What makes a place sensual? Is it topless bars or erotic dancing? Is it a dubious reputation, like Paris or Rio? Is it golden sunsets, beaches and fine wine – the sort you see only on tourist advertisements? Is it, as Annie Sprinkle once opined concerning porn and erotica, the whole chicken or a feather?

For me the criteria are very subtle, concerned above all the carriage of the body. Learned through a long, supple and largely sub-conscious apprenticeship by children and teenagers, the way we carry your body involves posture, shape and movement. For example, it concerns the way one stands, turns or tilts one’s head, holds one’s shoulders just so, positions one’s body in relation to others, interacts on the street, uses eyes and mouth, or moves one’s hands – in short, the way we are present in and with our bodies.

Reading such bodies requires a little intuition and much patience, but it’s deeply satisfying. So what are the most sensual places on earth?

Top of the list must be Ukraine. Ukraine!? Through a mix of fortunate genetics and excellent upbringing, Ukrainian women and men would have to be among the most sensuous on the planet. The way they amble among a crowd, the unconscious ability to move a thigh or slide perfectly shaped buttocks in a long stride is simply amazing. As is the turn-and-look movement while talking, the carriage of the head and the inquisitive eyes.

Russia is comparable to Ukraine, since they were part of the same country for many years, but some subtle differences soon show up. Ukrainians are more up front in their assessment of you, but not Russians, at least the ones I have met. Walk down a street and none of the Russian beauties looks at you. Or at least it seems as though they don’t look at you. No matter how surreptitiously you try to glance at someone passing, you never catch any one so much as flicking a look in your direction. And yet you get the distinct feeling that you are constantly being checked, surveyed, and assessed in the most sensuous manner possible.

Serbia wins a spot here since it is the historical point where many ethnic groups have fought, razed the city and then rebuilt. The result is a mongrel people, and mongrels are by far the strongest, healthiest and have the most positive outlook on life. As a result, Belgrade women have the smoothest, olive skin, taking every opportunity to show off as much of it as they can (at least in summer), long dark hair, lithe flowing bodies and the challenge of a direct and sustained look.

I can’t leave Denmark off the list, especially Copenhagen. The key here is the blending of bicycles and people. Flowing hair, long thighs descending into high-heeled boots, baskets overflowing with beer or bread or clothes, all moving in a slow, sensuous rhythm along every city street.

Greenland: an unexpected entry on this list, but Greenlandic people are stunning. Meet a tall, well-endowed Greenlander on the street, with jet-black hair and the tough eyes of one who has seen far more than you will ever hope to see, and you will be smitten.

Last for now is China, although this is a very subtle one. Initially I simply didn’t get it: Chinese people in China were, it seemed to me, as missing in sensuality as the many I had met in Australia. The men wore their pants impossibly high (amazingly avoiding the squeak I constantly expected) and the women were reserved, if not withdrawn. But then, after some time in China, the subtlety began to dawn on me: a fold of clothing at a metro stop, a surreptitious glance on the street, a careful move of a hip.

I can’t leave this discussion without pondering the most un-sensual places on earth.

USA: sorry, but you just don’t have it. Brash and awkward and botox ain’t sensual.

England: ditto, but worse. Everything doesn’t work here – posture, movement, carriage. A turn-off.

Germany: Big, clumsy and rough. For some, that may mean sensual, but not for me.

Latvia: curious one here, since the military-like precision of their manner may do it for some. Not me.

Norway: sorry about this Norway, but you are slick, glossy and a little obscene. Too much money and simply no sensuality; even in high-heels, you look awkward and ungainly. Go to Ukraine to find out how to do it. And running or riding about town in yet another expensive sports outfit is not sexy.

France gets a thumbs-down as well. I know many will be surprised at this, but France is just too self-absorbed, too convinced of its own sensuality that it’s like one great wank. Not much fun for anyone else.

I know every country has at least one: Australians have vegemite, Americans have hamburgers, Danes have sylte (a gelatine loaf made out of pig’s hooves and unidentifiable odds and ends from the animal) and Norwegians have:

The wedge is self-explanatory (if you can’t read, the picture of prawns might help), but the first one: dead pig and cheese – in a tube!

On my recent tour along the Norwegian section of the North Sea Coastal route, which had plenty of mountains, wind and rain and moments like this …

… I came across what must be among some of the more innovative signage I’ve seen for a while:

Now Norwegains aren’t great ones for bicycles (I’m afraid to say, for they have a great love for cars), but this is pushing it to a whole new level.

Judge for yourself:

That supposed neck-wrecker/pillow simply cannot be removed or put in a comfortable position. Come on, Norway, what happened to innovative Scandinavian design?

In Denmark it may be the ‘People’s Thing’ (Folketing), but in Norway they decided that one should call the public realm of politics, men, power and phallic symbols – that is, parliament – the Storting, the ‘Big Thing’, as in the BIG THING … said with with a gravelly bass.