Living as an female British expat in the Middle East, with the stereotypical British reserve and dry sense of humour, here’s my basic (tongue in cheek) guide for those of other cultures, on some of the key dos and don’ts when dating, befriending or meeting a British woman..
1. Be on time. And by on time I mean early. If we arrange to meet at 7pm, I will be five minutes early and I expect you to be too.
2. Don’t invade my personal space. We’re going for a coffee.. that doesn’t mean I want your hand lingering on my arm, back, or anywhere else. Any form of touch is probably too intimate for my liking especially if we’ve just met. Take heed of my body language. If I take a step back, then you should stay put- you’ve come too close.
3. Don’t go overboard on the compliments. A compliment upon arrival such as “you look very nice” will be appreciated and gracefully received. Expect a nervous smile after two compliments and a blocked number after three. Any overly intimate compliments commenting on my personal appearance will be seen as ingenuine at best and creepy at worst.
4. Treat restaurant staff with respect. Say please and thank you when you order. Do not continue a conversation when they’re serving us. And do not whistle, hiss or click the waiter over. Ever. Yes this happened and I’m still suffering from post traumatic stress over six months later.
5. NEVER jump the queue. This is a crime punishable by ten years. (Not really, that’s British sarcasm which is another post altogether) but in all seriousness don’t do it. It doesn’t matter if we’re going to be late for the film you’ve pre-paid for at the cinema. You still can’t push in front of the lady who’s waiting in front of us (yet another awkward personal experience)…
6. Vary your eye contact. Leaning over a table and staring unblinkingly into my eyes is rather unnerving. Of course eye contact is expected, but please vary it a little, or at least blink regularly.
7. Ask me some questions. I expect questions to be batted back and forth. If you haven’t got the imagination to think of your own questions then “and you?” will show you’re not 100% self absorbed. Don’t see my questions as an opportunity to provide me with a two hour monologue. No offence but you’re really not that interesting.
8. Consider your questions carefully. Don’t ask how old I am. Don’t ask why I’m not married yet. Don’t ask me about past relationships. Don’t ask whether I want children. Don’t ask me what I think of you. Don’t ask my opinion on religion. Don’t ask how much I earn and never ask how much I weigh. Stick to topics such as work, travel and hobbies.
9. Don’t be offended when I make a mild joke at your expense.. it’s the British humour coming into play, and means I’ve warmed to you. Saying your hair looks like a cockatoo is actually a form of affection.
10. Be chivalrous to me as a fellow human being. If you’re heading towards a door, then open it, stand aside and let me through. At the very least hold it open behind you. Do not walk through letting it hit me in the face. Not because I’m a woman, but because I’m a person. I will do the same for you. It’s called basic manners.
11. Expect the understated.. Don’t expect me to tell you how ‘awesome’ I am, how ‘awesome’ you are, or how ‘awesome’ the food/place/restaurant/film is. I’m not American, and therefore ‘pretty good’, ‘decent’ or ‘nice’ are all perfectly acceptable means of appreciation. And if I’m ‘alright’ at something it means I’m pretty good at it- we don’t like to blow our own trumpet. Oh.. British phrases may also come into play during the conversation, you may not fully understand but you’ll get the gist.
12. I don’t want your unsolicited advice. If I wanted to sign up for the gym, eat meat or follow your religion I’d have already done it. I don’t want to be told what to do, particularly by someone who barely knows me. I’m an independent woman thank you very much and therefore will likely do the exact opposite of your well intended yet unwanted suggestion.
Oh and by the way, if you do happen to make a faux pas regarding any of the above, bear in mind I’m far too British to inform you of this grave error. I’ll just inwardly cringe while carrying on the conversation as normal. But if I’m suddenly too busy to see you again then there’s likely a reason why..
Disclaimer. Not all British women are as reserved, irritable and cynical as this one is 😜
Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.