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Hey, Baby!

Between pickup lines and smooth moves – a guide to flirting from the Baltic to the Bosporus.


They say you have “ham rolled around your eyes” if you are blind to an Italian advancing his/her flirts at you. Italian coquetry is as clear as it is honest. They keep ‘ciao bella’s in their pocket for every occasion possible. Italian style consists of capital letters and clear objectives. Boys offer drinks, girls ask for cigarettes. But if you see two boys kissing each other on the cheek, don’t think that Italian flirt-mania is at work: this is a perfectly platonic goodbye


Place a girl on the centre of a Bulgarian dance floor and see what happens. The ensuing process reminds of a mild case of Big Bang. She will invariably be jumped by a whole entourage of prospective suitors searching for that special night of love. If you or your friend are not in the mood for all-out battle, then get yourself invited to a private party. There, girls will be more confident and males a tad more sane. The music won’t disassemble your eardrum. Throwing your own party for that special someone? Land a heavy hint by serving the local flirting vodka.


Don’t mess with the Spanish. He’ll go hardcore on you if even one of your surreptitious gazes should happen to land on the chest of one of his gals. She’ll go ballistic if she catches you entwined in a dirty dance with a mate. Centuries of extensive sangria intake under a searing sun has led to ‘sangre caliente.’ Hot blood allows for steamy love or burning hate, but not much space for interpretation in between.


Everyone knows that the Greeks display their hospitality with hearty Sirtaki dancing and hefty garlic and ouzo consumption. Their flirting techniques are less well known. Forget a cheap one liner, the Greek wants to be floored by your cultural finesse. Organize a classy theatre evening, tour of the Acropolis or other archaeological gem, or a romantic stroll. Become a mini Homer or Plato, and you’ll surely score big.


How on earth is one to flirt in shy, introverted Poland? Number one: choose a place for some crazy dancing. Number two to ten involve beer. Eleven should come by itself: the decibels rising in typical earsplitting, disco fashion. In such a cacophonous atmosphere, exchanging anything but telephone numbers or the shortest of messages seriously threatens the survival of your vocal cords. You can rest assured that the next date will be a notch quieter. Take him/her to the movies, have a coffee, or head for a concert with some earplugs.


The inventors of such lucullian delights such as fondue or chocolate (or chocolate fondue, for that matter) must be good flirts. This is a small country with a reputation for shy inhabitants when it comes to dating. This unfounded myth (have you ever seen how the Swiss hold their drink!) might stem from foreigners not employing the proper code: Ask a Swiss belle or beau for a meal and you’ll get dinner and only dinner. Now ask them to an Indian or other exotic meal and watch the evening go spicy before you know it.


What happened to gender stereotypes? In a pub, a girl walks up to a guy and buys him a beer. The next day, the same things happens in a café over a coffee. This isn’t a nymphomaniac revolution. But Germans are difficult when it comes to first approaches. You will need all your intelligence and a witty tongue to crack the code, as the coffee is just an excuse. They focus on conversation; if you pass the chat test you might even be able to buy the beer next time.


If you have plied your trade in southern or eastern Europe, you’ll be used to marching into a bar and marching right back out with someone on your arm. In this case, Belgium is a cold, foggy shock. With this tactic you’ll end a long night drunk and mumbling obscenities at the waiter. Yes, I’ll have another beer... So what do you do? Accept that the locals are difficult and take a language course. Here, integration is supreme and will land you a date in no time.

The Netherlands

The Dutch, whose singles seem to migrate back and forth from Europe’s camping sites, have opened up a new alley for that flirtatious approach. If you go to a ‘Singles-supermarket’, you buy stop that wicked thought! No singles for sale here! Singles-supermarkets offer an easy, quick lunch for one person. That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to lean over the edge of the table and ask where your neighbour spent their vacation.


It’s a myth that all perfect gentlemen walk around flouting fancy English accents. Welcome to Portugal,
the land of men opening car doors for women, the country of a helpful hand with a woman’s jacket. The trick behind the secret behind the recipe: everyone is treated to such affability. If you`re really on the must-pick-up list, they’ll pretend to confuse you with someone else. So beware those bogus confusions on the street.


Turkey is for professionals. If you’ve read carefully and tried your hand (or tongue) in those countries suited to novices, you might have a chance here. Take your time and plan a strategy. First, you’ll need to fall into favour with the target’s parents, special care must be taken with the father. Then scout the surroundings. In Turkey, lessons or friends’ houses are a common place of meeting. Perhaps he/she goes to university. In that case, speak to the professor and see if you can sit next to your project in a class or two. Within four or five years, you’ll start cracking the outer shell and might start hoping for a secret moment to meet. Then again, the situation in Turkey – especially in the cities – has been changing rapidly over the last few years. It might be more fruitful to wait.

Author: Irene Sacchi

Illustration: Anne Buch

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