A Girl's Survival Guide: Dating in France

Credit: Joanna Kitchener
What's more romantic than falling in love in the city of love? Almost every girl that goes studying abroad dreams about falling in love in Paris, even I went through that phase. But before you venture out into the world of dating French men there's a couple things you must know.

Before I continue I would like to point out that I didn't date a French guy during my time abroad, but some of my friends and people in my program did. I also studied the French dating customs prior to going abroad, why? Because I had the fantasy of meeting a French guy. After watching one too many Louis Garrell films you start dreaming about your own French guy, admit it. Another reason why I began studying them was so I could avoid making a silly mistake and accidentally give a guy the wrong idea. Yeah, dating in France is quite different from dating in the States and I'm sure those of you that have dated a French guy can agree.

Here's dating in France 101!

The Definition of Dating
In the United States dating is not seen as a huge deal and is considered sort of like a "trial relationship." If you don't like the person there really isn't anything that would prevent you to just move on to the next guy. Affection such as kissing or hugging is completely normal and not considered a big deal. The reason why dating does not equal exclusivity right off the bat is because when one dates they're trying to get to know the other person better. This is the time to find out what you like and don't like in a partner.

Dating customs in France are very different. First of all dating multiple people is not a thing. It's also not too common for two people to go out alone in France. Even a simple coffee outing can be interpreted as something more serious. Yes, if a guy asks you out for coffee chances that's a "big deal" type of date for them. The French consider informal dates such as coffee or lunch a lot more serious than Americans.

As I previously mentioned, in the American style of dating kissing or hugging is completely acceptable and normal. This is certainly not the case in France. As soon as you kiss someone he will assume that things are serious and that you are exclusive. The French don't have the "let's become exclusive" talk, they just assume things are. That being said, be careful of who you kiss! One kiss can lead to a whole lot of drama if you kiss the wrong guy. I remember that was the case for a friend of mine. She kissed the French guy she was crushing on when she was drunk. I swear only 10 minutes went by before the guy started telling everyone that my friend was "the love of his life." After that night he thought that they were officially a couple which was certainly not the case and getting him to stop pursuing her was quite a task.

If affection translates to exclusivity, then don't even think about having sex with someone unless you plan to being in a relationship. Here's another thing, the French already have a stereotype that American girls are easy so don't prove the stereotype right! Just like there are guys looking to hook up in the U.S., there are sleazy French guys looking to have one night stands too. Please don't fall for the French players and their manipulative ways.

I can recall seeing these types of guys at the Eiffel Tower a lot. It would usually be like 3 sleazy French guys and 3 American girls. It was pretty obvious what the guys motives were judging by their body language. The girls were into them and they weren't. They would serve the girls more and more wine but they wouldn't drink nearly as much. While I don't know exactly what happened after, it was pretty clear that they were getting them drunk on purpose.

What to do
This will certainly not be an easy task but if you find yourself in a sticky situation with a French guy, then you have to build up the courage to tell them about the cultural differences when it comes to dating. The talk could be interpreted the wrong way and could even scare the guy away, but if you're uncomfortable then it's something that must be done. Try to be gentle and calm when bringing the topic up. Tell him that things are moving too fast and you're not ready to be exclusive. Explain how you would like to get to know him before things become exclusive which is the complete opposite to what he'll be used to. The French get to know their significant other once things are exclusive.

Also as an American don't be disrespectful of their culture. If you normally enjoy being affectionate when you're in the dating stage, then you'll have to restrain yourself. Be aware of the cultural differences and respect them. It's a two way street here. He needs to understand that you're not ready to be exclusive, and you need to understand that kissing is an act that an exclusive couple does.

I remember prior to going to France I was talking to a French guy. We would exchange messages on Facebook until one day he caught me off guard. He started referring to me as "my love" even before we met in person! I'm not one to keep quiet so I gave him the cultural differences talk right away. He wasn't too happy about it and started advising me to "take more risks." He also told me to open my heart and how cold I was which didn't sit too well with me which leads to the next topic, rejection.

Even if I wasn't in a relationship I had to act as if I was and "break up" with the guy. Let me be honest and tell you it wasn't easy. Sometimes ignoring the guy just doesn't cut it. When a French guy is in love, sometimes he can become quite obsessed with you. I had ignored him for a couple of weeks and then once I was in France he began messaging me uncontrollably, to the point that I got freaked out and blocked him. Blocking wasn't enough though, he began messaging me from his friend's account. It was ridiculous! I had to block his friend too and after a couple of months he finally stopped trying to contact me.

I know a girl in my exchange program also had quite a lot of trouble breaking up with her French boyfriend. She gave him the "break up" talk 3 times before he finally understood that things were really not going to work out. If he doesn't understand that you two are done just stop seeing him all together. It seems like being friends with your ex when he's really in love won't be an option here.

While I don't have the best advice for this department, if he's really not understanding then this is your time to be frank with him. Another tip would be to just ignore him. Ignore the text messages, calls, and maybe even block him from Facebook. Do whatever to cut off communication so both you and him can move on.

The Good
I feel like I've been giving a lot of advice pertaining to the bad things about French men, but they're not bad people at all. My male French friends are some of the best people you'll ever meet so I'm not trying to talk bad about French men, but you need to understand the cultural differences before you decide if you want to date a French guy. If you do decide to date a French guy then expect to hear "je t'aime" early on in the relationship. The stereotype that French men are more romantic seem to be true so prepare for a lot of swooning. After you get past the cultural differences then the relationship should be very comfortable and fun.

LGBT Dating
I can't give much advice here since I'm straight so I'll just be speaking about my observations. Seems like it was a lot easier for guys to meet other guys in Paris because of all the gay bars. As far for girls, it seems like its tougher to meet other girls. I remember talking to an American girl at a party about this topic. She said that she hadn't had any luck during her semester in Paris. Gay bars are mostly filled with gay men and that there wasn't too many lesbian places. She also commented on how French women are very tough to get to know. I wish I could help you more about this but unfortunately I don't have more information about this. If you're more knowledgeable about gay/lesbian dating in France then please leave your advice in the comments below!

Falling in love in Paris is no easy task but hopefully this blog post will make things a lot easier for you. As long as you're aware of the different dating customs and have good intentions, then things should go great for you. You never know, you might find your French love while you go abroad! Or at least a very good friend.

For more information:
The Do's and Don'ts of Dating French Men
How to Date a French Man written by a French man
Dating Customs written by an American girl living in France
Dating the French written by another American girl living in France

Hope this helped and if you have any more tips please feel free to leave them below.
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