How to Date Americans, Part 2
Be sure to also read How to Date Americans, Part 1.
In my first post about dating Americans, we covered the importance of small talk, asking questions, and having a balanced conversation with no one person doing all the talking. Those pointers actually apply not only to dates but any interaction with Americans. Now we’ll look at how you can go on a date without appearing creepy, which means causing a feeling of fear or unease. Creepiness will definitely kill your chances of a second date.
If the person you’re meeting for the date is a friend or coworker (with whom you’re hoping to spark a romance), you might greet them with a hug, or you might not touch at all. Maintaining physical space is very important to Americans and we only become comfortable with close proximity after we’ve achieved a level of familiarity or intimacy.
If you’re meeting someone you’ve only contacted online or through texting, it’s even more likely that you won’t have any physical contact when you first say hello. If you are absolutely certain that the person will be all right with physical contact, you can hug your date hello, but if you’re not sure, follow their lead.
Americans often find it unusual if not uncomfortable to greet with kisses. Maybe other cultures greet with a kiss on the cheek, a kiss on the air next to the cheek, or a kiss on the hand. Don’t do this unless you are absolutely certain that your American date has had enough international experience to be comfortable with it.
Another point about Americans and physical space is that until we know someone well, even when dating, we like to keep a certain distance. If we’re standing, it’s approximately the length of our own arm, or maybe a little farther. If we’re sitting next to someone (and we’re not on a crowded vehicle), it’s maybe three quarters of the length of our arm.
The easiest way to make sure you’re not crowding is to watch your date’s movement. If you two are standing and they keep backing up, causing you to step forward, you’re too close. Take a step or two back. If you two are sitting and your date scoots a little farther away, you’re too close. Shift so that you’re seated a little farther. You must carefully watch for this kind of movement! This level of conscientiousness takes a lot of attention, but you can blow a date with an American if they perceive you as being too close, which is sometimes described as creepy behavior.
For men dating women, one rule of thumb is to wait until your date touches you before you touch her. Even casual contact like placing your hand on her arm as you talk can feel invasive, unless you have clear signs that she wants your touch. The clearest such sign, is that she touches you, maybe on the hand or shoulder. A man touching a woman before she’s comfortable with it is a big creepiness factor.
As you talk, make sure you make eye contact. When listening, you’ll look like you’re paying attention if you look the person right in the eye, especially when they’re talking. This is intent listening and it makes an American feel interesting and special.
But although you want eye contact, it will be too intense if it’s unbroken, constant eye contact. Take a break from looking them in the eye to glance away about every 15-20 seconds. You can glance down at your drink or plate, glance away just to the right or left of your date’s face, or just glance from their eyes to their nose. This kind of glancing away periodically is the difference between “intent listening” and making eye contact that’s too intense. Making eye contact that you never break comes across as weird (creepy).
Americans are big on maintaining their “comfort zone,” or the space between them and the rest of the world. When dating them, honor this space and maybe let the American set the pace for how soon you get close and make physical contact. For private coaching that will get you successfully dating Americans, contact me.
Part 3 will be published soon.