Date Me Like One Of Your French Girls.

by Agathe Pinard

A year ago I moved from my native lil’ Bordeaux to one of the biggest cities in the world, Los Angeles. Once settled in, it didn’t take long for me to venture on dating apps to see what this city is made of. After carefully avoiding any guy posing proudly with an American flag or, holding a gun while sporting a red hat, I finally dived into that stinky, filthy green-colored pool that is dating in Los Angeles. Even though you’d be right to assume that guys are guys anywhere on the planet, whether they are having a croissants or a burritos for breakfast, I did found some cultural differences I wasn’t quite prepared for.

Lessons on French Flirting.

Photographed by  Doug Inglish

Photographed by Doug Inglish

We have very different ways of showing to someone that we like them. When I first arrived in the U.S. and still today, I have trouble distinguishing if someone is flirting with me or if they are just being friendly. I’ve had a couple encounters when I mistakenly assumed a guy was gay when he was in fact flirting with me. It only hit me that I was being flirted with when the person tried to kiss me. More often than not those attempted kisses came out of the blue for me as I had no idea these persons had any interest in me. With a French guy it doesn’t take me more than a few minutes to understand that he is interested. I would describe it as French people being a more direct when Americans are more implicit. I feel like there is that grey area with American people where you’re not sure if you are being hit on or not, you kind of have to guess, be instinctive. On the contrary when a French person is flirting with you, you’re very unlikely to doubt they are. In France we have this expression “faire du rentre-dedans” which means seducing with ostentation, or even with abruptness. I guess you could talk about aggressive flirting? We like verbal flirting, playing with words and their meaning and being straightforward regarding our intentions, it’s a game. You’re flirting in a very obvious way and it’s fun to see the other person being destabilized by it.

Photographed by Fe Pinheiro

Photographed by Fe Pinheiro

Gettin’ ready for the first date.

This is the primary difference between French and American dates. I’ve noticed that an American girl getting ready for her date will try to put all odds and her side, putting her best makeup skills at work, highlighting, contour and even some glitter (No offense, they do look magical). An American girl will show up to a first date looking like she’s about to be cast for the next Victoria’s Secret show. I showed up to my first ever American date wearing jeans, converse, and no more make up than usual, which means mascara and foundation.

Culturally in France, you don’t arrive to your date dressed like it’s New Year’s Eve, we’re too proud to let the guy think we’d even try to look our best just for him, so we stick to the mantra ‘less is more.’ One might say we try hard to make it look like we didn’t try hard. It’s actually more about finding the right balance between ‘I’m wearing my most expensive clothes, putting on all of the makeup I own on my face and may I just find one last thing to throw on! Gosh, I hope he likes it” vs ‘This is the sweatpants I slept in, where is the beer at?’

Who’s paying?

Now after a few drinks and hopefully a good talk the barman/waiter, no question asked, hands the check directly to the guy. That’s downright offensive to me. French women are independent women or at least trying to be and someone paying for your drink can be seen as going back to when we had to rely on a man to buy something. During my first night out in LA every time a guy would ask to buy me drink I would answer: “No, I can pay for my own drink.”

American feminism is more like “I’m a pretty girl and I know my worth, the least this guy could do is buy me a drink.” In Los Angeles it seems like a standard for the guy to pay for the first drinks or the first restaurant but even after that it’s very common for them to try to pay for everything. In France the norm is equality, everyone pays for their own drink or food. We simply don’t like to feel like we owe the guy something because he got the drinks. At the beginning I was very embarrassed to let a guy pay for myself. To a French girl, it feels like the guy is trying to show his financial superiority if he doesn’t at least let you reciprocate the gesture. To be fair, that’s the one thing that wasn’t so hard to adjust to. It’s pretty easy to abandon your “I’m an independent woman” flag when you’re working two unpaid internships and a decent enough looking stranger offers you a drink.

The. Fucking. Talk. (that no one ever warned you about)

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Eventually you end up developing feelings for each other and fall into that grey area where you’re not sure that you’re in a relationship, yet you don’t feel like it’s ok for either of you to see someone else. And that’s where our two countries diverge.

In the U.S., as long as two people do not SAY they are exclusive, each of them are free to see other people, even if they’ve been seeing each other for months. If they don’t put a word on the relationship, if it’s not clearly defined, you two are not exclusive. And that’s where I’d like to thank no one because no one told me about this. In France, you don’t have to talk about it to know that at some point, after a couple months of dating, it’s definitely not ok to see someone else. You just know. After months of hanging out and just naturally shifting from solely nighttime activities and bedroom fun to seeing each other in plain daylight and meeting your respective friends. It would make sense that you’re now more than hookup buddies and are implicitly, without having to talk about it, not seeing anybody else.

As a French person, it just sounds absurd that you have to say things when all you have to do is observe. If you know how you both feel toward each other, you know it’s time to not fuck around, no talk needed.