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Bin the ‘Icks’: Survey data reveals UK dating turn offs 

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, lovebirds across the UK are gearing up to celebrate the season of love.

But let’s be real – dating and relationships can sometimes feel like a minefield, especially when faced with those cringeworthy moments known as ‘icks’. 

What exactly are ‘icks’, you ask? Imagine this: you’re chatting away with someone you find intriguing, only to be suddenly repelled by a behaviour or action that leaves you feeling downright disgusted or cringe.  

Whether it’s poor hygiene, being glued to their phone, or committing the cardinal sin of being rude to hospitality workers – these ‘icks’ can turn a promising encounter into a swift exit strategy. 

We recently conducted a survey that delved into the depths of modern dating to uncover the UK’s top ‘icks’.  

With insights from 1,000 Brits navigating the dating scene, the survey unearthed some fascinating findings. 

Couple arguing

The Top ‘Icks’ Revealed

Topping the charts as the ultimate turn-off for respondents overall is none other than ‘poor personal hygiene’, with a whopping 57% of participants agreeing that it’s the biggest ‘ick’ of them all.  

Following closely behind are ‘poor oral hygiene’ (47%) and ‘being rude to hospitality workers’ (42%). 

But it doesn’t stop there. From long/dirty fingernails to chewing with their mouth open, the list of dating no-nos is enough to make anyone cringe.  

With over 2.4 billion views of ‘#ick’ videos on TikTok alone, it’s clear that these cringe-worthy moments strike a chord with many. 

Top 10 overall ‘icks’

  1. Poor personal hygiene – 57% 
  1. Poor oral hygiene (e.g., bad teeth) – 47% 
  1. Being rude to hospitality workers – 42% 
  1. Have long/dirty fingernails – 41% 
  1. Chewing with their mouth open – 38% 
  1. Picking their nose – 36% 
  1. Making noises while eating – 36% 
  1. Always being on their phone – 32% 
  1. Being too clingy – 26% 
  1. Being overbearing – 25% 

Gender Differences in the World of ‘Icks’

The survey also shed light on gender differences when it comes to ‘icks’.  

For women, ‘poor personal hygiene’ emerges as the most significant ‘ick’, with a staggering 64% identifying it as their top turn-off. On the other hand, men are slightly less deterred by it, with 46% pinpointing it as their ultimate deal-breaker. 

While 14% of men find ‘talking about star signs’ to be an ‘ick’, 17% of women are put off by ‘not paying on the first date’.  

And let’s not forget about our non-binary and alternative identity friends – a striking 83% of this demographic select ‘pretending to be more knowledgeable about something than they are’ as a major ‘ick’. 

Top 10 ‘icks’ for women:

  1. Poor personal hygiene – 64%  
  1. Poor oral hygiene (e.g., bad teeth) – 54%  
  1. Being rude to hospitality workers – 50%  
  1. Have long/dirty fingernails – 50%  
  1. Chewing with their mouth open – 44% 
  1. Always being on their phone – 43%  
  1. Picking their nose – 40%  
  1. Making noises while eating – 40%  
  1. Being too clingy – 35% 
  1. Being overbearing – 29%  

Top 10 ‘icks’ for men:

  1. Poor personal hygiene – 46%  
  1. Poor oral hygiene (e.g., bad teeth) – 36%  
  1. Picking their nose – 31%  
  1. Being rude to hospitality workers – 30%  
  1. Have long/dirty fingernails – 28%  
  1. Chewing with their mouth open – 28% 
  1. Making noises while eating – 24%  
  1. Always being on their phone – 26%  
  1. Being too clingy – 22% 
  1. Having a messy living space – 20%  
UK top dating icks 2024 survey infographic

So, how do we navigate this treacherous terrain of ‘icks’?  

Dating experts Eden Heath, presenter of Queer Love Stories and Counsellor Georgina Sturmer weigh in with their insights and tips on dealing with these cringe-worthy moments. 

Eden commented “Thanks to reality television, ‘icks’ have become ingrained in pop culture and we seem to be finding more reasons to end connections before we’ve even taken the chance to fully explore their possibilities.  

“When encountering an ‘ick’ in a budding relationship it’s important to ask yourself whether the issue goes against your core values as a human. If the answer is yes, then it’s probably time to make a swift exit and get back to endless nights of swiping.  

“However, If the answer is no, then it is worth exploring it further to work through the situation. Sometimes we can be so hung up on this idea of perfection that we dismiss other people for minor reasons, creating a disposable culture when it comes to dating.  

“So, start by getting curious and asking yourself why another person’s actions have sparked this emotional reaction, we can only get to know other people when we truly know ourselves.” 

Georgina adds: “The data shows us that there are some universal ‘icks’ on the dating scene.  And much of this makes sense.  It’s not just about how someone presents themselves on a date, it’s also about the meaning that we attach to it.  We all want to feel as if our date is trying to show us the best version of themselves.  If they have poor hygiene or bad table manners, then it can leave us feeling unappreciated.  During a date, we are subconsciously noticing signs that tell us whether the other person treats people well.  This is why it’s such a turn-off if they are rude to hospitality workers.”   

“So, what should you do if you’re faced with an ‘ick’?  This is where it’s important to distinguish between reacting and responding.  Notice your initial reaction – maybe you feel a hit of disgust, irritation or fear.  But take your time to figure out your response.  Does it feel like an absolute dealbreaker?  If so, it might be time to walk away.  Or is it a ‘red flag’, indicating that you need to watch and wait for other signs of a problem?  Or perhaps it’s something that you can learn to live with.   

“We can also use this as an opportunity to learn about ourselves.  Do our ‘icks’ represent how we really feel, or have we absorbed other people’s opinions and judgements to the detriment of our own independent viewpoint?  And if you notice yourself picking up on ‘icks’ constantly, ask yourself whether there’s something deeper going on. Perhaps there’s an underlying set of fears and worries that’s encouraging you to push people away. “ 

A Personal Encounter with the Dreaded ‘Ick’

Meet Rebekah, a 29-year-old Digital Marketing Manager from Leeds, who recently found herself face-to-face with the dreaded ‘ick’.  

After hitting it off with a cute guy on Hinge and agreeing to meet for mid-week drinks, things seemed to be going well. However, Rebekah’s enthusiasm took a nosedive when she noticed her date’s long and unkempt fingernails. 

“It might seem unfair and a bit silly,” Rebekah shares, “but once I had that feeling, I couldn’t shake it. After the date, I gently let him down but didn’t tell him the real reason why. Once you have the ‘ick’, you can’t ignore it.” 

As Steve our Sustainability Expert aptly puts it, “As waste experts, we know how to correctly dispose of rubbish and what should be put into the bin. This is why we wanted to conduct a tongue-in-cheek survey around the UK’s dating ‘icks’ in time for Valentine’s Day.” 

So, if you’ve ever experienced the dreaded ‘ick’ or found yourself on the receiving end, take heart – there’s someone out there for everyone. And who knows, maybe your ‘ick’ will lead you to your perfect match. 

As we navigate the twists and turns of modern dating, remember to tread lightly, keep an open mind, and above all – don’t forget to bin those ‘icks’ along the way. After all, love is a journey worth taking, bumps and all. 

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