Navigating love in Paris: the problem with French men

Beth Peters - 29.04.2013
I’ve been thinking of Valentine’s Day today, and thankfully, we’re still several months away from the most depressing of days. But I’ve just had an argument with the British boy I’m seeing, and it’s got me thinking about Paris, France and the French approach to love.

You see, I like British men. I find them funny, sweet, charming, and genuine. But, what they really, really lack (according to me) is emotional sensitivity.

I like the British guy I’m seeing, and I want it to work out. But, sometimes he behaves in a certain way (or rather doesn’t behave in a certain way) and I just think, “wouldn’t it be nice to go out with a French man”.

Because the French, they’ve got the love thing sorted, right?

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Yes, my French boyfriend would probably be skinnier than me, spend more time in the bathroom, and insist on wearing a silk scarf to all social occasions, but at least he’d be able to say « je t’aime ». Even if he didn’t mean it.

A stereotype, I know. But when talking about France and love, it seems difficult to avoid them.

I’m not even going to try to launch right in with the stereotype that all French men are unfaithful. Obviously, not all French men are unfaithful. Although, according to my good French male friend, all men are unfaithful at some point. Not really fighting the stereotype there.

Then there’s my neighbour, who I’m sure has at least three girlfriends. I can tell because he speaks different languages with them and, unfortunately, the wall between my bedroom and his living room is so thin that I can even hear him dock his iPhone.

Then there’s the food. Tiny, candlelit restaurants on every corner serving rich sauces washed down with a full-bodied red wine. And oysters! I can barely look at them they seem so disgusting to me, but aren’t they supposed to be an aphrodisiac? Unsurprisingly, the French love them. The saucy little beggars.

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I even found a crisp in the shape of a heart the other day. Is there no stopping the French person’s quest for la grande amour? By the way, I sent a picture of the heart-shaped crisp to my British boy. His only comment was to ask what flavour it was. Sigh.

What about the language? The pronunciation of the words that make you pout the lips a little in a sensual way. « Oui monsieur, je prends un burger ». Watch someone saying that in French. I guarantee you’ll find it a little bit romantic.

Above all things, Paris says love. With its twinkling lights and beautiful sites (sorry about the rhyme), it is the most visited place in the world. And from the cacophony of kissing noises on the metro at weekends, one can assume it’s mainly couples who are visiting.

So, what do I do about my British boy? My (imaginary) French boyfriend would no doubt buy me roses and write a love poem to make up for our argument (albeit while texting another girl.) My British boy won’t give me that. But, at least he doesn’t wear silk scarves. There are pros and cons for everything, right?

Image Credits
1. Romance in Paris, via
2-3. Beth Peters

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Beth Peters

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  1. sega10028 Oct 15, 2012 at 7:30 PM - Reply

    Don’t get me started! I am American with a French boyfriend who fits many French stereotypes with the exceptions of the ones related to romance! He’s better dressed than I am, I borrow his eye cream on occasion, and he loves to say “C’est pas ma faut!” when I say something (even unrelated to him) is not working. But flowers? I got plastic ones once for a gift, and got muguet on May 1 because his mother forced him. That said, he approached intimacy differently than most American men — telling me he loved me quickly, offering for me to live with him (rather than me go back to the US) after we’d been dating just a short time. So overall, it’s been a challenge but a worthwhile one.

  2. francois roland Oct 20, 2012 at 2:04 AM - Reply

    Hi Beth,

    The stereotypes are often nothing else than some itemizations of cultural differences. So if I can take a case in hand in what you say, we could speak of the faithfulness issue. I often sensed that the concept is a sort of absolute for Anglo-Saxon people, or you are faithful (i.e you don’t have sex with anyone else) or you don’t, and period! 🙂 In short it results in a kind of binary vision of the man/woman relation.
    We French don’t go for such black or white splitting, usually. Does it mean that we can’t be entirely faithful? No it doesn’t! we really can. But my hunch is that Frenchmen are probably like me and feel like being totally faithful only when they’re experiencing Love with a capital L. But doesn’t it make sense? If I believe my own experience, the only moment when you’re fully satiated is when you’re totally in love. You don’t need anything more in these blessed moments!
    But you’ll agree with me that such moments of really being in love when that feeling is fully shared, are pretty rare in life. And it’s in those moments that you’ll see showing up what I call “the French shades of grey”. In all these men/women relations that can be very nice but are not the real Love, French go with the shades of grey, or with the undefined if you prefer. They take whatever a nice path of life has to offer between a man and a woman, but they don’t codify it and they don’t try to plan it. They’ll take whatever nice “balade à deux” is offered, not wanting to anticipate where it goes exactly and perfectly knowing it’s not a bond for life. In which case you’ll admit that faithfulness doesn’t make the same sense.

    But French or not, what you say is pointing on another question: And it’s that same old misunderstanding between men and women. Men often want more sex and women are in demand of more romance. So how to avoid that (French or not) some smart guys are conceding some “je t’aime” at propitious moments, when they feel like having some urgent access under your skirt! 🙂

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