Nov 8th, 2021, 06:59 PM

Dating in the City of Love

By Julia Dudley
Image credit: Unsplash
Decoding the difference between dating cultures in Paris and the United States

Since moving to Paris this summer, I have thoroughly enjoyed my dating exprience. The pace is different, the people are different, and the dates are even better. 

There is always the fantasy that the grass being greener on the other side — the other side being Europe, compared with the not-so-great side back home in the United States. But what exactly makes dating in Paris so much better than my experiences in New York and Boston?

The romantic aura of Parisian accents could be one answer, though linguistic studies have shown that an individual’s perception of accents comes from cultural and social associations rather than just the sound the accent itself. When imagining British royalty, one thinks posh, wealthy, educated. When you hear a proper London accent, one associates it with intelligence and class. Whereas when hearing a French or Spanish accent, one thinks of romance because of associations with these the cultures of these countries.

Image credit: Unsplash, by Kamala Bright

Paris is known as the “city of love,” making it hard not to fantasize about how romantic Parisians are because of the vibe that Paris gives off. Personally, I am drawn more towards someone with a foreign accent than to someone with an American dialect. It's not just because the latter is my mother tongue, hence familiar, but also a foreign accent’s attractiveness has to do with the idea that a person has a different cultural and geographical background. It conveys a different life experience. It holds out the promise of something unknown.

Although I have only been in Paris for about two months now, I have met some truly interesting people. Alex is a helpful, charismatic, and handsome graduate student at Sciences Po whom I met within the first week of moving here. He is charming but humble. And for someone who works in finance, he's the complete opposite of the finance "bro" you would expect to find on Wall Street. Our first date was at a cute café not far from my neighborhood. He knew I had just moved and was still getting my bearings, which I thought was considerate. On a good first date, the wine flows and the conversation is electric. When we found ourselves finally checking our phones for the time, he picked up the tab and walked me home.

In the past, I had experienced the opposite. I've seen the classic pocket pat-down followed by, "oh man, it looks like I forgot my wallet!" and then I was left at the restaurant to call my own cab. In Paris it's different. A few dates down the line after getting to know each other better, Alex and I went to Le Scossa in the 16th arrondissement where we had a delicious dinner. Walking off the meal afterwards, we were approaching the Arc de Triomphe when we found a bench to snuggle on and admire the wrapped art installation and the illuminated Champs-Élysées. It was here, in front of the iconic triumphal arch, that we had our first kiss. It was perfectly timed, overwhelmingly romantic, and a nice bow on top of the evening. 

Among the many qualities that I like about Alex, aside from his good looks and cute French/North American accent, is how culturally diverse he is. With a diverse family background grown up in Dijon, and then going to university and working in Canada before moving to Paris for his Master's degree, he has had many experiences different from mine. He has had to learn new languages and adapt to vastly different living environments while maintaining a cool and collected attitude. It was especially helpful while I was getting settled into my apartment and was setting up my WiFi and dealing with electricity issues.

As cliched as it may seem, Alex has been the knight in shining armor who has gone above and beyond to help me no matter what the issue — not something I can say about previous guys I have dated back home in the United States, or even my male friends for that matter. Alex has helped me adjust to the new ways things are done in Paris, and shown me that not everything is done the "American Way" — fast, aggressive, the customer is always right. 

Image credit: Unsplash, by Christine Roy

In contrast to France, in the United States dating has been largely taken over by hook-up culture and dating-app ghosting. This is not the case in Paris. Dating apps are prevalent here, and a great way to meet people, but the connotation is not the same. From my experience and those of my inner circle, the French are not so willy-nilly about who they befriend, let alone who they decide to start “seeing.” Friendships develop with time and so do relationships.

Yes, there is hook-up culture, but it is not so prevalent in Paris. Alex and I had gone on four dates before he had even attempted to kiss me, something that I was not used to in my previous dating life. In the United States, if a first date goes well you expect it to be sealed with a goodnight kiss. Paris offers a nice change of pace. By removing the physical aspect, you can make a better connection and really get to know someone for their personality.

Another difference between dating culture in the US and Paris is "PDA" — or public displays of affection. Paris is famous for lovers showing their admiration for their partner in public. Kissing is not considered to be vulgar or excessive. In the United States, PDA is deemed taboo, something that is best left at home.

I can't entirely agree with this. You should be able to be affectionate with a partner (obviously, to a certain extent, some things should be done at home) without people judging you. Paris is a city that has even gone so far as to have Le Pont des Arts become the "Love Lock Bridge" where lovers write their initials on a lock, secure it to the fencing on the bridge, and throw the key into the Seine as a way to show eternal love. 

Photograph From Unsplash By: omersukrugoksu

The experience has been an interesting one and is something that is part of moving to Paris. Of course, not every person you go on a date with is “the one,” but it's a great way to make new friends. I have found that when a date does not go well, or there is no chemistry, we remain friendly and even have casual outings. Whereas, in New York or Boston, when a date did not go well there was slim to no chance of ever hearing from that person again, which is fair. Not only that, but as an American who is still and forever will be learning French, being with someone who speaks the local language is a great way to practice your skills and to immerse in the culture. It has been beneficial for my time so far, whether learning colloquial French rather than textbook French, getting my WiFi set up, or practicing ordering a drink correctly.

There is so much more to say about the romantic cultural differences between US and Paris. Still, I would highly recommend putting yourself out there because it adds to the overall experience. Who knows, you could find “the one” in the “city of love.”