A lot of westerns males want to know how to flirt with Chinese girls, well, the Chinese guys are also wondering about the exact same question. While a lot Chinese guys are not open and confident enough to talk with their female peers, the main problem of western guys is that most of the time they are over-confident and too audacious. There is a saying in Chinese “知己知彼，百战不殆 [zhī jǐ zhī bǐ, bǎi zhàn bù dài]”, which means “Precise knowledge of self and precise knowledge of the threat leads to victory”. So the first thing we will discuss here is to know who and what kind of girls you are flirting with.
If you ask a Chinese girl for a coffee, her first reaction is to turn you down. It is like a basic instinct or a reflex. This is because they are taught in that way: all guys have ill wills. Therefore she has to protect and preserve herself. This is the lesson most Chinese parents teach their daughters. That is also the reason why most Chinese girls seem conservative, shy, or distant. So the problem we need to deal with is how to ask a Chinese girl and not get “shot down” at the first place.
So exactly how to survive the first question? My suggestion is to be honest, and completely open. You just go to her, look her in the eyes, and say it seriously. If you have a nice smile, (by “nice” I mean that kind of like “sunshine”, not “funny” nice) then smile to her, it is a plus. Don’t try to shake her hand or any other body contacts. Also do not push it too far when you try to give her a compliment. “Cute (可爱[kě ai])” is the safest word. “Beauty (美女[měi nǚ])” is rather abused in the current Chinese culture so if you are unlucky, she might frown at the word “beauty”. “Beautiful” could have two translations in Chinese, one is “漂亮 [piào liàng]”, which is too casual, the other one is“美[měi])”, which is too literal. So “Cute” is the best, and it can be used on all kinds of girls.
The ways to phrase the question could be:
Plan A: simple and honest
[wǒ jué de nǐ hěn kě ai, wǒ kě yǐ qǐng nǐ hē bēi kā fēi/ chá ma?]
I think you are very cute. Can I invite you for a coffee/tea?
Plan B: dramatic and “honest”
wǒ yì bān bú huì zhè yàng de, dàn shì wǒ yí kàn dào nǐ, jiù xiǎng guò lái gēn nǐ shuō huà, ér qiě wǒ jué de rú guǒ wǒ bú zhè me zuò de huà, wǒ zhī hou yí ding huì hòu huǐ de. wǒ kě bù kě yǐ qǐng nǐ hē bēi kā fēi/ chá?”
A few heads-up:
1. Do not play the “you look familiar. I think I’ve met you somewhere” card, or the “do you have a map? because I’m lost in your eyes” card. They are both cheesy and untrue, though in a different way, and girls will not take you seriously.
2. Try to make your move when she is alone or with a lot of people. If she is with one or two female friends, that’s the worst timing, because she will not abandon her “girlfriend” and go with you. However, if she is with a lot of girls, then it is good, because it will make her look very good in front of other girls and satisfy her vanity to a large extent. Girls are all jealous, so make sure you make use of that in the right way.
3. If she does not immediately say yes to your coffee offer, but she is hesitating, then do not say anything stupid, actually, do not even say anything. Just wait quietly, look at her but do not stare. If after five seconds there is still no answer, then you can ask her again “May I buy you a coffee?” Hope she will say yes this time. The quietness is necessary because it shows that you are a gentleman and you wait for the lady to make up her own mind. This is important.
What happens after
Once she agrees to have coffee or tea with you, it is already half successful. Ask her what she does or studies, if she likes it, what’s her hobby etc…Pay attention to what she says, and listen with patience. That will give her a really good impression. Don’t shoot some blunt and personal questions like “how many boyfriends did you have?”, or just talk about yourself or things you like. Interactions are really important here. Food is also a pretty good topic. For example, if you ask “what do you like to eat usually/你平时爱吃什么 [nǐ píng shí ài chī shén me]?” Maybe she says “cheese cake/奶酪蛋糕 [nǎi lào dàn gāo].” You can say: “Oh, what a coincidence, I’m also a big fan of cheese cake, and I happen to know a really nice cheese cake place, maybe we can go together next time/ 哦，真巧，我也喜欢吃奶酪蛋糕，而且我正好知道一家不错的奶酪蛋糕店，下次我们一起去好吗 [o, zhēn qiǎo, wǒ yě xǐ huān chī nǎi lào dàn
gāo, ér qiě wǒ zhèng hǎo zhī dào yì jiā bú cuò de nǎi lào dàn gāo diàn, xià cì wǒ men yì qǐ qù hǎo ma]？” In this way, it is very likely you get a second date.
