International Sex

In France and Italy, people seduce each other.

In Brazil, they don't have seduction, they just have sex, and are laid back about it in a way many uptight Englanders might find loose-moraled.

In Sweden, they don't have seduction either. Any sex that may occur usually happens during a discussion on Third World debt, or the ozone layer, or something equally mind-broadening. Any attempt to seduce a Swede will result in a patronising lecture on safe sex.

In Singapore, they don't have seduction either. Ordinary people live in towering government-built apartment blocks, most of which have a social committee which receives funding from Singapore's government to throw parties to get the socially inept technocrats to socialise and marry and have children to make more Chinese than Malays and Indians (who have a higher birth rate). For the same reason, the National University of Singapore's Engineering faculty is built next to the Accounting department, so the male engineers meet the female accountants, get married, and have Chinese children.

South of Harlem and north of downtown Manhattan, and either side of midtown, is where the rich whites live, and where half the people are too busy to even think about something as frivolous as romance, while the other half are too busy seeing their shrinks because they can't find romance. Anyone they do meet faces a barrage of questions about their career paths, medical insurance plans, and past drug and divorce offenses.

People who live in Connecticut and upstate New York, who commute to Manhattan every day (so-called "mainline snobs" because they never use the subway) seduce each other on the train home, where they scope each other out on the train for a few days, then strike up a conversation a couple of minutes before one of them gets off (so that if the other person is an asshole, the conversation will shortly end anyway) and arrange a lunch date back in Manhattan. This ensures that rich professional mainline snobs mix with other rich professionals.

Near (but not in) Washington D.C., in the neighbouring suburbs in Maryland and across the river in Virginia, the first thing single people talk about having met an attractive potential partner is politics. Tax-and-spend liberals won't go out with Dickensian conservatives, gun nuts won't touch screaming heart civil libertarians, lobbiests for oil companies won't date lobbiests for clean air, and all the fine shades of political opinion are more important than opinions about anything else, physical attractiveness, intellectual prowess, and personality.

In Germany, people can talk about their emotions up-front and realistically.

   SCENE:   Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany
   Helmut:  So Hans, how is Helga these days?
   Hans:    Helga says that unless I stop sleeping around 
            and spend more time at home, she's going to 
            leave me and contest custody of the kids.
   Helmut:  I think Helga has a point - if you really loved 
            her, you wouldn't pay for Eva's flat. 
   Hans:    The first few years with Helga were great, 
            but I really don't love her any more. 
People from other cultures find this Teutonic efficiency a little bloodless and dehumanised, as if they discuss their emotions like they discuss their shopping list, or desired options in their new Opel.

In most of Australia, people are afraid to say what they think, for fear of offending someone else and for someone else hurting them. Instead, they talk about safe trivialities.

   SCENE:   Kensington, NSW
   Warren:  So Harry, how is Janet these days?
   Harry:   She's been very strange lately. [Tense]
   Warren:  Oh? [Nervous tone of voice]
   Harry:   Yeah.  
   Warren:  [Changing the subject]  How's the new Falcon?
   Harry:   It's alright, but typical Australian-made stuff....
Foreigners are shocked to find that the only way to seduce an Australian is to pretend to be almost completely disinterested. Any show of romantic interest will cause the non-risk-taking Australian to go scurrying of to their friends for security. Any effort to be warm, caring, and supportive to an Australian woman will cause her to reciprocate only because she thinks you must be gay, and thus free of emotional risks.

Paul Darwen (

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