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DATING IN FRANCE

PARIS

Expat group hopes to ‘change dating’ in France

Disillusioned by modern dating games, a group of single expat women in Paris have started a new support group to change the rules of modern courtship and put the fun back into dating.

Expat group hopes to 'change dating' in France
Are you single? Time to throw out the rule book, according to the founder of a dating meet-up group. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

For a collective of lady expats, modern life has sucked the fun out of dating.

They've had enough of rigid rules that govern everything from the length of a first phone call with Mr. Maybe Right to how long to wait around for him and are seeking to help others create a new model in Paris.

“The main thing, as far as I’m concerned, is to take the shame out of being single. There seems to be a sense that there’s something wrong with being single or that you are behind in some way,” founder and American expat Johanna Steinhaus, 33, told The Local. “This is a very dangerous mindset to have when you’re trying to meet someone.”

The group she subsequently founded is called: ‘Who says there’s anything wrong with being single (maybe I want to change)’. Its chief aim, she says, is to provide practical guidance to single people by encouraging them to change their approach towards dating.

The group plans to meet at least once a month at a central location in Paris where they will discuss ways to improve self-confidence and show members how to make the dating process more fun.

One of the chief problems as she sees it are the petty rules that characterize the modern approach to dating, perpetuated by bestsellers such as Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider’s ‘The Rules – Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right’.

“One rule that seems to be very widespread is that if a man doesn’t call you within three days of meeting you, then he’s not interested and you should ignore him. Another is that your first phone call should not be longer than ten minutes,” she says.

But the idea of religiously following these type of rules, she adds, is very much an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon – and simply ridiculous to the French.

“Once, after an English class, I showed some of my students The Rules. Both the male and female students were astounded that this book even existed.”

When it comes to meeting someone, too many women are happy to meet and chat with people on the internet, but seldom take it further because most men fail to measure up to an impossible checklist.

“We need to stop seeing people through so many lenses. Instead, we should just show up and meet the person, find out who he really is and forget about having a list of characteristics that we seek in men.”

Of course, there is the added obstacle for expats of being outsiders in a large city.

“In big cities, people tend to be more closed-off and defensive, and less likely to smile at strangers. Often, for expats, it’s difficult to enter circles of local people,” she acknowledges.

No one knows this better than Steinhaus herself. When she moved to Paris almost six years ago to work as an English teaching assistant, she didn’t know a soul and had a limited knowledge of the language. But she soon found ways of meeting people.

On one occasion, she was asked out by a ticket collector on a train, after pretending she couldn’t speak any French at all in order to avoid a fine for an unstamped ticket.

“I am sure similar scenarios happen in the US, but they weren't happening to me in the US,” she says.

When French people and expats start dating, she said, the cultural differences can be exciting and help to fuel a relationship.

“Initially, the accents, cultural differences, quirks, and differing habits can fuel a relationship.

“The mystery and the exoticism can be intoxicating and really fun. However, as time goes on, those same quirks and differences can become tiresome, and both sides can begin to lose interest.”

Having said that, however, she feels expats should be open to dating any nationality.

To find out more about the group go to the group’s website or meet-up group here.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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