Here is everything you have to know about dating in France, from how to perceive that all-important first kiss to expecting what kind of relationship from your French in-laws.

Contrary to popular belief, all French women are not fashionistas obsessed with their appearance. Similarly, not all French men are smooth-talking womanisers who will say whatever they have to to get you in bed. While it is always prudent to take such cultural stereotypes with a grain of salt and avoid generalising an entire nation, we can not deny that there are certain characteristics you are likely to encounter when dating in France.

Understanding these characteristics and the mindset of French women and men is essential for dating as an expat. After all, different cultures around the world value different characteristics that make someone a desirable mate. What is considered romantic, attractive, or polite in one culture may not be so in another.

An Overview Of Dating In France

Regarding dating, the French prefer to follow their own set of rules, which differ significantly from those of other European cultures. As an expat, this can take time to get used to, but it can also be an exciting challenge. Contrary to popular belief, the French do not typically date. While cultural stereotypes suggest that they are masters of romance and seduction, the reality is quite different. Sure, it’s true that both French men and women are naturally self-assured and not afraid to pursue their dreams. However, their approach to dating is arguably far less aggressive than that of other cultures.

For one thing, the French dislike making a date appear overly romantic and prefer that dating play a much smaller role in their lives. In some other countries, people pursue partners through one-on-one interactions in potentially romantic settings. French men and women prefer to keep it casual and integrate finding love into their social lives. This means that you won’t be going on a date alone with the other person. Indeed, the French word for a date, rendez-vous, literally means “meeting you.” In this case, ‘you’ refers to people in the plural form. So don’t expect any romantic moonlit strolls or kisses along the Seine anytime soon!

How To Meet People In France

The French approach to dating differs from that of other European cultures. However, the ways in which people meet are generally the same. Having said that, the French have their own preferences.

In France, however, things are a little different. The French will invite you on a walk or meet up with friends. This will most likely be a laid-back affair as well, so don’t be surprised if you get a last-minute invitation.

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Dating Apps And Websites

French women and men prefer to meet people via their social circles, they barely go on blind dates and instead prefer to meet in person. Having said that, Internet dating sites for both men and women are surprisingly popular in France. Indeed, 38% of French men and women polled in Statista’s 2019 Global Consumer Survey said they used online dating sites or apps. Furthermore, 56% of men aged 25-34 and 68% of women in the same age range had already had romantic and sexual relationships with someone they met online. Furthermore, roughly half of those polled believed it was possible to meet one’s soulmate online. This implies that online dating is not only a common way to meet a partner in France, but it is also taken seriously.

So, there are now hundreds of various dating sites in France on the Internet, all of which aim to match sexual or romantic partners. Tinder, Bumble, and Happn are still popular with the millennial generation. Meanwhile, older adults are increasingly turning to paid online dating services to find love. The most popular are Badoo (42% of respondents use it) and Meetic.fr (33%). This latter is also one of the top five most downloaded dating apps in France.

Meet-Up Groups

Joining Meetup groups and attending local events is another way to meet people in France. Throughout the country, there are numerous groups that cater to different hobbies and interests. Many of these are designed for singles who want to date. These groups provide a fun and safe environment for meeting new people and developing friendships and relationships. They generally cater to specific age groups and sexual preferences, allowing members to meet other people who share their interests.

Dating Etiquette In France

The French prefer to play by their own rules, which extends to dating etiquette as well. For example, the types of dates you go on during the early stages of getting to know the person can be distinct.

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A Typical Dating Scenario In France

A typical dating scenario in many Western cultures involves meeting for a drink, going out to dinner, or seeing a movie at the theatre. Dating in France, on the other hand, can look very different. In France, for example, sharing a meal with a person has no romantic connotation. In fact, dining with two people of the opposite sex is considered normal, even if one is single and the other is in a relationship or married.

Instead, during the initial stages of getting to know someone, the French prefer to keep things casual. Dates will most likely consist of meeting for casual drinks with a friends’ group or going for an afternoon stroll. This, however, should not be interpreted as a sign that a woman or man is not interested in a romantic relationship. It simply means they are more interested in getting to know someone before getting involved. And if they want a relationship, they will tell their partner. After all, the French are known for being forthright in matters of the heart.

Dating Behaviour In France

While stereotyping an entire country is unjust, there are certain behavioural traits that you are likely to encounter when dating in France. Furthermore, these can vary significantly between European countries.

Flirting And Body Language

The French may prefer to avoid romantic situations, but that does not imply there is no room for flirting – plenty of it. So, whether single or not, you can expect to see a lot of romantic behaviour, regardless of marital status. Flirting is considered an art form in this playful country and applies to both sexes. French women, for example, are expected to embrace their feminine side while also being admired for their beauty and wit. They may over-smile, blush, and laugh at your jokes while playing with their hair. Meanwhile, French men regard flirting as a playful and harmless game, even if they know that it will not lead anywhere. Surprisingly, many people value the game over the catch.

This flirtatiousness is important to be aware of as an expat because it can sometimes give the wrong impression. Simply because a man or woman is flirting does not imply that he or she is interested or available. To avoid any misunderstanding, simply ask them directly.

