Photo: Ralph Unden/via Flickr
French men are known for their smoldering good looks and great romance, and in Paris it’s easy to fall in love 10 times a day: he might be sipping a café noir in St.-Germain-des-Prés, ambling through the Jardin des Plantes or reading Sartre on the metro. But for an expat or visitor to Paris, dating French men can be an entirely different experience, challenging the tactics you’ve spent years perfecting. So before you allow yourself to be swept into a sea of je t’aime‘s, here are a few things you should expect.
Don’t be surprised if a French man pushes for monogamy early. While British men are renowned for their aloof nature, and the Americans are juggling girlfriends, French men can come across as extremely keen. Expect next-day contact and a date within the first 48 hours. By the time a British man would have taken you out for dinner, you could have been on a minibreak with your French boyfriend, and met his mother. That muddy period when you’re not sure how serious he is will be rapidly cleared up after you’ve been dating a French man for a week, by which time he’ll have begun referring to you as his girlfriend. Essentially, an entire chapter of confusing mind games will be completely bypassed.
Do keep your mobile turned on. French men phone regularly, and there should be one call for every day that he doesn’t see you. French women go by the mantra that if there isn’t daily contact, he’s just not interested.
Do expect a French man to turn up late. This is something that also translates to the workplace, so preparation is key: your best bet is to aim to be 10 minutes late yourself, or to bring your iPod.
Do prepare to be wooed. Whereas my previous idea of romance was receiving a cup of tea without asking, the French are much more forward and are famed for their skills at beautifully crafted declarations of love, vast bouquets, moonlight walks and spontaneous romantic evenings.
Do get ready to hear “Je t’aime.” As French men are fast moving in relationships, you could be dating one for only a few weeks before you hear these magical words. And after they’ve been said once, expect to hear them several times a day.
Do be aware of the rumors: a notorious stereotype of the French is that they cheat, despite a relationship tag early on. Of course, this characteristic is by no means applicable to every French man, but both sexes have confessed that because of their suspicions that their partner has cheated or will cheat, there can be a scramble to do so first.
Don’t expect a French man, particularly a Parisian, to be able to do any household tasks unsupervised. This domestic ineptness originates in the home: their mothers would have always done these tasks for them, and it doesn’t help that many French men don’t leave home until their midtwenties. Given the French woman’s flair for cookery, the males perhaps feel there is no need to bother learning, as this role will soon be taken over by the new woman in their lives. So cooking something more advanced than spaghetti with ketchup and mayonnaise may be a little beyond them.
Don’t think you’ll get a word in edgewise. French men like to talk. They particularly like to instruct whoever is listening on areas in which they believe they can exercise expertise: food, wine or indeed anything about France. They’re also genuinely surprised if you don’t know specific details about France, such as when Fillon was elected, or Delanoë’s favorite color. This stems back to the unparalleled pride that the French have about their country. They truly believe that everyone should speak French and that France is the best nation in the world, and they can’t believe that anyone would think otherwise.
By this same logic, do get ready to nod and smile, as French men are always right. Or at least they like to think so. Even when they’re quite clearly wrong, they’ll still argue their side of the argument to the death.
Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff. If there’s a language barrier, you soon realize how petty it is to pick small arguments because of the length of time it would take to explain what was wrong. And making the effort to put it into different words just makes the problem seem much less important.
So there you have it. Time to throw on your heels, say bien sûr to dating French men and prepare to be carried away in a whirlwind of romance. The City of Love wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kate Ross is a London-born freelance journalist and former resident of Jakarta who came to Paris to intern at the International Herald Tribune. She now spends her days writing gig reviews, embracing her inner bobo and blogging about it all.