Flickr, Damien []Damien Roue

As a single Mom of two teens, this is not the first time I’ve lived with a man. With almost half a century of life and decades of dish with girlfriends on both sides of the Atlantic behind me, I have identified some undeniable signs that there is a Frenchman in my house.  He is not classically good looking, my Frenchman, but he has a magnetic attraction that pulls me in. I can’t quite describe it, and I’m not the only one — it’s why the French had to invent the expression je ne sais quoi. There are so many Frenchmen with that certain inexplicable charm that it has almost become a cliché, with quirky looking men like Serge Gainsbourg able to seduce gorgeous, intelligent ladies à la Jane Birkin. Living with a Frenchman is very much like marriage; for better and for worse.

Flickr, GeomangioFabiana

1/ Bathroom clutter. The French are addicted to their lotions and potions. There are currently about a dozen bottles leaving water rings on the shelves, and only two or three of those are mine. When I complain about the disorder and suggest we open one product at a time, Mr French is horrified, “But, I must choose how I smell in the morning. How can you ask me to wear a citrus scent on a day that must be sandalwood, or patchouli?”

2/ A male voice declaring, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” And it is not just because I tend to dress like an awkward American. The last time I enjoyed a dîner des filles, my Parisienne friends ticked off a list of random accessories and styles husbands had banned from their wardrobes — from wedged heels and winter hats to nail polish, earrings and skinny jeans.

Flickr, serrechevalierSerre-Chevalier

3/ Shopping as a couple. If he’s a Frenchman who cares what you wear, chances are he is not against the idea of spending some quality time shopping. The Journal des Femmes reports that 49% of French men consider shopping fun, while marketing firm Shoppercentric reports only 26% of British men have the same perspective.

4/ Seeing a ski trip on our calendar. His kids are too old to join us and mine are not interested, but there seems to be a law requiring families go skiing every year. The fact that I have come down from the Alps in an ambulance is not a deterrent; even my doctor strongly recommends I get back on the slopes.


5/ Our bookshelves are full of comics. The French consider graphic novels the 9th art, right up there with painting, theater and literature. On Saturdays the comics sections of local bookstores are full of people aged 3 to 103 crouching in corners flipping through the pages of their favorite bande dessinée.

6/ I’m constantly blushing. All those stereotypes I developed while watching Pepe Le Pew on Sunday mornings are true. From my butcher to my baker to the man I live with, Frenchmen are incurable flirts, happy to kill time with bouquets of charming complements for every occasion.

7/ We stay Dressed at home, with a capital D, as in proper pants and a button-up shirt. Even on Sundays, lounging around in a time worn t-shirt and a pair of sweats is rather unthinkable. There is a certain discipline to Parisian lifestyle that can make being comfortable, ironically uncomfortable, like the one time you take out the trash in your slippers and have to spend the next three days assuring the concierge, butcher and most of your neighbors that no, you were not ill last Sunday, you were simply too lazy to put on a pair of shoes.


Flickr, Vassilis SpiliotopoulosGueorgui (top left); Bart Heird (top right); Vassilis Spiliotopoulos

8/ The scent of shoe wax. Sunday is shoe-shine day in Parisian homes. While French men only do 20% of domestic chores, this is one task many claim to enjoy. From the most successful CEO to the harried grocery delivery man, the week starts with bright, shiny shoes they have insisted on polishing themselves. Dirty, scuffed shoes can be professional suicide, as L’Express news magazine warns job hunters, “Don’t forget to shine your shoes and check the heels, employers are watching!”

Baguettes Erica BermanErica Berman

9/ A constant demand for bread with dinner. It doesn’t matter what’s on the menu, even if it’s pasta, bread is expected to be on the table, or it’s just not a meal.

10/ Mr French is always “looking for me,” which is the direct translation of “il me cherche.” Of course, I am sitting right next to him, so I am clearly not lost, but in a country where philosophy is an important part of the high school curriculum, dinner conversations often turn into formal debates, with each party taking a side and defending it passionately. As an Anglo-Saxon, I tend to avoid heated confrontations with my partner, but in France it is a sign of a strong relationship, so Mr French has to make an extra effort to “find” me. Disparaging organic foods, supporting nuclear energy or Sunday store openings usually has me arguing heatedly before I realize that once again, he is merely trying to provoke me in a Gallic attempt to add a bit of spice to our delicious relationship.

Flickr, nelson.oliveiraNelson Oliveira

Related Links:

Written by Sylvia Sabes for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


Sylvia Sabes

Sylvia tells stories through images and words. She has worked as a Creative Director for international ad campaigns like Cartier and LOreal, and as a National Award winning Polaroid photographer. She writes and shoots all things Paris and beyond… She lives in Paris and the French Basque Region.


  1. I’ve been with a Frenchman for 20 years and none of the above is applicable to him.
    I read Kasia’s comment about Italian men. I’m originally from Italy and I must say that Italian men can be a lot worse than their French counterparts in the ego department.

  2. Oh, yes, the shoes! I was in Paris for several bone – chilling days a few January’s ago, and the first things I noticed were the men’s wonderful shoes, the fact that none of the local women were wearing hats, and the beautifully – cut coats on Parisians of both genders.

  3. I’ve been with the same guy for 7 years now (a French man from the up north) but none of this applied, except maybe for n°9 🙂

  4. Hi Maite,
    These are absolutely generalisations. Its great you’ve found the perfect Frenchman for you!

  5. Hi Cecilia,
    En ce moment, au musée des Arts et Métiers, il y a un expo sur Bilal, un illustrateur de BD. Et aux enchères il y a des oeuvres qui partent à plus de 100000 euros !

  6. Hi Erica,
    The voting!!! Mr French is always surprised when my multi-culture teens expect him to answer that question, and they can’t understand why he won’t tell them.

  7. Je suis francophone Américain. J’ai une amie de Paris. Son épouse et mon marie dis souvent “c’est parce qu’Il son Français.

  8. Married to a bonafide French man for 25 years (22 living in France) I must disagree. He hangs around the house in his underwear, goes out looking like an unmade bed, wears his clothes until they start falling apart because he hates shopping for himself and refuses to accompany me, doesn’t polish his shoes ’cause you can’t polish flip-flops, his bathroom clutter is limited to disposable razors and a collection of old toothbrushes, asks what we’re having for dinner before buying bread (no bread with pasta!), has few BD’s but thousands of DVD’s and he although a ski instructor when younger we haven’t gone in years….

  9. Been married to bonafide French man for close to 25 years (22 living in France) and he is the antithesis of everything you mention. Loves to hang around the house in his underwear, goes out looking like an unmade bed and absolutely hates shopping, even for himself.

  10. Sounds delightful, where can I get one (Frenchman)??? I would love for a man (with fashion sense) to go shopping with me and pick-out my clothes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *