“My God! Why do they go on a date in the park? It’s old fashioned!” my cousin said.
Her words made me suddenly realise that it has been a long time since my last visit to any park, let alone for a date. In my mind, parks are all about the elderly exercising and young males playing football.
My dear friend, Nguyen Ngoc Linh, 28, shared the same thought with me: “I would never go on a date with a man in a park. It’s never romantic there, with street children selling things and the homeless wandering.”
So it makes me wonder: where do young people in urban areas go on dates?
“What an easy question! Eating out, going to cafes, and going to the cinema! Everyone is the same!” Nguyen Thuy Nhung, 25, said.
It seems to be the truth. Going around the busy streets of Hanoi, it’s very popular for there to be rows of occupied plastic chairs at cafes alongpavements where city dwellers, including young couples, hang out. This kind of activity is suitable for those who love watching the bustling streets at night or don’t want to spend a lot of money.
If they don’t mind paying more, or if the weather is unsuitable, they can move to fast food, Korean or Japanese restaurants, which are a hot trend now. They can also go together to modern cafes or takeaway cafes to drink creamy ice-blended drinks. They take selfies and chat for some time.
“A date can be worth about 1 million dong (US$45),” Tran Hung Tuan, a young man, said.
“Let me count for you,” he said. “It’s about 500,000 dong for a couple’s dinner. 300,000 dong for cinema tickets, popcorn and soft drinks.”
This came as a big surprise to me.
“For those who earn on average 10 million dong per month like me, I cannot afford this kind of date every week,” he added.
So have dates changed over time? My mother said that in the past, everyone was so poor that dating was simple. The means of transportation was typically a bicycle, or some had to walk. That was why couples couldn’t go too far to see each other. The average man usually took his girlfriend to public gardens, walked along the old roads or rode around HoanKiemLake and enjoyed ice cream on Trang Tien Street.
“Eating out? No way! There were not as many catering services as there are now,” my mother said. “At any rate, we didn’t have much money to eat out. We just ate at home then hung out to talk.”
Dating may now include going to a hotel, as sex before marriage has become less of a social taboo. However, young people have a different point of view about hotels.
“In cities, privacy for couples is a cost,” Tuan said. “There are garden cafes for us, but we still have to suffer the surroundings. We want places that are truly quiet and personal, away from the noisy city or anyone who may interfere. Some even think that a hotel is a dirty place for debauched young people, but for me, hotels are where we can find peace and privacy if we cannot leave the city to be together.”
“It’s not all about making love when we go to a hotel,” Nhung added. “Some of us feel too tired after a work day to do anything, but we need to see our lovers to feel encouraged and cared for. We need hugs, kisses and caresses to feel balanced and connected again. It’s very important.”
I feel so sorry for young people in cities because they lack spaces for dating and developing their love. Is true love about hanging out to eat street food, going to cafes or even love making? What about the mental connection and other life experiences? What is the reference for them to understand each other and direct the relationship?
Anyway, the fact that young people go to hotels just to be alone together, to some extent, is a good sign. It shows that they recognise their real demands. It might be about the excitement or connecting on a deeper level. I hope that couples will find their own way to invest time and effort into their relationships in a more effective way. I believe it is the best approach to a sustainable love.