As Canadians, we generally feel strong ties to the United Kingdom; among the reasons, our heritage and Commonwealth membership, and the fact we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. Given the cultural similarities, in terms of dating, English men should be comparable to Canadian men. Shouldn’t they? Alas, while men are normally on a different planet to women, English men might as well be in another galaxy. But once you start to learn the hidden rules — it’s taken me four years to get to this point — the payoff just might be worth it. Here are 7 tips for those of you looking to get bowlered over.
Don’t be fooled by the accent
Ah, accents, so very classy and so very charming. And that charm will wear off. Once it does and you realize that they’re not all Hugh Grants, Colin Firths or Daniel Craigs, you’re left with the reality of the English male: he can be a gentleman, or not, and he can be educated, or not, just like any other guy. (By the way, English men don’t have an accent — it’s the foreigner that has one. That’s you.)
He’s either 100 per cent in, or running away from commitment
There is no in-between. If you want to bag yourself an English gent, then you’re going to have to learn to spot this character flaw early, and make your own fight-or-flight decision — and make it fast. The consequence of a bad call here could be years of heartache at the very worst, and at the very least a bruised ego and possibly some in-public teeth-gritted drama (you or him).
Socially, erm, awkward
For English men, speaking to members of the opposite sex can be as foreign as speaking another language. Picture this: In a pub on a first date, he asks if you would like a glass of wine but before you have a chance to respond, he interrupts himself and says, “Err…well…erm…I didn’t want to imply that all women like wine. I mean, a woman can like to drink beer and it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to drink a full pint these days, not a half like my nan…” At this point, the beads of sweat are pouring down from his brow, his hands are in his pockets and he’s rocking back and forth — cute, but maybe not the strong, confident type you pictured yourself with before the date started.
English can be a painfully obvious metaphor
As far as using their own language goes, and similar to their international brethren, English men will say one thing and mean something completely different. If yours starts saying things like, “I’ve got a really busy week ahead,” “I’ll be out with my mates watching the football this week,” or “I really like spending quality time with you — but only every other weekend, when I don’t have my kid,” then delete his number immediately, lest a year together should roll past before he tells you, “I just doesn’t see myself settling down right now.” On the flip side, this is the same guy who, after the first date, will tell you, “I can see myself settling down with you, having children and being OAPs (old age pensioners) together” — and he’ll mean it. (See “100%,” above.) So, what’s the lesson here? Unless you’re really desperate or like clingy men, the choice is simple: run.
Chivalry is not dead, darling
While it’s nice to be put on a pedestal every now and then, don’t even think of making the first move when you’re with an Englishman. Applicable dating rules in Canada have no jurisdiction here, luv. Get used to being called ‘darling’ or ‘treacletart’ (sweetheart, in rhyming Cockney slang) or any other term of endearment he finds, possibly fabricates, for you. If you want to try and break those rules and ask him on a date? OK, but be prepared to be let down. While English men like to think of themselves as modern men, when it comes to dating, let him take the old-fashioned lead (at least for the first little while).
Dinner means drinks
For your first date, forget about a candle-lit dinner at an Italian restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths. In fact, forget about food for dinner. If you’re going to date an Englishman, you’d better learn to a) hold your drink and b) hold your drink, ’cuz you’re going to be doing a lot of it. Many of my first dates with English blokes began innocently enough in the pub, ending debauched. Here’s the basic pattern: He’ll order a pint of lager and you, wanting to seem demure and ladylike, will order a small glass of white wine. Before you know it, you’ve had an entire bottle of wine and moved on to G&Ts — and it’s midnight on a school night. But by this point, both of you are so smashed that whatever comes up in conversation will undoubtedly come up during the next date, because you’ll completely forget what you said to each other. Or, you were snogging each other’s faces off and had no time to talk.
I’ll keep this short and semi-sweet: Do yourself a favour and read the chapter on sex in Kate Fox’s Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, which perhaps best sums up the English and sex in some of the punchiest one-liners I’ve ever read. These include: “No Sex Please, We’re British!” and “But we don’t have sex, we have hot water bottles” and, my favourite, “Lie back and think of England, you mean?” Jokes aside, Englishmen are like any other hot-blooded male on this planet: they like sex. Still, stereotypes don’t come out of thin air, and if you’re talking about sex with an Englishman, be prepared for him to revert to his inner schoolboy. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy sex; just, it, well, erm, makes him a bit embarrassed to talk about it, especially when he’s with you. So walk up to the bar and buy him a pint (or two); maybe let him get the first one in, given the chivalry thing. If you’re in luck, you might be in for a sleepless night in the best possible way. When he finally stops joking, he’ll be plenty serious.
Sarah Lysecki is a freelance journalist based in London, UK, where she has written for Cosmetic News Weekly and Cosmetics International. She has also contributed to Economist Intelligence Unit, ITBusiness.ca, and Foodnetwork.ca. She is currently is in a very happy relationship with a dandy of an English gent.