Disclaimers: This article was written quite a while ago (it was first published in the mid-2000s if I remember clearly), I’ve been married for a few years now (and as such I haven’t been dating for even longer) and I don’t even live in France anymore. In other words, some of the information below may not totally be up-to-date and accurate nowadays. Read and use at your own risk!
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?
Everything in our lives is influenced by our cultures. Everything!
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 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 word, 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 of 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.
Update & Warning: the following paragraphs have been written more than a decade ago. The “rules of consent” have also been changing in France, recently, and that’s a good thing. Nowadays, “no” tends to mean “no” more and more, and that’s a good thing.
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.
The 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 afterward 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 on 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 it 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 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 afterward 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.
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