Not so long ago I had the chance to spend a year surrounded by a large group of twenty-somethings coming from all corners of the world, we were scattered all over Germany and every three months we had to meet up in different cities each time for week-long seminars. The only constant topic of these reunions was “love life.”
Boys were ecstatic, especially Latin ones, because German women found them very attractive and they would get very direct and intense advances quite often without having to do anything aside from standing there being all kinds of hot. Sure this was what they said, and I am neither swearing by it, nor denying it. But hanging out with the guys meant signing up for listening to a mix tape of them gushing about this and wondering if there was something in the water here that suddenly made them appealing to women.
Girls, on the other hand, were quite frustrated because no man would even flirt-smile at them from across the train wagon or eye them up and down while walking down the street, no overly-friendly cashiers or waiters, no swarm of men trying to get their attention at bars or clubs with buying them drinks, stopping by their table to introduce themselves or inviting them to dance. And the ones that had somehow miraculously gone out on a date with a German guy were even more puzzled.
It’s not that I got invested in conducting a research on this situation, I just happened to be working with German twenty-somethings 5 days a week and as time went by and I listened to more people, I began connecting dots and seeing the two sides of the situation. And while I will definitely not make the mistake of generalizing, I do have to tell you this girls: German men are NOT as harsh as rumor has always had it. If you wonder whether a German guy is interested in you, I could bet money on the fact that actually more than one is and you just don’t see it. And no, for the largest part they can’t flirt in the way you expect them to, they just don’t know how to do that, it’s not the way things roll with them.
German men, at least a great deal of the ones between 20 and 30 years old, are perceived as awkward when it comes to approaching women (non-German women, that is, I am talking in behalf of the expat girls here, what I have recollected from German women may be material for another entry).
For example, are you used to being approached by men on the dance floor? Will men come and integrate to your dancing group and then lean in so they can talk (too loud) on your ear and engage you in a flirty conversation? Yeah, that won’t fly here. German men silently try to dance their way to you from behind but they will not creep on you or rub themselves against you. It’s such a distant interaction you surely won’t even notice it. Next time you go dancing make sure to check what’s going on some half a meter behind you.
When you go out on a date with someone you feel attracted to, do you expect flying sparks and that he will initiate physical contact and then softly and romantically kiss you in the rain? I am not saying this is impossible to happen, but you’d be the incredibly lucky exception rather than the rule if this is how your date ends – you have to keep in mind that physical contact is not taken lightly by Germans in general and there’s a path to be walked before they feel comfortable with touching and letting themselves be touched. Dramatically different from other places where you are introduced to a stranger and are expected to accept and give a kiss on the cheek or a hug.
There are endless scenarios that will take you out of your comfort zone and will be full with cryptical messages and behaviors that will confuse you (I once had a girl tell me in complete frustration that she was sure a German co-worker liked her because he used the word “schön” when referring to her and then realized Germans use that word for about everything and it could mean either nice, pretty, amiable, cute and much more -aha, the language will also be a tricky part of the situation) but if you are really interested, persevere and learn from every new situation.
So what can you do? I don’t have an infallible answer, but my best advice is that if you really like a German guy and you don’t know if he likes you back, but then again he might as well do, you will have to go and directly and actively find out. Be clear when you interact with him, don’t play coy, forget what the Hollywood movies and TV series have taught you about batting your lashes, sending indirects, and beating round the bush to bring a man to his knees: it will not work, he will interpret it as a rejection and back away.
The only thing left to say is that everywhere and every time there will be exceptions to the rules. If you read this and clucked your tongue and shook your head because your experience was completely different, and you happened to stumble upon the most wonderful men on earth (in Germany, of all places) and simply hit it off, if your first date beats the living lights out of any Hollywood-fumes fueled fantasy and you are unfamiliar to all this dating drama: you’re a very lucky rarity not just in Germany and I hope you’re taking proper care of that treasure of yours.
And before I forget: happy Valentine’s Day!