Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Hug or handshake? Your handy guide on introducing yourself on a first date

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Every online dater knows the emotional roller-coaster of the process. After spending tons of time crafting your bio and choosing photos, you finally feel all the stress and effort is worthwhile when you start coming across promising profiles and starting meaningful conversations. Things reach a new level of excitement when you finally agree to meet with someone in person, but then a new flood of worries often quickly overshadows the thrill.

A client of mine recently texted me with one such worry: “How should I introduce myself in person meeting someone for the first time from a dating app? With a handshake or a hug? Or some other way?”

It’s a simple question, but simple doesn’t mean easy. I’m sure a lot of daters think about this, wanting to make a good first impression (after all, there’s only one) and prevent any immediate awkwardness that might make someone feel uncomfortable.

It’s also a question where you might ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers, all depending on how comfortable they are, if they’re more extroverted or introverted, and a variety of other factors given past experiences.

Here’s what I told my client: “I would ask, ‘Are you a hugger? I am!’ If yes, go for it.”


A short but sweet hug will set the date on the right course, especially if you’ve already been conversing a bit. A handshake, in my personal opinion, seems a bit stiff and formal — you’re not here for a business transaction. Avoid a cheek kiss when first meeting someone. Some people might be OK with that, but some might not, and it feels like an invasion of personal space so soon.

But the key is that it’s a question. We're still in a pandemic, and it’s always best to ask people about their level of comfort. It takes away any confusion and also gives your match the chance to say something like, “Actually, I’m more of a handshake person if that’s good with you.” With anything involving physical touch, if you’re not sure how the other person might feel, it’s always a good idea to ask.

Saying goodbye at the end of the date is another potentially tricky situation. Whether the date went well or not, another hug (if they were comfortable with it in the beginning) is likely an appropriate gesture. If things went really well and you’re both feeling the connection, there might be a kiss on the cheek or even a peck on the lips. Ultimately, that’s up to the two people involved to determine their comfort level.

First impressions are tough, and sometimes we make them even more difficult by overthinking them. At the end of the day (or in this case, at the end of the date), everyone wins when everyone feels comfortable. The best way to ensure that is to simply ask a question if you’re unsure about something and be open-minded about their honest response.

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