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The Ultimate Guide to Dating in France 

The Ultimate Guide to Dating in France 

dating culture in france

When it comes to dating in France, the French like to play by their own rules and these differ significantly from other cultures. As a French woman, I wanted to dive a little bit more into the French dating culture and explain how dating is different in France.

The French tend to not make a date too romantic and prefer to keep things casual by incorporating finding love into their everyday lives. So just in time for Valentine’s Day, read on to learn more about the French dating system.

How Dating is Different in France

Dating in France is very common; according to this study, 91% of the French say to have had at least one “date” in their lifetime —a “rendez-vous” preceding a possible romantic relationship. However, in France, there is no proper dating protocol or dating typical scenario as there is no word for “dating” in French.

Indeed, a “date” could be translated in French by “un rendez-vous galant” or a “rendez-vous amoureux” (which is rarely used) or simply a “rendez-vous”. But if a simple “rendez-vous” means a romantic date, it can also mean a very formal appointment or a non-romantic meeting with friends and family. The verb “to date” can also be translated in French by “voir / frequenter quelqu’un(e)” which literally means “seeing someone”. Nowadays, the English word “date” is an integral part of the French language, but this doesn’t mean the American concept of “dating” goes without saying.

The French Won’t Ask a Stranger on a Date

Instead, they like to get to know each other before moving on to date or having a romantic relationship. That is why in France, the concept of the blind date is inexistent. The French generally date someone that they had previously met either through their friends or social circles, meetup groups, local events, but also through online dating site and apps.

Online dating sites, or apps —like Tinder, Happn, Meetic, etc.— are more and more popular for both men and women. According to this study, 38% of the French say they have already used an app or a dating site, and this is even higher among men (45%) or the young (59% among those under 35).

Online dating sites and apps make no exception: a more or less long exchange by messages is necessary before even considering a first date. French dating culture requires a certain level of familiarity and the French need to get to know someone well before asking them out on a date. By the way, French women tend to ask men on a date as much as the opposite.

The First Date is Kept Casual

The French prefer to keep things casual, even during the initial stages of getting to know someone. In France, there is no typical dating scenario that involves a first, second, third, and fourth date with a sort of “dating code”. Instead, the first date is a way to get to know a person and to develop a relationship before becoming more involved. So if you have a first date with a French man or woman, don’t expect any romantic gestures or any indication that you are officially dating, this will not happen.

The Perfect First Date Location

In France, the first date will likely involve a coffee or a drink (at a brasserie or café) or even sometimes a dinner at a nice restaurant. According to this study, 35% of the French choose a restaurant as their first date location, 34% rather a bar or a café ( 37% among those under 35), 17% a public place such as a street or a park, and 13% a more specific activity.

An activity for a first date is a great way to spend some time together, but it doesn’t really feel like a date so there will be less pressure. The French generally opt for a comedy show, a concert, or a museum. The youngest prefer less conventional activities, such as cooking classes, sports classes, or discovery flights. Then, if the first date goes great it will be easy to ask your date out on a more formal date.

Who Should Pay The Bill

Talking openly about money is considered vulgar in France. That is why splitting the bill at the end of a meal isn’t a common practice —and asking to do so could make you appear miser. According to this study, 15% of French people agree that it is up to the person who asked to go on a date to pay the bill. But in many cases, the man will pay for dinner on the first date, and the woman might pay the next time. 57% of French men believe that they must pay the bill at the end of the date, whereas only 30% of them consider that the bill should be split.

The Perfect First Date Outfit

For French women, a first-time date is nothing out of the ordinary: a rendez-vous with a person she may find attractive and interesting. It’s one plan amongst a hundred others in her day. That is why, they do not consider it as an occasion that requires an outfit change.

