Jan 272013
 

 

 

Ask a FrenchmanAh! Dating a French man! The dream of every foreign woman, and a few gay men too…

But how make this dream come true?
Do you simply go to the country, you meet the man, and there you go?

You wish. But it’s not that easy.

One big mistake a bunch of people make when dealing with love and relationships is to assume that:

Love is universal, this is what makes us human, so it’s all the same everywhere. If we’re in love, this is all what matters, right?

Wrong!

Everything in our lives is influenced by our cultures. Everything!

Especially dating…

Ignoring the dating rules of the country you’re in will cause trouble and failures in your dating attempts (yes, I’m sadly talking from experience here, Jennifer, if you read this : “sorry, I misunderstood a few things back in 1998″). I say “the country you’re in” and not “the nationality of the person you’re dating” because I believe that, at least in the beginning, you cannot assume that a local will know the dating rules in your country; on the other hand, if you are the displaced one, you may already know all too well about this little thing called “cultural differences”.
Here I’m assuming that one of the two persons involved is a local. Things will be slightly different if they’re both foreigners in a third country.
Knowing these local rules is of an utmost importance. It is the case with any rule, but even more so with dating, especially because too many people assume that dating is natural and not cultural.

With that being said, I know you’re all dying to know the rules of dating in France… Well, here they are!

 

The rule number one in dating in France is that there are no rules!

Well, that’s not exactly true, but let’s say that there are much fewer rules than in many other countries, especially the US (as usual, I’ll compare mostly to the US, partly because this is the foreign culture I know the best, partly because most of the readership is American).
Actually, the very concept of dating is not very clearly defined in France.
Remember that even if date (meaning: day, month and year) is a French world, there’s no word in French for date meaning romantic get together.

Let’s get into details.

 

First, the “asking out

Asking someone else out in France is not that different from many other places I guess.
It mostly consists in saying “Would you like to [insert something about dining, going to a movie or similar activities here] together?”
You usually ask this to the girl after you’ve known her a little, having met her at work, school, through common friends, etc.
I say ask the girl, because it’s really rare that the woman asks the man out in France. It can happen, but it’s extremely rare.
Please note that in France, you rarely meet your future date in a bar or a club… Well, it can happen, but much less than in the US.
A big difference between both countries is the bar scene.
In France, it’s really rare that you talk to strangers in a bar, unless it’s a very lively bar, it’s late at night and everybody is very drunk and happy. But early in the night, when people are still quite sober, it’s really rare.
As an (almost) rule of thumb, if a guy talks to you (a girl) in a bar, chances that he’s sketchy are extremely high.
Also note that blind dates are almost non-existent in France.
But also note that all of those things have been changing a lot in recent years because of internet dating that has become extremely popular in France, and especially in Paris.

One other thing one needs to know when asking a French woman out. In France, “no” doesn’t mean “no”. It means “maybe”, “let’s see”, “ask again”, etc. So if a French woman says no when you ask her out (or anything else), it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to go out with you, it means she’s playing hard to get, and you’ll have to ask several times. Of course, there’s a fine line between “several” and “annoyingly too many” borderline harassing, and this line will depend from one individual to another… It didn’t say it was going to be easy.

How is this relevant for a foreign woman dating a French man?

Well, if you, the foreign – possibly American – woman, say “no” chances are that you mean “no” and if you the French man still insists, don’t get mad right away. He’s been trained to behave like that by French woman, and he’s just thinking you’re playing hard to get and/or you need convincing.

Same thing goes with “I don’t know” and “maybe”.
I’ve noticed that in an American woman’s mouth “I don’t know” often means “no” and “maybe” often means “yes”.
Usually, in a French woman’s mouth (and consequently in a French man’s ear) “I don’t know” means “I don’t know, I’m not sure, convince me.” And “maybe” means “maybe, I’m not sure, convince me.”

OK, the asking has been done, the date is about to happen.
Remember that dates are not as codified in France, which means that basically anything goes, and what will make it a good or a bad date is whether you had a good time or not, and not whether he or she said or did this or that.

Now, here are a few important points where things are quite different between France and the US (sorry for the non-Americans among you, but I’m sure you can compare to your own culture):

 

French Man Calling

In the US, there are all those strange rules about calling; who’s calling who, when, how much time between two calls, etc, etc. None of these exist in France. And, usually and contrarily to the US, the more the guy calls, the better.
In the US, I’ve had some first dates going great and everything went south afterwards because the girl felt I was calling too much, pretty much harassing her.
In France, if a guy calls a girl a lot, it means he cares. If he doesn’t, it means he doesn’t care. Simple.
I remember a few years ago, the last time I had a French (female) roommate. She started seeing this French guy. One day, she was all worried and stressed and pissed because he hadn’t called/emailed/messaged in about 8 hours! For her there was one possible explanation: he didn’t care about her.
Yep, this is how French women are, and as a consequence, this is how French men (that have only dated French women) will behave too.

