Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why German men don't flirt

A couple of days ago I came back to my office after a well-deserved lunch break, only to find a bizarre e-mail in my inbox saying something like "I can't believe you are flirting with Jennie!". I was like: Jennie? Who the f*** is Jennie? However, reading through the e-mail, I found a copy of an e-mail I had once sent to a colleague asking for some information. The e-mail itself was boring, but it finished with a phrase saying something like: "Feel free to answer these questions by e-mail, or if you prefer, I can give you a call and save you some typing :)". That smilie, according to my German colleague... was flirting!

Anecdotes of German men misunderstanding (or simply ignoring) the science of flirting, are abundant. Already in my first year in Germany I told my friend Sonja, a blond, tall girl who would turn around heads in other hemispheres, that she would never find a German boyfriend in Berlin, because -according to my first observations- Berlin men simply don't care about women. That was four years ago, and since then Sonja has met many interested guys, but none of them from Berlin. The story has repeated itself many times, being my Swedish friend Maria the latest victim of German flirting clumsiness. I am already tired of telling her "it just doesn't make sense, let it go", but she still insists in finding a kind, always caring German boyfriend.

Now, to be honest, I don't care whether German guys flirt or not. That's their problem - and an advantage for foreigners . But, I found today a very interesting article explaining the whole thing, which confirmed my early theories. Here's part of the explanation, extracted out of the Babel Berlin blog:

So why don’t men here flirt? Partly it’s about conforming to standards: getting a wolf whistle as you walked down Unter den Linden would be a bit much. But I don’t believe any German woman could justifiably be offended by being approached by a friendly stranger – that’s just an excuse. Basically, men are afraid to make fools of themselves, because that’s precisely the risk that flirting entails, and Germans don’t go in for risks. They like to do things properly and thoroughly, not spontaneously or irrationally. Forget genetic predisposition, or even cultural conditioning. Germans just aren’t into extreme sports. Although, come to think of it, I’ve never been one for the adrenalin rush either. Perhaps it’s time I checked out one of those flirting seminars?

Very interesting. Is this perhaps also the reason why everyone wears ties in this country, even if we have 32 degrees outside?


kerstin said...

interesting observation...maybe there is still hope for sonja and maria. by the way...I still think the vegetables fit the breakfast, haha, those crazy germans ;-)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and delightful, given that flirting online and all the flirting in general leads partners to major problems including trust issues and insecurity. It doesn't matter how secure a man or woman is when it comes to love and I wish more people would realize that when they flirt just for sport, not thinking about their partner's feelings. I think the Germans are on to something and they are smart!