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What is the French rule for dating?

When it comes to romance, the French do it differently. French culture has a reputation for embracing romantic love and passion. This extends to dating norms and expectations as well. There are certain unwritten rules that dictate the French style of dating, which may be unfamiliar or surprising to outsiders.

The French Emphasize Quality over Quantity When Dating

Americans have a tendency to date a lot of people casually before settling into a monogamous relationship. The French take a different approach, favoring quality over quantity when it comes to romance. They are more selective about who they agree to date and prefer to get to know someone intimately before fully committing to them. Casual dating for the sole purpose of dating is less common in French culture.

The French don’t rush into dating someone just for the sake of it. They want to make sure there is real compatibility before investing time and energy into a relationship. This more purposeful approach to dating means they date fewer people on average than Americans, but feel more confident about those they do pursue. Taking things slowly at first allows them to properly vet partners and set the stage for long-term compatibility if things progress.

There is No Equivalent “Dating Scene” in France

In the U.S., dating is often perceived as an activity in and of itself. People talk about being part of the dating scene and actively work to meet romantic prospects. Dating is viewed as a proactive undertaking that requires putting yourself out there to find potential mates.

The French approach dating in a less formal, structured way. There isn’t the same concept of a dating scene. People meet romantic partners through their daily lives and social circles, not through a dedicated pursuit of dating. If a connection develops and there is mutual interest, it may organically lead to a romantic relationship. But dating isn’t seen as a specific hobby or lifestyle in the way it sometimes is in America.

The French Don’t Really “Date” at All

The American concept of dating doesn’t translate precisely into French. There is no equivalent French word that carries the same meaning. The terms “rendez-vous” (appointment) and “rencontre” (encounter) come close, but they lack the casual, social connotation of a date.

Instead of “dating”, the French use the verb “voir” which literally means “to see.” When interested in someone romantically, they might say, “Je la vois” or “Je le vois” – I see her or I see him. This implies a greater intimacy and commitment than the more casual act of dating.

Rather than casually date around, they focus their energies on one person at a time when a relationship shows promise. There is no assumption that seeing someone comes with the obligation to be monogamous, however. It’s understood that in the early stages, it is normal to be voir several people before deciding to be exclusive with one.

French Couples Become Exclusive Earlier

While the French don’t really date, they do have a clear demarcation line between casual voir and committed relationships. After the initial period of getting to know one another, couples who wish to pursue a relationship will have a conversation about becoming exclusive.

This talk usually happens earlier in the courtship process than it does for American couples. After deciding neither has interest in seeing other people, they confirm that they are in a monogamous relationship. However, this still doesn’t equate to being boyfriend/girlfriend in the American sense. There are further relationship milestones before that level of commitment is reached.

There is No Concept of Casual Dating

American culture has largely normalized the concept of casual dating. This means dating without any expectation of commitment or exclusivity. The goal is simply socializing and getting to know new people romantically without any obligations.

This type of informal dating arrangement doesn’t really exist in French culture. Socializing one-on-one with romantic intentions automatically implies a willingness to commit eventually if things go well. While they don’t rush into defined relationships, they also don’t continue voir once a real connection is established. It’s viewed as leading someone on.

They Don’t Label Relationships as Quickly

Americans are generally quick to apply boyfriend/girlfriend labels once dating gets semi-serious. The French take a more measured approach to defining relationships. Exclusivity is seen as a significant milestone, but not equivalent to becoming official boyfriend/girlfriend.

Rather than neatly defined relationship stages, they focus more on the overall trajectory of a romance. They don’t feel the need to declare themselves partners or put a ring on it before making a real emotional investment. Defining the relationship comes later down the line once they are sure of their compatibility and feelings.

Romance Isn’t Rushed

Overall, the French avoid rushing into romance. Dating and relationships are meant to be savored, not hurried. There are no firm timelines or pressures. Every couple progresses at their own pace based on their unique connection and chemistry.

This goes against the American tendency to race through relationship milestones. The French believe in taking their time getting to know potential partners before fully committing emotionally or physically. False starts and mistakes are avoided because they don’t force relationships that aren’t founded on genuine affinity.

Intimacy Comes Before Exclusivity

While Americans frequently begin having sex within the first few dates, the French usually wait until they know one another better first. However, they also don’t expect to be exclusive before becoming intimate. Having sex comes earlier in the courtship process than exclusivity.

They don’t follow any strict timeline, but typically have sex within the first month or two of voir. This might involve multiple rendezvous before transitioning into a relationship. The intimate stage allows them to gauge their physical compatibility before deciding to date exclusively.

Sex Doesn’t Imply a Serious Relationship

While French lovers take sexuality seriously, they don’t assume intimacy implies undying commitment. Sex is seen as a normal part of getting to know someone before choosing to be monogamous. It doesn’t automatically lead to being in a relationship. They separate the physical from the emotional in the early stages of courtship.

It’s Assumed Multi-Partner Romances Precede Exclusivity

Openly dating and/or sleeping with multiple partners in the initial stages of courtship is culturally acceptable. There is no expectation that two people voir are exclusively seeing each other unless that conversation has happened. The multi-partner intimacy stage simply allows them to decide if they are compatible before commitment.

Playing Hard to Get is Normal

The French don’t make it overly easy on romantic pursuers. Even if they are interested in someone, they typically play at least somewhat hard to get. This might involve being vague about their availability, cancelling dates, or withholding affections during initial rendezvous.

