11 First Date Conversation Starters That Will Completely Ease Your Nerves

by Annie Foskett
Kate Daigneault/Stocksy

I love first dates! Just f*cking kidding. First dates are the stuff of nightmares. No matter how many you've been on, how many mutual friends you and your date have, or how unshakably confident you are, a first date means that you are taking time that you could be spending with friends or snuggling up with the new season of Transparent to sit across from a veritable stranger/potential murderer. I am a Larry David-level curmudgeon when it comes to making efforts to talk to strangers, so having a few first date conversation starters in my back pocket is a nerdy comfort I enjoy.

That said, you don't necessarily want to ask "How about them North Koreans?" to start the night off. You also don't need to "practice laugh" the night before the date, or prepare a lie about having a niece named "Torple." (Shout out to my all-time favorite episode of Parks and Recreation. Yes, I like TV).

The goal of a first date is, to ultimately, be yourself — two tiny words that are so hard to actually make good on. Here's the thing: Being yourself means sometimes being nervous or awkward or not thinking of the right thing to say. Remember that your date is also in the same boat; all non-sociopaths get a little weird before a first date, so breathe.

Just in case, though, here are some conversation starters:

1. Say "Knock Knock"

Hopefully your date will say, "Who's there?" Then you can say "To" and they can say "To who?" and you can say, "Don't you mean to whom?" Barf!

Just kidding. Please don't do this. I just wanted to lighten you up about first dates so you can see that you won't crash and burn "knock knock joke"-level.

2. Ask About Their D

Their drink, ladies. Let's not be absurd. Again, just trying to remind you that no matter what you say on a first date, there's someone out there who has said worse.

If you're out for drinks and your date orders a Manhattan, ask them if that's their favorite cocktail. Ask them if they have a favorite beer. Super boring, but super easy. Before you panic, remember, you can just look down at the drink in their hands. (If you're not drinking, you can also ask about the other D word, dinner... best restaurant they've ever been to, favorite food, whatever.)

3. Ask About Where They Grew Up, And If They Liked It

Again, this is a total go-to, but everyone loves talking about where they are from. I think asking them the best or worst part about growing up in Nashville or Miami or wherever makes the question more specific and allows you to learn more about them, too.

4. Ask "What's The Most Recent Trip You Took?"

Everyone loves to humblebrag about their sweet vacations. And if your date shoots you down with an "I haven't been anywhere in forever" rather than chime in about your bomb trip to Machu Picchu, ask them where the top place on their travel list is. Pro tip: This works on a bad first date, too, because you get to escape the setting in your mind for a moment.

5. Ask "Where's Your Favorite Place That You've Lived?"

This is a good one because it allows your date to relive some happy memories, and you'll probably learn a bit about their work and travel history as well. TBH, I'm having trouble answering this in my own head right now, so maybe tell your date it's OK if they pick more than one.

6. Ask "What TV Shows Are You Watching?"

Yes, I'm biased because I love this golden age of TV, but you can also ask about podcasts, movies, or museums if you're that adulty. I think getting a feel for where your date is at in terms of pop culture is a great way to see what else you might have in common. Don't make them pick one favorite of all time though. That's just annoying (and hard).

7. Ask "If You Started A Start-Up, What Would It Be?"

All right, so maybe you're out with the an OG Airbnb employee, or maybe you're out with someone who has no idea what a startup is, but I think this question is fun because it's pretty much like asking: "What's an app that doesn't exist that you wish did?" Try it out and let me know how it goes? Who knows, you could be on a date with a VC person who actually wants to fund your idea.

8. Ask "What Are Your Roommates/Friends Like?"

This is a better way of asking, "What do you do for fun?" Hopefully, your date like their friends and will be happy to chat about them. This question will probably allow you to get into where you each hang out in the place that you live, and get a feel for what mutual interests you might have.

9. Ask "Do You Have A Favorite Meme Of 2017?"

You have to know your audience a little bit for this one, but if it's an online date, you probably have a good idea of their sense of humor from their profile.

10. Ask Them About The Worst First Date They've Ever Been On

So some people may disagree on this topic. You might think this is too "meta" or that it's improper to talk about any other dates or exes on a first date, but I feel like acknowledging how badly things could go together is a great icebreaker. If they offer up a great story and ask for yours, it means that neither of you takes yourself too seriously.

11. Ask "If You Could Go On A Road Trip With Three People, Dead Or Alive, Who Would They Be?"

Speaking of worst first dates... this is another "Just kidding, don't do this" that I took from my real life. OK, so it's not a terrible question, but when I was asked this, my date criticized each one of my on-the-spot choices (Obama, Bowie, and Jenny Slate) and had me state all three of mine before rattling off his own, which were definitely preplanned AF. This is a first date, dude, not a grad school application essay question.

All in all, even if you forget all of these conversation starters and accidentally blurt out "I love lamp" or come down with food poisoning mid-date, you'll be giving someone a great story to tell on their next date. Plus, you'll have your personal "worst first date" story for the ages. Remember that the simple act of agreeing to go on a first date is a brave thing, and go out there and get them. Go on a date this week! F yeah.

Check out the entire Gen Why series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.