To the people of 20 years ago, swiping right on a phone to find a date would seem unthinkable. Now, many people can’t imagine simply approaching someone in public to ask for a date.
Throughout history and across the world, there have been customs to facilitate hooking up. Here are some of the stranger ones we’ve found.
1. Apples in the Armpit
For the not-squeamish bachelor, there’s an Austrian custom from the 19th century. After dancing with an apple slice held in her armpit, a woman would give an interested man the slice. If he wanted to pursue her, he’d eat it.
This may seem like super-fetish territory, but it’s based on a sound principle (or is it a smell principle?). Researchers believe pheromones have a great deal to do with who we’re attracted to.
There’s now a smell-dating service that will send pieces of your sweat-soaked shirt to potential suitors. If they like your stink, they can arrange a meeting. Personally, we prefer that method to the armpit apple, but we’re not judging.
2. Sheathing a Knife
Symbolism plays a large role in many customs, and that’s certainly true of this Finnish custom. Before the 19th century, fathers would give their daughters an empty life sheath to wear around their waists.
If a young man was interested in pursuing that woman, he would slide his knife into the sheath. The woman would either leave it there to accept the proposal or return it to the man if she was uninterested.
3. Bachelorette Fantasy Suite
Anyone who’s seen The Bachelor or The Bachelorette know about the overnight fantasy suite. It turns out Cambodians have been using a similar concept for hundreds of years.
Fathers build a hut or shack for their daughters to get to know suitors in. The girls are encouraged to meet as many men as they want before settling on a husband. They spend a night in the fantasy hut, and the woman decides if the man is a keeper or not.
4. Playing House
In ancient Egypt, they kept things simple. If a man and woman liked each other, they would move into together and they were considered wed.
We’re not sure if this is a custom or a lack of one, but we love the simplicity. It’s also making a big comeback in the modern world, where cohabitation is preferred to marriage by many younger people.
5. Communication Through Fanning
In Victorian England, a lot was left unspoken. These stiff-lipped people are not known for having shared their emotions freely.
One result of this reluctance to talk freely was a custom using fans. Because women couldn’t simply tell suitors if they were interested or not, they used their fanning stroke as a sign language.
Fanning slowly meant move on, she’s spoken for. Quickly meant she’s available. Fanning the left side of the face meant she’s not interested, while the right meant she’s into you.
After reviewing some of the world’s customs, it seems that dating has always had some oddities attached to it. So whether you sign up for Tinder, Farmers Only, or a speed-dating service, know that you’re participating in an age-old tradition of trying to find the perfect mate.