Yo! Alert! This is Part II of “What I wish I knew before dating a Frenchie.” Check out Part I here first if you are shamelessly behind schedule.
I again had the opportunity to partner up with my fabulous New Zealand Pal Rosie to make a video for Part II. Rosie has an amazing Youtube Channel, Not Even French, about her life as a Kiwi in Paris. Don’t be a fool, go see her channel after you watch the video and read the article!
You all know by now that I’ve had my fair share of experience with French men. While I continually thank the gods above for producing a species of men that I adore oh so very much, there are more than a few things I wish I would have known before jumping head first into relationships with them.
“Hear the drum pounding out of time, Another protester has crossed the line”
Before studying abroad in France, my knowledge of American stereotypes was literally a negative 10. Even though, I was pretty close to a walking American stereotype for so many things, I was completely oblivious to the image I was giving off about the good ol’ USA. One of the main stereotypes I heard when traveling abroad, was that American’s don’t care about anyone, but themselves. I find that to be a litttttle bit of an exaggeration, but I do see where they are coming from. I find that while a majority of Americans are aware and concerned with what is going on in the USA, they have way less knowledge about international politics. I have many hypotheses as to why that is, but for now let’s focus on the fact that when dating a Frenchie or let’s just go ahead and generalize this more, when living abroad, this is a big no no.
Your political opinion is of interest to everyone, especially during heightened times like the most recent presidential elections. The French may be known to be uber conservative about money related queries; but political inquires know no boundaries. Be ready with your quick fire responses about Donald Trump for co-workers, friends, neighbors and even your corner Carrefour Market cashier. People generally want to know how you, as an American, interpret your countries actions both domestically and internationally. More often than not, these discussions become très lengthy, so grab a beer and form an opinion that’s more than just a one-liner to add to the discussion.
Tip – If you’re not up to speed on what’s going on, don’t fret! I’m a huge fan of listening to news podcasts while I get ready in the morning. Just give yourself a week or two to catch up and don’t hesitate to research things when you don’t know the backstory. A quick article in the metro can make a lengthy bar discussion about how much Merkel and Macron adore one another, exponentially more entertaining 🙂
“We are familyyyyy, I got all my sisters with me!”
French family dynamics is actually one of my most favorite top 10, “I wish I would have known before” things. It’s pretty hard to find a negative side to putting family first… unless you count the number of times I need to run out and grab something on a Sunday and nothing, but the emergency pharmacy a good 30 minutes away, is open. Sunday is really a dedicated family day in France. It’s not supposed to be a day of shopping and consuming like in the land of freedom and 24h convenience stores. Let’s not exaggerate though, I live in Paris so many things are still open on a Sunday. But, try living in a small town in France. Not only is everything closed on Sunday, nothing actually reopens until 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday. Forgot to buy groceries Saturday night and have nothing to eat for the weekend? I hope you have friends nearby to feed you because even the town McDonalds is closed.
I haven’t yet reached billionaire status, so I don’t hop on my private plane and jet across Atlantic to spend Sundays with my family. Therefore, we spend a lot of our Sunday’s with Robin’s parents, grandparents and siblings. I am very lucky because not only do I genuinely enjoy Robin’s family, but Sundays in France come with the famous four hour lunch. All you American’s living in France know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t, these lunches usually consist of copious amounts of homemade food, warm baguettes, sugary pastries and delicious cheese. It’s quite possibly a form of heaven on earth. Now if you are currently dating a Frenchie and you have a monster in law that rules your Sunday family days, have no fear. The four-hour lunch also comes with something else that will soften the blow of her company. Wine. And more often than not, Champagne. I hate to say that not enjoying your in laws is probably just a life experience rather than a cultural one abroad, but cheers to focusing on the positive side of things 😉
“He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, He loves me not”
If the #1 American stereotype is our love for ourselves, the #1 French stereotype has got to be their ability as lovers. Now this extends outside the bedroom, I’m talking about romantic walks along the Seine, sipping wine in small cafes next Musée D’Orsay, whispering sweet nothings in your ear as you jet around the city on the back of his Vespa and pledging his undying love after 3 weeks. If your goal is to find a French man who does all of these things, you, statistically speaking, probably have a chance. Walking along the Seine together and tucking yourself into little cafes for a glass of wine is a regular weekend past time for most couples and friends in Paris. Half the city seems to own a Vespa so that one can’t be too difficult to find. And some relationships move faster than others, so saying I love you underneath the Eiffel tower after 3 weeks….Why not!