Playing It Cool

Surprisingly, when the French get to know a potential love interest, they prefer to keep a respectful distance and not appear overly eager. This frequently entails arriving ‘fashionably late to a date. The French have a phrase for being late: le quart d’heure de politesse. This translates literally to a quarter-hour of politeness. So don’t interpret this as a sign that they’re not interested; quite the contrary. So, make sure you stay long enough to see them appear. Don’t expect him to show up with a bouquet, either. Such a gesture could be interpreted as overly romantic. This act is an indication that you are officially dating. It is something the French, of course, do not do!

The First Kiss

In general, French men do not initiate physical contact on a first date. And when they do, they usually ask for permission first. This is largely because lip kisses, for the first time, hold far more weight in France than in other countries. Starting an exclusive relationship with someone is regarded as an unwritten agreement. Kissing someone if you do not wish to be in a relationship with them is, therefore, not a good idea; this can send the wrong signal and cause misunderstanding. Due to this aspect of French culture, it is clear that a relationship may develop at a much slower pace than in other countries.

General Conversation

When dating the French, you can typically expect a certain level of culture and intelligence. As a result, drinking coffee by the Seine while talking about politics isn’t completely out of the question. Indeed, politics is an important topic of discussion in France and is bound to come up at some point. So, reading a newspaper to keep up with current events is not bad.

Splitting The Bill

Money talk is generally regarded as impolite by the French. So, splitting the bill at the end of a meal is unusual. Typically, the man will pay for food on the first date, and the woman can pay the next time, but splitting the bill is considered tacky. This is great news if you value personal independence and want to be treated equally when dating.

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Acts Of Chivalry

Fortunately for women, chivalry is not extinct in France. French people are generally proud of their hospitality and manners. When it comes to dating, men typically hold the door open for women, ensure they arrive home safely, and so on. There is another reason for this, aside from good manners. In France, women usually decide whether or not to date someone, so the man is expected to put in hard work to win her over. It may take her many dates before she decides whether she wants to date him, but the preparation is significant. This could explain why French men are known for being charming and tenacious with women.

Moving Into A Relationship In France

In France, a relationship’s development is largely determined by the individuals involved – specifically, the woman. Even after a couple has become officially exclusive and has had their all-important first kiss, there are no rules about when to meet the family or get intimate.

Getting Intimate

Sleeping with someone, like kissing for the first time, is arguably more meaningful in France. The French are masters of flirtation, but their true love is more reserved than you might think. People are more concerned with getting to know one another. As a result, sleeping together is regarded as expressing a more profound form of affection. The great news is that because the French value honesty and openness in dating, there is no shame in discussing getting intimate first.

Meeting Friends And Family.

Because French people prefer to maintain their independence, it can take some time before they introduce you to their friends and family. However, you should not interpret this as a sign of dissatisfaction. It’s more because women and men prefer to keep the dating lives private, especially in the early stages of a relationship. However, you can assume that if they invite you to meet their friends and family, the relationship has progressed to a more serious level. French families are generally very private, with only the closest friends attending gatherings.

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Living Together And Getting Married

Surprisingly, not all aspects of French dating are so traditional. For example, the country’s proportion of married to unmarried couples has been declining since the mid-2000s. According to statistics from the online portal Statista, In 2018, there were 235,000 marriages, compared to more than 278,000 in 2004. This suggests that marriage was not the preferred mode of union among the French.

Indeed, an increasing number of couples opt to live together rather than marry or join together in a civil partnership. According to research, more than half a million couples (550,000) in France begin long-term living together each year, while only 240,000 partners marry and 164,000 form a civil partnership. Similarly, the proportion of unmarried couples living together has more than tenfold increase since the 1960s, rising from 2.9% in 1962 to 26% in 2015. This suggests that attitudes are modernising.

Surprisingly, the number of same-sex marriages in France is gradually declining, falling from 10,000 in 2014 (this is a year after it was legalised in France) to 6,000 in 2018. More couples are opting for civil partnerships instead, with 7,000 signed in 2017 alone. Despite these trends, France had the second-highest number of marriages in all of Europe in 2016, trailing only Germany (41,000). So, in comparison to neighbouring countries, France remains somewhat traditional in some ways.

The Role Of The Family In Dating

Family is extremely important in French culture. As a result, as the partner of a French woman or man, you should expect to spend a lot of time with your French in-laws. Even in adulthood, family members maintain close relationships. Relatives usually live close to one another and get together weekly for dinners and other activities.

Raising Children In France

Regarding parenting, men and women in France tend to be stricter than in other cultures. They do not spoil their children and encourage them to be model citizens by forcing order and teaching appropriate behaviour. They also emphasise more on conforming to social norms in attitudes and values rather than individuality.

Despite major changes in society, such as the rise in single-parent homes, children born outside of marriage, and the rise in working mothers, this remains the norm. As an expat, this will take time to get used to, especially if you originate from a culture where parenting is more relaxed.

Gender Roles In The Family Home

France isn’t as progressive as you might think regarding gender roles in a family. Despite having the highest percentage of women in the workforce, research proves that domestic work and child care are still primarily performed by women.

