An Overview to French vs American Dating Culture & Customs

Salut !

Dating a French person is a challenge. Really. 🙂

Not because of the language barrier (you always find ways to communicate!), but mainly because of all those unwritten rules and HUGE cultural traps!

Today, thanks to my guest Dan Rock, you will discover the sometimes subtle, sometimes BIG differences between French & American dating cultures. Even if you’re not looking to date anyone, this episode provides very interesting insights into the French mind, and many fun little stories.

(You’ll see me horrified by some of his tales…)

Here is Dan Rock’s YouTube Channel
And his website Un Américain en France
The video « Sous-titre moi » by Eleonore Costes

Et toi ?

Do (or did!) you date a French person?
What differences did you see between the French culture and yours?

Share your story, we can all learn from your experience.

Note: Comments are now closed on this post. ????


Join the conversation!

  • Merci Geraldin and Dan, this was such a great video, thank you for all those explanations I’d never lerned in my french or english class, greetings from Mexico (Mexique)

  • Usually I really love your videos but this one is not one of my favorites. I was so disgusted with Dan’s portrayal of American women that I had to turn the video off half way through. His descriptions are rife with inaccuracies and stereotypes and do not describe most American women. Yes, there are some women, especially young 18-24 year old University students, who may act in the way he describes but it is not the norm. It doesn’t describe me or my friends and it certainly doesn’t describe women who are professionals in their careers. I also disagree that most American women are aggressive, I’m certainly not. I wish there was a greater balance of perspective in this video so that people wouldn’t be misled into believing stereotypes. Most Americans are actually a lot different than what people see on TV shows and Youtube. It’s a shame that some people have to ruin things for the rest of us. I agree with some of the other posters that women (and men) and dating culture in general will vary based on region, socioeconomic status, and age. The US is a big country with 320 million people (roughly). There is a lot of variability.

  • Salut Geraldine! I love the interview format (although I love your usual videos as well). I thought that your interview with Dan was very interesting, and there certainly is some truth to the differences he notes. However, as an American woman, I disagree with a lot of his characterization of American dating culture. I think that there are certainly some groups of people who behave like he describes or have those expectations, but I think that many Americans do not kiss people without real interest in a relationship and most people would find it unacceptable to be dating (or kissing) more than one person at a time. I also don’t think that most American women expect men to pay for dates — that is true for some women but not for all (and less and less true over time — or they may want him to offer but they will then insist on splitting the bill). I think that some of these things are regional and generational. So while I agree there are differences (and as an American now living in France and in a relationship with a French man) I would say that his characterization is a bit stereotyped.

    • Thanks Dana, this video brought so many interesting insights. 😀
      Indeed, our cultures evolves and it’s great to see the perceptions we have of them depending on our experience.

  • I loved the video ! You didn’t talk about holding hands- is that the same? I’d like a video on French family life. Americans are probably more likely to say “I love you” in families, give more compliments, etc. And school- grades, compliments, etc

  • I live in France for one year and a half. And finally you put this topic on a wall 🙂 It would be so helpful on the beginning, but I have learned my lessons, that I’m about to share:
    In my experience.
    1. French people like to take things slow. It is true about “testing” someone in a group of friends – that also works in Poland.
    2. If you act too quick (maybe 2 weeks, maybe 2 months) and you are having sex – that doesn’t mean a relationship! For many people it’s just having fun in a highest level, it’s a fast and passionate illusion of a relation, and after few weeks it is over.
    3. French people are sometimes too direct – they are trying to hunt and just look someone for one night. It happend to me many times.. and it wasn’t pleasent.
    4. Having a lover – for French guys it’s not a problem to have a girlfriend, and have a lover. A person that I know suggested that I should sleep with him, just because! He told me that he won’t leave his girlfriend, but I will make him a pleasure to go to bed with him. :/

  • Je découvre avec plaisir la chaîne YouTube de Dan Rock. Mais y’a pas moyen de commenter directement sur son blog? Parce que les commentaires sur YouTube… Et sa chaîne ne fait pas exception :-S

    • Salut Marie,

      Ah… oui…. les commentaires YouTube… 🙁 C’est pas toujours très constructif.
      Je t’invite à le contacter directement pour lui poser la question, Dan est très sympa. 🙂

  • Agree-NOT every woman kisses everyone!! I would like to hear a female perspective on this (american). A kiss leads to the next step. Also- with the discussion about the mistress and French husbands-check out French films…there are so many that have that situation in them. It really gives the view that it is common and accepted. (I’m not saying it is)
    Also there is a difference of acceptance of not being married and with a kid more in France than in the US. So marriage may not play as big a role as in the US.
    I enjoyed this topic. Please also interview older people- some expats could be 45+, (my age) So I would enjoy that view as well when talking about lifestyles etc. 🙂

