Niko has long hair and a beard and is wearing a pale checked shirt, pale chinos and is in bare feet. Alta has long blond hair and is wearing a black dress and black boots.
Image: Christian Jungeblodt/The Guardian/The Guyliner
Impeccable Table Manners

Niko and Alya

For reasons best known to the Guardian, this week’s Blind Date takes place in Berlin, which, for those who were busy nodding off in geography or off school altogether doing aerosols through a tea towel, is in Germany. Can every hostelry in London be exhausted already? Has the UK drained so many single people of the will to live that we are now forced to widen our nets to the EU, to make as many cities as possible miserable?

I know absolutely no German other than schlafzimmer and counting up to ten – you can probably guess why if you think about it long enough – so my German-based jokes will either be scant or like sitting through an am-dram production of ‘Allo ‘Allo in a worn-out village hall just outside Leominster.

Here’s Niko, 33, a programmer who has decided shoes interfere with his chakras, and Alya, 27, a software product manager who’s planning to kick someone’s front door in as soon as she’s done with this cocktail party.

Niko has long hair and a beard and is wearing a pale checked shirt, pale chinos and is in bare feet. Alta has long blond hair and is wearing a black dress and black boots.
Image: Christian Jungeblodt/The Guardian

before returning here for a few annotations, investigations, and lacerations.

Niko | Alya

What were you hoping for?
To meet an interesting person to have good conversation and great food.

Well, one out of three is the usual result but I will pray for you, Niko.

What were you hoping for?
To feel a spark and a nice meal. But I’d have settled for a sexy man, on a horse, with a bottle of Old Spice.

Alya is the somewhat unexpected reincarnation of Olive from On The Buses. I’d rather a man smell of Harpic and wet dog than Old Spice.

First impressions?
Alya had great style and presence. We had a drink at the bar first to get over the surrealness of the experience.

‘Surreal.’ Meeting a stranger in a bar is hardly surreal. It was ‘normal’ until about twenty years ago and, you’re in Berlin, city of darkrooms! I reckon things couldve been a lot more surreal.

First impressions?
My heart sank when he opened with, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven”. It doesn’t roll off the tongue in German.

It doesn’t exactly sound like sonnet 29 when you say it in English either. But it’s exactly what someone who reeks of Old Spice would say. You should be thrilled! Just be grateful he didn’t try to sell you a used car or ask you to fry him some spam fritters.

What did you talk about?
Having multiple homes and histories, and living in Berlin. I got some good advice on product management and may have waxed (too) poetic about traditional music.
Working in tech and our shared love of remote work flexibility. Our respective identity crises. What we’d reveal here.

Multiple homes/remote work flexibility ✅ – Ooh they sound a bit like those digital nomads I read so much about in the five seconds it takes me to skim the ‘follow your dreams’ headline before I scroll onto something else. If you don’t know what a digital nomad is, the official translation is: ‘my parents have money’.

What we’d reveal here – Trying to game the format! Dangerous stuff. We can always tell.

Most awkward moment?
The blue cheese took me on a journey. I spaced out for almost a full minute.

You should try dressing up in a tuxedo and taking LSD on Southampton Common at three in the morning.

Most awkward moment?
When he told me to think of him when I went to the toilet (I hope as a joke).

Alya is having the full old-school Old Spice lothario experience! Shouldn’t she be thrilled? What next? Is Niko going to come running out of the toilets chased by several busty lovelies in cheap bikinis, a vicar wearing stockings and suspenders, and a man in a raincoat writing things down on a clipboard?

Good table manners?
Fantastic – we shared every plate. Each cocktail was sprayed with a special, unique aroma right before drinking.
Very. He did nearly drool over the food, but you can’t blame him for that!

Sharing! Drooling! Spraying with special, unique aromas! This sounds very stressful. I’d rather watch two bluebottles have it off on a discarded McNugget.

Would you introduce them to your friends?
They might like her more than they like me!
They don’t have much in common.

Oh I don’t know, you could all sit down and watch this together.

The cover of the DVD of the complete collection of 1970s sitcom Man About The House featuring all the cast members

Describe Alya in three words.
Driven, smart, gorgeous.

DRIVEN – she arrived here in an Uber
SMART – she worked out the tip without a calculator
GORGEOUS – nobody reared back in horror when she walked in

Describe Niko in three words.
Hairy (think Viking), foodie, reflective

HAIRY (THINK VIKING) – I don’t think ‘Viking’ when I think ‘hairy’. I think gorilla, bear, barbershop floor, the plugholes in the sinks of the **** gym at Stratford, a mohair cardigan that drove me to distraction when I was seven. His chat-up lines, however, are definitely of the Viking era
FOODIE – he didn’t ask for the ‘other menu’
REFLECTIVE – he had a shiny forehead?

What do you think Alya made of you?
I hope she found me a worthwhile conversation partner.

Hmmm, perception filter may need adjustment.

What do you think Niko made of you?
A bit disappointed that I don’t read this column as religiously as he does.

Oh that explains it then. Niko is a ringer! He’s acting out to ginger up the content a little. At least… I hope he is, otherwise… (in all seriousness he has more than likely been joking so perhaps we shouldn’t be hunting him down and going very ‘internet’ about it)

Did you go on somewhere?
He’d bought tickets for an event at the planetarium later that night … awfully romantic, but I’d literally just met him.

