As une femme d’une certain âge, I thought I’d seen it all in the gentleman-caller department. Mais non.
I thought I was progressive, but I learned that I’m a recovering Puritan. Many Americans carry around a fair bit of Puritan baggage, passed down from our parents or absorbed from our culture. Some of us clutch our pearls at co-ed sleepovers, smoking pot and middle-aged women in bikinis. In France, they just do not care. If you’re en couple, they just assume that you’ll be spending time in each other’s homes or taking trips together. They are not titillated by your personal situation. There is no walk of shame. You’re just going home.
Here are some things that I learned when I first got to know un français, up close and personal:
My French got better, especially the interjections. Here’s some of what I’ve picked up along the way.
Mince – darn it
Eh ben dis donc – whatever, oh well
Hop – the sound that accompanies the action of picking something up
Ouf – phew
Tak – the sound that accompanies the action of putting something down
S-bim – nailed it
Pshh – verbal equivalent of eye rolling
Beurk – yuck
Oh là là – good grief, often displaying slightly negative surprise
Boom – look at how well I did that
Chin chin – cheers
Hop-là – the sound you make when you put something inside something else, like when the cheese guy puts the Roquefort in your shopping cart
Pppttt – (non-verbal spitty thing) I don’t know, or I don’t care.
I also figured out where to throw in the ever-so-useful merde and the all-purpose putain (most everywhere).
Duolingo never covered this.
We laugh a lot, but not always at the same time. My guy has a wry sense of humor, a knack for imitations, and the ability to tell a great story, things that I value highly. Like many French, though, he thinks slapstick humor is enormously funny. I do not. The day he showed me his favorite Jerry Lewis video, laughing hysterically, I was extremely uncomfortable.
Very specific compliments. He appreciates my makeup, hair, and clothing. He points out clothes in shops that he thinks I’d look good in and waits around while I try them on. (He’s usually right.) He notices if I wear a different perfume, inhaling on my neck and murmuring how this one is fruity while yesterday’s was more floral. The knife cuts both ways, though, because he also had an opinion on that fire-engine red jumpsuit that I thought was a bold choice. Oh là là.
There’s a reason les français are so attractive, and it starts at home with his Frenchman’s beauty regime. His bathroom contains colognes (yes, plural), exfoliants, moisturizers, sunscreens, serums, shower gel for sensitive skin, lightly scented body oil, and a beard trimmer. There’s a loofa hanging from his shower head. He does not care if his products are marketed to men or women, and most of his stash is from a line of French cosmetics that is above my price range. Because, well, he’s worth it. Of course, not all Frenchmen are this beauty conscious, but I’m guessing more of them are than their Anglo counterparts.
100% of your cooking problems can be solved with butter. Are your green beans or potatoes boring? Butter. Is your pasta sticky? Butter. Does your steak lack a little je ne sais quoi? Butter.
I asked him how all this butter can be healthy, and he just looked at me blankly and put a big dollop of it in the frying pan to start his omelet. When my doctor said my cholesterol was high, I asked her if I should cut butter, and she was horrified. “Mon dieu, non! Cut all oil, even olive oil,” she said, “but don’t deprive yourself of butter.”
My guy’s annual check-up showed that his cholesterol was fine, by the way. Eh ben, dis donc.
Don’t have a snack, have a coffee. The French are notoriously thin. I think that my Anglo-Saxon curves are a genetic predisposition for me, but if I can get any nutrition tips from the French, I’ll take them. One thing my guy never does is eat between meals. Not a bite. He does, however, drop everything for a coffee several times a day. I’ve taken up this habit, and it seems to be working well. I love coffee more than some of my children, so it’s fine with me.
What about you? Have you dated un français? What did you learn? Any tips for me, moving forward?
- After more advice on dating the French? Check out 7 Startling Observations on Dating a Frenchman
- Read more about how the French date.
- Check out the best dating apps in France!
Written by Yvonne Hazelton 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 or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person (when possible)? Check out new marketplace shop and experiences.