In countries like China, Japan, South Korea (the three countries I'm most familiar with), it is quite common, though a few feminists here and there don't like it, that men mention a girl's appearance directly and compliment on it. Girls also like to get complimented, and girls who don't tend to lose her self-esteem.

However, Western countries (most notably Scandinavia if that is too broad, but also countries like Baltic, France, Germany, etc.) are definitely more rigorous on gender equality, and I feel girls don't like to get mentioned her appearance as it might make them feel a sense of being seen as an object or doll.

I also heard that complimenting directly on their appearance is not appropriate but praising what they achieved on their own efforts, such as nails, hair styles, and fashion, is OK. Is this correct?

The compliment is quite direct on their appearance, such as "You are so beautiful!" or "You are so sexy".

I'm mid-20s men and girls I usually talk with are in their 20's. They are mostly those I met on Tinder (on the first date, or during chat within the app), or sometimes I met in public (e.g. a girl approaches me while I'm using my laptop at cafe and starts to talk for a while), and definitely nowhere near to close friends (it is rather at the start of our encounter). They all have a bachelor or master degree (or going to get it).

And sorry but I would like an answer in what you believe they feel, not what you feel. Also, please consider the content of the post, not my personality, if you want to downvote (already got 3); otherwise let me know how I can improve the content.

  • 2
    related: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/3017/2708 Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 22:13
  • 6
    Can you give an example? What do you mean by "mention her appearance publicly"? Do you know these women? Why are you complimenting them?
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 22:24
  • 3
    Perhaps you'd find this question interesting? It's not quite the same but it's very related... though I'm an American.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 22:33
  • 1
    I was under the impression that telling women, women you just met, anywhere in the world, that they are "so sexy" is frowned upon. But what do I know. I am not a woman. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 12:52
  • 1
    You actually haven't explained why you're asking this question. Have you had negative reactions to these compliments? What have they said if that's the case? If they've not reacted negatively, then why do you think it's a problem?
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 20:54

9 Answers 9


Part of the problem is the amount of sexual harassment girls and women receive from strangers. To give you an idea, on my way to school and back I started to avoid the shortest path because there where some building workers yelling gross stuff at me, like I have a nice arse. I was about 11/12, and looking 2 years younger. I didn't even start puberty. Some people believe this is an exception, but street harassment is scaringly common. Here is more information about that:

  1. creeps compliments are harassment too
  2. stop street harassment

Which consequences has this? When someone compliments me on how my look, I smell danger. If I'm lucky, it was a well meant compliment, but this is rare. But maybe that person wants to know if he can marry me, or wants to collect my phone number, and if I refuse he gets aggressive, which has happened before.

While well meant and well done compliments shouldn't be rude, in western societies they can be problematic for both girls and women. It's better if you keep your thoughts for yourself, but if you really have to, please make sure to not to act like a creep.

In case you want to compliment someone on the street anyways, here is a very good answer about do's and dont's. If you want more information, here you have a larger article that I hope are helpful to you.

  • Thanks for the answer but the sexual harrasement is quite prevalent in East Asia as well, and most of my female friends experienced it, usually too many times in her lifetime.
    – Blaszard
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 20:35
  • @Blaszard I have some hypotesis on why "[asian] Girls also like to get complimented, and girls who don't tend to lose her self-esteem", while european women find that offensive, but I have no studies or anything on hand to confirm or contradict these. I'm really sorry to not to be able to go deeper right now.
    – Purrrple
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 18:28
  • @Blaszard I also just expanded to give you information on how to compliment, so you reduce the probability someone feels uncomfortable.
    – Purrrple
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 18:41

In a comment, the OP said

For example: "You are so beautiful" or "So sexy" or like that. "Know" depends on the definition but it is like "got matched on Tinder and on first meeting", or during the conversation in Tinder.

Saying a girl is "so sexy" on a first date is creepy, but that's me, and I stopped dating in my mid-forties. And as Dylan once sang: The Times They Are A-Changin'

IMO it's perfectly acceptable to be more explicit, e.g. "you have great legs" once you have been dating each other several times, if not weeks.

However, complimenting a woman on her eyes and smile is always nice to hear.

I love the way you smile. I was sad before but now I feel better

You can't go wrong there.

EDITED (Sept 11 2017)

If you meet a girl that you like in a public library, café, market square or school cafeteria, the one thing you do not tell her is:

“You're beautiful. Can I ask you out on a date?”

OK, granted you have never moved in so quickly (well, I hope not!) but even complimenting on her smile or the colour of her eyes is inappropriate the first time you meet.

The art of flirting is something you learn with practice and patience. You must take things slowly, and remember this one unspoken rule: it is the woman who chooses her "mate", never the man.

Look (don't stare) at the girl and if she catches your glance, smile back at her. Does she ignore you? Stop wasting your time, you're probably not her type. Does she smile back? Promising.

Wait a couple of minutes and find an excuse to get nearer. For example, buy something to read or drink and sit at the table opposite or next to hers. Then ignore her judiciously. Eat, drink, read the menu while you are waiting for the server, read your mobile texts, do anything but not look at her.

If she hasn't moved onto a different table or finished doing whatever she was doing and left the room, your chances of talking to her have marginally increased...

The best thing would be to get her know her, as a person, and find out if you actually have something in common. In other words, treat women as a normal people, not as potential preys.

  • 5
    Its creepy - whether you or me! (period) Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:41
  • 1
    I agree on complimenting a lady on her eyes/smile, but wouldn't "You make me feel so good" come across as creepy, also? I'd be abit creeped out if someone said that to me. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:51
  • @BradleyWilson depends on the tone of voice. If it said cheerily and sincerely, is it still creepy? Is "good" a double entendre expression in the UK? Hmm... maybe I'll have to mull over that bit.
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:56

The issue is that this is not so much a cultural issue as it is an personal issue. An individual may like being complemented on their looks, or they may not for the reasons mentioned. It all depends on the individual. If you have no way to know if a compliment on their looks would be received well, it is probably best not to compliment their looks. You may use a much more subtle compliment to feel this out, such as complimenting their hair, as this will generally be fairly non-offensive if it is not appreciated.

  • 1
    you're very right about almost everything, especially an individual may like being complemented on their looks, or they may not. But about the hair... Maybe you should put a little warning/disclaimer as it's very tricky... personal experience: GF comes back home after haircut. Me: wow! great, I love your hair, it's so different from before, suits you so well! (and I meant it!). Her: it's the worst ever!!! I'll never go back there! Me: :(((
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 10:48

"Appearance" can mean many things. It can refer to "looks," style, dress, etc.

As an Asian-American, one thing that I have observed is that Asians are more accepting about compliments regarding their "inborn" characteristics than westerners. That is, many Asian (not all) girls will be pleased with comments about their "natural" gifts in terms of looks.

Western cultures are more "egalitarian" in terms of downplaying "inborn" traits. People would rather be praised for their accomplishments instead. So it is better to compliment them on their style or dress, or "choices" they have made, rather than "natural" gifts.

  • This is true. Also, if you don't like your inborn characteristics, operating plastic surgery is not uncommon at all (definitely less true among Asian-American, but quite prevalent in China/Japan/South Korea/Taiwan, especially SK).
    – Blaszard
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 20:49
  • @Blaszard so you're recommending that people have plastic surgery to make themselves ugly just so that people will stop harassing them with unwanted comments?
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 20:51
  • 4
    @Catija What are you talking about...?
    – Blaszard
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 21:00
  • 2
    @Catija I think what Blaszard may be saying is that the response to complements regarding "inborn" traits are accentuated by the presence of plastic surgery. People may have chosen their "inborn" traits later in life, through plastic surgery, which changes the dynamics regarding those complements a great deal.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 23:29

As a European I think you have (at least) two very different situations in your question:

They are mostly those I met on Tinder (on the first date, or during chat within the app)


or sometimes I met in public (e.g. a girl approaches me while I'm using my laptop at cafe and start to talk for a while)

If you are on a date with the woman in question, a compliment about her appearance would fit the situation - preferrably a classic like those suggested by Mari-Lou A ("I like the way you smile", ec.). To be on the safer side, you could also go for a compliment about how nice it is to spend time with her.

