To be fair, barely anyone gets maths-related pickup lines anywayMayur Gala via unsplash

I’ve often been told that a Year Abroad should be one of the most exciting times of my life: theoretically, it should be filled with entertaining encounters and juicy love stories (which I bet are shared with fourth-year MMLers, usually only too happy to tell the experiences they had last year). As a foreigner in England, I was told I was also supposed to be charming and fascinating – according to my friend Martina back in Milan. “Babes, imagine the rizz you’ll have there!” she told me when I left home, to underline the random connection between my single era and my Erasmus-in-Cambridge era. However, there are some practical skills necessary to navigate the wild local dating pool that Martina and I didn’t take into consideration at the time. The biggest one is: how the heck do I flirt in a foreign country, in a second language, and, ultimately, in Cambridge?

“Perhaps, Cambridge rizz comes with a full package of English language skills”

Chances are, you’ll struggle to grasp not only your target language slang but also how the native-language flirting flows. That was the case with a Hinge date I had at the beginning of Lent. After I managed to unlock the first language barrier level – that is, sending flirty and academic (because it’s still Cambridge) Insta messages – I got a date! “Market lunch and a stroll”, they suggested (I immediately Googled the word ‘stroll’). Needless to say, in full noon daylight, without even a pint to loosen the inhibition, I probably sounded more like an HR interviewer with an Italian accent than a chill gal on Erasmus.

Then, there is the trouble of humour. While some jokes might make sense in your native language, there’s a chance they might not land so well in English. If you’ve ever watched Modern Family, maybe you’ll remember the episode when Sofia Vergara’s character Gloria says: “You’ll never know how funny I am in Spanish!” and that rings so true as a girl abroad. There’s a whole percentage of banter that, in some cases, gets really lost in translation – you know it’s happened when your date looks at you funny, while politely asking “Pardon?”

“I probably sounded more like an HR interviewer with an Italian accent than a chill gal on Erasmus”

And all of this takes place in Cambridge! As my flatmate said, “there are some really intense people here”, and you can certainly find them on dates, talking incessantly about specific and dense intellectually-focused topics. Let’s say that, maybe, you left your college wondering about what to discuss, but then, your date started lecturing you about the math involved in astronomical dark matter; or they tried to explain to you the syntactic system of Celtic languages. Arguably, these chats mostly prompt you to think about a list of academic (but also fun) topics you could bring on to sound witty and interesting. However, even if they were in Italian I’d probably struggle to understand. In fact, I was once having a pint with a few friends from home, and for some reason we started talking about the concept of authenticity according to Heidegger’s philosophy. After a while, I gladly suggested a new topic of conversation: looking for writers’ pictures as if they were on Tinder, and asking them if they would swipe left or right (they would have probably known how to handle the Cantabrigian way of flirting).


Mountain View

A very Cambridge Valentines

Perhaps ultimately, Cambridge rizz comes with a full package of English language skills, designed to be flexed in intellectual conversations and British banter (which I still have yet to learn).