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When people find out I’m married to a French man, their curiosity piques. I am a Canadian-American woman, and with romantic experiences on both sides of the border, I tend to get the question: what’s the difference between French men and North American men – specifically in regards to dating?

Not sure if it will come as a surprise to people, but there are many differences. Yes, the first Frenchman I ever dated, I married (what can I say? I’m hooked!); however, living in France and expanding my friendships and sexual relationships with other French men, I’ve gained perspective on the topic.

Here are my top four most notable differences between the French men I know and the American men I’ve dated.

French People Do Not Date

First and foremost, French people, in general, don’t date. The point of this article now seems moot, but hear me on this…

man holding a red umbrella about to kiss a woman

French people don’t date. What does this mean?  If they don’t date, how do people start relationships? It’s actually simple (and quite shocking, if you’re new to this concept), the moment you kiss someone, you’re considered exclusive. The only situation where this wouldn’t occur is if both parties established “rules” before the kiss took place. In other words, if there is obvious, mutual interest between two people, unless one states that they don’t want exclusivity between them, the kiss seals the deal.

In North America, there is so much pressure put on the words “girlfriend” and “boyfriend.” People treat them like a prison sentence: something they can’t get out of once it commences. In the French culture, those words are, well, non-existent. Once kissed, it is mutually understood that they are now “together” in the sense that they will take time to get to know one another and no one else. There is no fear or conversation about whether that person is seeing or sleeping with anyone else. 

 Make sense? Let me take you down memory lane, to more vividly paint this picture.

When James and I first met, we were in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park in Toronto, Canada. He was with five other women, who were not happy about my presence. Now, if anyone knows anything about amusement parks, those lines are not small. James and I joke about how those ninety minutes were basically our first date.

We exchanged information, and the following day we were making plans to meet up. For me, this would be our official first date. Without delving into all the magical details of the evening, we did share a kiss. Multiple, in fact. I thought nothing of it. I had been kissed on dates before, only to find out the guy had no interest in becoming exclusive, let alone seeing me again. In other words, it was nice, but meant nothing regarding the status of our relationship.

His line of thinking: we’re together!

Of course, this conversation didn’t surface. I had basically been trained not to use the word “relationship” on the first date, to prevent coming across desperate or needy (remember, fear of prison!). So, when I received a call from James the following day, and he said, “we’re exclusive,” the same shock and terror swept over my body. Turns out he had a conversation with his Canadian friends, and when he mentioned we were “together,” they nearly fell of their chairs:

“Does she know this?”

“You’re boyfriend and girlfriend already!?”

“That was fast!”

Based on their surprise, he felt it necessary to call and speak to me. When I resisted the word, he asked me a series of questions:

“Are you planning on seeing or sleeping with anyone else?” No.

“Would you be happy if I was seeing or sleeping with anyone else?” Not particularly.

“So, then, we’re exclusive.” Huh.

He then went on to say that if in two weeks or a month we feel we are incompatible, then, fine, but for now he is committed to just getting to know me in hopes that that doesn’t happen.

For the first time, everything was on the table, it was very black and white, and I was relieved. So, French people don’t date. They focus on getting to know one person until, perhaps, they don’t want to anymore.

Everyone is Equal in the Relationship

I must applaud French women for a moment. This applaud is not an insult to my fellow Canadian/American women, but rather an appreciation for how the French culture has developed over time. Of course, we are still deep in the #metoo and #timesup era, but, in my eyes, French women are some of the leading ladies in eliminating sexist roles and expectations.

I am from a small town and have travelled a lot. One recurring pattern I’ve noticed in North American women is their learned dependency on their men. The tradition lives strong. Many people struggle in communicating with their significant other for fear of being vulnerable and dismissed. Oftentimes, I’ve heard North American men speak and joke about their female partners as if they are the burden they carry in their life: the “ball-and-chain.” My culture still forwards sexist marriage jokes, and perpetuates this idea that women (and yes, men) are the main problem in the life of the other. It’s a mess, and these comments and jokes are rooted in classical conditioning of gender roles.

a man wearing a blue apron and a white shirt cooking or preparing food

Now, head across the pond. Because there is no pressure to decide when a relationship starts – since a kiss resolves that issue – communication is key in moving forward. French people view their relationship as a space for team building. There is no winning partner when tension or arguments arise. If one loses, the couple loses.

In speaking to some of our best French friends, it isn’t uncommon to hear them say, “I admire my partner.” There is a deep sense of respect and approval. These people protect each other and are equally involved in the evolution of their relationship and connection. French people are known to lean into pleasure. They waste little time on things that take joy away, and one of the greatest pleasures of life is love and intimacy.

Quality Time is Vital

That brings me to my third point: quality time with a Frenchman.

Let me add some clichés in here. Quality time in France is usually acquainted with food and romance. If we know anything about the French, it’s their love for love and food.

I dare you to approach a French man and ask if they consider themselves romantic. You’ll most likely hear “no” or “not really.” The great part about that is their “not really” is equivalent to candle-lit dinners and beautifully prepared food. Why? Because it’s in their blood! What a North American views as romantic is something the French see as everyday life. They appreciate elegance, quality, and intimacy.

I have met as many French men who enjoy cooking as women. There is a pride around good food that the French can’t help. But be ready, because when a French man cooks for you, or takes you out for a nice meal, he expects quality time. I’m talking like a solid hour-and-a-half to two-hours around the table. Eating. Speaking. Flirting. It’s basically their foreplay!


What a great segue.

How could I possibly finish without speaking about sex? That’s why I’m here, no?

The differences between the French and American are…tremendous. First off, the French speak about sex as easy as they do the weather. Don’t believe me? Head over to Netflix and watch the wonderful comedy, 2 Days in Paris. It’s a hilarious and yet accurate depiction of their comfort level.

a black and white image of a couple kissing

Secondly, and probably the most profound, nudity and sexuality are not connected. When my husband sees a naked woman, his brain doesn’t set off an alarm that screams “SEX!” He grew up in a country where women and men share the same rights regarding nudity. What I mean by this is, it is not forbidden for women to go topless anywhere a man can go topless, and vice versa. You will find more topless women on some beaches in France than not. Because nudity is natural and normalized in France, there isn’t the same hyper-awareness or sensitivity or sexualization of the female body. It’s refreshing!

Lastly, French men have a BIIIGGG…ego! Their greatest sexual fear is to hear they weren’t the best in bed for one of their partners. They derive pleasure from their partner’s pleasure. It’s AH-MAZING! Again, gotta shout out to the French ladies who helped make this happen!

In a part of the world where toxic masculinity holds our men victim to their own ego, it is nice to see a culture that holds pride around the giving of pleasure. The idea of being the best, even during a one-night stand, has been ingrained in them. The idea of leaving a sexual encounter with a woman unsatisfied is devastating to their self-esteem.

And you know what, I can’t complain.