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?

  • Miss Bougie

    Oh yes, flirting all the way, every day, every occasion that presents itself. It makes walking through life so much easier, and no harm done. A smile, a wink, a witty comment can go a long way. The Anglos think that when someone complements you out of context, like when you are not romantically interested, it’s harassment. That is so sad. I always wondered how people actually got together when a comment is deemed sexist by the receiving person. I didn’t realise it was the booze speaking. I have to say if the man I was out on a date with drank 90% of the time, I would cut the evening short; and he certainly would not get a second date.

    • Same here. I would cut short any date who drinks to much. It’s so sexy, right? Maybe it is a cultural thing, you know, as in: in Rome, do as the Romans do…

  • I think us Aussie girls like to flirt too. I pay people compliments all the time, men and women, in fact more women. I think if I like someone’s scarf, hair, dress, jewellery whatever it may be then why not let them know.

    • Are you sure that you are not french? I am the same. The thing is, it is sometimes interpreted in a weird way over here…

  • Ha! So true about alcohol being needed as a safety net, and not just for dating…

    • Is it a British thing? I really wonder…

  • Liv

    I never realized how true this is: the cultural component to flirting. I enjoyed this article a lot because I just finished a book about the differences in culture’s love: Amore by Roger Friedland. I do appreciate now the art and value of flirting. Must practice more….

    • After the theory, the practice…I say go for it!

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  • Urban Mumble

    These are very accurate remarks. Although, compared to the even heavier drinking and socially awkward Finns (I’m a Finn so I can say this) the Brits are smooth and delicate in their seduction rituals. I guess its all relative! Perhaps not surprisingly, I met my husband in Paris.

    • Really, the Finns are even worse? I can’t believe it? maybe you should guest post on my blog to tell us all about it!

      • Urban Mumble

        I would love to! British men are considered to be amongst the most desirable men by Finnish women. In fact, the divorce rate of Fenno-British couples is lower than that of completely Finnish couples.. Maybe it’s because of the eloquent conversations about weather?

        • Ah, talking about the weather! I believe that it is a national sport. So, did you marry a Brit too (It happens to the best of us!? Your post made me really wonder what Finnish men are like…

        • OK, you are welcome to guest post on my blog to explain why for you Finns the British men are the creme de la creme. Email me at is you are still up for it!

  • I’m a natural flirt (I’m a Brit), but I find that, living and dating in France is a nightmare. All that the men here seem to want is sex and they’re all so forward about it. It’s put me off French men as a whole to be honest.

    • Really? Your comment made me smile. That said, it is true that French men are, well, more forward (did you hear the British understatement here?). What can I say, go British then (as I have done, but don’t repeat it!)

  • Lucylastica2

    I think the majority of British males think flirty is simply the use of a few innuendo comments!

    • Maybe we should all send them to France for a short while?

  • I don’t have any experience with the French, and had only one romantic experience with a Brit. He must be an exception. We were both all about words, just as I prefer. Do I flirt? I don’t think so, unless people think my smiles are flirtatious….which I highly doubt.

    • If you are all about words, then you are more French than you think, Joy…Just saying!

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  • Kymira LeBlanc

    My fiancé is viet-french, and takes much more to the french side of his upbringing. We met in school in America, and when we were first together, I felt he was acting too flirty to other girls, and I saw they (as I did) took it as though he were interested in them. When I spoke to him about this he didn’t realise that this was what he was doing, and assured me he was only being friendly and socialising like he learned when he was growing up. He agreed to tone it down since people were getting the wrong idea.

    Of course, according to my culture, this raised some red flags for me and made me wary of his acitons. Yet, we’ve been together for 3 years and are engaged, and I’ve never met anyone as faithful as he. I’ve been doing some reading to understand this more, as I’m American and flirting is a “relationship interest only” kind of thing, at least as far as I was raised.

    Is it common for flirtation with others (simple overfriendliness, compliments, etc) continue even after dedicated relationship is achieved?