 

Kissing a French Man

One thing that always disturbed me in the US is how it’s sometimes easy to kiss or to get kissed (I’m talking mouth kissing, or even French kissing here). Sometimes, people, especially when they’re drunk, will kiss for whatever reason. And more important, people that are dating will kiss at the first date and regularly after that, even if they don’t think/feel that they are in a relationship, even if they see other people.
None of this is OK in France.
Well, kissing while completely wasted is somewhat OK, but will sometimes become very embarrassing the following day, depending on who kissed who.
However, in a dating situation, kissing on the lips, and especially French kissing, means one and only thing: you want to be in a relationship with the person.
I’m saying it again: if you kiss somebody on the lips in France, it means that you consider this person as your boyfriend or girlfriend and that you want to be exclusive and in a relationship with them (long or short term doesn’t matter here, though).
Kissing and dating other people is not OK anymore.

 

Sex with a French Man

On the other hand, remember that French society and French people are not as messed up as Americans are when it comes to sex. Even if things are far from perfect, they have a much healthier and more casual approach to sex. In France, there is no such thing as wondering after how many dates it’s OK to have sex, no such thing as “no sex on the first date, that means you’re easy” and so on…
In France, the rule with sex is simple: it can happen anytime after the first kiss… even minutes after it. It’s that first kiss that will trigger the “ok for sex” option in your relationship. Hence the importance of the timing of that kiss regarding to where you want to go and what you want to do with that person.

 

Offending a French Man

One thing that’s not exactly related to dating, but it can be… That fear that American people have to offend other people is totally misunderstood in France. In France, it’s OK to offend people, or rather, it’s the offended responsibility to be offended or not, not the offender’s one.
So, don’t be afraid to be honest for fear of offending the person. OK, it doesn’t work for everything (even in France, telling your girlfriend she looks fat in that dress is a big no no), but overall, French people are much more open and upfront than Americans. Keep that in mind when you’re in a relationship with a French person, whether it is about what they say or about what you say (or rather what you don’t dare to say).

 

Overall Advantages and Disadvantages of the (absence of) rules in French dating

Well, the main advantage is that things are more “natural”, people tend to follow more what they feel and less what should or shouldn’t be done.
The main disadvantages are that things can be a bit too blurry at times, especially in the pre-dating phase. I can’t tell you how many French girls I never asked out in my dating years – even though I liked them – because I was convinced that they didn’t care about me only to learn afterwards that the only thing they were waiting was that I ask them out. And on the other hand, I won’t tell you how many French girls turned me down when I asked them out even though I was convinced that they had a crush on me and well, they didn’t. These kinds of misunderstandings never happened to me while in the US.
However, concerning this last point, I wonder if this is really related to the differences in dating rules in both countries, or the differences in behavior in girls from both countries?

 

 

Well, I guess I covered the issue in the main lines. If you think you can bring your two cents to the discussion, the comments are here for that.

However, note that I strictly moderate them (especially this post). In particular, if you have a question about this particular French man, please note that the comment section is not the place to ask. On the other hand, I recently created an “Ask a Frenchman Google Community” where you can ask your questions and discuss the matter with whoever feels like doing so. Enjoy.

Edit: despite the previous warning, I’ve already asked several people asking me about the French man they met or similar personal question that I said I was not going to answer. So, please, don’t, I don’t want to have to consider your comment as spam. Thanks.

 

 

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David Billa

David was born and raised in the French South West. After a few years in the US and a few more in Paris, he finally settled down in Japan. He blogs here about his various experiences and travels, with an emphasis on his home country, France.

Latest posts by David Billa (see all)

  36 Responses to “How to Date a French Man”

  1. Brilliant words! Impressed. Now to read it all again.

  2. Delightful read! and informative. About kissing…I think one thing that confuses Americans is that there is such a strict line between the cheek kissing we all do here in France as a greeting (or a goodbye) and lip kissing. We assume that it’s a quick transition…after all, Americans hardly ever do the cheek kissing thing unless you’re really good friends; that’s too personal. Good to know that here in France, a kiss on the lips signals…romantic relationship!

    • Indeed. Whereas in France a kiss on the cheeks or a kiss on the mouth are seen as two completely and pretty much unrelated things.

