In the United States, it can be quite obvious to know if someone is in a relationship. The typical indicators are when couples have pictures of one another on their social media accounts, they hold hands tightly as they walk down the street one cold afternoon, and they share a kiss goodnight to end their day. In Paris, though, I didn’t see many of these actions portrayed by couples as I roamed the streets. I think I touched every district in Paris and only saw roughly ten couples in the city displaying the typical indicators of relationships.
Was I missing something? Was there something about dating or love in Paris that I did not understand? I was puzzled because Paris is described as a romantic city. How come I don’t see many couples here? I had to do some investigation to understand how dating works in Paris. After some researching, I realized French dating is a different story in a totally different textbook.
During our study abroad program, we had the opportunity to hear Alexandra – Director of the CEA center in Paris – speak about cultural competency. More importantly, she spoke about the differences between French and American culture. During her lecture, a classmate asked about the dating life in Paris. Alexandra only had an allotted time to speak about cultural competency, so she offered to give an informal lecture on dating after her lecture. Finally! I was going to receive some information about how the French date one another!
To understand French dating, one needs to understand French culture. Psychoanalyst Pascal Baudry studied French and American culture. He describes French culture by comparing it to a coconut, in which the French are not as open about their lives.
Knowing this before the informal lecture on dating allowed me to fully understand how and why the French date the way they do.
Listen closely students”, Alexandra stated. With a pen handy in my hand, I was ready. She started with an important fact about emotions that Americans are guilty of. She mentioned how the French do not display many emotions. For example, smiling is a way to try and seduce someone. It is also an invitation to allow the other person get to know you. That is why it is encouraged not to smile to strangers, and you smile to lure that one person you want to get to know. Back at home, not smiling to someone actually comes off as rude, am I right?
Dating, more often than not, begins as friends. Friends go out with each other in large groups. If there is one person interested in another, they can continue to get to know each other by going out in the group. If the friends decide to go out alone, it is a general indicator that they are a couple. In America, though, one needs to verify and establish if they are in a relationship by changing their relationship status on social media, or demonstrating the typical indicators of a relationships mentioned before. When Americans date, it is something serious – especially the first date! There is much time and effort put into the first date in order for a partner to give a good first impression. At any point during the relationship one does not want to be in it anymore, they stop talking to their partner, and the partner usually understands the message. When the relationship is serious, the French do not necessarily introduce their significant other to their family. It happens when it happens. Although, this is a serious step in American culture. When one wants to marry the other, they do not emphasis engagements. The girl does not get an engagement ring, and she actually gets the ring on her wedding day.
French dating, as described by Alexandra, is mysterious. French dating doesn’t consist of obvious indicators that the couple is in a relationship. Things are more implied while dating. So, if you are interested dating a Frenchie, be attentive to any clues the person might give. If you are really interested, shoot them a smile, and wait for them to smile back.