Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /


I have tried to deny it countless times, and I will continue to do so. Despite everything you have read in the newspapers (especially the British ones), we French haven’t invented extra-marital affairs. That said, I must admit that we do have a very specific figure of speech for a visit to one’s mistress.  We call it a 5 a 7 (five-to-seven). It is derived from the time of the day a Frenchman would make such a visit. So, next time you hear a French person say that they are going to their 5 to 7, you will know what they are talking about. You will understand and nod quietly. Everybody will understand and shut up. That’s how we French are: we keep some things private. Yes, especially these things.

Mind you, if someone from Canada invites you for a 5-to-7, it has a completely different meaning: it will just be a social gathering with friends and colleagues. Don’t expect anything remotely naughty. In short, get the nationality of your interlocutor right, or you might end up in a bit of a pickle. Now you know.
Come to think of it, the 5 to 7 has always been a mystery for me: can you really compartimentalise your life for a couple of hours? Can you be a perfect family man/women for 22 hours, and escape from your daily routine for two hours a day? I really wonder. Seriously, how do you do this? Is there a switch in your mind that you can use? Where is it? How do you switch it on and off? How come I didn’t know?

I wish I had this amazing capacity of being a different person just for a few hours. But no, whatever I do, it’s just me, and me again. Because when you come back to your usual routine, do you forget what has just happened? How do you justify the whole thing? I don’t understand how it all works.
Maybe I am just overanalysing it. In order to try to get to the bottom of this, I made a few phone calls to various friends to discuss how they managed. They told me that it was some sort of survival instinct: they want to keep everybody happy, and they keep their 5-to-7 encounters secret. They have built a protective wall around their private matters. It works…until there is a breach, and then all hell can break loose.

Hmmm. It sounds a bit like playing hide and seek with you responsibilities, don’t you think? On this note, I have a 5 to 7 with friends from Quebec. As I am French, I hesitated a bit when they suggested such a meet-up. Silly French me!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London