  3. That is so true! I married with French now, and all I can say about your post is so true. I from asia, and we do have very different culture of dating. But as we knew all in asia, the hollywood movies been watch more often than european movie, so we adapt an “american dating” as an image of how to date a guy/girl (american or european).
    But honestly with french, is so much different, and they speak their mind often, even you like it or not. It’s a part of knowing how you feel about the situation. It’s been 5 years since we knew each other and the culture different is always there between us. But that what love is then! respecting and deal with each other’s differences!!! :)

  4. Wow, thank you for all this information! It is a refreshing read, very enjoyable to understand it and I will return to read again and to share this with my female online friends (we have a web community in which we discuss dating, and we have mostly US, Australian and British women, but also women from many other countries from time to time). Many thanks… I am from the South in the US so I will say to you a Southern saying: You are so sweet to share this! Much appreciated.

    (and btw I LOVE how French people say what is on their mind and what they are feeling, and how the offended party has the reponsibility. I adore that dynamic, and that is what I seek in a relationship for sure… one reason I keep dating men from New York City, Chicago etc. In the South here, we avoid speaking the truth constantly in order to control others and to avoid offending, and it is not one of our better points sometimes imo.)

    • Thanks for your comment.
      (I thought no speaking your mind for fear of offending was not just a Southerner thing, but simply an American thing ;-) )

      • Actually, I wouldn’t agree with the statement that it is “simply an American thing.” People from the northeastern part of the US are considered to be more upfront and likely to say what it is on their mind than people from other parts of the country. For example, you can tell when someone is from New York by the directness of their responses, even after they lose their New York accent. They tend not to hold back on any question. However, a person from a southern state tends to be more warm and courteous. They are the least likely to offend in normal conversation. In my opinion, the latter is more effective and Southerners tend to get away with a lot more due to their passive aggressiveness (but again that is only my opinion). Then there are people from Texas, the southwest, etc. These regions are also different, but the US is a big country so regional differences shouldn’t be surprising.

        • I agree with you that there are regional differences. However, even North-Eastern Americans are not as direct that you think they are. i.e. they are more direct than Southerners, but less direct than most Europeans (there are also huge differences from country to country, but overall I found ourselves more direct than Americans)

  5. Found this blog, wonderful read. I am a Canadian woman married to a young Frenchman who was born and raised in Paris. We are currently residing in Canada and married last July in Paris. I will also note ours is age gap relationship, I am current 47 and he is 33.

    I met my husband when he was here in Canada 5 years ago. He was in Canada through the Canada-France young professional government program.

    I can say the article is pretty much bang on. I have been courted a few times in my life, but no guy has ever courted me the way my husband did. Calls, texts, messages in a bottle, S.O.S. signals multiple times a day, several outings during the week and weekends. I never got confused if my then future husband liked me or not. haha

    Definitely wine and dine was on the agenda. I did however treat him to a live hockey game, which he loved! As for sex, you bet liberal, he was a bit confused as to why I wouldn’t have sex with him on a first ‘date’. Well, Canadian dating culture is similar to American and most women wouldn’t do that. Later in our relationship he admitted to me that because he waited to him a mind-boggling 4 dates to have sex with me he actually thought I didn’t like him. haha

    I can’t speak about all Frenchman, but with my husband after 5 years the romance, passion and calls/text/messages in a bottle still continue, like when we first met. And for the record his French accent is still music to my ears. My co-workers still call him my ‘boyfriend’ as he treats me just a wonderful today when I am his wife, as he did when we first met.

    Tammy

    • I live in Montreal and this city is full of French expats (to the point where I sometimes go out to a neighborhood restaurant and my Québécois accent is in the minority!) I don’t know where you live in Canada but many of the Frenchmen here have a perception that Quebec women are loose and try to take advantage of it! I’ve meet five frenchmen and two of them were married (and “forgot” to mention it when we met). Generally it’s been passionate (both in a good and bad way) but I’m moving to Paris soon and I am horrified at the thought that my accent might give them the impression that I am easy ( as a tourist I haven’t had any problems, but living there full time might bring up new problems!) Hopefully the ones in Paris are as charming as your husband! :)

  6. I wanted to say that this post was very interesting to me and I enjoyed reading it. I love french culture and the way they do things and how they live. Its awesome!!! Thank you for your words. May God bless you!
    Nicky

  7. I’m sooooo happy to read that. I wish There were a post for how to date a french girl, and reserved especially for canadians… I’ve been dating a guy and heard after three months : ‘Are we serious now or not?’ It was really frustrating. Thanks for your article :-)

  8. Kudus! Thanks for sharing this post. Everything you said about French men are all true in regards with dating. But there is one that I admire highly with French people… They are very family loving people. For them family is very important. This post will speak a lot about my relationship with French people.

