As dreamy as French men can be, the ones I dated so far were, contrary to popular belief, just that – a dream. Instead of turning into a great love affair, or my future French husband, they became long-voice memos for my girlfriends to listen to and gasp at back home. Rather than finding the French boyfriend I’d hope for, dating life quickly turned into one dating fail after another.
I will never forget the thrill I felt arriving in Paris as a single 22-year-old Australian. The sense of freedom one feels in a new city where not a single soul knows you, is like no other. Finally, no Aussie boys with mullets and questionable vocabularies, no more awkward mutual friends. No more bumping into exes.
I had expected French men to be handsome wine connoisseurs who read books instead of scrolling on Instagram. This was true to an extent. I encountered stylish French men with fancy careers who had me melting with their poetic French words. Their sophisticated vocabulary was next level contrasted to the types of boys back home who expected me to blush over the words “You’re heaps hot”.
However, some of my expectations were slightly unrealistic and I was very quickly brought down to earth. To protect the privacy of my beloved ex-lovers, fake names will be used. Before you continue reading, I kindly ask for your prayers that none of them ever read this.
My first ever date in Paris was with a man who worked high up on the corporate ladder for a major tech company. Julien was well over 6 ft tall and wore suit trousers, a button-up and dress shoes to our casual coffee date in République Canal Saint-Martin. He had the face of a Calvin Klein model and held the same serious model-like expression, which I found slightly uncomfortable. Julien’s hair was chestnut brown, medium length and effortlessly brushed away from his face. Need I say more? He was gorgeous.
The conversation seemed to flow incredibly well between us. We skipped small talk and dove straight into intellectual topics. Julien also had no issue looking at my lips and nail polish and informing me of his dislike for lipstick and colored nails. He expressed his love for the way French women dress, but that I, unfortunately, did not dress like them. I couldn’t help but laugh. These comments didn’t offend me, they’re just not what I was expecting to hear on a first date.
Julien was equally as honest about the things he did like about me. This made me realize that like many French people, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. He wasn’t trying to make me feel bad or insecure, and well, I didn’t. French people aren’t people pleasers, they tell it how it is – even if it’s a first date!
What was supposed to be a casual coffee, turned into cocktails, which turned into dinner. The whole ordeal ended up being an 8-hour experience. All pre-existing plans for the day were forgotten about. This is very typical for a French date. Do not expect a finishing time. So, was this date so horrible after all? No. In fact, Julien and I have a friendly relationship to this day. He however belongs with his Calvin Klein supermodel match, who dresses like true French girls do (whatever that means) and who doesn’t wear lipstick and nail polish.
Martin is an engineer for one of the world’s leading international fashion houses. He was not qualified for this job. Nevertheless, Martin scored himself the position, that many will spend over a decade competing for, simply because one of his buddies was in the business.
Martin made dinner reservations for us ahead of time, a rarity in today’s dating culture. Each date was a surprise, in a different part of the city, eating a different cuisine. He requested wine tastings from the restaurant manager, asking them to explain the making of each bottle in English to me. And, he never let me pay for a thing.
Martin would pick me up on his motor scooter. I was never to put my helmet on myself, he insisted on gently doing that for me. He took the longest and most scenic routes possible. I’ll never forget driving through Montmartre on my second date with Martin, looking to my left and seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle and not knowing where our destination was. I was living the true cliché, Parisian fantasy. We would laugh, exchange our life stories and so on.
After our third date, we went back to his place where he showed me his exquisite wine collection. Martin lived in a 100-something sqm, 3-bedroom apartment in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Paris. I stood in his living room in complete awe over the book-covered walls, antique furniture pieces and breathtaking fireplace. Seeing as I lived in a 12sqm chambre de bonne where my bedroom was also my kitchen, bathroom, and toilet – to me, this no longer felt like real life.
We drank wine and watched a film. I then asked him to take me home. We opened the front door only to find that it wasn’t just raining, it was pouring hard. Martin respectfully invited me to stay the whole night. I woke up to fresh croissants, pain au chocolate and a coffee waiting for me in the kitchen. He had snuck off to his local boulangerie while I was asleep.
After that, I never heard from him again. Strange, right? The equation didn’t seem to quite add up. But, you see, Martin may have been the first to do this but he certainly wasn’t the last. I quickly learnt one of many cultural differences: that it is typical for French men to treat you like the true princess you are. Shower you with compliments and sweet words and take you to the loveliest of places. They may want to know everything about you and even ensure breakfast is ready for you before you wake up. But don’t get the wrong idea. This doesn’t have to mean a thing to them, other than basic manners and perhaps disposable income. Martin taught me the great importance of the phrase “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.
Our best for last, Sebastian – a successful film producer who works for a big-time music company in his spare time for fun. He’s partied with multiple pop artists which he made sure to mention on our first date. Despite his success, this French guy refuses to live in any of the wealthy suburbs of Paris because it would be much too flashy and ruin his effortlessly cool and “artsy” persona.
The first time (and last time) we met, Sebastian preached about his talented abilities within the film realm and how sarcasm and good humor only exist in France. After this bold statement and a long list of reasons why French culture is superior to all others. He asked me if Australians were anything like those other English speakers, the Americans. This was because he found people from the United States to be very ignorant and “too patriotic”. I couldn’t help but laugh, but not for the reason he thought.
At one point in the night, I joked about how I used to hike frequently in Australia, and now I spend my days sitting on terraces and ingesting far too many croissants. Sebastian didn’t find the humor in this joke. He pinched my stomach and agreed with me. Followed by some workout tips to solve this “problem”. He brought up that same joke and pinched my stomach multiple times throughout the date which I considered seriously insane behavior.
To end the date on a high, Sebastian asked if he could “come up” after walking me home. He was totally caught off guard and had a hard time when I rejected the proposal. Oh, and it gets worse. I later discovered through social media that Sebastian was in an “exclusive” relationship with a long-term girlfriend. Needless to say, it wasn’t my most charming experience.
I’ve had a good time going out with more French men since Julien, Martin, and Sebastian. Some have been lovely, others uncanny. Though moving forward I’m always prepared for strange comments on my appearance, meaningless romantic gestures, and a potential wife. Make sure your schedule has wiggle room before dating a French man and simply enjoy the experience for what it is rather than what it could become.
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