This article is part of the Brussels guide special report.
Welcome to Brussels, where your dreams of endless bureaucratic processes and slow, incremental change brought about through compromise come to life!
As the home of the EU institutions and a lot of lobbyists, Brussels’ social life revolves around one main activity: networking. This applies to both professional life and personal life — which can, at times, overlap (it’s a small world).
The time-honored way to make friends/lovers if you work in or around the Brussels bubble would be to head out on a Thursday — it’s not a Friday, a more traditional big night out, because no one in the bubble works on Fridays — to Plux — that’s Place du Luxembourg, the square in front of the European Parliament. (Plux is a bit like the Mos Eisley cantina scene in the first “Star Wars” movie, but with more lanyards.)
But if you’re new here, you might feel overwhelmed heading out into the meat market that is Plux. So instead, how about downloading one — or many; we don’t judge — dating app?
If that sounds like something for you, here’s a generalized, non-scientific, potentially useless (but hopefully fun) guide to Brussels’ online dating world.
The apps and the people on them
You might be wondering what to expect from these apps — after all, each one is a microcosm of EU bubble realities.
Here are our top three.
Bumble: The realm of strong, independent women who love being the ones to write first, but who will also mildly panic the moment they match with someone and won’t start the chat within the 24-hour limit.
Hinge: Have you ever written a poem? Some people have, and they think this is the best place for you to read it (it’s basically a form of self-publishing). Here you’ll find the most extensive profiles of any app, and they all look the same.
Tinder: Everyone hates Tinder. And yet, everyone is on Tinder. All online dating roads lead here. You know it, we know it, and the love of your life might know it too. Go get ’em, tiger.
The same types tend to populate all these platforms — except for poets; they’re only on Hinge.
You will scroll past profiles of Commission trainees with their badges in plain sight — the legend goes that they never remove them, not even when they sleep or shower, for fear of someone questioning the relevance of their role in society.
Then there are the consultants. They truly wanted to make the world a better place, but we’ve all got bills to pay so they crossed over to the dark side. So if you’re looking for pragmatism, swipe right. They can, however, be a lot of fun when they’re not working.
Among all the people working for the EU, or in its orbit, you will also find loads of Brits. They are still here. Maybe in denial?
Whom you won’t find — on dating apps or at any other time — are any Belgians. We are convinced they have a secret app (maybe called Tutoyer or Hetebrok) that they refuse to share with the rest of us. Which is understandable.
Dos and don’ts
Now that you know what to expect from your dating app, we can discuss some of the most common faux pas and how to avoid them.
Let’s start with the profile picture, which is your business card for the dating world.
People will not focus on the main subject of a photo — i.e., you — but on everything else. You can be sure the aforementioned work badge will make an appearance. In. Every. Single. Shot.
Puppies also seem to be popular, though we would recommend making sure that the pooches in question are yours (to avoid disappointment later).
And next to your photo comes, of course, your bio. (Spoiler alert: Wannabe poets will have long bios.)
First up, everyone is a politics nerd who loves to travel. And if you speak more than four languages, thank you for not bragging about it.
Final note: Don’t lie about your age; that’s sad.
After some swiping or liking, eventually, you might start a conversation.
On some apps, you can send a voice note: If that’s how you break the ice, make sure you know how to pronounce the person’s name. And if butchering the pronunciation of the person’s name is how you plan to break the ice, don’t. The Irish have a great sense of humor, but Siobhan will block you.
If you miraculously manage to keep the chat going after an embarrassing pickup line, you should consider it a success. You might even go for a first date — and after that, you’re on your own, kiddo.
Calling it quits
There will come a day when you will leave the apps — and then come back, and then leave again, and then come back.
That’s when you’ve gone one scroll too far, and you need to put your phone down. Maybe the pub is still open. You might meet someone there.