Parisian Living

“Le Flirting” in France: The Art of Seduction

by Paige Bradley Frost

Here at HiP Paris we’ve been bringing you fabulous content since 2008! We’ve decided to take a peek through the archives and revisit some of our most loved articles. We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as we did! This article was originally published on September 19, 2011. Let us know how you feel about flirting in Paris and, in general!

Soon after arriving in Paris, I was approached by an older man at a cafe. With my blond hair and toothy grin, I was clearly a foreigner and at 29, a still-prime target. He asked if he could join me. “Actually, I am engaged,” I said, a fact I was very excited about just weeks after becoming betrothed.

“But zees is nuh-sing in France,” he replied with a sly grin. Nothing? I was shocked.

Left: A red rose is lying on top of teared-up pages of a book. Right: A woman in a white summer dress is sitting in a Parisian terrace with her cup of coffee, giving a charming smile.
Top left: Montmartre, @l.r.e / Top right: thomaspetermueller
Above left: anniespratt / Above right: all_who_wander

I had, of course, heard how forward French men could be. Tales of infidelity in France are legendary and I naively assumed I had encountered a world-class lothario. But I knew nothing then about the French art of la seduction and how what might seem like a come-on to a young American can actually be a benign and entertaining part of the game of life à la Française.

Left: A setting of what appears to be a dance party is pictured with a woman in the middle watching a couple kiss on the right. Two more people are picture on the left. Right: A photo of a woman with her mouth wide open and about to sip her glass of pink cocktail with 2 black straws.
Dave Bloom

I soon realized that flirting in France is central to the way men and women relate to each other. Good natured flirtation is expected and welcomed, assuming one follows the rules of discretion and good taste, bien sûr.

After nearly four years in Paris, here are a few things I’ve learned.

Flirting is fun

Men and women here view “le flirting” as a normal and deeply enjoyable part of daily life. It is a skill to be deployed in all situations – from casual supermarket encounters to exchanges with grumpy fonctionnaires – that can often assist in getting what you want. It can be as simple as holding eye contact for an extra beat or receiving a discreet nod of approval on the street. Much of it centers around light-hearted banter – the ability to engage in witty repartee and deliver a smart remark at just the right moment. Once mastered, the Parisian game of flirtation can be yet one more pleasure added to the day.

Left: A charming woman is pictured smiling with a glass in her left hand hiding her smile. Right: A man seated in an outdoor restaurant is watching a woman in a red dress who appears to be talking to him.
Left: Dave Bloom / Right: galou2010

The French admire beauty

French women work hard to look attractive and expect that men will notice (although they may or may not return their attention). Men, for their part, feel it’s their job to admire women and to express their appreciation – and not just to women under thirty. As one male French friend put it, “I meet eyes with a woman to acknowledge her beauty, whether it is present or past. If the look is returned, it may be appropriate to speak, but that is never taken for granted.”

Left: A photo of a French bistrot’s terrace showing sets of typical Parisian tables and chairs and a couple of customers seated in the background. Right: A man and a woman are seated side by side in the Seine with the views of a Parisian bridge and the Eiffel Tower behind them. They are sharing and reading a. New York Times newspaper.
Top left: @carolina.ldno / Top right: @saraollila

Not just for singles

Single American men and women flirt at parties, bars and clubs (and online and via text, so I’ve heard.) Married people do not flirt at all unless they’re scumbags who routinely cheat (or want to cheat) on their spouses, right?

A man and a woman are crossing the street with the woman smiling playfully and the man appearing to run after her.
Dave Bloom

Not so in Paris. At a dinner party a few years ago, I watched a French friend flirt openly with my husband. We were seated with a large group and all enjoying multiple verres de vin. I watched (glared?) across the table as she laughed at his jokes, touched his arm, even talked about how “beau” he is. Hmm.

Being a loyal gentleman (often unaware of his own charms), he was flattered by her attention but claimed not to really notice. “Flirting with me?” he said when we got home. “No waaaay….” It was only later, after coming to understand the French, that I realized her gestures were quite harmless – a normal part of male/female rapport.

Left: A man and a woman are strolling along a Parisian park on a beautiful autumn day. Right: A picture of the famous Pont des Arts in Paris taken during a pink sunset sky with strangers walking by. Right: A couple are hanging out in one of Paris’ bridges, most likely observing the Seine.
Left: rue Gabrielle, @l.r.e / Right: @videoparis

As time goes on, I figure, why not enjoy a little attention and appreciation from a stranger? That little frisson of pleasure that comes from a playful exchange can enhance the joy of daily life and even add a spark to your own relationship.

Provided it doesn’t go too far (unless that’s the point, of course) I say, vive le flirting. As a French friend explained it, “The French are always trying to seduce everyone. It’s just for ‘le fun!’”

Related Links

Written by Paige Bradley Frost for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Paige Bradley Frost

Paige Bradley Frost lived in Paris for nearly a decade and was a regular contributor to HiP Paris. In 2016, she swapped the Banks of the Seine for the beaches of San Diego, California where she now serves as Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Women's Empowerment International. Still, her heart remains with the French capital where she hopes to one day return. View Paige Bradley Frost's Website

6 comments on ““Le Flirting” in France: The Art of Seduction

I lived in Paris myself for a while and this article brought back memories that made me smile. I am just surprised that the female author seems to had taken for granted that women over 30 are by definition less flirting material… I hope she changed her mind since then 😉 I would argue that I have been feeling way more ‘womanly’ and flirted on “since” my thirties… now 43. But of course Parisian men know that! And i’m not talking about “passed” beauty 🙂

I am a woman of a certain age who was enjoying a bowl of soup and a glass of wine by herself in a café near Rue Moufftard. Some older gentlemen took a seat and kept glancing my way. At some point I realized they were checking the menu on the wall above me! I smiled at myself but decided to remark to them as I left the café. In passable French I said, Ah! I saw you were looking my way, but it was the menu that interested you! The response was so charming that a year later I still smile. One of them took my hand and said, yes, but it is you that is worth noticing! Why we love Paris.

I always look forward to reading Hip Paris when it arrives in my inbox. Makes my day. Hope to return again whenever we can. Something to look forward to.

AWWWW Wonderful to hear. Thank you Susan! -Erica

I receive many emails per day.HiP PARIS is the email I look forward to opening more than any others.
Keep doing what you do!!!

Thanks,
Barbara

Barbara you truly made my day!!! We are trying hard to keep the good content coming 🙂 Stay safe -Erica

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe without commenting

Join the HiP Paris Community
Receive our exclusive newsletter w/special offers, deals, giveaways, unique recipes from published authors plus insider travel tips and insights only for HiP readers.