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Life and Style

Learn how to read the signals French women send you

By No author

Have you ever tried to take a French girl out? Thought she was totally into you, but she freaked out when you made your play? Thought she had no interest whatsoever and turned out she really fancied you? You might have been a victim of the misguiding ambiguity of French girls. The lyrics of “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir” may suggest that French girls are rather easy to get, but when it comes to confronting the stereotype with reality, it seems there is nothing less straightforward. Why are French women so confusing to English men? FranceInLondon guides you into France’s apparently incomprehensible world of feminine seduction.

Brigitte Bardot - Le Mépris
Brigitte Bardot - Le Mépris / Contempt

Permanent meaningless simpering

You just loved her ‘Je-ne-sais-quoi’ and invited her out straightaway. She kept on laughing at your jokes, shared a glass of wine, and you immediately wondered “Hum… where could this end up?”. As she seemed to send all the relevant signs, you were pretty confident this would work out and decided to make a move. Surprisingly enough, she was amazed you could have thought that for even a second. Were you too straightforward or was she a tease? Both are true. Arguably one of the major cultural gaps between France and the UK may be their respective approaches to seduction.

 Michael Pitt & Eva Green - The Dreamers
Michael Pitt & Eva Green - The Dreamers

French girls have a tendency to flirt around all the time with lots of different men, whether it is with their colleagues, their classmates or their friends. I personally remember a conversation with a bunch of female friends back at university in France. We use to share our experiences regarding all the different flirts we had in every single classroom. There would be that cute guy in the Economics seminar, a fascinating chap in the Spanish lecture, another charming gentleman at the Photography workshop, and we would have meaningless romances with each one of them all at once. After three hours of a boring-as-hell fiscal policy course, I would still step out the door with a smile on my face. It was like having a sugar-high without the burden of commitment. Paradoxically we were even flirtier when we had boyfriends. It was a nice ego-boosting way to pass the time, but most of all it was utterly innocent and irrelevant, and French men knew it would not lead anywhere.

Jérémy Kapone & Christa Théret - LOL
Jérémy Kapone & Christa Théret - LOL

However, for British men, flirting actually means something, and they will be ready to make a move if they feel a girl is leading them on - mostly because they are used to having English girls make the first move. But they might find themselves rather disappointed when they realise, that French women have a tendency to be permanently in seduction mode, unlike British girls who will make eye contact only if they fancy you enough to want to take things a step further.

Effy Stonem in Skins
Effy Stonem in Skins

The icy seduction game

And where things become even more confusing is when French people do actually fancy each other. While the Brits exteriorise obvious and clear signs to show where they stand, the French prefer to keep things as ambiguous as possible. Could you imagine that the snobbish-looking ice maiden that frowned when you came to speak to her might actually be completely into you? Welcome to the ambiguous, complicated and opaque process by which French people pair off.  The rules of the game? It’s all about playing at “Who cares less?”

François Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve - Les Demoiselles de Rochefort
François Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve - Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

In a nutshell, you should not be surprised if you ask a French girl out and receive a glacial “Maybe” which could mean anything from “We could be just friends, but I’ll check that out” to “ I quite fancy you, but there’s no way I’ll make this obvious”. Do not expect a cheerful “How lovely, sure, let’s meet tomorrow for lunch”, because unless you’ve clearly been “friendzoned” that will never happen.

Fuzzy date "culture"

Not only is French seduction ambiguous, but, like most things on the other side of the Channel, it can take ages. There is no codified date culture like in the UK. Now you might have the same look on your face as French people have when you discuss dating with them: very puzzled. You are well and truly lost. 

There is no such thing as dating material, aka meeting someone whom you consider as a possible future partner and to whom you indicate your interest by flirting. They never go out on a “first date”.  It is out of the question for them to have the “where is this heading” discussion. By defining the boundaries of a nascent romance you would make a girl freak out. French people will find it absurd that a relationship suddenly goes from dating to faithful girlfriend/boyfriend. They prefer mutual interest to arise spontaneously between two people that hang around together.

Julie Delpy in Before Midnight
Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

If you push a French girl by implying you are immediately interested, you will surely lose her attention. French people enjoy the tension and excitement that ambiguity brings, and love conversation as much as they like to make their minds up step by step. So do not read between the lines when you meet up with a French girl for a glass of wine, because it could be just a regular “getting to know each other”Benjamin Chatfield, an Englishman that spent a year in Cannes remarks that “French girls would tend to say no to straightforwardness”.  Our advice to you? Let things flow without trying too hard to know where you stand...