    Merci beaucoup! :)

  9. Thank you for information it was nicely written.

  10. I have just moved to France and almost everytime I walk down the street a man will attempt to get my attention by yelling out to me or stopping me as I pass; I even had a man whistle at me tonight. I am not dressed suggestively nor would I consider myself beautiful (I am a bit overwieght). Usually I just ignore them and I always try to avert my gaze when I pass them so they don’t think I am flirting, but it is a bit disconcerning.I am just wondering if this is normal, as other girls I have talked to have not had it happen to them, and what I am expected to do about it.

  11. Great post. I’m such a francophile. I’ve got two questions:
    Do people in france call their friends by “wife” or “husband” just because?..just as a figure of speech? I came across something like that a few times, but I can’t tell whether it’s just a cultural thing or not.
    Also, can you explain a little bit about “going on a walk”?
    Thanks!

    -G

    • Mmmm… I’m not exactly sure what you mean in both case. You mean someone calling a friend (from the opposite sex? same sex? both? doesn’t matter?) their husband or their wife?
      I have never ever heard of that in France. The only time I saw that in the early days of Facebook, in the US (FB was only in the US at the time), where some college girls would joke that they were married to their best female friend (I never really got what was funny about that… or was it a not so subtle way to tell the world that they had explored homosexuality with each other? not sure).

      Concerning “going for a walk”, I know it’s a very foreign concept for Americans (seeing your IP address, I assume you’re American), but basically it consists in getting out of your house without using your car… and without a specific destination in mind… I know it sounds like science-fiction, but some people, Europeans especially, think it’s a good way to relax, enjoy life, spending time together and getting some fresh air at the same time, enjoy a scenery and much much more.

      • No, no, I understand going on walk, but I guess I’m more wondering if there is a term for “going on walk” that’s specifically refers to going out on a date, like after you’ve met them at a party or whatever else social setting and then the next step is to “go on a walk”.

    • I think you mean “cheri/cherie”. That is the equivalent of sweetheart, honey, in the USA.
      “Ca va ma cherie?”That’s something french women say to other women when they are good friends.
      A bit like the USA when they get to know you and will call you “my love, booboo…”

  12. I’m Acadian, from Canada, so I don’t know how similar we are culturally to the US when it comes to dating. I find we also speak our minds, not as much as France though, but still very direct.

    As a female I find that when a guy doesn’t call he doesn’t care, so I move on. But I find Canadian men do it to act tough, because acting like they care is somehow unmanly? I often hear (Canadian) men complain about having to pursue women, but when I pursue men they don’t like it because they feel emasculated. If I want something, I will get it.

    I also find that Canadian and, especially American men, they get their panties in a bunch over sex. Very prude and immature.

    I do wish that French men would take no for an answer though. It’s a really big turn off when I mean what I say, but I’m treated like a fickle woman playing a game.

  13. Hi, can I have your email address, to ask few questions privately.

    Best wishes,

    Thanks

    • No you can’t.
      Well, you can, but don’t expect me to answer any personal or private question.
      (and honestly you should look around the blog a bit more before posting such comments, both the contact page and the “do not ask me personal or private question” bit are not that hard to find).

      • who told you it’s a personal question? I wanted to ask generally, but forget it, you’ve got some serious issues, apparently.

        • OK, my bad, not a personal question then, just a general private question. That doesn’t nullify what I said about looking around the blog first though. Cheers. :-)

  14. Interesting article. Merci. It’s never been a dream of this foreigner to date a Frenchman, though I have dated a few. I guess I’m one of the few Americans not enthralled by Frenchmen, though I do love the French people and find the language very beautiful. (I’m fond of good men of any nationality.) I do love the gallic bluntness and passion for lively discussions, i.e. arguments. I fit right in! My French friend just let me know that he finds me very intelligent in some areas, but not in others. That’s pretty bold for a man who is trying to woo a woman he loves!

  15. David, your post is fabulous. Some of your responses to posters, brilliant! Thank you for the very informative information and the unintentional laughs. I look forward to reading your other posts.

  16. Thank you for the information! I want to know more detail on how exactly to get a french man. Do you have to wait for them to approach you? Is there any other way you can get their attention? Is there a better way to approach them?

    • I don’t think that those things are too different from one country to the other. However, maybe a French woman may be able to answer you better than I can.
      Also may I advise you to ask the question in the Ask a Frenchman Google+ community, you may find answers (the link is on the sidebar on the right).

  17. I was at an open market in the Latin Quarter many years ago when a tall, dark handsome man approached me and asked me out. As I recall, there was not a lot of small talk leading up to the invitation. Since he was a perfect stranger, I declined. He asked maybe 1-2 times more and seemed surprised that I still said no. I was not offended by his persistence but I was aware that I was alone in a foreign country and going out with a total stranger did not seem like a smart idea. Should I have gone?!?

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