Before we dig into the specifics of German courtship rituals, it’s worth questioning the entire premise of this article. Is flirting in German a worthwhile effort? Do Germans even flirt?
Perhaps a better question to lead with is “how would you define flirting?” Spiegel Online put it best when it clarified that “the word ‘flirt’ has two meanings: one for Germans and one for the rest of the world.”
The profound truth of being a human with a beating heart is that everyone, indeed, “flirts.” It’s just that some flirtation styles are a little more subtle, or a little more under the radar, or a little less hung up on spectacle and artistry.
A well-known song by Wir sind Helden, “Aurélie,” describes a French girl’s attempts to flirt with German men. The translated lyrics include such choice insights as “Aurélie, it’s never going to work this way/You expect far too much/The Germans flirt pretty subtly.”
Before you despair over your apparent inability to elicit a reaction from your Deutsch darling when you’re flirting in German, you should probably learn the difference between “I’m not actually looking at you” and “I’m looking at you, but trying to pretend that I’m not.” Eye contact: you’re going to have to learn how to use it.
Flirting In German: It’s All In The Eyes
According to at least one Babbel insider living in Berlin, Germans have a tendency to stare and to hold intense eye contact. This doesn’t mean all eye contact is sexy eye contact. It just means sexy eye contact could involve a little more “innuendo” than usual.
This does not mean it’ll necessarily be accompanied by a smile, or that you’ll be invited with a lingering gaze. A favorite move when flirting in German is the “look, but then quickly look away.”
Calm Down And Have An Actual Conversation (For Awhile)
Most love stories in Germany begin with simple, casual conversations. Indeed, you might not know whether someone is interested in you that way or simply being friendly until they ask for your digits.
The love language that Germans best understand — at least early on in the game — is intellectual conversation, not smarmy pickup lines and handsy body language.
Ideally, you’ll want to keep the conversation stimulating and avoid dull small talk. Ultimately, you should be ready to take your shoes off and make yourself at home during this “getting to know you” phase. If you’re five dates in and still trying to tell if a German guy is interested in you, relax. You’re probably doing great.
To initiate a conversation, you’re probably better off skipping the cheesy pickup lines (unless you consider yourself to be really smooth). Here are a few tips for learning German, as well as a quick lesson on how to say hello:
Be Upfront And Be On Time
Flirting in German and German dating culture is somewhat different from American dating culture, mainly in the sense that it’s not “the norm” for people to be seeing multiple prospects at once until they choose one to become exclusive with. Germans are a bit more “point A to point B,” meaning they tend to focus on one person at a time.
Germans are also decidedly less likely to ghost someone than an American, but that has nothing to do with whether they actually like you or not.
The German mentality is that you should follow up on what you say you’re going to do, which dovetails nicely into “not having multiple side pieces that you kind of assume the other person knows about.” In fact, you’ll likely find that your German love interest will be thoroughly dependable and transparent with you, all the way up to the point when they’re following through on your previously scheduled plans in order to let you know, to your face, that they’re not interested.
Germans are also really into punctuality. If you say you’re going to meet somewhere at 7, don’t roll up at 7:15. It will be taken as a sign of disrespect and will hurt your the prospects of your successful flirting in German.
Germans are rather egalitarian when it comes to gendered responsibilities, and there’s no prevailing expectation that men will pick up the check on a first date.
There’s also no prevailing expectation that a man should make the first move. However, he often might — but this usually entails nothing more than a “look” (You know the look. We’ve been over this).
The theory is that German men are kind of shy, and German women are fairly assertive and confident. But it’s worth considering who they’re “shy” and “assertive” in relation to. If aggressive machismo is what you’re used to, then sure, German men might seem a little more reserved.
Be forewarned: overly forward, wanton overtures will probably not be received the way you want them to be. German women might laugh if you compliment their appearance, and men might not even know how to react to an aggressive come-on. That doesn’t mean they don’t like attention; it just means your peacock display will likely not compute.