Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I have often wondered how couples get together this side of the Channel. After a friend’s dates with a British guy went terribly wrong (read the story here), I started observing my friends and colleagues to understand how things were working, and quickly came to the conclusion that copious amounts of booze were often involved. To cut a long story short, I think that, over here, the art of seduction involves 90% of booze and 10% of words. The said words usually are ‘should we share a cab?’ If the approach is successful, that is. Obviously.

How unsexy. You see, we French are all about words. I believe that the French art of seduction consists of 90% of words and maybe 10% of wine (And in my view, champagne is even better. But that’s just me, I suppose). The booze’s only purpose is to enhance the whole experience.


You see, we French don’t need to be completed sloshed to share our feelings. And we tend to share them in subtle ways. ‘Do you want to spend the night with me?’ might get you a much-deserved slap on the face. It is a question of timing. After a nice conversation over a lovely meal, a movie or a show, you might get lucky, and be able to ask ‘on va chez toi ou on va chez moi?’ (My place or your place?). But I guarantee that it will cost you some witty lines and romantic gestures. To say the least…You will have to make your date feel ‘special’, and tell her that he/she looks wonderful tonight. And you will also have to find topics of discussion that interest both of you. Again, we French like to talk. Now you are warned.

 With the British system, at least you can blame everything on the booze if things go awry. It wasn’t you. No, of course it wasn’t. So sorry for the bad kiss. You misbehaved because of the alcohol. Of course you did. Things are less forgiving in the French art of seduction: there is no safety net. If you didn’t get what you wanted, in all likelihood it is your conversation. Or he/she simply didn’t like you. Ouch. I know, it hurts.That said, after more than a decade in this country, it seems to me that we French do not make that big a deal out of rejection. Don’t get me wrong: we don’t like it. But we move on. Over here, the British find it more difficult to get over a rejection, and sometimes they don’t make a move just because of this. How sad.

Getting rejected is called  ‘se prendre un rateau’ -literally to take a rake- in French.  And you have to move on, because, come to think of it, flirting is part of the French culture. In my home country, we flirt all the time. As in, every day. For instance, it is completely normal to get a compliment from a male colleague (like ‘you look even more gorgeous today’). He doesn’t mean any harm, and it certainly doesn’t automatically mean that he wants to make a pass at you. We French women know how to receive such compliments. We just smile, and shrug it off if we are not interested. And that’s the end of it. Some of my friends believe that such comments are sexist. Frankly, I don’t notice it any more.

When I moved here, I realised that I was flirting all the time. Not flirting to seduce of course, but flirting in a French way, you know, like paying compliments and smiling. It lead to funny quid-pro-quos. For instance, I remember sitting next to a colleague, and telling him that I loved his cufflinks (because I just did!). He started blushing, and I realised that he thought I was hitting on him. The concept seemed so incongruous to me that I went along with it, just for the pleasure of seeing his pale British skin turn crimson in a couple of seconds every time I was saying something nice. How hilarious! Then, after a while, I announced that I was 6-month pregnant. I saw panic in his eyes. I know, I know, I was cruel, and it wasn’t nice of me, and I regret the whole thing. But seriously, how stuck-up can you be? It looks like the art of harmless flirting is lost on the Brits. It must be my French side.

So what about you? Do you flirt, or do you make a point not to flirt?