Put it down to the spirit of international solidarity, the 'French maid' phwoor factor or the traditional male fight or flight approach to commitment: for BritBloke there's no greater thrill than mastering a foreign tongue, says Callum McGeoch
IS BRITBLOKE finally becoming a more appealing prospect to the women of the world, or has a foreign girlfriend simply become a favourable option for the young British jet setter?

When the hoards of England fans head over to France next month, pulling probably wont be at the forefront of their minds. It's official: our priorities are straight on this score. Girls come second to football, for the duration of the World Cup at least. We are all praying that Alan and the boys can do the business on foreign soil, but if it all ends in bitter disappointment, then perhaps we can take some consolation from the fact that when it comes to pulling, we Brits are up there with the best of them.

Okay, so the Italians have an enviable reputation for their performances, and the French are firm favourites for romance, and maybe a Brazilian is still an exciting prospect for some girls. But at least the once accepted image of lager lout Brits as lousy lovers with about as much sex appeal as a Yorkshire pudding seems to be on the wane. Our renewed national identity has given the lads a boost, and if we play are cards right, if we don't fluff it, we might even have a shot at being sexy. What's more, if it came to penalties in the love match play-offs, we could even whip the Germans.

Our success rate with American women is well-documented. This phenomenon has been attributed to something called the "Hugh Grant Effect", and we're not talking cash incentives here. The combination of a "cute accent" and the discovery that we are not all frauds and murderers as Hollywood might have American girls believe, results in an overwhelming desire to protect and nurture us. See also the "Dudley Moore Principle".

But now we're branching out. The women of the world are no longer immune to our dubious charms. Just about every other day, it seems, I am introduced to another exotic girlfriend; "This is Carmen, the one I told you about, she's over from Guadalajara for a few weeks", or "Have you met Veronique? We met in Paris last weekend."

It appears that more and more young Englishmen are enjoying relationships with foreign girls. The odds would appear to be stacked against these long-distance love affairs but they are some of the most successful relationships I know.

The advent of cheap air travel over the last twenty years means that the chances of finding love abroad has rocketed. But even accounting for things like Gap years, Inter-rail, TEFL, VSO, and university sandwich years, the number of young men with foreign girlfriends seems remarkably high.

The rose-tinted world of the holiday romance is a relationship cliche. Most times the revelry leads to some summer lovin' with someone of your own nationality. Almost invariably these flings fall apart once the reality of different lives back home sinks in. But when the object of your passion lives abroad, the magic doesn't necessarily end when the holiday does. In fact for many blokes, the situation is a unique one. They know that whatever happens, in two weeks time they'll be gone. So those who have been shying away from relationships at home allow themselves a level of unconfined affection that would be considered too risky if there were no obvious escape route. Passing this point of no return ends either in tears and heartache, or, increasingly it seems, an opportunity to have a go at something lasting.

In the past our embarrassing lack of languages was a stumbling block, but now, more of us than ever before are getting to grips, as it were, with a foreign tongue. The chance for a local to practice their English on a lone traveller can still form the seed for many a foreign affair, but it can also work the other way. Clare Lewis, a relationship counsellor, has her own theory. "Some guys will see the language barrier as a benefit at the start. The main advantage, though, is that foreign girls come with less social and emotional baggage than British girls. When we first meet someone of our own nationality, there are instant assumptions that are made based on our regional, educational, and class divides. With a foreign girl, you essentially have a clean slate. Knowing virtually nothing about each other's backgrounds is more exciting. A bloke can be who he wants to be; he can even be more himself."

Dan is a finalist at Edinburgh University. He has been seeing Pia, an English teacher from Slovenia, for nearly two years. They met on an Italian course in Rimini and have been back and forth between Edinburgh, Ljubljana and Bologna ever since. "It's certainly not a soft option. Pia is as headstrong as they come. That's part of what makes her such a joy," says Dan. "All the obstacles can be overcome if you both really want it to work. The biggest problem for me was her parents. It has taken two years for them to just acknowledge me."

Ruben was seeing Jimena for just two weeks before they were forced to go their separate ways. "She's Colombian originally, but we met in Mexico City. She came over for Christmas and totally loved it here. I don't think the fact that she isn't British has much relevance to our relationship. Language isn't really an issue, and in many ways the similarities to some English girls I've been out with are more striking than the differences. Mind you my Mum's Italian so it probably runs in the family."

Ruben's college friend Alex had been living in Martinique as part of his degree course for 8 months before he met Natalie at the Gym. "At first it was her smile, and maybe her Lycra, but then it was her ability to keep surprising me. Natalie is unlike most Martiniquans, let alone British girls, so of course it's more interesting. I've learnt about Creole music, medicine and folklore and I love it, but we both know that as a white man I will never really be accepted in Martinique."

Exotic foreign girlfriends may be exciting, different and, erm, safely out of the way for most of the time, but they also have their disadvantages. Alex had a cautionary experience earlier in the year in Cuba. "I had a brief thing with a Cuban girl. After just a couple of days she started getting really heavy and I realised she just saw me as a way to get out of Cuba. A few weeks later my sister called. She'd got a letter from this girl introducing herself as my fiancee. Can you believe that?"