Although a dictionary definition of ‘flirting’ would focus more on the playful non-commital aspect of it, most strong commitments started with two strangers flirting somewhere.
So, it is safe to say that flirting is a universal quality hardwired into the genes of all humans alike. But like everything else in Britain, think car driver’s seat, it is not that straightforward.
1. While British women take them for granted, women of all other nations find them irresistible. Think: James Bond.
2. They are the proud owners of the ‘stiff upper lip’ also known as emotional constipation. The day a Brit voluntarily reveals what they’re really feeling is the day the queen goes out in a pair of jeans.
3. Whatever they say, no matter how inappropriate, is steeped in their famous, and indecipherable British sense of humour. Sarcasm is part of the British DNA.
1. They can drink anyone, anytime, anywhere, under the table. It is one of the many qualities British women hold with pride.
2. They are known for being fairly stern and serious, but that might be because no one can tell when they’re joking.
3. They are very independent and are happy to pay the bill on a date.
British people have a crippling fear of rejection. That being said, they are flirtatious, but in their own way.
A study conducted by The Social Issues Research Centre found that 99% of young Britons admit to at least some flirting, and over a third said that they have flirted with someone either ‘today’ or ‘within the past week’.
Males are slightly more flirtatious than females and are at their flirting peak between the ages of 18–24 where flirting is much more common.
Interestingly, those describing themselves as ‘dating’ or ‘in a relationship’ flirted almost as much as those describing themselves as ‘single’ or ‘not seeing anyone’.
It is worth mentioning that for the Brits, there are two types of flirting: There’s flirting to make a move on someone and flirting to have a laugh with them. It could get very tricky to notice the difference but eye contact and body language are often good indicators.
The fear of rejection or being seen as impolite is deeply rooted in the British psyche. Brits would rather flirt with someone they already know than a total stranger.
Therefore, it is quite natural for a Brit to avoid flirting with someone they like initially and rather take a ‘friends first’ approach.
Engaging in mild flirtation with women as a form of politeness is mainly practised by British men.
It is particularly common in Britain and it leans more towards playful teasing.
Courtesy flirting can get a bit confusing for non-brits, and observing body language and context can help understand the puropse behind the casual flirt.
Although British women take pride in their independence and strong character, it is still expected that the man would be the one who initiates the flirting process.
Women may discreetly call for a man’s attention, show their interest and attraction in a multitude of subtle signals, but the man is still expected to take the ultimate risk of making the first move.
Disclaimer: This list is non-exclusive and as all matters with human behaviours there are always alternative ways of doing things.
Respecting the privacy of others is a big part of British culture, hence it is not usual for strangers to chat one another up at a pub.
As a rule of thumb, flirting is usually accepted in environments where there is high social interaction, alcohol and shared interests.
The Flirting Report conducted by The Social Issues Research Centre call this the “SAS” test.
“SAS” stands for Sociability (the acceptability and ease of initiating conversation with strangers), Alcohol (an essential flirting aid, particularly among the naturally rather reserved and inhibited English) and Shared interest (environments in which people have interests in common, or a shared focus of interest).
Although bars and pubs usually seem like the perfect place for hookups in many cultures, when it comes to Britain they are not considered the best place.
However, there are socially accepted ‘public zones’, such as the area around the bar counter, where initiating conversation with a stranger could be acceptable.
Sitting at a table usually indicates a greater desire for privacy. Tables furthest from the bar counter are the most ‘private zones’.
The informal environment among students usually encourages a lot of social interaction, also being in the same university suggests shared interests.
Students have plenty of opportunities for social interactions and drinking together which is often quite accommodating for some flirting.
As in any public place, common sense and decency plays an important role in the ways in which flirting is accepted and received.
There are no general laws on flirting at the workplace, however each workplace has its own unwritten etiquette governing flirtatious behaviour. It also differs from one person to another and the general environment.
Interestingly, horse races are considered one of the best flirting environments in Britain due to the high sociability, free-flowing alcohol and shared-interest factor.
This is Britain, so it is not normal to strike up conversations with strangers in supermarkets or on public transport.
Section image: Rasmus Andersson