Intense relationships from very young

The ambiguous non-dating French model stems from a peculiar characteristic of French culture: French girls are rarely single. Benjamin Chatfield testifies: “When I first came to France it seemed that all the girls were in a relationship. They were just 15 and had already been in a relationship with a "Pascal" for 2 years. And as soon as they had couple problems, it seemed as if they were thirty-years-old. I don’t know the stats, but my feeling would be that the Brits are less in serious relationships from a young age, whereas French girls were already quite established by then.”

Sophie Marceau in La boum
Sophie Marceau in La boum

In a dating culture, one has to be single to engage in any kind of dating, unless it is cheating. On the contrary, it seems that French girls are always going out with someone. It could be their on-going ex, an ambiguous relationship with one of their friends or just a guy they see without exactly being friends. They are something between being single and being in a couple, which makes it possible to be between faithful and cheating. With unclear relationships, girls could fall for someone else while they actually are still with their boyfriend.  

Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner & Henri Serre in Jules et Jim
Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner & Henri Serre in Jules et Jim


An English man will not accept so much teasing around if it is not going to lead anywhere. This ego-boosting approach to flirting does not mean that French women are easy and its characteristics can be misinterpreted in the UK. Men and women might think you are playing around far too much and that could be inappropriate, especially with colleagues or friends. Also, men will not understand that it’s just a game  and might take it all at face value . So to avoid any awkward situation, the famous “demoiselles” should maybe tune their Brigitte-Bardot-teasing down if they are not really interested. And for the British gentlemen, if you really want that French romance, check out the article we wrote on How to seduce a French girl or try Benjamin Chatfield’s advice: “I learnt from living in France that the best way of getting the attention of pretty girls was to be the one not trying to get their attention.”


17/06/2013 - s.pollock-hill said :

Reminds me also of teh time I saw a stunning blonde model on my plane to the Canaries doing a swinwear photoshoot. Seeing her again lounging by a hotel pool two dayslater, i started my chat up " First time in teh canaries, What do you think of it her!"
"Very boring, I could really do with a good F**K!"
But then she was Swedish it turned out.....
Women are full of surprises, thank goodness, some of them good!

17/06/2013 - s.pollock-hill said :

One must remeber "seduction" is a French word and regarded as an art.
I was once alone with Catherine Deneuve in a lift when she was making "Mayerling" in Vienna
in 1967. She was wearing dark glasses and a scarf but just by her beautiful ankles, the profile and blonde hair I knew it was her... so we played this little game all the way down from the top floor game- "you don't recognise me...yes I do but will not let on".
Mind you i was praying for the only time in my life the lift would get stuck!
Now she will never know what she missed-oh and she still ia a heavy smoker- but superb!
(By the way i've tried to stop my French wife writing articles like this.........!)

Only kidding!

16/06/2013 - mmvogety said :

Too many articles on French girls. I guess every girl is unique and it would be difficult to straightjacket beyond a point. Could your website also have articles on French etiquette, manners and behavioural patterns?

15/06/2013 - michaeltheobald said :

My first ever girlfriend was French. This was in 1968. She treated me to a steep learning curve abouv 'Love' the French way which initiated me for the mysteries of relationships with later French girls/women that were to follow! I have survived up until now and respect 'modern female thinking' a lot more nowadays! But the mysteries are all part of the game/fun!

15/06/2013 - Nathalie said :

Well I am not sure I can relate to this. My now- British husband took months to demonstrate he was seriously interested in something else than going out for a drink or taking me to the movies. I found this delicate and charming.
At that time french young men were rather instantly offering " your place or mine?" This was over 25 years ago so maybe younger people have changed but to me French girls are used to openess and directness in the seduction process . Are they more flirty or teasing than Brit girls? .....not from what I have seen of all my frenglish'sons 'girlfriends.

15/06/2013 - mmvogety said :

Wonder why the author wishes to remain anonymous after writing such a wonderful piece.

15/06/2013 - juliapascal7 said :

And British women with French men?

15/06/2013 - p.cadier said :

"Studied Indifference" quite hot really.

15/06/2013 - Smithfred said :

Absolutely confusing. But this is why I love the French. Vive le diffefrance.


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