• France's news in English
French turning to web to find love (but they won't admit it)
Photo: AFP

French turning to web to find love (but they won't admit it)

The Local · 13 Feb 2016, 08:50

Published: 13 Feb 2016 08:50 GMT+01:00
Updated: 13 Feb 2016 08:50 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

If there’s any nationality that you think wouldn’t need much help in the dating department, it’s the French.

That's because when we think of the most romantic people in the world, we almost certainly think of the French.

French films like Amelie and French perfume commercials have programmed us to believe that natural, exciting, electrifying, romance inevitably materializes simply by setting foot in the country. 

We imagine love comes easy to the Gallic people with their poetic, seductive language and their no-fuss approach to romance. It’s easy to picture beautiful French couples effortlessly falling in love over a cigarette and a glass of red wine on a bistro terrace, the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the background. 

But are the French really so traditionally romantic, or are they in fact bucking tradition in favor of modern romance, aka the internet or smartphone Apps? Are dating websites changing the dating game in France?

The Local has taken a look at a study on French online dating habits, released in by Ined, an Institute for National Demographics Studies.

Here’s what we learned:

Online dating in France is more popular than ever

Over the past several years, the practice of online dating in France has steadily risen.

According to a 2014 poll, one in three French adults is on a dating site.

In 2006, when only 42% of households in the country had internet access, already 10% of French people were on such websites.

Over the next seven years, this number rose to 14% among 26-65 year olds. This is an impressive number compared to some other countries such as the United States, where only 9% of adults visited a dating site in 2013.

Lucie Mariotti, a dating coach in Paris, thinks that many people turn to online dating in France because the French are often too proud or too afraid of failure to ask people out in person. 

“These days dating in France is much more complicated than in other countries because there’s a lot of pride and fear that make it so the French don’t meet people easily,” Mariotti told the Local. “It’s not an easy thing to approach a Parisian in the street, in a café, or in line at the cinema, because the French are always afraid to start a conversation. They have too much pride.”

Millennials dominate dating websites 

Dating websites are most popular with French who are under 30. Not too surprising considering this age group uses the internet a lot and is full of singles. 

In the 26-30 range, there are more men than women on these sites, perhaps because men tend to get into serious relationships later than women. But this disparity balances out with age and then eventually reverses.

The French are shy about their internet dating habits

Despite its prolificness, online dating is still a bit of a taboo topic in France. 

Marie Bergstrom, commissioner of the Ined study, says that it’s not totally accepted, too often seen as a way to meet people “by default”. Only about half of internet daters will easily discuss their online escapades to friends and family. And the rest say they’ll admit it only to a select few.

Perhaps that’s why it’s a bit of a running joke in France to have a Tinder profile saying something like: “We’ll tell people we met at a museum.”

More diversity but also more exclusivity


As dating websites become more and more popular in France, they’re evolving, becoming more socially diverse but also more targeted. 

Whereas in 2006 French online daters were mainly urban (Parisian) high-level professionals, users have become more diverse in the past ten years. But this doesn’t exactly mean that more people are dating across social boundaries. In fact, dating websites are becoming more divided along social lines.

“We’re seeing a strong segmentation of sites that target specific populations: people of a certain age, location, social groups, or religion,” said Bergstrom. “The democratization of dating websites is becoming a ‘segregated democratization’.”

Some websites, like Attractive World, require the current members to vote on new members, ensuring a certain exclusivity and uniformity of users. 

So, do French couples actually meet online?

Yes… but real life still wins out.

More specifically and perhaps surprisingly, the workplace is where most lovers meet in France. 

Online dating comes in fifth place after nights out with friends or nights in at friends homes.

“Among people who met their current partner between 2005 and 2013, less than 9% met each other on this type of site,” said Bergstrom. 

Most people in the survey said online dating gets them “occasional dates” or flings, but not serious relationships.

This lines up with how the French view dating websites. 70% of online daters said they think of them as a place to find casual relationships and fun, not love.

Dating sites become more important, however, for certain populations such as divorcés. During a period of life when there’s a smaller dating pool and a person’s social circle is mainly made up of couples, websites become a particularly appealing way to meet people. 

Story continues below…

And for same-sex couples in France, dating sites are actually the number one way to find relationships.

But in general, it turns out the top place to meet your soul mate is still good old-fashioned real life.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President François Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available