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‘Their attention is fleeting’: The highs and lows of having a French lover

What is it really like to have a French lover? What are the positives and negatives the unexpected highs and unpredictable lows? Those who experience of dating French people reveal what you need to know about finding love in France.

'Their attention is fleeting': The highs and lows of having a French lover
Photo: s2uphoto/Depositphotos

France has the reputation of being somewhere romance can blossom anywhere: in the cafe, on the corner of your street, at the boulangerie counter or while you're sheltering from the rain next to the cinematheque

But is there much to this reputation? Or can the path to finding the perfect French lover be a bumpier ride than people might think?
Our readers, some of whom understandably preferred to remain anonymous, told us the good, the bad — and the sometimes intimate — things about dating the French in France.  
Let's start with the downsides as there were many. 
Several readers mentioned that, unlike “les Anglo-Saxons”, the French tend to be far more open about the intimate details of previous relationships. 
In fact, instead of pretending there were a virgin until they finally met “the one” (you) the French will often discuss old partners positively, including how they were between the sheets.
“They are so liberal that they will openly talk about other women’s underwear and how sexy they found it: on your date. And then they will explain to you in detail how amazing other women are/ were/ are still,” one reader said. 
Je t'aime... moi non plus: Tell us what it's really like to date French people
Photo: Depositphotos
And the open attitude to sex doesn't stop there. 
In fact it can even extend to a nod to the risqué even in front of their family members, as this anecdote from Melissa Frugone reveals. 
“So my French now-husband and I were about a year into dating and his mom was visiting and it was around my birthday. He gives me my present when the 3 of us were together and I pull out…lingerie…in front of his mom. I was so embarrassed and he didn’t get what the big deal was.
“The worst/funniest part: his mom told me to try it on and show them!”
'Their attention is fleeting'
Others said that the stereotype of the romantic Frenchman is actually a myth. 
“They are not at all romantic – the men that is! Girls, we have all been fed lies!” said Anna Pauwels. 
While another reader said that it was French women who were the real mystery. 
“French women tend to act in two different ways, they can be rather cold or suspicious, not willing to talk intimately about themselves or they like to make out in front of a restaurant full of people. It can be hard to find that middle ground,” said Nick Paulsen. 
Nick added that the way to get around the difficulties was to “be prepared for anything”. 
“It’s important to not take yourself too seriously and show you have a sense of humour. Embrace PDA (public displays of affection) as this can come out of nowhere.”

Several readers suggested that while things can be hot and heavy at the beginning, this intensity doesn't always last. 
Photo: Depositphotos
“Their attention is fleeting, they run cold fast,” said one reader, adding that people “should not have great expectations for a long term or serious relationship. Being a good lover is innate to a French person” which makes it harder to discern the ones that are “keepers”.
Similarly, another reader said that long distance relationships might not always be the way to go with a Frenchman. 
“If you don't live in Paris, forget it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder is not generally applicable to French men, more like out of sight, out of mind,” she said. 

Many readers said that one of the hardest things about having a French lover is that they an be brutally honest when it comes to expressing opinions about the clothes, personality traits and appearance of the person they're with. 
“My partner constantly feels the need to be radically honest about all of my mistakes and flaws,” said one reader. 
Another reader said: “They often have opinions (and voice them) about your outfits or specific articles of clothing. Sometimes this is flattering if the feedback is positive but when it is negative it still catches me off guard. I’ve never had an American man tell me he hates my sweater.”
'You feel like a teenager in love'
With all of those cons, it seems only fair to mention the pros and not all of those who responded said the experience of dating French people to be a bad one. 
Several readers said that having a French lover can bring with it a renewed sense of joie de vivre
“The best thing about dating a French person is you feel like teenager in love even though you are in your 40's,” said one reader. 
And for others, including Stephanie Luise Damasceno, the pros of dating a French person is the fact that you get a different perspective and insight into life… and restaurant menus. 
Stephanie also noted the intensity of the French as a highlight of having a French lover. 
Photo: Depositphotos
“After I went to France, he came to visit me in Brazil more than once. We travelled to some cities together and he always comes back to see me!”
Another reader, who is married to a Frenchman cited their “more the merrier” attitude, open mindedness, and ability to party hard” among the pros of dating the French. 
Others said that one of the good things about dating the French is that there is no uncertainty over whether the relationship is official or not, as often occurs in Anglo-Saxon countries. 
“There are clear lines as to whether or not you are in the relationship,” said Kate Jones. “The first kiss denotes the beginning! And that anniversary is more important than when you first go on a date.” 
Another reader said: “In Anglo-Saxon countries you tend to have 'the talk' after a couple of months to determine whether or not you are 'officially a couple' or not.
“This talk doesn't exist in France, you just assume that you're 'official' after a couple of dates. I tried to have this talk with my now husband when we started dating and he was very confused and offended that I would assume otherwise!”
While the positive responses were far outweighed by the negative, try not to feel too disheartened about the dating scene in France and the prospect of what might happen once you actually get a French lover. 
Here's a final story from one of our readers to revive your romantic spirit. 
“As an American student at the University of Dijon, out one evening with some fellow students, I met a handsome French lieutenant at the Aquarium, a dancing club. 
“We agreed to reconnect in 3 weeks hence upon his return from Paris.  On the appointed day and time, I was sitting in my usual spot in the Glacier café at the Place Darcy, happily reading my Herald Tribune, and waited…and waited. 
“Finally, discouraged and sure to have been stood up, I walked from the outside glassed in area to the inside to leave…..and there he was, comfortably seated at a table and also waiting!  He didn't recognize me since on the night I met him my hair was in a chignon, but shoulder length on the day in question. 
“Now with our two children happily married,  5 grandchildren, and over 52 years of marriage, I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had taken a different route.”
Proof that true love really can blossom in France, even in the City of Mustard. 

