27 August 2013

So You Want To Date A Frenchman...

Good heavens. I've read so many articles about this subject that were over-the-top sexist - all in the name of culture. People seem to be fascinated by the idea of a European lover, as if foreign men knew something the Yankee boys back home were unaware of. Let's get down to the truth of the matter.

There are wonderful men, as well as complete jerks, in every single country.

I'm completely aware of culture differences while dating. But if a guy is mistreating or disrespecting you, it's not a "culture difference" that needs to be tolerated. Dump him and find someone better.

A guy who acts like a tool, is still a tool, even if he has a pretty accent. 

However, if you would like to learn how to date a complete idiot while abroad, this is a pretty good guide. Please be aware that absolutely none of it is true, and if you're dating a Frenchman who considers that acceptable behavior, you should run - fast!

So how should you really go about, looking for a French love?



1. Be aware that a kiss might not be just a kiss.
This is an area that's often prone to misinterpretation between the French and American cultures. Monsieur Right and I were in a serious relationship for two weeks before I sat him down to have "the talk." He was pretty shocked, because we'd already kissed, so obviously we were a couple. Why would we need to discuss it?

Later discussions with French girl friends have confirmed this cultural nuance. Unless it was a drunken hook-up, you need to be clear with the person straight away if you don't want it to turn in a relationship. Otherwise, he might end up calling you "Chérie" before you're even aware that he was interested in a dating someone. Several girls who studied abroad with me learned this one the hard way.

Physical demonstrations of affection often carry different meanings in different cultures. Make sure that both of you are on the same page, even if talking about it out loud seems awkward. It's just respectful.

2. "Dating" is not really a thing here.
People tend to go out with groups of friends and relationships just sort of form from that. By the time you go on an actual date, that's more than just drinks, the person you're "talking with" is probably hoping things will become official soon, or assuming that they already are.

When I explained the dating concept to one of my guy friends here, he was like, "Oh, so you have many boyfriends all at once, and you're loyal to none of them?" Yeah... The idea just doesn't translate well.

3. Be discreet when you flirt.
If you're unaware of how your words or actions might be interpreted by someone from another culture, your best bet is to play it on the safe side. Be discreet and observant until you've had enough time to figure out how the people around you might read into things.

One of my sweetest American friends who was living here, was terrifically bubbly and flirty. In America, she would have been the life of the party. Here? She was known as a heart breaker, and that reputation really bothered her. Guys built up a lot of false hope, because they thought that her actions meant she wanted to be in a relationship. She thought she was just being polite and friendly.

4. Hang out with actual French people.
If you spend all your time around other Americans, or came here as a foreign exchange student, but never got out of that isolated, foreign social bubble, then you will probably not date any of the locals. Sorry, that's just how it goes.

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Also, if things don't work out between you and a guy because of cultural reasons, you're not really missing out on anything. If a man isn't open minded enough at the beginning of a relationship to accept cultural misunderstandings and tolerate your foreign mishaps/frustrations, things certainly aren't going to get better with time. Cut your losses now.

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