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“I can’t carve the perfect partner either”

Kathrin Grüneis and her matchmaking agency have been successfully bringing singles together for ten years, who then end up as couples. But what are new dating services like Tinder doing to singles in Switzerland?

As a follow-up, Kathrin Grüneis has now been able to provide an insight from a different perspective: With her matchmaking office in Zurich, the 54-year-old offers an offline version of the popular dating apps, so to speak. She says: “Online dating has its advantages – but it also inhibits free communication between people.

Ms. Grüneis, you offer a service that is still often regarded as more serious than the modern, free dating apps. Nevertheless, these platforms are becoming increasingly popular. Do you therefore see Tinder and co. as competition?
I wouldn’t necessarily see Tinder as competition. The difficulty in online dating and also in matchmaking lies in separating the wheat from the chaff. I myself have also been a client of an agency when I was looking for serious partners. And I have found the Swiss to be very closed, especially compared to Germany, where I come from. This reticence doesn’t exactly make it easier to get to know someone. Especially if you have already completed your studies or vocational training, it can be difficult to meet new people. That’s exactly why these brokerage platforms exist. And when customers come up to you, make an appointment, have a conversation and ultimately have to spend money, then the intention is of course completely different to when I’m served with a click on Tinder.

Do you rule out deep relationships via Tinder?
No, this is by no means to say that serious relationships via Tinder are impossible: My cousin even married her Tinder date! Ultimately, however, online dating is simply another way of getting to know someone.

In this case, is there a completely different clientele on Tinder than the one you serve?
Partly already. Precisely because Tinder is free, it attracts completely different and often younger people than those who contact my agency. After all, the spontaneity is then lost, because unlike on Tinder, it takes a little more time for two partners to be introduced to each other. And of course you think twice about whether you want to pay money for an offer if you can find what you think is the same thing online. Anonymity also plays a role in who decides to use my service: I have already looked after many clients who are in the upper echelons of a company, for example, and therefore simply don’t want everyone to know that they are on Tinder.

“People don’t want to admit that they sometimes need help from
have to accept third parties.”

So is online dating still associated with shame today, or have people long since left it behind?
No, the shame is still there. However, this has less to do with the dating platforms themselves than with people’s general pride: they don’t want to admit that they sometimes have to accept help from third parties. And it’s not just in dating either: people don’t want to admit to seeing a therapist regularly, for example, even though they shouldn’t be ashamed of it either.

Do you think this will improve?
Perhaps there will be a change in thinking. In other cultures, it’s already completely normalized to meet your partner online, and in Switzerland, too, it’s becoming more and more common.

In the interview, the women often reported how frustrated they had become with online dating because long-term success often didn’t materialize. Have you also observed these feelings in your customers?
I’ve experienced that too, yes, even if the reasons for the frustration were different in each case. One issue – and also a reason why people then turned to me – was often a lack of willingness to maintain contact beyond casual acquaintances. In my opinion, this is a problem, especially in the younger part of society. People are less and less willing to enter into a serious and committed relationship and to invest the time accordingly. Platforms like Tinder definitely contribute to this. Every time you go on a date, you think to yourself: “If I opened the app now, I’d definitely find someone better.” This acts as a kind of blockade.

“Every time you go on a date, you think to yourself: If I opened the app now, I would definitely find someone better.”

Do you think that online dating even has addictive potential in this context?
I think it’s precisely this supposed choice that often makes you believe you have more options than you actually do in order to keep users on the platform. It guarantees nothing for the actual relationship that could eventually develop from it.

Last year in particular, many people saw online dating as the last chance to maintain their social and love life. Have you also experienced an increase in customers during this time?
In any case! When the lockdown started, there was nothing going on at first and customers even canceled their appointments with me. But then suddenly people started coming from all over and I’ve since had to hire two employees to manage the new increase. It actually got a little too much for me for a while. New arrivals, the “fresh meat” so to speak, are extremely important for our range, so it was all the more difficult to say no sometimes.

But which customers do you actually have to say: “I’m sorry, I can’t look after you”?
Of course I try to help everyone, but age plays an important role in the selection process. Because my clients are always looking for something serious and long-term, I don’t take on anyone younger than 25, for example. That simply doesn’t make sense. They wouldn’t fit into my existing customer pool either, as the average age is more in the mid-thirties.
My youngest customer is currently 28 – my oldest customer is 82 years old.

What expectations do your customers have of you?
Expectations are mixed, but people are basically looking for a partner for life. That’s a demand that puts me under a lot of pressure in the meantime – after all, I can’t carve out the perfect partner. It’s more about finding the greatest possible overlap between the expectations of both sides, and sometimes that means making compromises. If you met your partner in the traditional way at work or in a bar, it wouldn’t be any different.

And how do you go about it?
I sometimes try to refute the strict expectations that people have when they come to me and to break down the image they have in their heads. And then I’m quite prepared to justify my decision and explain why the person might be a good match for me – even if they’re not 1.90 meters tall or live more than 30 kilometers away.

The interviewees also complained about this superficiality when they were on Tinder. So you are trying to counteract this?
Exactly! Through me, singles can skip this step of swiping to the right, where you can almost only decide based on looks. The focus is set differently, because by the time the clients meet for a date, I have already spoken to both sides and can sense whether there could be a connection. Through the conversations, I also often notice that customers get to know themselves better and realize what they actually want from a partner.

So do you see online dating overall as progress or perhaps even a step backwards?
Basically, I’ve been saying for a long time that if these mediation services didn’t exist, the Swiss would die out. In this respect, online dating as an innovation is a blessing, because it makes it much easier to get to know people. But there is also a downside: In my opinion, getting to know people online inhibits the free communication that takes place offline. People no longer talk to each other, there is a lack of eye contact when people only look at their smartphones on the bus or streetcar.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day I support all the ways in which people find their dream partner. In any case, I believe that every pot has a lid to match! You just have to find it.

The woman for all single cases
Kathrin Grüneis has been working as a matchmaker in her own practice for 10 years, where she welcomes clients from the greater Zurich area in particular who want her to find them a better half. In total, Grüneis looks after over 600 singles, including single mothers and fathers as well as senior citizens. In her private life, the native Bavarian has been happily married for four years and lives with her husband and daughter from her first marriage in Kilchberg, Zurich.

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