Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to build rapport in English

How do you know when a guy or girl is flirting with you in the United States?

Today we’re talking about flirting versus just establishing a friendly connection across cultures.

The biggest challenge here is that in some cultures a comment that would be considered friendly, but not flirting could be heavy flirting to someone from another culture.

Today we’ll try to help with this and we’ll answer a listener question.


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Hi Lindsay,

Hope you are fine.

I’m from Brazil and I usually have English conversations with native speakers who live in Rio de Janeiro. My question is related to how do I compliment a woman without it sounding like I’m trying to flirt?

Yesterday I had an English session, and my teacher – a woman – was dressed beautifully. I said something about her, like “you look beautiful today”, but I don’t know if it sounded rude or like I was trying to flirt.

I am a married guy with 2 children, and my goal is to have a trustful environment during my English conversation lessons.

Thank you for your help.



Great question!

We talked about how to know if someone is flirting in Episode 603.

Go back to that episode and review the 6 signs that someone is flirting in American culture.

To answer Alex’s question directly, it depends on a few things.

In general, if you say, “You look beautiful today” it definitely could mean that you are flirting especially if you accompany the compliment with other things mentioned in that article like “lingering eyes.”


Also how well does this person know your culture?

There is a huge cultural element here.

If you are talking to an American teacher who lives in Brazil then she might see the cultural difference.

Most expats who live abroad will take notice of cultural differences.

When I was living in Latin America and also meeting Spanish people from Spain I noticed that the word “beautiful” was used so much more than we use it in English.

People would always say “que quapa” or “que guapo” in many situations, not just when they were flirting.

There are so many ways to say “beautiful” in Spanish.

I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, they throw around this compliment more often than we do”

So if this teacher has thought about that then she would be aware that it’s just your culture and that you’re not flirting.


If you go to the United States and talk to people who have never been to Brazil you could tone it down.

Be safe by saying:

  • “You look nice today”
  • Give a specific compliment on the dress: “I love your dress,” “I love your shoes.”


Other ways to build the environment:

You said you want to build a “trustful environment for your conversation lessons”

Great idea.

There could be better ways than complimenting her looks.

In the US some women would prefer you to:

  • Take interest in their lives
    • “Oh how are your Portuguese lessons coming along?”
    • “I heard you were learning Capeoira, how is it going?”
    • If they are new in Brazil- “Is everything going well? Can I help you out with anything?”


The point is:

In the United States many women, not all, but many, might feel more valued and more comfortable if you didn’t compliment their looks but instead if you took interest in them as people.

If you want to build a good environment with a man are you going to compliment his looks? No!

Other women are going to disagree with that and they love it when they get compliments on their looks. However, if you are worried that she is going to think you’re flirting then take our advice in this episode and compliment her on something else or take interest in her life.

Complimenting looks and physical beauty are not the only way to build a good envioronment.


This is a great topic.

What do you think?

Leave your comment below.

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