Getting hit on, red flags, and Europe
June 7, 2012 1:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I tell when someone is hitting on me, and what red flags can I look for? In general and also specifically for Europe.

I'm in an Eastern European country for the summer, and... it's really awkward. I'm Asian and have lived in the US for most of my life. Here, I've found that men STARE. And hold your gaze. This seems to be especially bad when I'm walking alone. (My American roommates have corroborated this when they are out alone too.) I suppose it's a combination of my looks and being female, but this makes me uncomfortable. I've been determinedly avoiding their gaze and looking anywhere else. Is my wariness justified? Also, when a man here strikes up a conversation with me and asks me out for drinks, should I generally assume that it isn't because I could be a potentially awesome friend but because I'm a girl (who will be a quick summer fling)? Is "drinks" code for "I'm interested"?

Other potentially relevant info: I'm college-aged, and this is my first time experiencing this sort of thing in the real world. I am not particularly pretty. When men ask me out, if it isn't explicitly a date, I assume that it'll be an interesting conversation and say yes. I've had one unpleasant surprise with that already this summer, although it wasn't in the country that I'm in now. I'm seeing now that this is naive at best and dangerous at worst. 

How do I know when someone is, well, interested and not just as friends? Are there scary first-impression red flags that should tip me off that I should say no? (I'm thinking of men who don't react well to my bringing along other people, for example.) Also, any tips to deal with the staring would be appreciated! General and Europe-specific advice would be so helpful.

I searched previous askme's and didn't see anything exactly the same, but please let me know of relevant threads! Thank you.
posted by hotchocolate to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Men in Europe tend to stare a lot more, and they hit on you a lot more openly. It can get pretty uncomfortable if you're not used to it, but there's not much you can do.

If a guy asks you out for drinks, assume he is romantically/sexually interested.
posted by vanitas at 1:31 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If a guy buys you a drink or asks you out for drinks (even in the US/Asia), he likes you in that way. This is always true unless you are already good friends. This is especially true if it happens with a man that comes up to you off of the street, in a restaurant, or in a bar.
posted by 200burritos at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

You'll know when they compliment you on being pretty.
posted by pixienat at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2012

Best answer: If a (straight) man you don't know (or just met) asks you out for drinks, he's asking you on a date. I know it's not always that way on campus, where there are many more platonic friendships. At my college men and women sometimes even slept together in bed platonically! When you were asked out for coffee or drinks you sometimes didn't know whether you were on a date until you started making out. In general, this is not how it works in "the real world." As a young woman, you should generally assume that men who want to hang out one-on-one - especially without knowing you ahead of time - are sexually and/or romantically interested in you. And yes, in my experience men in certain European countries and particularly Eastern Europe are often more direct in expressing their interest - to a degree that can feel uncomfortable or even threatening to our American sensibilities.
posted by TrixieRamble at 1:37 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My similar question from three years ago. Regarding the staring thing, the best/easiest advice was to wear dark sunglasses and headphones.

If you're looking to make platonic local friends, I highly encourage that you check out Couchsurfing meetups. I've made some great male friends in Eastern Europe that way!
posted by acidic at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2012

It would be helpful if you could specify what country. The culture of street harassment is different in Italy than it is in, say, France.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:42 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

My experience of being young and sorta plain* and female was this: guys who hit on me on the street thought I was easy. They were offering to "buy me a drink" in the hope that I would go to a bar with them and then have sex. This was particularly true of men from countries with a less egalitarian sexual culture - which did include some Eastern European countries. I actually got into one rather unpleasant situation where a guy felt entitled to sex - and he hadn't even bought me the drink yet!

I felt like there was a perception based in movies and television that American women would have sex at the drop of a hat with just about anyone and no preliminaries. It was not a nice feeling.

*I did overestimate my plainness, as many non-model young women do. There was nothing wrong with me; I just didn't look like a movie star.
posted by Frowner at 1:43 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

As for the staring, I find that a lot of European women have a far-away look in their eyes, as though they are movie stars and far above all the "little people" it's only when you make eye contact that the men approach you.

So another vote for a chic pair of sunglasses. I like to be aware of my surroundings, so I'd skip the headphones.

Some of the most fun I ever had in Europe was joining some guys for a bottle of wine in a cafe. Once you feel safe, open up and have an experience!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:45 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: European men tend to be a lot more upfront about romantic interest. I prefer this because you're not guessing. Imho, they are also better at taking no for an answer and expect to be told no clearly by women who aren't interested. Bring "nice" isn't such a thing so don't worry about it.

If you equivicate or are vague they'll assume you're at least somewhat interested and act accordingly. If you say "no thanks", that's a no harm, no foul.

Fwiw, as a European woman I find American men impossibly diffident. So it cuts both ways.
posted by fshgrl at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm in Greece.
posted by hotchocolate at 10:11 AM on June 8, 2012

I spent a month in Greece once and some of the men were VERY forward. Especially some of the rural men. If you were even remotely polite they assumed you wanted to do them right there. Men would approach us on the streets in Athens and basically hit us up for sex every 10 minutes. It was a bit crazy. Don't accept any offers of drinks or "going to the beach", Haha. And don't be afraid to say No! Leave me alone! loudly and walk away.
posted by fshgrl at 5:54 PM on June 8, 2012

They seemed to have what we nicknamed the Easy Scale too. English and Australian girls they were the worst with, followed by Americans. If you told them you were Irish or French or Canadian they were less "ohHi!Sex?" We did experiments.
posted by fshgrl at 5:59 PM on June 8, 2012

I don't think a red flag is needed for when someone is hitting on you. Let them know you aren't interested and be ready to reinforce that and/or leave. Tell them they are making you uncomfortable and they need to go.

If someone is actually a danger to you, they may (1) not take "no" for an answer, (2) try to get you to go somewhere where you will be alone and isolated, (3) follow you, (4) make you feel bad about yourself in order to get you under their control (e.g. "Oh, you're just another stuck up American girl" --> you feel the need to prove that you are not). There are obviously more warning signs but these are a few that they do not respect your boundaries. Think of the good guys in your life: they may recognize that a female would be wary of an advance and wouldn't push it.

You have nothing to prove to anyone and you have the best gauge as to who you feel comfortable with and who *you* allow into *your* inner circle.
posted by ramenopres at 6:24 PM on June 9, 2012

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