I'm a PhD candidate from Asia currently visiting a prestigious university in Europe. Recently I've noticed quite some "strange" behaviours of male "colleagues" around me (by "colleagues", I don't mean that we work on the same projects or from the same office. They are just people who work at or visit this place: faculty members, PhDs, or research staff).
For example, these gentlemen seem to be giving me a bit of extra attention: following me to the pantry; "appearing" several times at the same time at the place that I'd show up; or even try to wait for me when I leave. (Please don't suggest that I might be overreacting - I am quite confident that I'm not exaggerating here.)
Honestly, I am more annoyed than flattered. I want to focus on my research and want to be able to have healthy, normal, constructive working relationships with these people. I don't want any extra attention other than that I am a dedicated and capable researcher, and a nice person in general. However, because of these strange behaviours, I have to try to distance myself from some of them who I have had some friendly exchanges before. I've become a bit cold and unapproachable to them - I guess I am trying to say that I am not interested in anything romantic, and I don't want any attention in that matter. I guess some people might say, well, just tell them openly that you are not interested. I simply am not able to do that: first, they don't say anything or do anything that would allow me to bring up this topic; second, some of them might not even really want to pursue a relationship (they are married, or too young/too old for me anyway), but just kind of show some sort of admiration I guess.
However, I also feel very uncomfortable about that. I am by nature a nice and friendly person. I really feel bad about being cold and unfriendly to other people. Also, I want to have a circle of contacts that I can talk with about my research and their research, and get feedback and/or inspiration from that. I am not sure how I am able to have that type of positive working relationships in this kind of situation.
To clarify a few things...
These male colleagues are decent, respectable, and in some cases, brilliant and achieved people. There is no inappropriate advance from them or anything creepy in this (or it would be rather easy to handle the situation). It is just the continued, affectionate attention that is making me uncomfortable.
I am not sure this is associated with my newness or novelty. I have been here for eight months now and I did not notice this kind of attention at the beginning. Instead, I noticed the association with me slowly building up myself professionally here. I'd assume these male colleagues are slightly more refined than the general public and would look a bit further than a pretty face for a pretty mind (not that I am suggesting I am any or both of these). If this is true, then I would assume this issue would not go away as time goes by, but might hang around or even intensify as I become more established as a capable researcher. In that case I would have to find a solution for myself in the long term.
After second thought, I guess I wouldn't be able to take the "dressing down" advice. I like to dress in a classy and elegant way and that makes me feel good (it is like I enjoy making my room clean and nice and that makes me feel good). I don't see anything wrong with it and don't want to punish myself with other people's reactions to me. In fact, I have become more convinced that the solution to this type of issue is not to make women less feminine/attractive. There should be other solutions where we can be ourselves and still be comfortable around male colleagues. I don't know what those solutions are though.
Please give me some advice on how to handle a situation like this.