  • NO! In America…I’m a native. Not everyone kisses anyone. You only kiss someone if you like them, and want to have the hope of them being your boyfriend. Confused, desperate women kiss more than one person in an evening. It is unusual have a “friend with benefits.” People try to convince themselves that sex doesn’t mean that much, so many are casual about it. But, once you are having sex with someone, there is usually an expectation (for women) that they are exclusive. Men, sometimes, don’t take that for exclusivity. Women don’t respect themselves and what they have to offer to/for men, in the United states, though, on the whole. They use it to manipulate men, and they don’t even realize they are doing it. They go for the physical relationship first, often, before even knowing if they really like the guy.

    Hey, maybe some women won’t agree, but I have actually studied this in school, and done some independent research, too. If you want to generalize, you have to realize that a great majority of American women don’t value themselves sexually, and it leads to them taking the lead when it is contrary to human nature.

  • There are “levels” of dating in the US. You can have casual dating where you date several people and there is a level where you both agree not to date other people and then another level where you start meeting each other’s families, and next, move in together. Moving in together does not necessarily mean you are getting married any time soon. And I haven’t seen the aggressive behavior in American women that Dan talks about, unless the women are drunk or egged on by their friends. Most women flirt with their eyes when seeing an attractive man and then leave it up to him to make the approach.

  • My dating experiences in the USA (I am American) were much more like the French than Dan’s description of American dating. I grew up in the South, and perhaps that has something to do with it. Money was not talked about, but, of course, there are always ways to discern how well someone is doing. I met most of the people I dated among friends, and most women I know are serial monogamists, rather than dating a number of people at the same time. Even in the US, we have different cultures.

  • Super video, Géraldine !! Dan describes American dating quite accurately although his description is perhaps more indicative of younger people (<50). But there are certainly no strict rules as to age when it comes to dating in the USA. It all depends on a person&#039s experience, maturity, social background.

  • Thanks for the video! I just recently got back from studying in Paris and I saw a lot of these differences. I wish I would have had this video before I went to Paris! I realize now that I made a lot of mistakes when dating French guys. But that is true about the accent! Just try to speak French and apologize for mistakes! they will find it cute anyways. Merci Géraldine!

  • I don’t think things are as loose in the US as Dan is making it sound. Most women wouldn’t be thrilled to be dating someone who is just playing around. However, I will say that one thing that may make the US hard is that you will find a wide range of what is okay depending on that persons beliefs and background.

  • Many thanks Géraldine – very enjoyable (and your responses perfectly natural and understandable). Is the tutoiement appropriate when the friendship has been longterm but distant and all are of advanced years? Do older people more commonly maintain the formal voice a lot longer than the younger generations.

    • Hi James,

      Great question!

      Yes. The older people maintain the formal voice longer. Even between themselves.
      It comes from how they were raised.
      However, children will always (by 99% of people) be “tutoyé”.
      The children will vouvoyer older people to show respect (and adults too) and tutoyer members of their family.

      Also, as you talk about distance, “vouvoyer” doesn’t always translates into a lack of feeling linked to this respect showed with “vous”.
      In my family, there are (and were) older people, friends of the family, with whom we use “vous” with but are as close to our heart as our grandparents.

      Hope it answers your question, let me know if want to know more. 🙂

  • Really enjoyed the video with Dan. Just watching Geraldine’s face and expressions told you a lot about the cultural differences without using words.

  • I really enjoyed the video but I am a bit shocked by your response to the American casual dating. You said “that is awful to me”. Most of your readers are trying to be very open-minded about all the “unusual” French customs and practices. Yet, you seem so judgmental about the American ways. I am kind of surprised that you find the French way so superior.
    Also, not all American women are so direct as Dan indicates. But after all that….I really enjoyed the video.

    • Hi DL,

      My reaction is obviously not a judgment of the American culture. Comme une Française promotes open-mindedness and cross-cultural exchanges.
      It is simply a spontaneous reaction of how different cultures are and how a “normal” behaviour can be so shocking to someone who isn’t prepared,
      especially in dating where our hearts are on the line and a simple misunderstanding can become a big issue. 🙂
      What is normal to someone can be heartbreaking to someone else.
      It has nothing to do with judgment, but on the contrary emphasizes the importance of communication and understanding.
      Hope this clears the misunderstanding. 🙂

    • I am an American girl, and I find our dating pretty uncivilized. Shouldn’t something as intimate as a kiss mean something? Do you think the French reputation for good kissing might be related to the value they place on the act? Dan was not terribly off the mark on our customs. It would be a pleasure for me to date the French way… If I can, I’m going to make that a reality. 😉 Hooray for this episode!