Instead, they quite simply choose to wear what they love. A simple white t-shirt with a trench coat and straight-leg jeans paired with a nice handbag. In summer, a favorite dress with a pair of espadrilles would be a great option. French women don’t want to show they’re too interested, that is why they never overdress (or dress “sexy”) for a first date. Also, date-night makeup is generally quite simple: radiant skin, a little bit of blush and highlighter, mascara, and a pink-apricot nude lipstick.

The French Do Not Appear Too Eager

In France, it’s important to keep a cool distance and not appear too eager when it comes to getting to know a potential love interest. This means not texting back right away, not revealing about yourself too much and too quickly, or turning up a little bit late to your date — think about the French “quart d’heure de politesse”.

So if your French date is getting a little bit distant this doesn’t necessarily mean he/she’s not interested. The French generally take their time to reveal themselves and this will not happen on one date. Just be a little mysterious and save something for the following rendez-vous, it will make your date want to keep getting to know you a little more.

The First Kiss

There is no specific rule in France about the first kiss. It can happen on the first date if you both fall in love at first sight (“un coup de foudre”) or it could happen later on. However, kissing on the lips for the first time does not mean either you are officially in a relationship or you have the freedom to see someone else.

In France, this is more a way to show that you want to start or develop a romantic relationship. That is why, the first kiss can happen later on, after several dates, and the pace at which a relationship might develop is much slower than in some other countries.

Being Official And Exclusive

With the arrival and massive use of online dating, things have changed a lot in France in the last few years. And there is way more casual dating in France now than there used to be. This means there is also some “dating freedom” when you’re seeing someone in France, but only at the initial stages of dating.

Nowadays, you would probably need to have “the talk” with the person you’ve been seeing for a few months (or a few weeks), just to discuss your relationship status and to establish whether you’re official and exclusive or not. It’s important to look at circumstances before assuming you’re in a relationship in France.

The French prefer to let the relationship evolve as both parties get to know each other in a romantic way. This means that “the talk” should happen naturally or sometimes not at all (if there is no need to). The relationship becomes serious once you meet friends and family. And it is not unusual for the words “je t’aime” to come quite quickly but this really depends on the individual.

Et voilà! I hope this guide to dating in France will allow you to have a better understanding of the French dating culture. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.

View Comments (5)
  • Love your articles. Dating the French way sounds so lovely. Definitely find getting to know each other and communication important before meeting. Has covid restrictions have impact on meetings and „dating“?

    • Hello Stella! Thank you very much for your comment! Yes indeed, covid-19 and all the restrictions (curfews and confinement) that were in place in France in 2020/2021 have impacted dating. Indeed, at that time, French people were more likely to use dating sites and apps as an alternative to dating “in real life”. However, with all the restrictions lifted now in France, I expect things to go back to normal 🙂 xo

  • Bonjour! Another article that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The more I learn about the French culture and lifestyle, the more I identify with. And want to be a part of it. The way people date in France makes so much sense. A respectable way to get to know each opposed to what we’re used to here in the us. It’s confirmed: the French are much more civilized.

  • I love this article. I’m currently “seeing” a French guy for about 3 months now. And I’m still confused on what kind of relationship we have. I’m scared to ask. I don’t want to put pressure. I’m asian, so this set up is really new to me. I usually stay on his place over the weekend. We cook, clean and do grocery chores together. In comes to bill, we always split. Though he always insisted to pay, but I prefer this way.
    He don’t text a lot and so I am. But he never skips a day to send me a good morning/good night message. He’s really respectful, sweet and kind. I kinda like this guy lol

  • I went on two dates with a guy I met online ; we talked for a few months on and off but didn’t met because I leave 7 hrs away. When I finally traveled thru his city we grabbed dinner and kissed ( was so magical that the French kiss made me dizzy ) . We kept on touch and on my way back we met again for a second date , he rented a B&B and I spent the night with him; but since I left three days ago his engagement seems lesser. Is this part of the French culture or he lost interest ? We are in Canada and he’s been here for 1,1/2 years . Thank you

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