"Dating" in France for the American Celibataire

For the American Célibataire in France
When you think of the French, you think of “l’amour”… The Eiffel Tower by night, small countryside bed and breakfasts with picturesque views, perfect for two people to cozy up…

If you’re a single woman getting ready to embark on a journey to France, you may be asking yourself, “How does dating work in France?” and “How will I meet men?” Well, the first thing to know is that dating actually does not exist in France. WHAAAAT?! That’s right! The concept of specifically setting a time to go to dinner and have a question and answer session with a semi-stranger/potential love-interest to see if there are any sparks, is not français at all. If you ask a French person about dating, they will actually look at you with confusion. But, is that such a bad thing?

We’ve all been set up on blind dates by well-intentioned quasi match-makers before. We’ve felt that nervous awkwardness, uncomfortable silence and “Help! Get me out of this!” feeling. In France, romance tends to occur more organically and naturally.

Meeting Organically & Naturally…

One way single people meet is at dinner parties. Formal or casual, pre-planned or last-minute, no matter! The important thing is getting a group of new and old friends together in the same home (and asking them to bring friends, too) and then working the room. French woman have figured out that this is a perfect context for seduction! You can chat with one guy to see what he’s like, while others size you up and find the courage and opportunity to go and talk to you. It takes the awkwardness out of the equation, and replaces it with excitement and oh la-la!

Though dating websites are popping up in France, most women still meet men while offline—at bistros, museums, art galleries, social groups & clubs, bars, through friends, etc. Instead of going out on several “dates” as is typical in the US upon meeting someone, first encounters between two people who are interested in becoming romantically involved are usually far more casual: walks in the afternoon/evening, which may be followed by an informal drink at a café, a quick bite to eat at lunchtime, etc.

Walking around the neighborhood is another wonderful way women meet men in France. If you visit shops and stores, go to a museum or sit down at a café with a good book or your journal, men will notice you’re alone and strike up conversations. You can engage, or politely decline depending on how the suitor tickles your fancy.

Natural can be confusing…

To an American woman, this may all seem like it can cause confusion and blur the line between friendship and romantic interest. But rest assured, if you are flirtatious and sending “come hither” signals, most Frenchman will act on them and the relationship can blossom (or not) from there. If you’re only interested in friendship and the Frenchman makes advances, he will be confused if you accept a one-on-one invitation with him again, and he may try to seduce you encore.

Here are a more few tips and guidelines to help you with amour a la francaise:

  1. The “blind date” is pretty much inexistent in France as a whole. It might be growing a bit in large cities like Paris, but even there, most French people have only seen in les films americains.

  2. In France, if a man expresses he is interested in a woman, and asks her to go out for coffee ,for example, her “non” doesn’t necessarily mean “no”. Frenchmen are used to Frenchwomen playing hard to get, and will often ask several times. If your “no” really means “NO! PERIOD, ” try not to get annoyed or angry. Simply refuse politely and firmly. Every time. Unless, of course, he grows on you and you end up wanting to say “yes”!

  3. Since dates don’t really exist as such in France, there aren’t any rules to get hung up on, which means anything goes. So, try to enjoy yourself and just focus on whether you have a good time or not.

  4. In the US, there are a lot of theories on waiting a certain amount of time after a date before calling a woman back. A lot of times a woman can lose interest in a man if he calls her too much. In France, this is the opposite. If you have met a guy and gone out with him, the fact that he’s calling/texting/emailing a lot means he cares about you and is genuinely interested.

  5. Be honest and upfront and ditch that fear of being offensive. If you’ve been seeing a man and are no longer interested, just let him know and be on your way.

  6. Kissing someone in a bar and then never seeing them again is quite typical in the US. In France, however (though this does occur sometimes), when you kiss someone on the mouth, it communicates that you want to be in a relationship with them, and you are considered to be their girlfriend after it happens. The relationship can be very short or long, but either way, it’s considered to be a relationship. This also applies to becoming intimate with someone. There are no taboos about doing so early on…it happens quite frequently. Know that the same “now we are a couple” rule applies here, too.

We know that situations and people vary, so consider these to be used simply as guidelines. Most importantly, just go with the natural flow of things, keep an open mind, and have fun with this more organic and subtle form of discovery and amour!

For more articles like this, and a FREE audio "Cracking the Frenchie Code", visit www.americanwomanalafrancaise.com

Very happily married now but when I was a single widower (of a certain age but totally honest with my photo and details) I found that French women on websites usually used a pic way out of date and gave false ages. Another factor was that most women of a certain age were looking for younger guys. English women were more honest in general. I was looking for somebody a little younger than me but the way things turned out I infact met somebody 39 years younger than me and we have been together four years now and have a lovely three year old daughter! Life often has surprises in store!

I was newly divorced when I first came to France - and once I'd settled in, did do quite a bit of dating. The only disaster (total and utter!) was the sole Englishman. Unlike Eyenie, I did find that it did generally follow the classical dating pattern - dinner, cinema, drinks, etc. It may have helped that I came here with young children - a surefire way of meeting people, then meeting their friends ;) - and that I was in a big city. I think it must be completely different trying to be a bright young gadabout when you live in the middle of a field with just the odd chap in a blue all in one on a tractor in the offing.

I found Frenchman far more forthright than their Anglophone counterparts- you definitely know when they are interested, - and on the whole not coy about being romantic (unlike your average Englishman). Huge generalisations, but true in my experience. I also found married men to be quite unabashed about less than honourable intentions!