But, this is not the average French man. It’s not the “norm” to have a guy in France saying he loves you shockingly early in the relationship. What is commonly accepted in France, is that you meet someone at a party and you hit it off. You end up kissing and exchanging numbers. You text a bit, you go for dinner the next week and you sober kiss again. 95% chance he will start calling you his girlfriend. And 100% chance he will assume that you are exclusive. There is usually no “asking to be someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend” like in the US. It’s just a common assumption once you have done a few key things. There are obviously exceptions to all rules. If you meet the playboy of all playboys on a fun night out, exclusivity might not be something you should assume. But I trust you to use your #1 weapon, women’s intuition, when that happens. Just keep in mind that all relationships, not matter where the two people come from, move at their own pace. So my words of wisdom are don’t stress and reach for a cocktail if you’re not moving at the speed of light that you assumed French men would move at. Your pace is the right one for you and when you do finally hear the words “Je t’aime,” it won’t matter if its been 1 month or 1 year, you’ll melt like a perfect chocolate fondant anyways.
“Can we get some privacy? I don’t know why, And what it is you’re tryin’ to deny”
Privacy is something I have noticed in all the French men I’ve dated. Now, I know, I know, I’m writing a blog and sharing things that some people absolutely consider to be intimate details. And at the same time, I can see posts on social media where I’m shocked and partially impressed by someone’s ability to share certain details with the world wide web. So I am conscious when writing this, that the personal spectrum of privacy is really personal and varied.
With that being said, I’ve found that French men strongly reserve their right to privacy whatever that may be on their own spectrum. I can think of numerous personal examples during my nine years in France where the right to privacy was a lengthy discussion related to sharing photos or announcing important upcoming events on social media. But even the French as whole are a society that gives a certain respect to privacy. Just look at the French reaction to any of their President’s extramarital affairs. Or should I say lack of reaction. For the French, a private matter should have the right to stay a private matter. They genuinely find it bewildering that the US as a whole could feel so differently about similar types of situations.
As recent newlyweds, getting our wedding photos back was so enjoyable and I was particularly sensitive to Robin’s complete refusal to share any of them of social media. We obviously came up with a solution that worked for both of us in the end, but these type of situations can be really challenging. I don’t have the perfect answers for how to work through it, but what I have come to understand is that it’s not something personal against me. If you are just starting to date a Frenchie and they aren’t shouting from every corner of the web how luck they are to have met you, or you’ve been together for 5 years and you’ve got a maximum of 5 photos together on Facebook, stay calm. It’s no big deal. It’s just French privacy that came knocking on your door.
“I wouldn’t mind moving in, I wouldn’t mind staying awhile”
I would personally consider moving in together to be a big step. I always thought that most couples move in together because they just got married, or because they were testing the waters before getting married. In any case, moving in together and marriage seemed to go hand in hand to me. So I always thought the day that someone would ask me to move in together would be somewhat romantic. I’m not talking engagement romantic here, but I don’t know, a little dinner or something? That was the good old days. The days before I met rent prices in Paris.
My experience in France, especially couples living in bigger cities, is that this decision quickly becomes a practical one. You’ve met the French man of your dreams, you’re in that honeymoon period where you spend so much time together, the rent of two apartments seems ridiculously absurd (it is btw) so, voila! Decision made. You move in with your Frenchie. Whether it’s a practical decision or not, it can of course still be a big deal. Especially when you consider the size of apartments in Paris. You are committing to living together in something the size of a college dorm room. So this could be monumental in more ways than one.
I would just suggest keeping in mind that to the French, living together is more often than not, a normal step in a relationship, but doesn’t signify that the couple has long-term future plans. It obviously shows a certain amount of commitment for the time being, but nothing as monumental as we can picture in the US. So don’t take it the wrong way if your Frenchie asks if you want to move in while he’s brushing his teeth one morning and trust me, you don’t have a stalker on your hands if they ask your thoughts about living together after just a couple months. But be warned, buying property together is often considered a bigger commitment to the French than getting married. So if someone asks you to invest together in a place after 2 weeks, this may be the right time to make a batch of sangria, invite some friends over and analyze why you always happen to attract the crazy ones.