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The five most surprising things about French men (according to a happily-married Brit)

When (happily married) British mum-of-three Natasha Alexander moved to France she thought she knew what to expect from French men, but there were some surprises in store...

The five most surprising things about French men (according to a happily-married Brit)
Are all French men brooding heartthrobs like actor Louis Garrel? Photo: AFP

Disclaimer – This is, obviously, just for fun and does not apply to all French men or all Brits by any means. And if my husband is reading this then the ogling of well-dressed French men was just in the name of research.

Crying

Do all French men cry? From what I’ve seen on French television it appears that a French man will cry and get emotional about anything. 

I’m all for men being more emotional. There is no shame showing your feelings but French men seem to take it to a different level.

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Want to find a French man? They're all out having coffee. Photo: osons163/<a 46403977="" fr.depositphotos.com="" href="Depositphotos

From the big reveal on a home makeover shows to a cake disaster on Le Meilleur Pâtissier (French version of The Great British Bake Off) the bottom lip goes and they start blubbering.

British men don’t cry. Except for deaths and possibly a marriage break-down but even that could be stretching it.

Coffee Mornings 

Now from where I hail from, women do coffee mornings. British men do not meet each other for coffee. They might grab one on the go but you’re more likely to find them in the pub than saying “let’s meet for coffee!” Never. Gonna. Happen.

In France though, the men are having coffee mornings. You will be hard pushed, in Normandy, to find two woman having a good old natter over a coffee after the school run. I do this with a friend and we are the only women in our Tabac.

Granted, some of the men are retirees, all sitting up the counter drinking dolls house cup of coffees adding copious amounts of sugar sans milk and sipping it from a tiny spoon. I met another friend in another location. I stopped her mid-flow and said, “take a look around” – it was coming up to lunch time (the 12 o’clock pumpkin church bells were ringing) – “there isn’t a single female in here”.  

Dress Sense

Sorry British Men, the French men are better dressed, even in the countryside.

They have an uncanny knack of just looking effortlessly well turned. A shirt, jeans and a cardi for the old folks, for the middle aged, a scarf tied around his neck with not an ounce of shame or embarrassment. Something a Brit would be laughed at in the street for wearing. They will wear skinny jeans even if they’re 50.

They rock the casual look. It’s a good job really, as I don’t think I’ve seen a French man get dressed up for any occasion, even weddings. If you know what type of event a three piece suit is worn at then please do let me know.

Take for example the chap that came to buy my son’s bike. He must have been late 40s and bald. Skinny, darkish jeans, loafers (with no socks showing obviously!), blazer buttoned at the middle, shirt and sun glasses.

And do you know what? They are mostly trim. Physically they look a bit better because the vast majority are not overweight. Not only that, they look younger than their age. I wouldn’t say they were generally better looking (not that I’ve been looking) but the presentation is slightly better.

Think Macron (apart from the height). 

Clearly all the crying and coffee is paying dividends

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Is Emmanuel Macron in better shape than the average 41-year-old Brit? Photo: AFP

Fun Time Frankie

I have noticed that a French dad, in particular, is up for a fun time when out and about at any family attraction.

In fact, I’d say they’ve bought the theme park ticket for them rather than the kids. That’s not to say a Brit dad doesn’t enjoy a theme park but given a choice between watching the footie or a day out with the family – I’m going to suggest he’s opting for the ‘me time’. 

A French dad is up for all the fun at the fair and, my gawd witness them on a campsite and I don’t think you’ll see them happier. 

Not only that, I have never heard of the head of the Parent Teachers Association being a bloke in the UK. 

Yes, the dads would get roped into helping set up etc (usually by their partner who was on the PTA) but actually running the whole set up? Nope. Here, it’s the norm. The dad is head of the PTA. Bravo.

Staring

This is actually a national past time – men, women, children and dogs.

It’s quite off putting when you first arrive, as us Brits consider it to be the height of bad manners to stare at people. Not so here, and French men are no exception. But they do have a bit of a poker face – you’ll never know if they’re staring because you disgust or delight them. It’s all a bit of a mystery.

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Natasha Alexander does social media management for companies in Normandy and across France and also blogs about her move to France at Our Normandy Life. Find out more here.

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HEALTH

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

https://twitter.com/MarketainmentSE/status/212863393143586817

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.”

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