Chatting up a widow at her husband's funeral, for example, would at the very least incur disapproval, if not serious distress or anger.
This is a very obvious example, but the more complex and subtle aspects of flirting etiquette can be confusing – and most of us have made a few embarrassing mistakes.
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One survey showed that 27% of British couples first met their current partner in a pub, and alcohol was voted the most effective aid to flirting by respondents in the Martini Flirting Survey.
Flirting in drinking-places is, however, subject to more conditions and restrictions than at parties.
Research shows that men find it particularly difficult to interpret the more subtle cues in women's body-language, and tend to mistake friendliness for sexual interest.
Another problem is that in some rather Puritanical cultures, such as Britain and North America, flirting has acquired a bad name.
Like every other human activity, flirting is governed by a complex set of unwritten laws of etiquette.