American-style dating is, seen from Europea (in my case, rural Germany), a rather alien concept. I'm not altogether too experienced in picking up girls, yet sources such as an interview with a German radio journalist doing correspondant work in New York have confirmed my opinion. The largely ritualised process of asking a girl out, dating, and, subsequently, varying amounts of sex with or without emotional attachment simply does not exist over here in the denoted form -- if it should indeed exist, only a minority indulges in it. Incidentally, the word "dating" resp. the verb "to date" does not translate to any German word or short German clause.

Here, most of the flirting and making out seems to happen at work, at parties or at any social events where peer groups mix. Going out on what an American would consider a formal date is largely a "just friends" activity. One-night-stand sex is something which is rapidly negotiated and executed in discos and similar venues, if not at aforementioned parties and events.

I don't know what to think about this cultural difference. Maybe it's better to have that ritualised on-ramp to relationships, with unspoken social conventions and rules to follow? Maybe the informal, less expensive and much more tolerant German way is better? Anyway, the journalist mentioned above noted that Americans dating a German for the first time are always in for a surprise, because they will not get the usual mechanical wining-and-dining automatically leading to sex, but someone who actually cares about personality and character. Of course the Germans are plain swine just like the Americans: we all want to get laid, it's just that evolution teaches us what works best to get a partner in the sack.

DATING IS LIKE POKER With the world series of poker and celebrity poker now being broadcast regularly on cable, the game of Texas Hold 'Em (poker) has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity. The game involves a lot of strategy, a lot of luck, and it works best if you really know the people you're playing with (so you can tell if they are bluffing). I submit today that dating is like playing texas hold 'em.

For those of you who don't know how to play every player is dealt two cards which only they look at. After a round of betting, three more cards are put on the table for everyone to see - this is called "the flop". After another round of betting another card is put on the table (the turn), and then more betting and one last card (the river). There are now five cards on the table and two in your hand. Now whatever is the best combination of of five cards out of your seven is your hand. You make one final round of betting and then everyone shows their cards. Best hand takes the pot.

That is Texas Hold 'em in a nut shell. Play it smart and you just might win, play it crappy, and you still might win but probably not.

So in the Texas Hold 'Em game of dating, the only person you are playing against is yourself. Every time you meet a girl(or boy), you are being dealt a hand. You are trying to find your best hand, and you are trying to win with it. Most girls (or boys) are mediocre to out of the question, like a 2/7 off-suit (the worst hand in poker), or a couple of low cards.

Still other girls (or boys) might spark your interest. These girls are low cards of the same suit, maybe one low card and one face card. It's enough to stay in if the stakes aren't very high, but your chances are not great for a good hand in the end. Granted, even a 2/7 off suit could turn into a flush or a full house, but the chances are slim.

The best girls of all are the high pairs and suited face cards. These can turn into 3 or 4 of a kind, a full house, a flush, a straight or a straight flush (the best hand in poker). These girls are hard to come by, and everyone's rules are a bit different. A girl who may be pocket aces to me might not be the same to someone else.

Most of the girls that you date have a hopeful hand, but the flop, turn, or river turns out to prove them not so great. Your girlfriend might be a pair of pocket tens. Definitely hopeful, and good enough to stay in for the flop. The flop might reveal some face cards. While you still have a good pair, if anyone else has a face card they could have a higher pair, and the chances of your hand have gone down. You might stick with it for the river or the turn just to see if you get another ten or can make a full house of it.

Remember the flop? That's when the first three cards are put out on the table for everyone to see. This is the point in a relationship that you really get to know someone. You have started seeing eachother, maybe not "official" yet, but you are spending time together and learning about one another. I would say it's more than just hanging out a few times, as the flop is probably the most crucial part of the game. This is where you are deciding if you want to be exclusive with this girl, and maybe even a few weeks or months after you are exclusive.

This part of your game can reveal how you will play this hand. I started dating a girl, and as the cards were flopped a could see that, although it started out as a decent hand (9/10 suited) that there was not much chance of anything meaningful after the flop (Varied cards not close to eachother of different suits). I was still willing to play the river, just to see, but that girl freaked out so I folded out with a quickness.

"Well, things are getting pretty serious right now. I mean, we chat online for, like, two hours every day so I guess you could say things are gettin' pretty serious." Kip and Lafawnduh were at the turn. Their relationship had reached the point that they were starting to try to figure out of there is potential for a life long companion or if they are going to cut it off. Once the turn is down, it's pretty much the beginning of the end. Either fold immediately or if you're in, you're in.

The last card down is the river. This is the engagement period in a relationship, or if you're living in sin, this is the point that youv'e moved in with eachother and bought a car with both of your names on it. It's pretty much the point of no return. Youv'e folded your other hands, and gone all in and put your investments with this one. You could still lose, true, but you have faith that you will not (which is why you're all in).

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