Throwback: How Did Our Parents Date?

Nowadays, the advent of many dating apps, dating sites and networking groups make it so easy to meet people and set up a date with just a few clicks of the mouse or taps of your smartphone. It is also easy to pick up your smartphone to make a call, send a text or comment on social media to connect with someone.

Did you ever wonder how our parents — who lived prior to the internet era — met, dated and spent time with each other? Let’s take a throwback and find out!

Meeting new people

Meeting your potential girlfriend or boyfriend happened mostly at school, university or work. You could also get introduced through friends, relatives or neighbours. Of course, let’s not forget that many marriages in the olden days (our grandparents’ time and beyond) were executed through matchmakers. Depending on your background and where you lived, it could have been a practice during our parents’ time too.

A trip downtown


As most shops and malls (which were also fewer in number back then) were located in town, a trip to the city was a very exciting date indeed. Cars were only owned by those who could afford it, so going downtown might mean walking, riding a trishaw, taking the bus or riding on a bicycle or motorcycle. Once they were there, it is common to run errands at shops, visit some popular sites or have a meal together.

Hanging out at the beach or park

Photo: Kelly Sikkema on

A majority of the entertainment spots were based in the city, so couples in the outskirts would often choose to date or hang out at places of nature. They may visit the beach or park, perhaps to walk around or sit down and have a good chat. Such places are open to public and there was no entrance fee or reservations required! The more adventurous ones may even enjoy a favourite nature activity such as hiking or bicycling together.

The standard dinner date


As Malaysians, it was more common to find us eating at local food eateries like local hawker stalls, the kopitiam or mamak. Western restaurants were not a typical choice because of its scarcity and price, which is higher than local food. So, going out to a proper restaurant for dinner, especially in a Western restaurants, was something quite special back then. It also signifies that your boyfriend is financially sound and willing to spend some money on you.

Going to the movies


This hasn’t changed much since back then. The only difference was that fewer Hollywood movies reached our shores (there were more local productions back then), so every movie experience was a memorable one. From queuing up early outside the cinema to get the best seats to buying the snacks for the movie, every movie outing was an exciting event in itself. That’s because there was no online booking or purchase available back then!

Enjoying a favourite pastime together

Photo: Karla Rivera on

Those who shared a similar hobby would, of course, choose them as their dating activities. Activities ranged from dancing to roller skating to bowling, or visiting amusement parks, the pasar malam and having a picnic, there was no lack of fun activities to indulge in, even in those pre-internet days. The only downside was the cost of going regularly to these activities. The more affordable version would be parties thrown by school friends or common-interest clubs and social groups.

Home-style dating


Although this is not the most ideal dating location, conservative parents may not have allowed their children to go out too much, perhaps for fear of certain dangers or temptations. So, dating at home was the modus operandi. Sitting and chatting, watching television, helping with the housework or having a meal with the family was the norm for these dates. These dates are more often than not chaperoned.

Conversations on the phone

Photo: Annie Spratt on

Technically, this is not a date, but it is for those who were keeping up a long-distance relationship. Since online chatting did not exist yet, these were awaited with much anticipation. As phone bills were super expensive, it was a treasure to listen to a loved one’s voice, even if it was a short while. Without handphones or caller ID, appointments were made either through letters or during a pre-arranged date or time.

Writing letters through snail mail


Probably it is hard to imagine now how lovers could even survive the long wait in between letters. Well, in those days, there wasn’t any other choice. For those who maintained a long-distance relationship, letters were the most economical choice. The letters would be handwritten and their latest photographs would be enclosed. Other sweet things that may be sent through letters are dried flowers, stamps, drawings and other love notes.

So, how do these dates sound to you? Although things moved at a slower pace and there were lesser distractions, we bet that these dates are just as enjoyable (if not more) than the dates one could have in this modern day and time. So, just for the fun of it, why not ask your parents how they dated?

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