American Dating Game in the City of Love

L'amour à Paris - par Lucie Huber, illustratrice de LaPénicheMention Paris to anyone in the world, and you’ve instantly filled their head with images of the Eiffel Tower and inescapably, romantic sentiments of l’amour. There is no coincidence as to why Tom Cruise proposed to Katy Holmes at the top of La Tour Eiffel, or why this season’s Gossip Girl premiere took to the streets of Paris to forget past loves and inspire new flames. And let’s not forget Moulin Rouge The Musical, in which Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman fall hopelessly in love above the lights and glamour of Paris. Even American founding father Thomas Jefferson dubbed the French women as angels amazons. I think it’s safe to say that we Americans can’t be blamed for flocking to France with high hopes of catching our future husband or dreams of being seduced by French women.

But this all begs the question – what makes the French so erotic? Besides being the root of phrases such as ménage-a-trois and the ‘French kiss’, I find myself constantly attempting to figure out the French dating game. As an outsider looking in, I can’t help but realize the French play the field of love completely different than Americans. With that said, an American playing his own courting game France is a fish out of water- struggling and just plain pitiful.

The American dating game relies on precisely calculated actions which make it appear that you don’t like the other person as much as they like you. A typical calculation will sound something like this, “Well Dan texted me four times today, so that means I’m going to text him twice, making it seem like I’m too busy to respond when in actuality, I’ve been moping and wondering why he hasn’t been texting me as often as before.” The logic behind this is simple- if you play the game right, the other person fears that you don’t like them, and they go to farther lengths (like maybe actually asking you out on an actual date!) to get you to actually like them. It makes complete sense- in theory. But at the end of this game, both players are lost in a maze of miscommunication with a handful of things left unsaid. It gets complicated when you’ve been dating the same person for months, have already met their parents, and yet still don’t know where you stand. The American game produces people who are intimidated by feelings, and too consumed in their haphazard self-portrayals to get down to the root of the question- so, does he like me or not? After briefly describing simple rules to American dating, we move on to a foreigner’s perception of the French and their jeux d’amour.

I admire the French dating game. It poses a stark contrast to the ‘play it cool’ maxim of Americans, in that the French are all about declaring their love for one another. Where American couples can be confused for months, the French are masters at exclusiveness- and it takes them all of 2 weeks to become committed and public. French couples are head over heels in lust, and they’re not afraid to show it. The French are infamous for their shameless PDA (public displays of affection). Take a 15 minute walk through the St. Germain district and you will find it hard to escape couples clawing off each other’s clothes. Fortunately for us, its winter and the risk of frost bite is enough to extinguish the burning, uninhibited desire to feel each other up. I’ve found it quite difficult to enjoy the beauty of the Luxembourg Gardens when couples everywhere are engaged in severe, disastrous make-out sessions. Let’s face it, relationships are in high demand. But how do Americans play up to the high standards of French amour?

Alex Jarett, exchange student, says “French girls are sexier, they have more swagger. But in Paris I feel like everyone has a boyfriend and that they go on dates all the time”. He admits he knows all too well the difficulty of the French game and is most times frustrated it. One thing we agreed on, playing the American game in Paris does not work. American girls tend to think French men creepy for being too upfront, and American men will find that they’ll have to ditch their ‘cool’ game to get a French woman’s attention. Foreign students find themselves in a paradoxical battle between wanting a French amour and lacking the ammunition necessary to brave the French battlefield. Are these cultural gaps too wide to be crossed? Or are we not doing enough to broaden our definitions of romance?

Maybe, but we don’t know until we’ve found that someone we can cross cultural barriers with. Love in Paris is just as confusing as love in any other part of the world. Though our dreams of finding Romeo may have been demolished while reading this article, not to fret because all hope is not lost. You’ll be surprised how far you can get with one-liners like “Je suis americain, je ne parle pas français”. It also helps to use your worst American accent and most bewildered look. In all seriousness, Americans are not hopeless in finding their Juliet in the City of Love. The door is still optimistically open. Jarett quite possibly puts it best when he says, “Sure you can find love in Paris- but you can find it anywhere”.


  • Andy

    Haha, this would explain why I felt that the American guy I dated last semester really didn’t seem to like me that much… Thanks for saying why the foreign students should learn to play our game, not the other way around. I wish he read that before going back to the States though.

  • Thomas

    I agree, French people play the I-don’t-want-to-seem-too-attracted-to-you game too… The difference might be that it doesn’t last long, after a month, you should be over it and take it easy, be honest to one another, otherwise it looks like there is a problem in your couple…

  • atchoum frenchie

    A nice article, especially for the anoying saliva exchangers au Luxembourg!
    I have to say though that I recognise my experience of French love more in what you describe of American love: playing it in the « I’m not that into you » style appears to be a worldwide extended stupidity.
    I may add too that a lot of French people are lost in french game, at least as much as you seem to be, dear foreigner!
    Love is galère, anywhere! (no, I’m not a pessimist: galère has fun aspects too)