The Secret To Dating (And Getting Men) Like A French Woman

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The Secret To Dating (And Getting Men) Like A French Woman

Sometimes the late Bill Cunningham, the New York Times street fashion photographer, took pictures of French women, and they always looked so damn sexy.

Granted, the Times is going to choose the best photos, but somehow French women always managed to look more seductive than the average American woman.

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Now, it's silly to stereotype and say that all French women are sexy, but there are definite cultural differences between French women and American women — that's undeniable.

It also seems unarguable that these differences are responsible for that thing French women seem to have. The thing that makes them seem fashionable and cool and charming.

Author Jamie Cat Callan grew up in America, but she has a French grandmother.

After traveling between France and the U.S. time and again, Cat Callan realized that French women are, indeed, different from us when it comes to romance.

But Cat Callan didn't stop at noticing—she traveled all over the country and interviewed hundreds of men and women about love, romantic customs, and relationships in France.

The results are catalogued in her delightful book, French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets To Finding Love.

YourTango spoke with Cat Callan about dating, dinner parties, and adultery.

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YourTango: What's the difference between dating in France and dating in the U.S.?

Jamie Cat Callan: The French don't date! In fact, when we asked French women about dating, they were completely confused. They simply don't get our penchant for going out with virtual strangers and having a two-hour interview-style date. One French woman who had lived in New York and dated said she absolutely hated the American date, telling us it was boring and painful.

So if they don't date, how do they get to know men?

They have dinner parties. All of France, they're hosting dinner parties every Friday and Saturday night!

These can be formal sit-down dinners with elaborate menus, starting with champagne—they always begin with champagne and no cheese and crackers, because they don't want to spoil the appetite.

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And then, foie gras on toast with a tiny layer of liquid honey, or perhaps some oysters and white wine. For winter, perhaps some potato and leek soup.

They'll prepare something like a stew ahead of time and then fill it in with some store-bought delicacies. For dessert, the French will have everyone move from the dining room table to the living room for liqueurs and more champagne and dessert. A big favorite is fondant au chocolate (chocolate lava cake). It's all very elegant.

However, all the parties aren't quite so formal. There are more casual versions, last-minute invitations, and pot-lucks.

The point is to get men and women, mixed singles and marrieds into one room for a night of lively conversation and flirting, and even they even enjoy a little tussle about art or politics.

It's sexy and fun and an incredibly natural and wonderful way to meet men and get to know them.

Also, the dinner party buys a lot of time for a woman. She can flirt with one man while being observed from afar by another—perhaps the real object of her desire. The dinner party is a great opportunity to be seen and admired. Then men can compete for her attention and affection.

Do you think this would go over well in America?

Sure. Especially in these recessionary times, I think men would appreciate not plunking down a couple of c-notes just to find out whether or not this is a friendship or something more.

Okay, but after a while — say a man and woman clearly like each other — then they go on a date, right?

No, actually, they'll go for a walk! It's a great way to see and be seen and keep the man guessing. 

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The French are very theatrical, so they are always looking at each other. For a woman, it's a wonderful way to put her man on notice—that she has other admirers.

So, even when the affair begins for real, she'll make sure they get out and about. And that means more dinner parties.

I love the idea of dinner parties and going on walks — I don't think Americans know much about those French customs. But there's another thing Americans think of when they think of France and love: infidelity. Do they really have no problem with cheating?

The acceptance of the mistress is really a myth. We talked to hundreds of French women and they all agreed they would never tolerate their husband having a mistress.

One woman told us she warned her husband, "If you ever hesitate between me and another woman, I will make it very simple for you, there will be no more hesitating. You can go with the other and forget about me."

We did find that women in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s put up with their husband's affairs—not so much because they were fine with the affair, but because of financial restrictions and the difficulty of divorce.

So, no, France is not the grand free-love society you might imagine.

That said, the French are having affairs. Both men and women. But, this is true in America, too. The difference is, that we don't talk about it quite as openly and we don't have a clever name for the after-work trysts. The French call it "The Five to Seven." These are the hours of indiscretion where men and women are meeting in hotel rooms, apartments, and the like.

Ha! That's incredible.

Sarah Harrison has worked for both Nerve Media and Babble, where she worked on editorial and advertising projects.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on April 9, 2009.