A. Don’t smile. Don’t look happy. Pout. I know that this sounds completely counter-intuitive, but it works. We French love making things complicated. He/she will notice you. Just don’t smile.
B. The guy has to take the initiative. It sounds old-fashioned, but that’s how it works. But if the woman does take the initiative, she has to make the man believe that he did all the work. It’s exhausting. But if you don’t do it, you will look needy.
C. For condoms. Always have (at least) one in your purse. Because sleeping with him/her on the very first date will not be held against you. That said, don’t get your hopes up.
D. Men need to be very forward. Women expect the whole shebang: flowers, dinners, love declarations, text messages and even small gifts. French women need to play hard to get. Sad but true. My tip for him: text her as soon as the date is over to tell her you already miss her. For her: always look busy, and never accept a date immediately.
E. Always be at least 15 minutes late. Personally I hate it but that’s the way it is. We French are always late. And no cheap date please. McDonalds or Burger King won’t make the cut.
F. Look gorgeous, but don’t overdo it. Of course, you need to make it look like you haven’t made an effort. I know, it is easier said than done.
G. The man is supposed to pay for the romantic dinners, the drinks and the outings. In fact, he is supposed to pay for everything, or at least suggest he will. Women can protest a little bit but if he insists you have to let him pay.
H. The man is supposed to compliment the woman at every possible opportunity.
I. Women should avoid showing too much flesh. In France, it is always better to suggest rather than be half-naked.
J. No beer please. Champagne is the only acceptable drink to celebrate.
K. Having your espresso with milk is a deal-breaker. Yes, even a little bit of milk.
L. If you have the slightest doubt of whether he/she is faithful, then he/she probably isn’t. Dump him and go back to point A.
M. If, after a few repeats of points D to K, you still haven’t used the condom mentioned in point C, you might want to cut your losses and move on.
N. Now that you are together, hold hands, be romantic. You are in love. In France, it is OK to say/text/email ‘je t’aime’ ten times a day. Unleash your inner softie. And yes, we French are very, well, physical. You will spend days on end in bed. Be prepared.
O. Read the existentialists and as much boring French stuff as you can (Tip for you: the summaries on Wikipedia should suffice). We French love to boast about our culture. We are obsessed with complicated words too (here are a few that you can use: gabegie, flavescent, lenifier. Prepare your own list to shine during dinners with family and friends.
P. If you decide to get married, you might need to get married twice (with the same person, obviously): once at the town hall, once at your local church.
Q. Whatever you do, never, ever let yourself balloon. Becoming too fat is a common cause for divorce in France. If you are a woman and are worried about this, just don’t. Keep in mind that the French health system will pay for you to get rid of the fat on your tummy after giving birth. It will help, I promise.
R. Having sex is part of we French call ‘conjugal duty’, fat tummy or not. And if you are not having it at least a few times a month, well, he/she is probably having it elsewhere, and everybody will understand why.
S. If you are a woman, don’t divorce in France. Much better to go to London if you can.
T. If you are a man, you can safely divorce in France.
U. No, not all French men have mistresses. There are some decent French men. It is all about finding the right one. Avoid politicians at all costs and you should be OK.
V. If you make it to babies then note that medieval names are making a comeback: Corentin and Tugdual for the boys, and Isabeau or Alienor for the girls.
W. The maternity leave only lasts 10 weeks after the birth of your baby.
X. …but you can usually get more if you breastfeed. Not to mention that you can take up to three years of unpaid parental leave. Your employer is supposed to give you your old job back or a similar position in the company after the leave.
Y. In France, you don’t grow older, you get better. Stuides have been made and they say that even the sex gets better when you age. Think Catherine Deneuve or Francois Cluzet.
Z. Now you can finally be happy, look happy and relax. Because whatever everybody says, living in France has a lot of advantages.