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IN PICTURES: 7 of the French government’s sexiest public health adverts

An advertising campaign aimed at convincing young people to get the Covid vaccine has attracted international attention, but it’s not the first time that French authorities have sexed up their public health messaging.

IN PICTURES: 7 of the French government's sexiest public health adverts
Image: AIDES.

It’s an international cliché that France is the land of l’amour – or at least the land of le sexe – and that reputation does seem to be justified, given how often French public health bodies have turned to sex in an attempt to get their message across.

From the suggestive to the downright scandalous, here are seven examples of health campaigns which relied on that oh so French fondness for romance.

Get vaccinated, get laid

The Covid campaign in question was created by regional health authorities in the southern Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur region.

The poster which has got people hot under the collar features two very attractive and very French-looking people kissing, seemingly in the back of a cab after a night on the town. “Yes, the vaccine can have desirable effects,” it says.

The campaign has proved so popular that it will soon be expanded.

Promoting road safety

Earlier this year, the French Road Safety Delegation released a video ahead of Valentine’s Day, which showed a couple sharing an intimate moment in the bedroom.

The full 30-second video featured the slogan, “Life is better than one last drink for the road”.

Another image of two people kissing, seemingly without clothes, included the line, “Life, love. On the road, don’t forget what truly matters.”

Fight against HIV/AIDS

While the link between road safety and sex isn’t immediately obvious, less surprising are the references to intimacy in the health ministry’s HIV awareness campaign from 2016.

Each of the different posters shows two men embracing. Straplines include, “With a lover, with a friend, with a stranger. Situations vary, and so do the protective measures.”

The posters shocked conservative sensibilities, and several right-wing mayors asked for them to be taken down in their towns. 

HIV awareness campaign

Just a few days after the controversy over the ministry’s posters ignited, the non-profit AIDES launched its own campaign, and it didn’t hold back.

The posters showed scuba instructors, piano teachers and parachutists, all of them naked alongside their students. The slogan: “People undergoing treatment for HIV have a lot of things to pass onto us. But the AIDS virus isn’t one.”

“Even if we’ve been spreading this information since 2008, we realise that a lot of people don’t know that antiviral treatments prevent spreading,” head of AIDES Aurélien Beaucamp told France Info.

“People are still afraid of those who are HIV-positive.” 

Government-mandated pornography

It’s common for sexualised advertising campaigns to be labelled pornographic by critics, but in 1998, the French government went a step further and created actual pornography.

READ ALSO Language of love – 15 of the best romantic French phrases

The health ministry commissioned TV station Canal Plus to create five short erotic films to encourage the use of condoms and prevent the spread of HIV. The campaign featured up-and-coming directors such as Cedric Klapisch and Gaspar Noé.

“The only possible way to look at, to get people to protect themselves, is to show, show everything, show simply and without creating an obsession of the sexual act and the act of wearing a condom,” Klapisch said, according to an Associated Press story published at the time. 

You didn’t really think we’d include images of this one, did you? (OK, here’s a link for those who are curious).

A controversial anti-smoking campaign

It’s time to forget what we said about romance, because there is nothing romantic about this 2010 campaign from the Droits des Non-Fumeurs (Non-smokers’ rights) association and the BDDP & Fils communications agency.

The campaign featured several images of young people with a cigarette in their mouths, looking up at an adult man who rested his hand on their heads. The cigarette appeared to be coming out of the man’s trousers.

The slogan said, “Smoking means being a slave to tobacco”. The association said the sexual imagery was meant to get the attention of young people who were desensitised to traditional anti-smoking messages, but the posters caused outrage, with members of the government publicly criticising the choice of imagery.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ love

On the other end of the spectrum is this very romantic video from the national health agency Santé Publique France. It was released on May 17th 2021, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and was part of a campaign against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. It is set to Jean-Claude Pascal’s Nous les amoureux

Showing a diverse range of couples kissing, holding hands, and healing each other’s wounds, the video ends on the word play: “In the face of intolerance, it’s up to us to make the difference.”