Furthermore, as many as 50% of French people believe that women are better able than fathers to respond to the expectations and needs of children. Moreover, although nearly all French women work for a living, many are still expected to perform gender-stereotypical roles such as cooking, cleaning, and childrearing. Women are placed under a lot of pressure due to such expectations. Regarding women’s role in current society, France remains somewhat contradictory in this regard.

How Dating Is Different In France

Dating is very common in France; according to this study, 91% of French people have had at least one “date” — a “rendez-vous” preceding a possible romantic relationship. However, because there is no word for “dating” in French, there is no proper dating protocol or typical dating scenario in France.

Indeed, a “date” in French could be translated as “un rendez-vous galant,” “rendez-vous amoureux” (rarely used), or simply “rendez-vous.” A simple “rendez-vous” can mean a romantic date, a formal appointment, or a non-romantic meet-up with friends and family. The verb “to date” is also translated as “voir / frequenter quelqu’un (e)” in French, which means “seeing someone.” Although the English word “date” is now an integral part of the French language, the American concept of “dating” does not.

The French Will Not Ask A Stranger On A Date

Instead, they prefer getting to know each other before dating or entering a romantic relationship. As a result, the concept of a blind date does not exist in France. The French usually date someone they met through social circles, local events, and meet-up groups but also through online dating sites and apps.

Online dating sites and apps, such as Tinder, Happn, Meetic, and others, are becoming increasingly popular among men and women. According to this study, 38% of French people have used an app or a dating site, which is even higher among men (45%) and the young (59% under 35).

Online dating sites and apps are no exception: a lengthy message exchange is required before even considering a first date. French dating culture necessitates familiarity, and the French must get to know someone thoroughly before asking them out on a date. By the way, French women ask men out on dates just like men do women.

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The First Date Is Kept Casual

Even in the early stages of getting to know someone, the French prefer to keep things casual. There is no typical dating scenario in France that includes a first, second and third date with a sort of “dating code.” The first date is an opportunity to get to know someone and build a relationship before becoming more involved. So, if you go on a first date with a French woman or man, do not expect romantic gestures or signs that you’re officially dating.

The Perfect First Date Location

In France, the first date will almost always include a drink or coffee (at a brasserie or café) or even dinner at a nice restaurant. According to this study, 35% of French people prefer a restaurant for their first date, 34% prefer a café or a bar (37% among those under 35), 17% prefer a public place like a street or a park, and 13% prefer a more specific activity.

Finding an activity for a first date is an amazing way to spend time together while not feeling like a date, so there is less pressure. The French prefer a comedy show, a concert, or a museum. The younger generation prefers non-traditional activities such as cooking classes, sports classes, and discovery flights. If the first date is a success, it will be simple to invite your date on a more formal date.

The Perfect First Date Outfit

A first date is nothing out of the ordinary for a French woman: meeting someone she finds attractive and interesting. In her day, it’s just one of a hundred plans. As a result, they do not consider it an occasion that necessitates an outfit change.

Instead, they simply wear what they want to wear. A simple white t-shirt, a trench coat, straight-leg jeans, and a nice handbag. In the summer, a favourite dress with espadrilles is a great option. Because French women don’t want to appear overly interested, they never overdress (or dress “sexy”) for a first date. Furthermore, date-night makeup is typically quite simple:

  • Radiant skin
  • A touch of blush and mascara
  • Highlighter
  • A pink-apricot nude lipstick

The French Do Not Appear Too Eager

Getting to know a potential love interest in France is good for keeping a cool distance and not seeming overly eager. This includes not texting back immediately, not revealing too much about yourself too quickly, and arriving a little late to your date — think of the French “quart d’heure de politesse.”

So, just because your French date is growing distant doesn’t mean he or she isn’t interested. The French, on average, take their time revealing themselves, and this will not happen on a single date. Just be a little bit mysterious and save something for the next date; this will entice your date to want to learn more about you.

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The First Kiss

In France, there is no specific rule regarding the first kiss. It can occur on the first date if you both fall in love at first sight (also known as “un coup de foudre”), or it can occur later. 

As a result, the first kiss may occur later, after several dates, and the pace at which a relationship may develop may be much slower than in other countries.

Being Official And Exclusive

Things have changed dramatically in France in the last few years, thanks to the introduction and widespread use of online dating. And there is much more casual dating in France in this era than there was previously. This means that there is some “dating freedom” when you meet someone in France, but only in the early stages of dating.

Nowadays, you’d probably have “the talk” with the person you have been seeing for a few weeks or months just to discuss your relationship status and determine whether or not you’re official and exclusive. Before assuming you’re in a relationship in France, consider your circumstances.

The French prefer to let the relationship develop as both parties become romantically acquainted. This means that “the talk” should occur naturally or not at all (if there is no need to). When you meet friends and family, the relationship becomes more serious. And it is not uncommon for the words “Je t’aime” to come quickly, but this depends entirely on the individual.

Final Words

And voila! I hope this dating in France guide has given you a better understanding of the French dating culture. Please leave any questions in the comments section below.