I'm now happily married to a Frenchman and have swopped kitten heels for ballerinas and Gerard Darel for Super U....

Oh - and Colin, it's not just for blokes! ;-)

Cheer's Roger, I will check it out to see what they offer and if available here in Bretagne.

Colin - I use AMIEZ.ORG, which is like an on-line social club .... the idea is to kill two birds (no, not women) with one stone. 1) it forces me to speak more French and 2) whenever I fancy, there are people to play pool/10-pin bowling etc with.

It's just as difficult for us blokes, it seems that a lot of French women don't wear a wedding ring, which was always the first thing you look for. I was a member of a singles club in UK once, does that sort of thing exist here ? Answers on a postcard please.

I've just recently become single again after a 7 year relationship with a Frenchman. We met through a local event in the local village so no fancy internet service there. I was actually dating one of his friends who i'd met whilst serving at teh village fete just after i had arrived.

However, here I am living in the countryside, thinking to myself - how the hell am i ever going to meet anyone ever again. I dated the only two decent guys in my last village and have now moved!! New village doesn't seem quite so rich in talent. You know that totally despondent feeling that in books is swiftly followed by a handsome stranger riding into your town who just happens to be single and wants YOU! - as per Eyenie's comment earlier!

Let reality kick in and realise that yeah right....never has before so why would it now and even if he did I'd never meet him anyway as I don't go anyway except to work and you really wouldn't want to be picked up by the type of guys who prowl the local bars round here!!

I have managed to let my circle of friends diminish over the past couple of years due to starting a business primarily and being just too busy and being embarrassed by my ex's excessive drinking at any and all social occasions. So who is going to invite me to dinner to meet him?

I tried hooking into an internet dating site and have been inundated with messages from guys all over the Aquitaine - the dude with two photos on his profile page holding an enormous fish is my favourite so far...who is he trying to attract?...and then there are those who are slumped in front of a web cam with a fag hanging from their finger tips...or the 25 yr olds, what are they doing>?? my son is 18 yrs old and is closer in age?

I have found the whole experience quite overwhelming and hysterical at times...god knows what I am doing it for as they all seem to live miles and miles away...I suppose that I'll have to try and find the probably complicated method of extracting myself from their site as way too many 'coucou's are being sent - is that strange to want to complain about a positive response on one of these sites - don't know but it just doesn't feel right!

...am reading way too many books though!

I was confused before. Now I think I'll give up. Unless anyone fancies a drink!..... :-)

He's not that handsome - he's just good at self-portraits...!

Oh good grief! Are men worth it? Most women I have ever known will say 'No' and given the way most of us disabuse women one way or another I think I would agree. By the way Eyenie, most of us are not (that) handsome, so the chances of one of that ilk becoming available ain't that high, and Jamrs Higginson is taken anyway. Better get outta here whilst I have a chance, but it was entertaining reading.

@ Natalie - give it another few months and you might look at him differently.....and think "there is a man who can....oh never mind, there is a man"!!!!!!!


Can identify with your comments Natalie. Probably very different in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon or Marseilles, but here out in the sticks very different story. Just being single is suspicious....is he after my wife? Maybe he's gay?! Small communities the world over I guess are the same....even if one leads a blameless life they will make it up. Not the same subject exactly, but I laboured for days/weeks emptying a room of rubble it had been filled in with not aware I was being observed. Went down to the bar one day and the bar lady said she had heard I had found treasure! Everyone was agog to know what is was! LOL....Catherine...a sister site...Lonely ex.pat.com!

I agree with Catharine--NEVER GIVE UP! :) You never know...a handsome stranger might move near or around you in the near future and shake up your world, Natalie! Stranger things have happened! As long as you're happy with your business, lovely daughter, and friends the rest are bonuses, right? ;)

And Beverley--that's so cool!!! Congratulations!

you totally get where I am coming from Catherine...and he isn't even that hot!

Aw don't give up Natalie (and anyone else for that matter) - love comes along when you least expect it! But...I do get that it can be difficult if the only 'hot totty' is the old boy in Gamme Vert buying more string to hold his trousers up....

subject close to my heart, as I sit alone....night after night - don't think it is that clear or easy when you are in a very rural small village in the compagne. Tried dating locals, internet and have been practically lip assaulted by a few marrieds in the village, assuming that as I am American and single, that I must be game for whatever and need a "body" to warm me up at night - I am just residing myself to be as happy as I can be alone, running my B&B and raising my daughter - and on the side, hanging out with a few great friends! maybe some day, but I don't think it'll be today!

Hmmm...Carolyn. That Internet story sounds familiar....in fact it's moi! From San Diego to Toulouse in under two years....thanks to match.com!

Hi Timothy,

Don't despair, so many French women (like me) love English men. Eyenie, I've been on websites such as okcupid and meetic, eharmony in the UK for a few months and I'm sick of it. Online dating has worked for me in the past but I don't think it's for me anymore (very time consuming). So I've resumed going out, mainly business networking I must say, but it's working wonders, as I'm meeting men of the same social circle as me with similar interests and values. It doesn't surprise me, in the past, I met boyfriends through work and friends.

I'm French and this is all very true. Being on the dating scene in London, I had almost forgotten some key French elements, thanks for reminding me. I've been in London for 15 years and much prefer the French way.