Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Flirting across cultures can be confusing.

Even if someone tells you that you’re cute does it mean that they’re flirting?


Get the signs to look for today when it comes to flirting in American culture.


“Hello Lindsay, I really love your podcasts, I really enjoy your accent and your subjects, I have a question… to say a guy he is cute.. is flirting??

When I translate to Spanish this word is a nice person, with soft manners, soft voice, like a teddy bear… but I think is American English does not have the same meaning so I am confused… could you please explain to me?”




Catalina’s question:

She wants to know if she says to a guy in American culture “I think you’re cute” could he think that she is flirting?


Our response:

This is a tricky question. It depends on who is saying it and how it is being said. Usually if a straight woman is talking to a straight guy and saying “I think you’re cute” it could be flirting but not always. For the most part it is flirting.

It’s really important to pay attention to the context.

In today’s episode we’ll look at the aspects of context that we must pay attention to if we want to figure out whether or not the person is flirting.


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Possible cultural misunderstandings when it comes to flirting:


1) Touching: Many countries touch more and in a more platonic way than the US. In general there are two types of touching:

  • #1- Platonic touch- Hugs, handshakes, pats on the back. These are often used when you greet someone. These days people sometimes hug when they meet someone new.
  • #2- Romantic- little touches that are lighter and more frequent. They often happen during a conversation and not at the beginning or end of a conversation. This type of touch might happen on the arm or on the hand.


2) Standing Distance: When I taught English in New York I remember feeling uncomfortable when a student from Spain stood up and got right in my face to ask a question. She was not aggressive but she was just too close.

It didn’t feel professional to me as an American.

If this had happened in a bar it could have been misunderstood as being flirting or just weird from the American’s perspective.

Americans have a personal space bubble and if someone invades it we might think that they are flirting.



3) Kissing: Kissing is used differently all over the world. In Latin America and Europe you’ll see people kissing as a greeting. In the US you might sometimes see a kiss on the cheek between friends but usually it’s more commonly used as a romantic gesture.


4) Eye Contact: In American culture straight, consistent, and direct eye contact is considered confident and professional.

We recommend it in the business world. However, “lingering eyes” can be flirty or romantic in American culture.

When someone gazes at you for an extended period of time and they tend not to want to move their eyes away from yours they are probably flirting.


5) Choice of words:

  • Everyone has their own style when it comes to flirting. Some people like to tease and keep it light. Some people like to be upfront and will say things like “I think you’re beautiful.”

Other things people might say if they are flirting:

  • “I’d like to see you again”
  • “Would you like to have dinner?”
  • Any kind of teasing could indicate flirting


6) Actions:

  • The man offers to pay for the full meal if he is interested. Often if you are just friends with the person you will “go dutch.”
  • They invite you out one-on-one instead of in a group. Some cultures do more group dating but this is not common in the US when a couple starts dating. In the US we might go out in groups after we have already gotten to know the person we’re interested in.


What questions do you have from today?

Let us know how these six context factors are different in your culture!

Leave us a comment below.

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