Tuesday, October 05, 2004

how to flirt in esperanto
A few weeks back my American friend Dena, tried to tell me about the dubious psychology of the French guys who chat her up. I thought she was exaggerating at first, but she insisted that she really was being hunted by a pack of complete mental cases.

To prove her point she took out her mobile phone to show me an example text message from a guy she had met once, "My vorld 'as been alive wiz passion zince I met you. I merst zee you again my beautifuel Americaine". This started my curious mind thinking about the cultural differences of different male flirting styles, and I've come to the conclusion that there really is quite a contrast between the English style and the French style.

It seems true to say that the language of latin romance relies on very flambuoyant and dramatic turns of phrase that conjure startling beauty and cause the laws of physics to fail. Maybe this works fine in French, and amongst French romantic expectations. But when translated into English, I'm not sure that it is quite the right style.

Even the most goodnatured English girls I know would fall about laughing if they heard that their "eyes had captured my heart", whilst the more suspiciously inclined would go white as a sheet, stiff as a board, and make a hasty departure after being told that "my nights are sleepless as I can think only of seeing you again".

This is just "a bit too much", as we say. There are definate hints of obsession in this language when heard by an English mind. They create a distinct sense of unease and distrust, a sort of combined "either he's trying to get into my knickers or he's a stalker" type of reaction.

Us British seem to be much more comfortable with insults and teasing to provide us with a sense of intimacy. I suppose the idea is to find a specific characteristic about your someone, usually a habit or personality trait, and to say that you like it. But in English this statement must be indirect, and coated in humour. Hence teasing and insults.

Zoe might not agree with this analysis I suppose, but I reckon her her blog is about the best living example you are going to find of this style of flirting. Her boyfriend Quarsan reportedly comes out with such flowery compliments as "You look like you've been air-brushed on photo-shop" when presented with the results of Zoe's expensive makeover. For her part, her whole blog is called "My boyfriend is a twat".

The point is that the English generally distrust feelings which are verbally expressed, and prefer their silent demonstration. Behind the teasing there is always a subtle reality which can be understood within a glance.

So if that is how the French and the English flirt, what about all the other cultures out there? What have I missed about English and French flirting? There must be loads of stuff to say. Get commenting people.


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