Apr 17th, 2017, 04:52 PM

I Survived Two Years With a French Man

By Lillian Wagner
Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Kues
And it wasn't easy.

When I first arrived in Paris I noticed one thing and one thing only, the men. Coming from Midwest USA, I didn't have much to work with, even in high school I dated one of the only foreign people that were enrolled...he was an exchange student. I guess you could say that I have always been intrigued by other cultures, and that is the reason I am attracted to dating people from abroad. As my time in Paris was just over the six-month mark, I found myself a French prince (not really, he's not Napoleon.) Let me say that dating a French person is not la vie en rose 24/7. It's more like la vie en rose 10 percent of the time while the other 90 percent is like being on the metro, you never know if you're just going to stop and get off, or make it to the end. From family, friends, languages, culture, food & alcohol, it has been a whirl-wind of emotions in the journey of falling in love with a French man. 

Tomber Amoureux With My French Man

When we started the journey, oh was it perfect. Starting to date in the most iconic city of love in the world was all it is made up to be. It was as if we were in a cliché French movie dancing along the cobblestone on our way up to Sacré-Coeur. Between the evening walks along the seine and the weekend trips to Normandy, I was hooked. Though now we can completely admit we were in love at this moment, my French man was stubborn as can be in admitting amour was in the air. I think there are only two ways French men fall in love, option one being saying it with the first date post-sex clope and option two being taking almost a year. My French man chose option two. As those who know me, they know my patience doesn't exist so waiting almost a year before he told me he loved me, it was surely considered surviving. 

Speaking La Langue Francaise With My French Man 

The French language is one of the hardest to learn, many can attest to that. Many evenings with my boyfriend's family have been spent explaining the 7 different uses of one word such as phare or the debated history of words such as onigon v. onion. The language itself wasn't the only problem at the beginning, but more of how we used the language. Months after our first date he informed me that the hours before he was watching How I Met Your Mother in English to see if he would be able to understand me when we were scheduled to first hang out. The first few months that followed were a cluster-putain of languages. Having three languages we speak in common, if we couldn't find the word in French or English, we would try in German. In a store in Paris, my boyfriend was responding to my proposed questions in English. The cashier rung me out and spoke to me in French, and then when it was his turn to pay for his items, the cashier speaks to him in English. To this day, he is still offended that she got our nationalities confused, but I, on the other hand, am proud that my French passed (and so did his English). Many French people ask how I learned French so quickly and have barely an accent, and my answer is always " J'ai un copain français." Between his family, our friends, living in France, watching Rabbi Jacob, and continually listening to Kenji Girac, in two short years, my French is TELLEMENT better.  

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Kues

Family With My French Man 

As many know, a girlfriend meeting a boyfriend's family is a difficult experience. Now, imagine adding barriers such as language, culture, politics, and nationality to the mix.... oh is it a challenge. Only being in France for eight months at this point, my language skills consisted enough to make up a 10-minute conversation at max and had nothing to do with what his family speaks about. I learned quickly that French mothers are VERY attached to their sons, that food is always a safe subject to talk about, politics aren't, your foreign nationality will be ridiculed, and that going to weddings with a French family is an experience in itself. I guess the moment I realized integrating into my boyfriends family wasn't going to be easy was at a family dinner. We discussed American politics.... let's just say never again. My facts were disproven by opinions and I learned that one should NEVER disagree with a French mom (even though I was right). I was often asking myself "il est ou le bonheur, il est ou?" Oh, how I survived.... and I am still striving to survive. 

Les Amis and My French Man 

Group dynamics no matter the situation are hard to penetrate. I learned quickly that French friends are required to get beers after work as much as possible, that weekends away together are highly encouraged (even if it is one couple and one friend), and that you must try to speak for one hour on the telephone minimum per week. I am a very independent person and this reflects in my relationships, my best of friends know that I like my space and I will be back in contact with them at my leisure. When I started to acquire French friends through my boyfriend, I became aware that much more was expected of me than I originally thought. I found myself responding to ridiculous house party invitations, dancing at parties, laughing more than I ever thought possible, and increasing my budget for beer by a lot.... sorry mom if you're reading this. I am currently still only slightly surviving the parties, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

The French boyfriend himself and his American girlfriend. Image Credit: Lillian Wagner

Merci amour, for being a good sport. Next round on me.