Every holiday has the potential for romance but perhaps your flirting skills are a little rusty, or need some fine-tuning? Professional flirt coach, Peta Heskell, offers advice
Why do holidays and romance go together?
Simple. Location, location, location. We’ve usually travelled to a place where we’re not known - and so aren’t half as worried about what people think. Our natural inhibitions start to melt, often aided by alcohol. We’ve time to hang out and socialise, often in wonderful natural settings, garnished with sunsets, beaches or countryside. And perhaps, more importantly, we are often focused on finding a romance. And what we focus on, we tend to get.
What are the secrets to wooing someone on holiday?
We’re all natural flirts. We just have to release it. Some of us, of course, might have mislaid our mojo, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find it again. We can.
I don’t teach the archetypal tricks of flirting; eyelash batting, hair flicking, lip licking - the symptoms of being flirtatious. Instead I teach the inner stuff: confidence, sense of fun, curiosity about people and communication skills. If you had to sum it up, I teach people to get their head together – the flirting follows naturally.
Getting your head together
Start by being yourself – you won’t appeal to someone by disguising your true self – and do what I call ‘noticing for’ – my term for actively searching for what you want: people who think it’s cool that you’re into tantric needlework or Star Wars.
Now visualise an angel to banish the negative voices in your head, and treat each attempt with someone – no matter the outcome - as a triumph: you don’t want someone who doesn’t want you. And remember, lighten up! - bitching is always ugly – and turn your attention headlights from your image to their life: you’ll instantly appear more interesting.
Should we flirt differently depending where we are?
You can also do a bit of holiday preparation by googling body language/flirting and your destination...
In France expect direct banter and open flattery: “J’aime votre rire”: I love your laugh (not your rear, although they probably love that as well) and “Tu t’en vas déjà” (you’re leaving already?). Might sound a tad cheesy, but these lightly worn compliments are sexy.
Being touchy-feely with and complimenting strangers is a no no in the Netherlands. But in a liberated country, it’s regular for women to make first contact.
In Japan potential partners couldn’t be more indirect, looking down or away but never making open eye contact. Perceived shyness is very attractive so in a group you look at everyone but the person you fancy – and you don’t sit next to them or touch them. It’s also about being intuitive about the other person’s wishes, without showing affection directly - so perhaps ordering food they like, but crucially, that they know you don’t like. Sounds an absolute nightmare.
Apparently hand kissing is making a comeback. How do you know if it’s flirting? Well, if he takes your hand in both hands while looking fully into your eyes – tricky, try it; he might end up kissing thin air or your sleeve – that carries a tang of lust. But, if he holds it with one hand, his lips hovering just above yours but never touching, that is a respectful greeting.
The web offers scant help here, but apparently if he says: “you have thighs like banana tree trunks,” it should be a magical symphony to your ears – although possibly not your self-image, particularly if you’re wearing a sarong.
Big eye contact, very touchy feely – a lot on the forearm - oodles of smiling. Restrained north Europeans struggle to adopt such easy-going sensuality – it’s a lot to do with being relaxed with your physical presence.
You flirt with your body – and never more than when dancing salsa. In Britain, surprise, surprise, it’s often slightly stiff with a discreet gap between the two of you. But in Venezuela, your bodies meld into each other.
South America (generally)
A quick warning to avoid confusion when in South America. Don’t interpret piropos – comments from men you pass like "guapa" or hisses – as a definite one-on-one come on. They’re more about general admiration for women: a sort of Latino wolf whistle.
Women are often very upfront – sheilas can be pretty punchy when they want something - often wrapped up with pretty ripe jokes. The men use the same dry humour, but don’t expect poetry or classic Mediterranean charm – it often helps if they’re lubricated with a tinnie or five. A friend of mine was approached with the line: “Yep, you’ll do.”
In Spain’s searingly hot summers, the language of the fan – cooling instrument rather than stalker – still counts. Vigorous fanning is a sign of love, while running your fingers along the ribs signals, "I’m interested, let’s talk". It does, however, look a wee bit Austin Powers.
Big place, big variations in approach. New York women have to swoop like eagles, while in the Deep South women respond to strokes like kittens. But it’s a place where classic body language – wide eyes, batting eyelids, hair touching – is well understood. In Texas and the south, good, almost old fashioned manners, will be expected. Of course, a British accent is still a hit, although the Hugh Grant bumbling Englishman might have slightly overplayed the card.
Open and passionate, but also a numbers game. Persistence goes so far, then he moves onto the next one – unless he is a true gigolo when you can expect an altogether more intellectual and wily approach. If a man asks you if you’re from Bologna, that is apparently very good news – the medieval city is reputed to have the country’s most beautiful women.
Yes, we’re mainly talking Italians. But I give this is a separate mention because the real playboy is a different animal from the main herd. He will be devastatingly charming but in an unassuming way – perhaps stepping in to plump your cushion or light your cigarette – but there will be no instant cheesy, undying declaration of love.
In fact there probably won’t be a compliment for a few hours, and when it comes it will be for your mind rather than your body. After that he may well mix up intelligent with occasionally crass conversation. You’re intrigued, you’re snared, you’re probably history – why fight it?!
Men can be very macho – lots of jaw jutting and chest puffing – to go with those dark brooding looks. If you’re instantly asked if you’re from Split, particularly if you’re short, he’s hitting on you - it’s the equivalent of Bologna in Italy – as the local Adriatic women are reputed to be the most beautiful in the country with the longest legs.
Oh dear. Fear of intimacy and rejection leaves us tongue-tied and awkward. Strangers exchanging glances and offering telling smiles are rare. Instead the wooing – you sadly have no doubt experienced this – is often boozy and boorish. Brits ice the cake by using insults as compliments, so “You silly cow” can be a very good sign. In their own way as nightmarish as Japan.
You have differentiated between flirting – developing inner confidence – and flirtatious behaviour. Which is typically what?
In western countries a woman might well bat eyelashes (if he does the batting, move on), fiddle with her hair, expose her neck, moisten her lips and angle her body to accentuate her hips.
He, on the other hand, might make bold, almost aggressive gestures and pronounce his jaw line – ignore the love handles, I’m a virile dependable hunter gatherer – and smile a lot. Both of you might find yourself standing closer and leaning in while talking.
Where are the best places to meet people and flirt on holiday?
Great flirts flirt with everyone everywhere - and it’s not always sexual. The pool, the bar, organised trips or just about anywhere that lots of people gather are great flirt spots. But here’s the golden rule: flirting top spots are places YOU like best – the locations where you feel comfortable. It might be clubs or exploring rainforests, but do what you love because kindred spirits are drawn to the same things.
Where would whisk a loved one away to for a romantic Valentine's break?
I’d take them to a log cabin in the forests of the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains, close to a creek, and cook over a campfire under the stars. Or I’d take them to Marigot Bay in St Lucia. As well as wonderful people (see above), it’s a breathtakingly beautiful place with warm sea, swaddled by rainforest.
Have you ever had a holiday romance?
‘A’ holiday romance?! From the age of 14 in Italy, when I had five men chasing me and parents trying to deal with the mayhem, to meeting someone on a plane on the way to San Francisco, I’ve had a few. How? Well by doing everything I’ve talked about here. Being upbeat, interested in people and able to connect and communicate.
How on earth do you become a flirt coach?
I studied Neuro Lingustic Programming (NLP), which teaches people to change their attitude and approach to a task by modelling themselves on people who’d already cracked it. In 1997 Paul McKenna - one of my hypnosis teachers - suggested I start running ‘flirting workshops’. Two years later Harpers published my book, Flirt Coach - the source of the name. I also coach privately, teaching people to access their natural confidence and let go of self-destructive negative thoughts. People will like you as much as you like yourself.
Peta Heskell takes courses (www.attractionacademy.com) and writes books on the dark arts of attraction.
Use the Law of Attraction to meet the one who is right for you: www.attractyourperfectrelationship.com
Flirtopia: 3-Day Flirting Workshop on DVD: www.altfeld.com/mastery/products/flirtdvds.html
Flirting, dating tips and body language tips: www.flirtzone.com