Getting By with a Little Help from Your Friends, or: How Sebastian Yap Is Reviving Matchmaking

Dateweek is a "dating marathon" for singles
Dateweek is a “dating marathon” for singles

The modern dating scene, or lack thereof, has caused changes in our mating rituals. As society has progressively adapted to swiping romance from a screen, replacing prior courtship rituals with quick hookups, many have turned to dating apps which are often little more than cesspools for lurkers scoping out their next prospect. So what are hopeful singles vying for a substantial relationship—or even just one good date—supposed to do?

Enter: Sebastian Yap, an Amsterdam-based freelance product developer, who wants to help you find a love (or a like) match without a screen. Yap’s idea is to line up a string of dates for a person, arranged by those who know you best: your friends. And so to do this, Yap has coordinated Dateweek, which runs October 26 to 30, an attempt to make the serendipity in finding love happen just a little bit faster, and in a more interesting way.

The idea to dedicate an entire week of screen-less matchmaking came to Yap at a party he was attending two years ago, when the now 28-year-old and a group of friends were talking about their dating life. Having gone through a “complicated period,” Yap had not been flourishing in the dating scene.

“For some reason I joked, ‘let’s go on a date every day during one week, I will organize your dates and you organize my dates,'” Yap remembers. “The concept resonated with people and we discovered more and more benefits with this method of finding dates.”

Although Yap had initially been kidding, the idea lingered in the back of his mind for two years. And now with a little help of his friends—and yours—he is ready to present the first edition of Dateweek. Here, we talk to Yap about what it takes to pull off an event like Dateweek, and what makes it different than speed-dating or a good, old-fashioned blind date.

How does Dateweek work exactly?
As a group of friends, you set up four blind dates for your single friend. So you find four people in and/or around your social network and organize four dates. The single (the Dateweeker) just has to agree to participate; the friends (the Dateweek team) do the rest. So the dates go from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday everyone comes together to look back at the week and tell his or her stories. Ideally, there is a Dateweek closing party in your city, where all Dateweek teams, Dateweekers and the dates come together to party.

It’s kind of like speed dating, but instead of five minutes, it’s the duration of a week. Right?
The important difference is that your friends curate the dates. And if you’re lucky your friends have arranged amazing date activities. But Dateweek is more than “yet another dating concept,” we celebrate this thing that we call a date: You get together with someone you don’t know that well, and try to get to know each other. It’s a brilliant concept and a great act of our individual freedom. So let’s celebrate that we have this freedom.

There was this show in America called Blind Date where people were set up on blind dates, and a camera crew followed them around to record how the date went. The dates tended to end horrible, but were amusing to watch. Do you guys have something like that in the Netherlands?
I remember so many dating shows over the years that I can’t keep track anymore. The number of dating shows created all over the world must be huge. Looking at someone else’s dating adventures has always been very entertaining. So by forming a Dateweek team you create your own dating show, starring your single friend. That’s part of your reward for doing this! Besides receiving the endless gratitude of the Dateweeker, of course.

Who is Dateweek for?
All singles and their friends! Maybe even that single that doesn’t like dating that much should be persuaded to participate. It would be a good exercise and opportunity for them to get out of their comfort zone.

When you guys started, did you have anyone in mind in your group of friends that could benefit from Dateweek?
Yes, you always have these wonderful people among your friends who aren’t in a relationship. But we need to be careful of being normative. Living your life in a traditional relationship is not the only way. And singles aren’t sad. That is one of the reasons why Dateweek is not necessarily aimed at finding a relationship, the aim is to get people to have more dates and let them enjoy dating.

What is your vision for the future of Dateweek?
Dateweek works with as little as one Dateweek team for one Dateweeker. But it would be cool if people all over the world could celebrate Dateweek together. Couples have Valentine’s Day, which doesn’t really work for singles, so singles should have a whole week: Dateweek.

What sets you guys apart from Tinder and all the dating sites already on the market?
Let me begin to say that we are not trying to compete with these dating platforms. But when you purely look at meeting new people, Dateweek gives some advantages to the single: First of all, unlike with these dating apps, you can meet people that are not on a dating app. The ones not on any platform might be even more interesting. Secondly, with Dateweek you also need to invest some time, but not alone behind your phone. Dating sites cost time even before you had your first date. One could say: don’t judge a book by the cover. But there you are, working your way through all these covers, only to find out that most covers don’t contain that many interesting pages to read. For Dateweek, your friends have made the finest selection for you. And one other advantage is you get to skip the whole “pickup artist” trench war, which is too often going on in clubs and on dating apps, where men are using all kinds of strange methods to seduce women, and women are in high alert mode and pull up their walls. Let’s look each other in the eyes again.

Do you plan on participating?
Yes, I am in several Dateweek teams and my friends have created a Dateweek team for me. Some people say that, that is the only reason why I started this, to be a Dateweeker myself. No comment.

What are some good first date ideas?
For Dateweek I think the Dateweek teams should make full use of their powers granted to them by the Dateweeker. So go crazy and organize dates with activities that you normally wouldn’t do. Just make sure there is also opportunity to talk. Activities can be anything: a crafted beer tastings, a pub quiz, a bee keeping workshop or a museum visit. In Amsterdam we have a pancake boat, a boat that sails out for one and a half hour with a pancake buffet. None of my friends would ever do that, but I can’t wait to send one of them on a pancake-boat-date.

What was the worst date you’ve ever been on?
Of course there are no bad dates. Like there is no bad weather for a meteorologist. In case there is a certain point where you realize that there is no romantic future between the two of you, you still have the great opportunity to get to meet someone new, have a good conversation or just learn something new. This is the only established social construct there is, I believe, where you can talk to a relative stranger for such a long time. But my “worst” aka “most interesting” date was with a girl who was able to do the date on her own. At a certain point I realized that if I would say nothing, she would keep on chatting on her own. I could’ve just sat and listened to her stories, and it would be like listening to a sitcom.

Even though it started off as a joke, do you really think it’s possible to find love with Dateweek?
I think there are many people with whom we could find love under the right conditions. We see a lot of people but rarely do we really meet them, maybe we need more elevators that stop functioning randomly. Maybe Dateweek can provide the right conditions for someone.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
No, the stories involving love at first sight are rare and badly documented. We have footage of a monkey in clothes wearing a purse helping a dog to cross the river, but no footage exists of love at first sight, eh? Love at first date, however, that can happen.

Any tips for the Dateweekers?
It’s only a date! Actually, it’s only one of four dates. Relax and enjoy.


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