Nov 26th, 2017, 05:22 PM

Navigating Intercultural Dating in France

By Nicolette Jordan
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Anastasiya Ramsha
Before jumping into a Parisian romance, drop all the American dating rules.

It’s not in the guidebooks about Paris and it’s definitely not what the city is like in the movies. And when you enroll at a Paris-based university like AUP, they don’t talk about it during orientation week.


You know what I’m talking about: Intercultural dating.

Moving to another country is challenging enough as it is. You must learn and adapt to a new culture and make new friends. No one warns you how not being fluent in French takes a toll on your sanity. So what better way to meet new people and improve your French than dating a French man?

The dating world is nothing new to me. I have dated casually for years, so I felt I was equipped to handle the dating game in Paris. But coming from Cleveland, Ohio, I have dated only American guys. To be honest, I never even took dating seriously there. I have never been one to fall into the relationship routine. Too many of my friends settled for mediocre relationships, but I have never been one to settle. Maybe I have been waiting to be swept off my feet… but I often feel like I am waiting for something that will never happen. 

Moving to Paris, I expected to keep my passive views towards dating. I wanted to have some fun, but was not looking for much more than that. Little did I know that all the rules would be different here. I already thought men were difficult to understand generally, but learning a whole new dating culture has been more challenging than anticipated. Before jumping into a Parisian romance, you need to drop all the American dating rules.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ekaterina Pokrovsky



It turns out, the very concept of dating is totally American. The French do not have a word for dating. You probably know the famous phrase “rendez-vous,” but that literally translates to “meet up” or “appointment.” Without the concept of dating, there are no dating rules you can follow in France. For many Americans, the third date holds a lot of weight. Some couples wait until the third date to sleep together. The third date can make or break a match, determining whether the relationship will continue or not. That is not the case in France. Here, the third date doesn’t have any significance.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ekaterina Pokrovsky

The Dates

Even if they don’t have a precise word for dating, the French obviously do date. From my personal experience, going on a date with a French man is uniquely different. French men are gentlemen (most of the time). They believe in proper dates and intellectual conversation. 

It's hard to tell how much a French man is interested in you based after just one date. In the United States, if a date is not going well after a couple of drinks, you end the night there. In France, men will often carry out a date the entire evening, regardless of how interested they are (or aren't) out of respect. The first guy I was seeing here told me that he spent the entire evening with a woman he was not interested in solely to spare her feelings. He told me she was not his type, but he had already committed to taking her out and did not want to disappoint. Each date I have been on since then, I have secretly wondered if the same thing was happening to me.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / s4svisuals

The Kiss 

French men don’t initiate any type of physical contact on a first date and, if they do, they ask you for permission first. Every single date I have been on here that resulted in a kiss, I have been asked permission before hand. 

“May I kiss you,” are words I never heard before moving to France. Now I hear it almost every time. At first, it seems like you are being asked out of respect, but once you say yes to a kiss, you are saying yes to much more. When kissing turns into more, permission is no longer asked, and the primal state of the man takes over. I may only say yes to a kiss, but in their minds I have invited them home with me. This has made for some awkward conversations and, frankly, sending guys home on the métro disappointed.

A kiss, or lack thereof, has a greater significance in France than in America. In America, a kiss isn’t a big deal. You can kiss a guy on a first date and it really doesn’t hold much weight. In France, depending on the man you are seeing, a kiss could mean everything. The more traditional French man believe that after a kiss is shared, you two are together… exclusively. He may consider you his girlfriend, but you wouldn’t know it because you never had “the talk.”  A kiss can seal the deal.

If you aren’t getting kissed, it could mean he needs more time to see if he wants to get serious with you, or maybe you are friend-zoned. It can be hard to tell, trust me I have been there. Recently, I have been seeing a guy who I have been talking to for months. We have been on numerous dates and he still has not kissed me. Every date we go on, I think it will happen and every time, it doesn’t. It makes me question everything. Is it really a date or are we just friends? I spend more time than I should admit wondering why he will not kiss me. It has become an obsession, and a topic of many conversations with my friends. Never in my life has a guy not tried to kiss me on a first date let alone multiple ones!

I don’t allow myself to get feelings often for a guy, but this one took me by surprise. All I want is for him to take it to the next level and validate everything I am feeling… but he won’t. I’ve never questioned myself so much. Do I only want him because he is the first guy who does not want me for my body, or is it because we share a genuine connection? It is extremely frustrating. The only logical reasoning I can come up with is that he is not interested. 

If you are in this situation, I'd say you should  just talk to him about it and see where you stand… although I'm still working on that part myself. I have tried to bring it up multiple times, and every time he deflects the question or half answers it. I have no idea where we stand. I am now left to decide if I should keep trying or move on to the next one.

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Teerawit Chankowet



Let’s be honest, the easiest place to meet men is on Tinder. French men do not come up and approach girls at bars unless they are drunk. So as an American woman, you are limited in ways to meet French men. Tinder comes with a whole array of problems and anyone who has ever used it knows what I am talking about. There are men who just want to have fun (majority), and those who want a relationship. You will be able to tell which one a man is by the first date. He will either try to take you to bed, or will talk about your future. Also, using Tinder in another country comes with even more added problems. Do they speak English? Are they from Paris or just visiting? You may be matching with your prince charming who lives in a different country.

Since I'm being totally candid here, you should know that every man I have met in France is from Tinder. I feel like I have been dealt a random hand of cards. The first man I went out with told me on our first date that I was his future wife. In fact, he mentioned proposing every time he talked to me until I agreed to go out on a second date. Not surprising, our second date was our last date.  We were on two different pages for what we were looking for.

What about those men who only want to have fun? There’s nothing wrong with that. Contrary to popular belief, some women are only looking for that as well.  For those of you like myself who are not the relationship type, Tinder is the best place to find whatever you may be looking for. Like I said earlier, French men aren’t always gentlemen… sometimes they break your bed, then ask for a piece of bread and don’t even help you fix it. True story, but don't ask.  

Image Credit:  Shutterstock / GStockstudio

Dating Visitors & Foreigners in Paris

Dating visitors to France? I do not recommend it. I once matched with an Italian who happened to be staying a couple blocks from me. He had the brilliant idea to meet up at midnight and have a romantic stroll around Paris. Against my better judgment, I met up with him. He was perfect except for the fact that he was barley as tall as me. I spent about 30 minutes with him and let him kiss me out of pity, but that’s as far as it was going in my mind. He had another idea though, and proceeded to blow my phone up every day until he left begging to see me swearing we were meant to be.


I recently went out with a Russian in Paris who, like me, is doing his masters degree here. I didn't even know I was on a date at first, I thought we were just two friends hanging out. There was clearly no chemistry and our conversation had numerous awkward pauses. I actually spent the majority of my "date" sneaking texts to my friend trying to find a way to escape.

Dating visitors makes you realize that there's a certain charm that comes with dating French men. Besides their amazing accents, they know the best places to go around the city. When you are out with another foreigner, it just seems so dull. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Pressmaster


Even though the dating scene can be challenging enough as it is, without culture differences, I think it is important to make the most of your time in France. Maybe that includes a Parisian romance for you, or just fun nights and good memories. Take your time with a French man for what it is because, unless you end up marrying one, there will be an expiration date.

Try not to fit them into your concept of what they should be. Don’t play games, go with the natural flow of things and, most importantly, do not settle. If it confuses you more than it brings you pleasure, you should consider moving on… and I know what you are thinking, I need to take my own advice. This is Paris after all, there are plenty more out there if one doesn’t work out.