  • I don’t think it’s accurate to say you can date multiple women in the U.S. Most women I know would never date a man who is seeing more than one person. We call those men “players” and most women have no interest in a player

    • Depends what you call “date” – you could easily go out with many women without having a relationship with any of them. Clearly some women have no problem with it or the “players” couldn’t “play” 😎

      • Chris, I have to agree with Jenn here. Most decent American women won’t date a “player.” Only sluts do.

        • I actually have to agree with Chris. When I was just starting to get to know people I would date 4 or 5 people at the same time. They all knew it wasnt exclusive and that there was no relationship yet. I didnt want to limit myself to one person when I barely knew anything about them and they could have been exactly the wrong fit. If it went more than a date or two then I would talk to them about making it more official and let the others who I wasnt as interested in know that it wasnt going to go any further. I also never cared if they were doing the same thing at the same time – and most were. There was no reason to get tied down with just one person when you had just met – that would be a waste of time particularly as I found I had little in common with most of them by the end of the first or second date. Note that all of these dates were things like dinner and a movie or coffee at a coffeeshop and an outdoor festival/fair – fully public places with maybe A kiss good night at the end if the date went well – no more and no alone time out of public view. When I found the right person (or the person I felt was right at that time a few times before the actual right person) I would focus solely on them and expect the same – but not in the first couple of dates.

          • OK, Jen. But you are really confusing me and actually contraditing yourself because at first you said that “I don’t think it’s accurate to say you can date multiple women in the U.S.” What shall it be now???

  • Excusez mon pauvre français mais je ai vraiment essayer et améliorer!

    Intéressant de voir les différences entre la France et les Etats-Unis, l’Angleterre se trouve quelque part au milieu.

    Embrasser ne est ni libre comme aux États-Unis ni comme restrictive, comme en France, normalement nous ne embrassons pas moins que nous sommes sur une “date” et qui serait normalement un au revoir de baiser. Baisers grave est réservé pour plus tard dans une relation à long terme je espère, mais peut arriver assez rapidement sur un “one night stand”!

    Main dans la main précède normalement toute autre progrès intimes, mais une étreinte ne est pas nécessairement considéré intime – amis et collègues embrasser – surtout si à l’appui de la personne dans une mauvaise situation, comme un décès d’un ami / famille / animal / etc.

    Rencontrer les parents ne est pas grave, en effet vous pouvez les rencontrer à la première date si vous choisissez la jeune fille jusqu’à la maison.

    La rencontre sur Internet est différente – très souvent vous arranger pour rencontrer comme un couple pour aller au cinéma ou une danse.

    Payer pour les boissons / repas / cinéma / etc est normalement attendu de l’homme – ego masculin!

  • En France, quand un homme se flirter avec toi, comment peux-tu dire ou lui montrer que tu n’es pas intéressé sans être grossier? Merci.

    • Bonjour Kate,

      Excellente question.

      Tu peux dire : “Je préfère qu’on reste amis” ou “Je ne veux pas aller plus loin” ou “Je ne suis pas intéressée par vos avances”.
      La phrase va dépendre de la situation mais ce sont des classiques.

  • Thanks for a very useful and informative segment! I have a suggestion for a future lesson, which you touched on it at the end of this interview. Even after many years of speaking French quite well, and living in France, I still stumble when I have to choose between vous and tu. Would be great to be specific about what is understood when you go from one to the other. I once asked someone I liked and had known for some time if we could tutoyer, and they demurred. I was mortified! So maybe I err on the side of formality? Also, when to go from a handshake to la bise? Example: I just met my neighbors, we are of a similar age and seem to share a lot, should I start saying tu and faire la bise? They brought me a little home-made food gift, I feel certain they are happy to have me as a neighbor. But will I offend if I lunge for their cheek?

    • When you go from vous to tu it implies that you accept the other person in your personal life. You’re not strangers anymore, you remove the formality barrier.
      If you say “tu” to someone, you will do “la bise”, for sure. Also, when you go from handshake to la bise, there’s NO way back.
      Between neighbours, we always start with vous. And maybe one day you share a apéro and may say “On se tutoie ?”. And you switch to “tu”.

  • I too was shocked to find out that my (now) husband and I were “official” after we kissed. That said it was nice not to have to wonder or have the awkward conversation about whether or not we were. Also, just to point out- most American aren’t quite as blatant as he makes out.

  • Merci beaucoup Geraldine for this informative video. Especially the do’s and dont’s in dating the french way. Thanks to Dan Rock!

    More videos please!

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