I have lived in France all of my teenage and young adult life, learning to understand the French man and what makes him so different from my British role models. These are the good bits. My husband is going to love this so I had better follow it up fast with the ‘10 things I don’t love about French men’ before he gets a big head. WARNING: I’m delving into my most stereotypical examples, this is going to be cliché!
- Romantic – The myth is true, it’s not just a film phenomenon, the French man has a romantic side to him. Surprise dinners, weekends, presents, turning up at your work with flowers or leaving a huge bouquet outside your door early in the morning before you go to work, all of this (and I’m talking from experience) is possible with the French. He will feel no shame in spoon-feeding you a ‘dessert to share’ in a restaurant, or passionately kissing you in public, and holding hands and displays of affection are all part of the deal.
- Smooth talkers – This is one thing they are particularly good at (and perhaps this will also find itself on my ’10 things I don’t love’ list). Your average French man has no trouble approaching a woman to flirt, in fact it’s a talent they are born with no matter how shy. Compliments seem to roll off of their lips, be you at a bar, a bakery, or in a supermarket. If a French man thinks you’re attractive, he’ll let you know. In fact I had taken this behavior as such a given that after graduating from university and spending some time in London, I became very self-conscious about my appearance, thinking I had become most unattractive (not that I think I’m gorgeous the rest of the time! But I’m ok) until I realised that the British male counterpart simply had an entirely different way of expressing himself, and the bakery or the supermarket were not his favorite playgrounds, he liked the pub (after a good few rounds).
- Gentlemen – A French man will treat you like a lady, pull your chair out for you to sit at the table, pour your wine, and hold the door for you (ok that last one might be to get a better view of your behind as you go through the door, but you just have to be aware of these things). He will carry your bags for you, and even carry you home if you chose the wrong pair of 10 inch heels to go out in and can’t find a taxi at the end of the night (Beware, a very likely scenario in Paris).
- Suave – Again “hello stereotype” but the French take care of their appearance, his shirts are crisp, his hair in place, he smells good, and he’ll often have a bit of a tan about him from skiing in the Alps, or a spring weekend in the South of France. Now I hate smoking, it’s a terrible and dangerous habit, that said, I just can’t help but find it sexy when a Frenchie lights up a Gauloises and slowly smokes it whilst smiling at you with devilish brown eyes…(wow that’s two clichés in one ‘thing’ and I’m only at number 4. Please bear with me)
- Connoisseurs – Every Frenchman knows a minimum about wine. This really impressed me when I first came to France, to see young people drink wine at parties, no, to see them appreciating wine at parties, it made me feel quite grown up. Later on, when I would go on dates, my date would always know what to order at a restaurant or a wine bar, taking the lead, very sexy. I know a fair bit about wine myself these days…ok that’s a lie, I buy the bottles with the label that says the bottle has won a prize. Hey, if a French wine tasting jury has deemed a bottle of Bordeaux the best in its category, who am I to argue?! Anyway it’s a fact, the French know their wine, and as I am still in a learning process, I find it quite attractive.
- Chefs – Yep the French man cooks. And not just any old cheese on toast, no-no, cooks, cooks. In fact this one is kind of linked to number one as this is part of their romantic routine. I have been treated to some fantastic dishes by romantic, suave, wine connoisseurs. I’m talking soufflés, boeuf bourguignon’s, coque au vin’s and even stuffed quail, all served with attention to detail and presentation, on a table with a candle or two. In fact I once came in to a path of little candles that lead me to a candle lit table (…told you it was kind of linked to number one).
- Discrete – You will rarely have a French man embarrass you on a night out. They can get drunk but they are not rowdy, and you will never have to explain to your boss why your husband showed his bum off at an office party. (Please don’t summarise number seven as: ‘French men don’t show their bums at office parties’ – it’s just an example).
- Polite – This goes for the French as a nation really, they have customs that no man, woman or child can avoid and that impose a certain civilised aura (at least on the surface). Social training in manners starts at an early age. You must say hello and goodbye to everyone upon entering and leaving a public space be it the doctor’s waiting room or the corner shop, even the bank, or a crowd in an elevator. In more intimate circles you must kiss everyone you know (and sometimes don’t know) on the cheeks (N.B. This is also a very polite way of spreading germs too unfortunately, and was the downfall of the French during the pig flu epidemic). A French man will know to bring wine or flowers to your mother’s table when invited to diner, and will make the best polite conversation. He has a wide knowledge of table manners and as a bonus will know how to charm your mother (see number two) and how to impress your father (see number five).
- Sensitive – Out comes the stereotype again but France really does have its fair share of sensitive arty types. In fact even the non-arty types are quite sensitive, your average French man will not be embarrassed to shed a tear at the cinema, or another when proposing (yep been there : ), and they will (not always with great success) try to connect to you and understand things from a woman’s point of view. Most French men can express their feelings, this possibly comes from the amount of philosophy taught in school, introspection doesn’t frighten them, in fact some of them love it a bit too much.
- Poets – May as well go out with a bang. Be it text messages, e-mails or hand written declarations, the French know how to court a woman ‘old school’ style. Now this is one I haven’t always been comfortable with as it has been inappropriate at times (love declarations via e-mail from colleagues I hardly knew in my old job…on more than one occasion…creepy). However, when not being creepy, you have to hand it to them in a day and age where people no longer take the time to write a simple post card, good old-fashioned correspondence is not only different but quite nice.
Stay tuned for the ‘10 things I don’t love about French men’, or skip my blog next week if you don’t want the French fantasy to be deflated. Be prepared!
I do not pretend to know all French men, and for those of you who know my husband, please note that I am not married to a French cliché. My husband is a wonderful original individual, to whom only the very best bits of this list apply (except for the ‘sexy smoking’ incase his mum is reading).