Berlin. Sitting at a red traffic light or in a traffic jam is often reason enough to be bad tempered. But some amorous Germans have decided to smile while stuck in traffic — and sometimes even flirt.
Indeed, a break in a car journey is a popular opportunity for Germans to flirt: with a little luck sitting in a car in the next lane is an attractive person who is prepared to get involved in some friendly banter.
“It can put you at your ease,” says Juergen Merz, a traffic psychologist with Germany’s safety organisation TUV. And a relaxed driver is a better driver. Flirting at a traffic light not only makes you happier it helps you drive safer.
According to statistics, Germans are very fond of making overtures from car to car: in a recent study 71 per cent said they had flirted with another driver or car passenger. About a third regularly use a long stop in a traffic jam as an occasion to get to know a stranger.
Germans’ readiness to flirt while sitting behind a steering wheel comes as no surprise to German flirt advisor and bestselling author Phillip von Senftleben. “A car is a kind of protective cage. People’s inhibition levels are lower in a car. You just need a certain portion of courage,” he says.
And if your approach is rebutted you can direct your eyes back on the road as if nothing has happened. “It’s easier to deal with a turndown if you’re inside the protective steel and glass walls of a car,” he says.
A prerequisite for a flirt is eye contact but it’s not as easy to catch someone’s eye from behind the steering wheel as it is in a bar.
This is one instance where the car’s protective wall is a disadvantage.
Luck plays a big role but you could try winking.
Revving your engine or squelching the car’s tyres, however, is probably not a good idea.
“That would be embarrassing for everyone,” says von Senftleben.
“That is, unless you’re behind the wheel of an old car: then it’s funny and it shows you have a sense of self irony. The same applies when a woman revs her car’s engine as it shows she can caricature the macho driver.” Taking off quickly or bothersome beeping could be misconstrued as a hit–on, which has nothing to do with flirting.
“A flirt can be interpreted as a short, mutual erotic appreciation. Smiling means: we find each other attractive,” says Ruediger Wacker, a psychologist and couples therapist. Hitting on someone is an aggressive type of flirting that has one goal and is egotistical. “It’s just clumsy,” says Wacker. It can also ruin the chance to have a proper flirt.
The type of car you drive can also play a role in whether a flirt is successful or not. “Studies have shown that women pay more attention to high–end cars like expensive SUVs,” says Merz. “They imagine a particular type of man behind the wheel. A man who has both feet firmly planted in life and who’s successful and strong.” A woman, on the other hand, will receive more attention if she drives a colourful city car. “That says she has a good sense of humour.” Phillip von Senftleben says women are much more pragmatic when it comes to choosing the type of car they drive than men. “That’s why the kind of car a woman drives says less about her than a man’s car does.” He also believes that a woman who is family oriented is more likely to respond to a man who drives a high–class estate car than a sports car. “A luxury estate car represents status and pragmatism. A Porsche is for someone who’s prepared to take risks and wants success. However, it does not signify reliability and loyalty,” says von Senftleben.
Motorcyclists have the best chance to flirt on the road despite wearing a helmet. “I’ve never been more successful with a wink than I was sitting on a motorbike,” says von Senftleben. “The helmet has something secretive about it. An impressive motorbike exudes manliness that can disarm a woman.” If you have managed to attract someone’s attention then von Senftleben recommends taking step 2: “Open your visor, smile, hope she rolls down her window and that you find the right words to say like, ‘How can I call you if I don’t know your number?’” Flirting at a traffic light is a game. But what do you do if the sparks really fly and you start feeling butterflies in your stomach? Without exchanging contact details it’s very unlikely you will ever see each other again. Merz advises against being too quick to reveal who you are. After all, the person you have just met is a total stranger.
Merz thinks it’s no problem to quickly write down you mobile phone number on a piece of paper but it’s best not to pass on your home address. Deciding to meet spontaneously at a lonely parking place is also not a good idea. “A busy street offers much more security.” It’s a good idea to have a visiting card at the ready in your car, according to von Senftleben. It’s easy to pass one from window to window and it doesn’t reveal too much about yourself. “It’s great at attracting attention if you wave one about the place,” he says jokingly.