For members


From ONS to JTM: How to tackle online dating in France

French may be the language of love, but finding love in France is as difficult as finding love anywhere. Here's a simple guide to taking your first online dating steps in France.

From ONS to JTM: How to tackle online dating in France
Looking for someone to snog in front of the Eiffel Tower? Maybe try online. Photo: AFP

Standing looking all doe-eyed underneath the Eiffel Tower is sadly more likely to produce a bunion than Cupid’s arrow. And, even if you did see an attractive stranger, chances are they will just take a selfie and then leave before you’d muster up the courage up to say “hello”.

This is an evolving human condition: we are becoming increasingly reluctant to start conversations with people we haven’t known our whole lives. We prefer to know what is their favourite colour and if they’re allergic to cats before we actually dare to speak.

So how to solve the dilemma? Where can you go to meet your future soulmate? Is online dating in France as much of a can of worms as elsewhere? Yes, of course it is. 

READ ALSO Jealousy and steel balls: My year of dating in France


Tinder is Tinder wherever you go in the world. It might be your cup of tea, and we have all heard of the friend of a friend of a friend who has met someone they married on Tinder. And there are still more members than any other dating app, so plenty to choose from. But there is no avoiding the fact that many people do still use it predominantly to find a one night stand (or ONS, if you want to catch up with the lingo).

So if you want something that will not involve a walk of shame the next morning, the good news is that there are plenty of choices for everyone in France.


One very popular international option that has a reputation of not just being about ONS (see how quickly we get down with the kids) is OkCupid.

The method is simple, the site asks you lots of questions – do you want to settle down and have kids right now, is your ideal first date in a forest or a city, what do you think about the death penalty, do you like to eat Italian food… – and then finds your closest matches.

It will send you emails with likely lads and lasses, but you can also peruse the site and see who has messaged you. Annoyingly, it doesn’t tell you when they have messaged you. So, if you only discover their message a month later, they may have already moved on.


If you feel confident enough in your written French, one of the most successful online dating apps in France is Meetic.

Like many dating sites, Meetic offers a free service and an upgraded paying one. Reviews on this site are quite mixed, it has so many members that obviously some of them are not exactly who they might appear to be in their pictures. But it will be a chance to meet actual French people and improve your French.

(Not to be confused with MeetUp, which is a handy site for finding people who share your interests or making friends while new in a city but is aimed at platonic friendships).


Another local site with a slightly odd name is AdopteunMec. What? Does anyone actually want to adopt a guy? Even fostering seems too much of a commitment when you haven’t even met them yet.

The idea here is a twist on the tried and tested formula. Here the radical idea is that the women take the lead. And isn’t it about time? This applies specifically to heterosexual matches where the woman needs to make the first contact with their matched male. In same-sex matches, either person can make the first move.



The truth is women still have it too easy when it comes to opening gambits in the tangled world of online dating (and, let’s admit it, offline dating), lazily relying on the suitor to come wooing. Well, enough of that, it is 2019, time for women to put their hearts on the line, to get creative and funny (but not too funny as that can make you seem weird) and – can you believe it – send the first message. The international equivalent of Adopte un Mec is is Bumble.


Of course, online dating problems begin even before you get to trying to impress someone with your wit. The abundance of choice is one of the surprising deterrents. Sometimes you open your app and there are just too many faces, too many unread messages and you feel weary at just the thought of all that swiping.

Well, one new French website is paring the whole process down with what they are intriguingly calling ‘slow dating’. Rather than deluge you with choice, Once will suggest one personally selected match for your every day at noon. Just one! You will both see each other’s profile at the same time and then you have 24 hours to make a move. If you don’t, that person will disappear forever – or unless you happen to live in the same neighbourhood and see each other at the supermarket the next day, which may indeed have happened to the journalist writing this article.

Once Again

In March, Once branched out to tackle a very active dating market with their new app Once Again, dating for the over-50s. As Jean Meyer, founder of Once and Once Again, points out: “Meeting new people for people over 50 has so far been limited on the web. Slow dating is perfect for this population for whom the quality of encounters is more important than quantity. When you are over 50 years old, you don't ‘like’ 1,000 profiles and hope that one of them will agree to have a drink within the hour.”

Disons Demain

There is also a more traditional website for the 50+s called Disons Demain. It is an offshoot of the aforementioned site Meetic and is hugely popular.


But what if you already fancy someone? What if you exchange glances with a handsome stranger every morning on the Metro, how do you develop that? Of course, you could take the old fashioned route and just start a conversation. But maybe he’s already involved with someone and is not actually looking at you admiringly but with a tinge of fear? The good news is that there is an app for this.

Developed in France, happn is one of many location-based dating apps. Its twist, however, is that it will tell you about people whose paths you actually cross in real life. If that man on the Metro is also using the app, then fate will get a little helping hand.

It’s true that this app does also have somewhat worrying potential to aid stalking and is probably more likely to lead to a hook-up rather than The Love of Your Life. But, who knows, it might also help you with that awkward first conversation.

Or you could just get a dog, they will love you forever.

French online dating vocabulary:

SLT: “Salut” or simply, “Hey.”

CC: Coucou, the most boring first line ever.

DISPO? Simply means “available?” This is not necessarily a hook-up term, but let’s be honest that’s normally the case.

T CHO? Literally, “tu est chaud,” or “are you horny?” A classic of the genre.

REEL? Are you looking for a real encounter or just to chat?

TES TRIPS? What are you into? What gets you going?

TU CH? Literally a shortening of “Tu cherches?” or “You’re looking?” this is a way to ask if someone is looking for anything in particular, namely, sex.

SSR: “Sex sans risque” = Safe sex. The opposite is “Sans capote” = without the little hat. ie no condom.

MDR: Not a specifically dating term, but one that you might need to lighten a heavy moment. It literally means “mort de rire”, “dead from laughing”, and is the equivalent of LOL.

JTM: If you get this, you’re on to a good thing. “Je t’aime” – he’s telling you he loves you!

PARTOUZE: Group fun. Orgy. This is not your future soulmate.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.”