However, if you talk to a stranger who hasn't made her intent on dating clear (your second situation), I'd stay away from comments on her physical appearance because of what DarkPurpleShadow said: it's likely to put her on the defensive and probably decreases your chances of seeing her again rather than increasing them. Try something more low key like "I really enjoyed chatting with you, would you like to meet for coffee some time?"


This depends on context. Complementing a friend with whom you have an established relationship is generally inoffensive. Comments on a strangers appearance are less likely to be welcome. Generally if you aren't sure if its okay or not, its better to err on the side of caution for individual circumstances.

As an aside, compliments on accessories are usually considered more acceptable than on the appearance of body parts, or general appearance over all. If you want to compliment someone, maybe compliment their shoes, jacket or backpack for example. Avoid complimenting things like hair, facial features, etc.


You must try and understand what type of headspace women are confronted with when they interact with men. Most women (not all, but most) do like men, they like the idea of having a man around, but they are confronted with a lot of men who just see them as objects. In many ways just like a blow-up doll with a pulse.

So you can very much admire a women's beauty. As a straight male, I can assure you there beauty is by no means lost on me, but have some considerations in the way you communicate your feelings towards women. I don't think that it is at all sexist to be impressed by a woman's beauty. I can admire a women's beauty just like I can admire the beauty of a Van Gogh painting.

There is unfortunately just a very thin line between objectifying women and admiring someone's beauty.

Sincerity really goes a long way. If you show her small token of how you admire her beauty and not go overboard with the flattery, you will come off as non-threatening and sincere.

Next time you see a woman you like, try saying to her. 'Gosh, those flowers in your hair sure look pretty, I always like it when girls do that with their hair.'

With this, you come off as non-judgemental, you are sharing some of your likes with her, offering a bit of personal info to make the compliment personal, all in a sincere way, totally devoid of ulterior motives.

Empty flattery gets you nowhere with women.


I would not say it is rude per-se, but it depends on:

  1. How well you know the person
  2. What and in which tone you say

Pretty girls get so many cheap compliments followed by harassment so often, even if it's just meant as a compliment (which it rarely is even if you mean it nicely, you typically want to use it as an ice-breaker), it is at the very least annoying for most such girls. If 20 people already told you how beautiful the weather is today, you really don't want to do small talk about that with the 21st. Especially not with a random stranger who likely just wants to get in your pants like 15 of the other 20.

If you however know a girl at least casually it's something else. If she values you, she may also value your opinion and your genuine compliments - or comments on her appearance. By then you hopefully also can read whether such a topic is a good idea from her reaction and a single misstep will not have you loose all friendship built up so far. However, general compliments are boring. If she's pretty, she's heard those a dozen of times. You might rather comment on recent changes of her appearance, like a new haircut than her general hair colour.

Then, as other answers already indicated, there is a difference on what body parts you comment. Some are considered intimate or implying a sexual undertone while others don't. With comments on eyes, face and haircut you are mostly safe. Same goes for most clothing unless it is very revealing. Stay clear of comments on her legs, butt and breasts - and everything in this "middle area" ;) Same goes for her weight (not because it's associated with sex, but because it's an intimate topic by itself).

Basically, the closer you know someone the more your compliments may be well received and the more intimate they can be - just make sure to check her reaction and adopt accordingly.

And typically, don't just compliment a stranger on their looks. It's not rude, but most find it annoying (or, if male, confusing^^).


If you genuinely are astonished by the beauty of a girl, avoid at all cost saying general ("you're very beautiful") and "sexual" compliments ("man, dat ass!"), because as some users already pointed out, those are the things a ton of harassers normally use.

If you like something in particular, why not saying that? Avoid maybe eyes and smile, since those too are mainstream compliments that creeps use. If you don't want them to stamp a giant L on your forehead, avoid metaphores ("Your smile lights my day like the sun")

I've complimented successfully women for their:

  • Hair (in particular strangely colored ones)
  • Fingernails
  • Tattoos
  • Dresses

And never once obtained anything worse than a "thanks". Of course I was genuinely complimenting something I really liked, and never meant the compliment as a way to start

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.