If you two had a nice and smooth conversation, then you can ask her number or QQ (the Chinese Skype) and say you may text her. Alert: text her, not call her. It is more indirect and safe; even only one message of “Good night” can be really effective. Girls do not like being pushed, so text messages can show that you do care about her, but also you give her enough time and space to reply your kindness.
Of course, if you have the time and opportunities to see her often, such as having class together, or working together etc., then your chance will increase largely. Trust grows with time. If you see someone regularly, the familiarity will build up and it will not seem abrupt if you ask her out one day. For this type, I suggest “subtle contact” and “ambiguous conversations”. You don’t speak you mind. Just try look at her casually, but divert your sight immediately once she also looks at you or seems to find out that you are looking at her. In this way, she knows that you are paying attention to her. Then you can create some opportunities to eat together, but also with the presence of other people, so that it is not obvious. During the meal, try to sit close to her, and help her to get food or drinks. The next step is to have some “ambiguous conversation”. For example, “You look a bit pale today, is everything ok? I’m worried. /你今天看起来有点苍白，还好吗？我很担心呢。 [nǐ jīn tiān kàn qǐ lái yǒu diǎn cāng bái, hái hǎo ma? wǒ hěn dān xīn ne]” “You look different today, new hair style? /你今天看起来有点不一样啊，新发型？[nǐ jīn tiān kàn qǐ lái yǒu diǎn bù yí yàng a, xīn fà xíng?]” In this way, she will think you are sweet and caring. And then you can give her some small stuff, but casual, like this “you look a bit tired, I bought coffee/chocolate for you. /你看起来有点累，我买了咖啡给你。[nǐ kàn qǐ lái yǒu diǎn lèi, wǒ mǎi le kā fēi gěi nǐ.]” Then she will think you are being nice to her. That is the most important thing for Chinese girls: “being nice to her”. In this kind of conversations, the trick lies in the emphasis on the “I” and “you”, so you must say: “I bought coffee for you.”, then subconsciously, you are already putting thoughts in her mind: it is about “you” and “me”. After all this build-up (take your time), then you can ask her out directly and honestly. Your chance is high. But do be careful, if you wait for too long and do things for her too regularly, and she is used to your kindness, and starts to open up to you and talk about everything: clothes, problems, parents…then congratulations, you got friend-zoned. So another tip for this kind of flirting: be unpredictable like the wind. If she is unsure and insecure about your words and moves, then it means she cares. If she cares, it’s highly likely she likes you. But what is unpredictable exactly? Well, for example at work you bought her coffee and say some caring words to her, but then you also give coffee to your beautiful female boss and you let her see that. Then she will of course think that she is not the only one, not special. But at last you just need to whisper to her, “only because she is the boss”, then it is done. Try to create some mood waves and make something out of it.
How you know when she is saying “NO”
I would say that most Chinese girls will not say “NO” bluntly to your face. They come up with excuses, so that she can keep her “cute and nice” image, and also your pride. It is kind of thoughtful but you have to get the message. Common excuses are:
我还有事，我要走了。[wǒ hái yǒu shì , wǒ yào zǒu le]
“I still have something to do, so I have to go.”
(meaning: anything that has nothing to do with you)
我跟人有约。[wǒ gēn rén yǒu yuē ] “I have an appointment with someone.”
(meaning: anyone but not you)
我现在没空。[wǒ xiàn zài méi kòng ] “I don’t have time now.”
(meaning: no time for you, now or ever)
我也想，不过。。。[wǒ yě xiǎng，bù guò…] “I’d like to, but….”
(meaning: it doesn’t matter what I say, only the part after “but” counts)
我要去。。。[wǒ yào qù…] “I am leaving/going to…”
(meaning: I am going away from you)
我已经有男朋友了。[wǒ yǐ jīng yǒu nán péng yǒu le.] “I have a boyfriend already.”
(meaning: Anyway, it’s not you)
When you hear something like this, dude, give up. If you keep talking, she will think you are a stalker. So just smile, and say, “好吧，没关系。[hǎo ba，méi guān xì （it’s ok. No problem.）” Then just leave.
The Chinese way of flirting is very complicated, and it is really a conversation between the lines: it is not about what you said, but the meanings behind it. The bottom line is, if you like a girl, just go ask her. No harm in it anyway. She will be flattered and happy, and you either get a date or gain some experience. It is also very good for your language skills. If you have some brilliant pick-up lines, don’t be shy to share it here and let all of us learn some tricks.