Oh. Not to play into Berlin stereotypes – I mean, the restaurant they ate at is called KINK, ffs – but is the planetarium a sex club or something? Alya is right that she had ‘only just met him’ but it’s a blind date, that’s how it works. Is the planetarium especially intimate? Anyway, I will assume this is just Alya finding a way to say she was very much done with the evening and with Niko as politely as possible – which is, unfortunately, how women have to play it because (most) men can’t handle rejection. (I wrote about this.) It was a nice gesture, but she’s allowed to say no. Especially if there was a risk of any more of that woeful date patter tumbling out of his mouth.

And … did you kiss?
A gentleman wouldn’t tell, but I’m not a gentleman. The vibes were more friendly than romantic.

Okay, so maybe you are more perceptive than I gave you credit for.

And … did you kiss?
Nope. That possibility went up in smoke after he had a cigarette.

Are we actually in Berlin, Germany? I thought everyone in Europe smoked constantly? I’ve only been to Berlin once but I seem to remember you could smoke everywhere* and they practically hand out Lucky Strikes at passport control**.

Anyway, no, I suppose that would rather put a dampener on the old snogging scenario. Much like onions, curry, and Pret coffee, you can only really snog someone who tastes that way of you do too, otherwise you may find the contents of your stomach on the pavement. As for ‘went up in smoke’, Alya has caught the 1970s humour bug too.

* – not true
** – definitely not true

Marks out of 10?

Rizzo from Grease boots Patty and Sandy off the bench because she is sick of them talking nonsense

I would say that is quite definitive.

Would you meet again?
As friends – we certainly had a lot to talk about.
I don’t think so. Unless I find out he really is a famous musician

Oh Niko. No. And Alya… Old Spice and a thing for musicians? Daisy Jones and the Six wasn’t a documentary, you know.

Whatever. Enjoy your lives. Tschüss!

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Something to remember about the review and the daters that I put at the end of every review

The comments I make are based on answers given by participants. The Guardian chooses what to publish and usually edits answers to make the column work better on the page. Most things I say are riffing on the answers given and not judgements about the daters themselves, so please be kind to them in comments, replies, and generally on social media. Daters are under no obligation to get along for our benefit, or explain why they do, or don’t, want to see each other again, so please try not to speculate or fill our feeds with hate. If you’re one of the daters, get in touch if you want to give me your side of the story. Niko, where were your shoes?

Niko and Alya ate at Kink, Schönhauser Allee 176, 10119 Berlin. Fancy a blind date? Email


  1. Great write-up, in fairness to him I think he is trying to make all of us feel better about our most disastrous date.

    Alternatively it could have been performance art.

  2. JUSTIN – I am so glad you came out of hibernation to comment on this date because I have been thinking about it all morning (read: since I discovered it was in Berlin this week about 45 minutes ago). Can’t believe they came here and there was no call for applications.

  3. Thank god you came back for this! As a German I sadly have to say that barefoot guys are just A Thing, I don’t know why.

  4. I’m as annoyed as Patricia is that I didn’t know they were now doing Berlin! (I could also have participated in Paris… just to be weird. No, no rich parents. Also not a digital nomad. But I agree with you overall.) If you are surprised, Justin, that they are in Berlin: they are doing European capitals the next few weeks (and the last two) to celebrate the new Guardian Europe edition. I didn’t understand Alya: I would have loved a smoking man with no shoes and tickets to the planetarium. Then again Niko’s lines were god awful.

  5. Even if one had to give credit to this pair for making it so easy, I must say that you outdid yourself in this write up. Was lol,ing throughout besides marvelling at your eye for detail – Spam fritters and Pret coffee LOL

  6. Niko seems like a nice guy. You and Alya seem obnoxious. Everything he said about her was nice, everything she said about him was mean. And then you twist the knife.

    Super weird behavior.

    1. I agree Niko seems nice and I agree Alyssa said mean things. Nothing in the review contradicts either of those views.

  7. Who cares about lack of German-based jokes when you can come up with lines like “I’d rather watch two bluebottles have it off on a discarded McNugget”!!!

  8. Oh yay! Love a Justin day! How are any new books going? I have read all your published ones so far! I liked Alya’s comment about Old Spice because she’s referring to this most wonderful ad – I don’t know how to link, so just google “Old Spice Ad I’m On A Horse” and enjoy. I would have thought Nikon’s jokes would have been perfectly in alignment with this ad! Maybe she was worried she would crush his toes with her boots. Anyway, Best wishes to all!

    1. Yes unfortunately I remember about the ad after I’d written the review! New book coming next year! Thanks for reading.

      1. That’s great news about a new book next year! Thanks so much! I am sure you have plenty of amazing things stored in your brain Justin! Not sure what it says about my brain that I knew that ad straight away with no effort in recall. Hmm. I can’t even remember my own phone number!

    2. Maybe I am of a certain age but “Old Spice advert” means a bloke surfing to the “O Fortuna” music by Orff (I think).

  9. I think a visit to the (literal) planetarium, of which there are at least two in berlin, is awfully romantic because you go there to gaze stars (and planets) together!

    (And that’s romantic because you feel like two (or whatever number your date consists of) little, lost people under the vast sky, and that’s romantic because no idea, or because starry skies are beautiful, or because you might believe that your shared destiny is in the skies, or I don’t know — but it’s well established that star gazing is romantic, isn’t it? At least in Germany^^)

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