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|Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso|
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|Dating Isn’t Aways Plain Sailing (Port Moresby)|
It happened again over the weekend. I caught up with a friend of mine. She explained to me that she had just met this French guy, and that she really liked him. And then, she asked me the dreaded question:
“- So, tell me, what should I do? Do you have any advice as to how to date a Frenchman?”
I started to panic. The thing is, I have not played the dating game for a very long time. I tried to mumble something about just being yourself, but I don’t think that it made the cut. In short, she left without an intelligible answer. I thought about her question for a long time, and started remembering that, because of my engineering studies and my various technical jobs, I used to be surrounded by men. More often than not, I used to be the only woman in a meeting/project/office…After all, she was probably right to ask the question, because I had to learn how to read guys. It was a survival matter, really. So here is what I should have told her. Better late than never, right? Here we go…
1. There are no rules.
Unlike in the US, there is no specific plan as to what you need to do at the first, second or third date. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. You are in control. Obviously, he often will want to go fast, but it is up to you to slow him down, if you so wish. Now you are warned.
2. Exclusivity goes without saying.
What is it with Anglo-Saxon guys dating several women at the same time until you declare your love to each other? If you date a French guy, he is with you, and you with him. Period. From the very start. As for the misconception that French men are serial cheater, well, I say that fidelity has nothing to do with nationality. More controversially, I also say that is all about risk management: take as good care of yourself as possible, and you will limit the chances of him having a roving eye.
3. Always be at least 10 minutes late.
I know that it is silly, and personally I hate being late. But it is all about not appearing to be too eager. And chances are, he will arrive even later than you. It is a French thing, and I can’t stand it. But in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do, right? Well, it is the same with French men.
4. Don’t smile too much.
I know, I know, you weren’t expecting this one. But apparently, men just love a woman who pouts. That’s probably one of the reasons why Victoria Beckham became so successful. It is beyond me, because I am a happy-go-lucky sort of person, but it is a tried-and tested thing: if you appear to be too happy, they aren’t interested in you. Men in general (and French men in particular) seem to love women with issues. I had a friend who never smiled or laughed. She always had men flocking around her despite her sad face. So unfair. Maybe French men love to be the knight in their shining armour. It must be their romantic side. So look serious and worried, he will love it. Come on, you can do it. Think of something sad.
5. Ditch the granny pants.
And the M&S nighties. As you know, it is one of my pet peeves. He doesn’t care about your wobbly bits, I can assure you. Especially if you wear laces.
6. Do not take the initiative.
Most French men are quite old-fashioned: they want to be the one to take the initiative and do the first step. So much for trying to be independent women, right? The good news is that it usually doesn’t take them as much time as their British counterpart. But often, it is all about making him believe that he took the initiative, when clearly you have paved the way for the relationship to start. And yes, it is a conundrum. So good luck!
7. Feel free to ignore my advice. Yes, all of it.
After all, you are a big girl, right? This is the opportunity for you to start a clean slate. Come on, I am pretty sure that you don’t need my help. Yes, he might be the one, or your fragile heart might end up being broken again. There is simply no way to tell in advance. Whether he is French or not doesn’t really matter. Just go with it, and enjoy the journey!
Over dinner, the other day, I was told that a French primary school that had opened recently in Ealing (West London) was already oversubscribed. Because apparently, all French schools are. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously, because I was French (or was it because of my French accent? I will never know), my interlocutor had assumed that I was sending my children to a French school. The thing is, I was not. I was brought up in the French system, and we sent our older one to a British nursery, because the French Lycée was oversubscribed (unless you had friends in high places, that was, but we didn’t. I am told that, following a certain Ofsted report, the transparency of the admission process has greatly improved). I must admit that I was extremely disappointed at first, but as she was clearly thriving, we ended up keeping her in the British system, where she so clearly belonged. We didn’t hesitate for our younger daughter: she went straight to a British nursery. To us, it was all about having happier children.
It got me thinking: if the French love London so much, why do they absolutely want to send their children to a French school? To me, the whole point of living in London is to embrace its international vibe, and have as open as possible an education. The French education is very academic, with a strong emphasis on maths, and I certainly wouldn’t praise it for its international awareness and open attitude. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to study, live and work in France, then you should go for it. But for a truly international experience and a stronger business acumen, in my view nothing beats British schools in London.
Maybe the French choose such schools because they only will stay a couple of years, in which case it makes sense to keep the same curriculum than at home. Maybe it is for the children to be really bilingual. It is true that sending the children to British schools means that I have to try speak French at home to maintain my daughters’ bilingualism (sometimes with limited success). That said, what I love about British schools is that kids try a bit of everything, and the emphasis on sport and art is really strong, which I find great! I also like the fact that learning, as much as possible, is done by playing or experimenting. Finally, children are taught to be confident and to present their various projects to the whole class from a very young age. I was pleasantly surprised that my daughters started doing ‘Show and tells’ from the age of 4. I have never heard of something similar in France. There is also a real sense of community in British schools: at school, with the assemblies and the various activities, but also outside of school, with the other parents. I don’t remember having this in France.
A French mum explained to me that she considered the British system to be ‘too soft’, and that it would be impossible for her offspring to go back to the French system after a few years in a British school.
She might well have a point, but I thought that she sounded a tad arrogant (Is it me? Am I becoming that British?). That said, anyone who has been through the 7+ and 11 + entrance exams knows that the British system is very academic too, probably with a stronger emphasis on humanities and presentation skills than the French one. Let’s be clear, a child attending a French school doesn’t stand a chance at such exams.
Suffice to say that, in spite of everything I have heard against the British system (uniforms, single sex…), it works for us. After all, it is all about finding the right school for the right child, right?
|Eugene Delacroix, La liberte guidant le peuple|