When I moved to Paris a year ago from the States, I couldn’t ignore nor resist the sense of romance that permeates throughout the renowned city of love and light. Being here in my twenties, and single, it’s only natural that I seek out the full scope of Parisian living –the food, the culture, and the seduction. In just one year, I must admit I’ve never quite experienced a dating scene as I have here in France.
It’s easy to meet men or women here, but the dating rules are really different.
No getting-to-know-you stage
One of the more fascinating cultural differences between French and American dating is the complete lack of “stages.” To clarify, there’s not a lot of time devoted to getting to know the new person. Anglo-Saxons tend to “date” before entering into an intimate relationship, meaning commitment and expectations of the future are not clearly defined. It allows people to meet casually without the pressure of expressing what they want from that person right away.
In France, the actual dating time is the relationship time. When I brought this subject up with a Frenchman, he simply said, “Why complicate things?”
He said if two people desire to be together, then you continue to see the other person. If you no longer desire to see the other person, then you leave the relationship. You are either together or you’re not. Why spend time projecting expectations before experiencing a relationship?
The French are not afraid to open themselves up to emotional connections with others. Those I’ve had the pleasure of meeting seemed less guarded than Americans. Of course, everyone has a fear of rejection or hurt, but it doesn’t seem to be a factor that hinders a French man from taking the relationship to the next level. So what starts out as drinks one night can turn into a whirlwind romance before the end of the week. And just as quickly as it starts, a relationship ends.
French chivalry found in dating scene
Manners are a core part of French culture and this carries over into dating. Generally, French citizens pride themselves on their hospitality and politeness. It’s often expected to fill someone else’s water glass along with your own and attentiveness becomes second nature at a young age. You do this at dinner with friends and you do this at dinner with “un ami.” These small gestures really do make a difference when displays of thoughtfulness could mean a future partner that is attentive to another’s needs.
An example of this is when I first started dating my boyfriend. I accidentally dropped one of my sweaters on the floor, and being the “casual American,” expected to leave it there until later. On the second date, he was quick to pick it up, fold it nicely and put it aside for safekeeping. I was so thrown off at this seemingly polished and thoughtful action that I didn’t quite know how to react. I even momentarily thought it was weird and wondered if maybe he was obsessively neat. (I have later found this to not be true when I saw his room.) France has truly kept up the tradition of chivalry.
The “Quietly Confident”
Something else I really admire is the Frenchman’s ability to show strength and masculinity inadvertently and to express emotion and sensitivity freely. Many American women in their twenties can easily identify the type of man who cuddles with his muscle milk at night. This overwhelming display of the US definition of masculinity is constantly thrown in your face. Physical strength, independence, lack of outward emotion, fear of commitment, and a strong social presence are among the common aspects of American masculinity.
Although I continue to witness the somewhat stoic personal emotions in French men, they still show that they care rather than having no emotion at all. The US “indifference” can be translated into the French “emotional upset.” This isn’t necessarily a teary-eyed emotion but they let you know that seeing that other person does bother them, which really signals that they care. They aren’t afraid to own the fact they have emotional investment in you and care about you and your actions.
This sensitivity, paired along with their understated but not unnoticed social presence gives off a vibe of being quietly confident. A French man appears self-confident enough in himself and his masculinity to not feel the need to speak so loudly, or act so assertively. There is no need for tickets to the gun show or the basketball game because we feel their “strength” through the way they hold and respect themselves, as well as us.
I was surprised by the breadth of conversation you could reach with someone you had just met. I usually speak about more surface subjects with people I am becoming acquainted with, whereas in France, we would cover subjects such as our relationships with family members and friends, what our goals are for the future and our genuine perspective on our day-to-day lives.
The deep conversations first came as a surprise and I thought the person I had just met was maybe a bit dramatic or strange jumping into conversations of that depth. But it is an aspect that I now quite enjoy about French culture. You gain a better understanding of the person you’ve met and the time spent together is usually compelling. Trust is gained through the exchange. While it’s definitely more comfortable to keep your inner thoughts to yourself and stay reserved, taking the risk to open yourself up to someone has benefits, and these benefits outweigh the risk.
Conclusion: Are there stereotypes?
I would say no, but I’ve only really dated three French guys who all share similar qualities and characteristics. I believe there are quality dates and bad dates to be found in both cultures.
What’s your experience been like? I Would love to hear your thoughts and compare notes!