This serves a purpose beyond simply boosting their ego. It allows them to gauge a suitor’s true interest and devotion. If they are willing to put in work to court them, then they likely have long-term potential. Playing hard to get weeds out pursuers just looking for a fleeting romance. It also builds romantic tension and anticipation.

PDA is Kept Private

French couples are tactile and expressive with one another, but it’s considered in poor taste to put intimate moments on public display. Hand-holding is about as PDA as they get in public. Kissing, cuddling, and other displays of affection are kept behind closed doors.

Overt PDA is seen as immodest and lacking in self-control. They prefer to maintain an air of sophistication and reservation when out together. Mutual desire and passion for one another is communicated more discreetly through eye contact, body language, and chivalrous gestures.

Dates Don’t Have to Cost Money

Expensive, showy dates are seen as unnecessary, especially in the early stages of courtship. Pleasant conversation and company are valued more than material things when getting to know a romantic interest.

Simple dates like going for a walk, browsing markets, or getting coffee allow them to talk and enjoy one another’s presence without pretense or lavish accoutrements. Dates centered on experiences rather than expenditures are preferred.

Food and Drink Dates Allow Time to Talk

Sharing a meal or bottle of wine together is a classic French date. This provides unrushed time to engage in quality conversation and get a sense of compatibility. Lingering over dinner or languidly sipping drinks creates an intimate ambience perfect for revealing each other’s personalities.

Good food and drink also tap into the senses, an important ingredient for romance. Savoring flavors together fosters a sensual connection. The French know a proper date should appeal to both the mind and the body.

Mystery is Maintained

French lovers cultivate a sense of elegant mystery throughout courtship. They reveal themselves slowly, carefully choosing which facets of their personality to share as intimacy progresses. Never showing all their cards keeps intrigue and interest simmering between partners.

This contrasts with American dates where partners sometimes overshare, hastily revealing their life stories without filtering. The French hold back to maintain layers of allure and unpredictability that entice romantic pursuers to peel back those layers over time. Saying just enough but not too much keeps new love exciting.

Gallantry is Expected

In French courtship, romance is not a two-way street. Men take the lead pursuing women. They plan dates, initiate contact, make the first move physically, and deliver romantic gestures or gifts.

In return, women play a more passive, receptive role. They expect to be charmed and seduced without having to reciprocate equally. Male gallantry demonstrates value as a mate and inspires confidence about long-term partnership potential.

Initiating Contact Falls to Men

Traditionally, French women rarely initiate contact with men first, whether asking them out or providing their number. They expect interested men to take the risk of approaching them and being rebuffed. Making this effort proves genuine interest.

Men Plan Creative Dates

Rather than low-effort dates like meeting for coffee, French men put thought into planning original dates that facilitate real conversation. A boring, predictable date may reflect poorly on a suitor’s creativity and individuality.

Paying is Non-Negotiable

On dates, French men insist on covering all expenses no matter how egalitarian the woman. A man who doesn’t pay or suggests splitting the bill risks being seen as stingy or lacking chivalry. Paying demonstrates they value a woman’s company and time.

Giving Gifts is Encouraged

French men typically bring small gifts like flowers, chocolate, or wine when picking women up for dates. An additional gift may be given to end the night if the date goes well. Thoughtfully chosen presents keep up the sense of romance and thoughtfulness.

Making the First Move Physically is Respectful

French women expect men to initiate first kisses or physical contact. Making bold moves demonstrates confidence and shows he has seriously considered her consent and interest. Leaving it to the woman could be seen as passive or unchivalrous.

Chivalry Goes Beyond Initial Courtship

In American culture, chivalry from men often drops off after a relationship is established. French men continue romance and gestures into long-term partnerships. Bringing flowers, gifts, or paying remain part of their relationship culture.

Continued courtly treatment provides reassurance of their continued desire and appreciation. Maintaining an element of gallantry helps keep relationships exciting and mutually fulfilling over time.

Breaking Up Must Be Done Tactfully

Ending a relationship in French culture requires thoughtfulness and care to avoid drama or hurt feelings. Usually one party gently initiates a conversation to explain their feelings have changed and suggest parting ways amicably.

Blindsiding someone out of the blue or ghosting after intimacy is seen as highly disrespectful. They aim for clarity without hostility when breaking things off, even relatively casual involvements. Preserving dignity on both sides minimizes bad blood.

Excitement Takes Priority Over Practicality

The French value passion, romance, and intrigue when pursuing relationships over practical considerations like long-term compatibility or similar lifestyles. They date based on chemistry rather than pragmatic factors.

This sometimes leads to lovers’ quarrels or ill-fated trysts, but the emotional experience is considered worth it. For them, love should feel exhilarating, not predictable or mundane. The heart wants what it wants regardless of logic.

Love Has No Time Limit

There is no specific timeline dictating when various relationship milestones should happen, from initial intimacy to becoming official to getting engaged. French couples base timing on their unique situation, not preconceived notions of what’s “normal”.

A couple voir for years before monogamy, or be wed after a whirlwind romance are equally valid. French lovers let their relationship develop organically rather than impose rigid expectations. Love moves at its own pace.


French style dating is less structured and defined than American dating, focusing more on passion and connection over rules or timelines. Casual dating as a social exercise doesn’t really exist there. Rather, they cherish romance and intimate knowledge of a partner, allowing relationships to deepen gradually and organically without pressure. This approach cultivates strong bonds with long-term potential.

While French lovers revel in romance, they avoid the trap of equating intimacy or intensity with commitment or an eternal bond. Love is treated as an exquisite experience to savor for however long it lasts. Relationships run their natural course without artificial milestones. For the French, dating is about quality over quantity when it comes to matters of the heart.