Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

How pushy exactly is too pushy? Who takes the initiative? To make matters even worse, what’s considered good practice in London might be unacceptable in France. Life can be difficult. It feels a bit like driving in the dark with only your clearance lights sometimes.

Let me take an example. A few years ago, Stefanie (NOT her real name), a lovely French trainee, came to work with us, in London. She was funny, cute and very bright. She was also very French and chain smoked. All the male colleagues of the office used to rush outside whenever she was having a cigarette. She started liking this English guy and, eventually, he took her on a date. She was obviously very excited about the whole thing. Except that, the following morning, she explained to me that he behaved like a perfect gentleman and didn’t even try to kiss her. He drove her home and even waited for her to open her entrance door to make sure that she was safe, but nothing else happened. How odd.

She was confused. So was I. As I have never dated a British guy, I couldn’t really offer any advice. So we did our research (how did we manage before Google?) and asked around. Apparently, some guys wait a bit before making a move. “Ok”, she said, “I can wait”.


And wait she did. 5 more dates down the road, nothing had happened. (This couldn’t happen in France). She didn’t know what to do. I suggested dating continental guys, because I (used to) find it a lot easier to know where to stand with them –better the devil you know…-. But she wanted to persevere. We had a quick brainstorm. At the time, I was trying to get my daughter into a local Catholic school and found out that I needed a priest reference. So I told her that, maybe, in this country, you need a priest reference before starting a relationship? We asked around but no, apparently it was not necessary. Some Church of England priests are even openly gay over here, and nobody has a problem with it, which I actually find great. Well, back to square one then: how does it work over here?

We tried to find other explanations. If he didn’t fancy her, why would he keep inviting her to nice restaurants? Stefanie, who was not a quitter, decided that he was simply too shy to make a move (maybe it was because of his boarding school education?) and, one evening, after two months of lovely but uneventful dates, she invited him to the pub. After a few drinks, she took him to a dark corner of a beautiful mews and tried to kiss him.
Fatal mistake. He didn’t respond well to her initiative (that’s actually an euphemism) and she felt very ashamed. So ashamed, in fact, that she cut her work placement short a couple of weeks later, after profusely apologising to the guy (she argued that she was drunk).
I bumped into my former English colleague approximately a year ago. He was still single and living with his dog. To this date, she doesn’t understand what has happened -but she moved on. As for me, I understand that I suck at the role of confidante, but I am still struggling to get what went wrong. Any advice/insights?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • Trust that I will continue to monitor this blog post as I am DYING to find out why why why!!!??? Muriel, I’m begging you to keep us all posted. I’m dead serious.

    • I don’t know, Joy. I suppose that I will have to ask him when I see him. To this date I don’t understand what went wrong.

  • I’m an American, but I’m baffled, too. If he really didn’t like her, why did he keep going out with her for 2 months? I’ve dated some real gentlemen, but none of them would have behaved like that.

    • I don’t know what went wrong. I thought that it was a British thing: they don’t dare to make a move. But from the reactions that I have received, I am not sure…

  • Karineh

    Maybe he just wanted to be Friends!

    • Maybe, but she clearly wanted more…Life is tough sometimes.

  • Maybe he didn’t fancy cigarette smoke in his mouth?

    • Maybe. That said, it is not as if she had hidden the truth. She was well known in the office for smoking…

  • Maybe he didn’t like the smoke smell… that is the only logical explanation here…but yes, I am waiting for someone to come up with a better logic! 😉

    • I am just like you, Hajra. Baffled.

  • Had several dates like that in England, and in NY, and in Mexico. Eventually found out about two. Both undecided gays.

    • I think that it might be the explanation. Shame that he hurt my friend…I hope that you were not too hurt either. After all, it is not her fault, is it?

  • Mo

    Who knows with English men. My french friend has given up and started dating French men

    • Sensible decision. My husband is French, so I can’t really say anything else, can I?

  • You’ll have to ask the Brits on that one, that sure doesn’t happen here, either!

    • Well, it wouldn’t happen in France. I don’t understand what has happened. Probably never will.

  • Good Lord, there’s nothing odd about him at all, he might even be half French – he lives with his dog. Why would he want anyone else in his life?

    • He is a dog sort of person, right? Life can be complicated…

  • Anonymous

    hello Muriel
    i have a question. I am an italian girl living in london and I live a french guy.
    is it ok to ask a french guy out?
    thank you

    • Hmmm…tough one. The short answer is no, it is not ok. Usually, French men are very forward (sometimes a bit too much), and if he likes you, you will know. My suggestion would be to play it cool, as if you were just good friends. If he likes you, you will know. Don’t forget to act as if you were surprised if he does. French men like to believe that they took the initiative. Good luck and keep me posted!

    • Anonymous

      thank you so much for answering. I appreciate your help 🙂

  • Anonymous

    we are going out with each other now . i dont really know he wants to have a relationship or just sex. he said in france couples have sex early in the relationship (within a month or less). what do you think? what signs should I see in him that he really likes me or just want to get to know me just for sex? thank you again , Anna.

    • Well, it certainly looks like you had an eventful weekend. Congrats! I don’t know the answer to your question, and my advice would be to always look gorgeous and, by all means, to avoid being/looking needy. Don’t call every 5mins. Play hard to get (you are not at his feet). You need to be in control. It is true that in France sex is usually not that big a deal, but that’s certainly not an excuse to coerce you in any way. If it is an issue, well, just make him wait.
      Above all, be yourself and enjoy the journey. I wish you the best of luck. Take care.

  • carol hedges

    haha…sounds like he should have dated his dog. Seriously, though …there are some strange people out there..maybe he was fascinated by her glamour and exotic Frenchness …but just wanted a dinner date. OR..and this happened to me…he may have been trying to work out his sexual preferences by dating her. I had a gorgeous attentive boyfriend once…who was gay, but didn’t admit it. It took a close friend to out me ”straight”. He behaved the same way…fun, meals, walks, but shyed away from physical contact. Dunno. Whatever, she is well shot of him.

    • I think that you are right. he clearly has issues. It’s such a shame, isn’t it? Guys, here is my advice to you: if you fancy her, tell her!

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