Men here are chronic time-wasters and commitment-phobes," said my friend Jenny*, when I asked her opinion.

"I don't know a single girl in Sydney who doesn't have a story about being ghosted, gaslit, or strung along before the guy just spends the rest of eternity looking at her Instagram stories." Ghosting - when a date with whom you've connected well simply disappears into thin air at random - happens everywhere, but it feels endemic to Sydney. It's happened to almost every single person I know and seems to happen across relationships of all genders and orientations.

It's completely understandable that you wouldn't keep in touch with a bad date, but when I look around at my single Sydney friends, I see clever, warm, funny, attractive people who should have no trouble getting a call back after a good night out.

Instead, week after week, we look around the dinner table or across the bar and ask the same questions: why didn't she call me back? Why is he so hard to get in touch with? We've been messaging for a month - is she interested? Why did he disappear after we had such a great time together?

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Over cocktails last week I caught up with Lauren, who filled me in on her most recent romantic endeavour. She moved to Sydney eight years ago; and she's been seeing someone for the past few months, but was quick to tell me that they haven't yet discussed becoming official.

"We spend a lot of time with each other, but we're not very emotionally invested," she said, adding, "This would have driven me crazy two years ago, but right now it seems to work."

On the topic of dating in Sydney, she agreed with me: "Most encounters are a delicate balance between showing an interest in someone, and not caring too much. It's almost like you're battling with the other person to be the most apathetic.

"But I do wonder if this apathy battle makes it harder to make a genuine connection with someone new, or if it maybe makes us less inclined to seek out a special connection and risk rejection by someone we really care for."

Maybe it has less to do with Sydney itself, and more to do with the nature of living in any big city.

When you're already pressed for time, dating and romance can become luxuries in a busy week: between racing to work, rushing to the gym, and trying to fit in some quality time with your friends and family, it's understandable that someone could forget to respond to a text or return a call.

And perhaps the transient lifestyle of a large metropolis means we're less likely to want to form connections with the people around us. After all, on any given day, our favourite colleague could be departing for a new job, our treasured housemate could be moving out to somewhere cheaper, or our best friend could be jetting off for a six month backpacking holiday.

We say we'll keep in touch, but sometimes we never do. When everyone is constantly moving onwards, upwards, and away, sometimes it can be easier not to get too attached. So maybe it isn't our Emerald City after all: maybe we're just jaded.

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Still, Rebecca* made a good point when she messaged me. She's 28, and she moved to Sydney when she was 18. She's spent the last six months living in Melbourne.

"I haven't been dating here, but I have been making friends, and it feels so much easier to just go out and do something small and relatively cheap than it is in Sydney," she wrote. "Sydney has changed a lot in the past decade. The lockout laws have really changed the culture. There are cops everywhere, venues close earlier, and venue staff seem much more paranoid and harsher in general, I assume because they're scared of getting fined or shut down.

"Plus, everything has gotten more expensive and young people have gotten poorer, too. None of this is conducive to an easygoing, social, romantic atmosphere!"

Right as I was beginning to think it would never be possible to find love in Sydney, I remembered my good friend Tom. He met his partner, Sarah, while they were both living in Sydney and earlier this year they got married.

Watching them say their vows in a beautiful ceremony above the water in Manly, it was difficult to imagine two people more in love. They were totally smitten; everyone in the room could tell they adored each other and that the connection they had was genuine, strong, and true.

But wouldn't you know it? They moved to Melbourne.

- Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker. Continue the conversation on Twitter @kateiselin


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