It gives you so much to talk about, but no way to flirt about it.
December 22, 2011 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Cross-cultural daters, how different is flirting across (very distinct) cultures? Please tell me about your experiences with culture flirt shock.

I'd like to hear your own anecdotes, but here's some context: I'm a twenty-something American guy, and I've met somebody new from eastern Asia, a place I've never been. Chemistry is there, but I'm not sure where it will lead. She seems to be into me, but I'm struggling to muffle this voice of doubt that says that I could be misreading some signals (e.g. giddy excitement) through a cultural lens. Or I worry that my more subtle signals (e.g. teasing her lightheartedly) might be zooming over her head, purely for cultural reasons.

Did you go with your gut and rely on some universal flirting quotient? Or was there a delicate game of give-and-take to calibrate your cultural meter in the romantic domain?

This thread is helpful, but I'd like to narrow it to flirting specifically.
posted by stroke_count to Human Relations (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sadly for you, there's really no recipe book for flirting with people from other cultures that will guarantee successful communication. Indeed, there's no recipe book for flirting full stop that will guarantee successful communication. People are different, even when they are from the same country.

Also, "east asia" is not a culture. It's like a billion different cultures; a Japanese person is very different from a Thai person, and also very different from other Japanese people with different backgrounds and personality.

There is one thing that is guaranteed to work though: open, low-pressure, communication. That shit's like magic. If you're not sure about flirting, screw your courage to the sticking place and ask this girl out already. Otherwise, you're just gonna have to go with the flow my friend, and accept doubts as a natural consequence of flirting regardless of where the person's from.
posted by smoke at 10:45 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, the good thing is, you're probably reading the signals right - for boy/girl couples, the "let's just be friends" thing doesn't happen. Going with her alone on a date truly is a date. Inviting her back to your place means "let's have sex!"

Indeed, when I met my wife, I was living in a shared house provided by the company I was working for. A woman came down from head office and crashed at our house, and my wife was sure one of us was sleeping with her. She couldn't get her head around the fact that an unmarried woman would stay overnight at a man's house.

The only mixed signals we had was PDAs... We were living in a small city (my wife's hometown), and holding hands of all things was considered risque. So we did not hold hands. We often went to another town to do things together.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:45 PM on December 22, 2011

Well, the good thing is, you're probably reading the signals right - for boy/girl couples, the "let's just be friends" thing doesn't happen. Going with her alone on a date truly is a date. Inviting her back to your place means "let's have sex!"

Hmmm...I don't really think this applies to all "east asian cultures" (btw OP, it'd help if you could narrow it down to a country.

I've lived in China for about 8 years and I can tell you that sometimes men and women really are just friends. (although maybe not as often as they are in the West, but this also depends if you are in a big city in China, or a more traditional place, etc, and ALSO is really depends on age. A lot of younger (20's) Chinese people are quite open-minded and "modern".

Another thing- in Chinese culture there is a concept called "ai mei". It's sort of a more-than-friends, but not boyfriend-girlfriend relationship (no physical intimacy involved but a kind of interest implied.) A girl might have several "ai-mei" while choosing a boyfriend. So, if this girl is Chinese (or if other East Asian cultures have this concept) she may be thinking of you as an "ai-mei", and may have several.

Otherwise, you'll have to be more specific if you want more concrete advice!
posted by bearette at 12:43 AM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: it'd help if you could narrow it down to a country.

She is, indeed, Chinese. I was just trying to keep the details to a minimum for privacy concerns and all.

So, wonderful guess, bearette! Quite helpful, thank you. I believe that I am, indeed, an "ai mei" in this situation.

Now, I just need to figure the mechanics of "ai mei"... And come off as tentatively interested.
posted by stroke_count at 5:26 AM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Going with her alone on a date truly is a date. Inviting her back to your place means "let's have sex!"

Other people here seem more tuned into Chinese culture than I am, so leaving that aside.

Often there will be a much more traditional dynamic at play, with women waiting for initiation from men. A friend had the experience of inviting a Japanese girl to his place a few times. Each time there was hugging, kissing, petting. By the third time, he moved it into the bedroom. She told him "if you hadn't done that, it would have been your last chance with me".

So the tentative rule in Japan is - if they let you kiss them, they will most likely also go all the way, no need to be waiting around for some special additional signal.

In my own experience in Central Asia, if they are willing to come alone back to your house, they will also join you naked in the bedroom.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:06 AM on December 23, 2011

i think kokuryu is very wrong. i think his observation could be more of his wife feeling jealous or behavior policing than it being an accurate description.

i have lived in asia. i have spent a lot of time around chinese people, and specifically women, in the US.

she's probably not into you like you are into her. she probably doesn't see you in a sexual way at all, you're just another friend, and an american one who she can practice english with and can help her do things.

there isn't really dating. "dating" means engaged, unless she is very westernized.
posted by cupcake1337 at 1:16 PM on December 23, 2011

cupcake1337 is correct, in my experience (my wife is Vietnamese). The "Sinosphere" doesn't really have the concept of dating, as such. Chances are, she currently views you as "just a friend" – although potentially one in whom she has interest – and you can trust that if you want to be more with her, you are getting into Serious Business territory very quickly, at least if she has any interest in maintaining positive relationships with her family (which she does).

If you're willing to accept that, just be friendly with her, and continue to go out with her, but with no expectation that anything will happen. Things will develop, or they won't. Just be patient.

Oh, and try to be the one who plans things. That is very important, culturally. Don't say "Do you want to...?" say "I was thinking about [doing something together]. Are you free Saturday?"
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:18 AM on December 24, 2011

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