Dating is a form of courtship, and may include any social activity undertaken by, typically, two persons with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. The word refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity. Traditional dating activities include entertainment or a meal.
In many cultural traditions, including some in South Asia, and the Middle East and to some extent East Asia, as in the case of Omiai in Japan and the similar "Xiangqin" (相親) practiced in the Greater China Area, a date may be arranged by a third party, who may be a family member, acquaintance, or professional matchmaker. Internet dating has become popular in recent times.
Although dating etiquette has become more relaxed during the twentieth and twenty first century, there are considerable differences between social and personal values. For example, when an activity costs money (for example, a meal), traditionally the man was expected to pay; but in recent times the practice of "going Dutch" (splitting the expenses) has become more common and more acceptable. With the wider availability of information about traditionally secretive issues individuals are more open about their interest in sexuality both in form of dating language and dress. The difference in expectation of a date in the male / female view of dating is quite marked and clearly shown by the public advice disseminated by popular media, e.g. magazines, which is in stark contrast. The average duration of courtship before proceeding to engagement or marriage varies considerably throughout the world.