Kathrin Grüneis, a matchmaker from Zurich, believes in love at second sight – which online dating does not offer. The native Bavarian has been matching couples for ten years. But corona has changed their business – the influx is greater than ever before.
Two fluffy armchairs, between them a small table with a sugar bowl – in the shape of a heart, of course: in Kathrin Grüneis’ spartanly furnished office on Löwenstrasse in Zurich, every love-hungry single is sure to want to pour their heart out. But perhaps that has less to do with the office and more to do with the 54-year-old matchmaker. She naturally talks a lot about herself – that lowers the inhibition threshold for her customers too. Her company name “freieherzen.ch” says it all: anyone who registers with her must be open to a relationship. This is also the reason why she does not fear for the future of her profession. “Just as there will always be sick people, there will always be lovesick people.” She sees the fact that the vivacious Bavarian is not full-blooded Swiss as an advantage: “It puts Swiss customers off less. What’s more, I’m more direct than the Swiss usually are,” says the matchmaker. “And the foreigners might think that as a dual citizen I could sell them better to men and women.” Even 25 years ago, when she came to Switzerland, she knew: “I won’t coexist in the shadow of my partner as a “hood diver” (a derogatory term in Bavaria for average). She met her daughter’s father herself at the age of 35 as a customer of a dating agency. When she called her out of curiosity years later, she had already stopped: “The Internet had become too much competition for her.”
Analog partner search
Kathrin Grüneis’ experience is different: Hobbies, profession, education and certain characteristics can be collected on online dating sites – but she doesn’t “discover” a potential match by comparing a checklist using an algorithm, but through a personal conversation. “What is also important here is what is said between the lines and, above all, how it is said.” So who uses her services? She tends to have well-off customers, but also average earners, and demographically everything is included. They all have one thing in common: “Anyone who comes to me wants commitment. That’s why I have quite a good selection of women.” To add to her client file of around 700 dossiers, Grüneis sometimes approaches people herself to ask if she can add them as potential single contacts. This is how she first came into contact with her current husband, meteorologist Thomas Bucheli (newly single at the time). Bucheli declined, but the two found each other instead – and have now been married for four years. The “weatherman” became the prince. The fact that he is a “grounded, normal Swiss” also creates trust among Swiss customers, she assumes. This is because many rip-offs damage the reputation of the industry. Which begs the question: Are there also officially binding regulations? According to the Swiss Code of Obligations, matchmaking services are obliged, among other things, to “maintain the database” and must also facilitate at least four proposals or meetings per year. “That can be difficult with women over 60 – I have plenty of suggestions for men of the same age,” says Grüneis. She herself considers a placement a success if the couples have been together for at least six months – not counting flashes in the pan. At normal times, there is a couple every four to eight weeks, but currently there are even more.
Lots of traffic before Christmas
At Grüneis, the Christmas business starts in the fall, so to speak. She receives many applications towards the end of September. “The awareness of what it means to be alone has certainly been heightened by corona. Many people also realize that they don’t want to be alone towards the end of the year.” Regardless of the time of year, there is a weather situation that literally drives singles into dating: When the sky brightens up after a gloomy, damp and cold period and drives people outdoors – preferably as a couple. She has now been running her own dating agency for ten years. However, her small sole proprietorship and current limited company really took off when daily newspapers and magazines wrote about her. Corona reinforced this trend – a stress test for her company: “I was literally overwhelmed in 2020 and realized: I can no longer manage this on my own.” Last winter, she had to take a two-week break. Being in the home office every day with her daughter and husband was also a big challenge. “I didn’t actively promote the pairing service: The Federal Council has advised us to stay at home – I can’t say: go and multiply.” Both the number of people entering and the hit rate increased rapidly after the openings in March and April 2021. So she hired a psychologist at the front and an assistant in the back office, both of whom she knew privately.
“The Federal Council has advised us to stay at home. I can’t say: go and multiply.”
Lonely business people
Kathrin Grüneis also sees good reasons for executives and managing directors to seek help when choosing a partner: “At the upper levels, the choice is thin on the ground: That’s when people come to me. Where else can you get to know each other if drinks parties can no longer take place?” Especially in small companies and family businesses, it is not always advisable to enter into a liaison within the company. “If the relationship breaks down, one of the two usually has to look for something new – and that’s usually the woman.”