When the Free and Friendly American Guy Met the Traditional and Cold French Girl

American and French people know each other, and have been in a very nice relationship for years. French people admire the way Americans stand for their opinions and are confident in themselves, and American people are amazed by French artistic heritage and charming ways. But what happens when they both really get intimate?

Chapter 1: Childhood


Scenario: It is Friday night and your parents are having some friends over for dinner. You are 6, and in the middle of 1st grade. Your favorite hobby is to draw unique monsters from an outside universe.

If you’re born in an authentic American Family:
You are the center of attention. You are sitting together with adults. Adults are asking children questions about what they love. Your parents’ friends are amazed at your drawing skills and want to see your art. Everybody is gathering around a very casual meal, maybe the TV is turned on.

If you’re born in an authentic French Family:
You’re sitting on the side, maybe at another table with the other children. The adults are gathering on the other side and are having a great time. You have to remain quiet, or at least be as invisible as you can. You shall not complain about anything and remain seated at all times, at least until dessert is served. You shall ask your parents for permission to leave the table. Then, you may be able to go play with your friends in another room.

Chapter 2: Education

Scenario: You’re 14 and just starting high school. You love arts but do not really know yet what you would like to do for a living later. You don’t really enjoy scienc

If you’re born in an authentic American Family:
You are able to choose most of your classes in high school. You apply for art classes. You’re looking forward to it, and your parents encourage you to follow your passions.

If you’re born in an authentic French Family:
You are not yet 18 and are still living under your parents’ roof. So, you shall respect them.

In France, there are only 3 tracks available in High School: Sciences, Economics or Literature. No a-la-carte classes are available.

Your parents want you to do the Sciences track because it’s the one that should open you to most opportunities, as you do not know yet what your career goal is.

You don’t really want to. But you need your parents’ signature for choosing your track, so you just do whatever your parents say.

Chapter 3: Basic Social Interactions

If you’re American:
You say “hello, how are you doing?” with a big smile to basically any stranger you meet. You are smiley and courteous to everyone in general. You are interested in other people’s interests. You’re always down to discover new things with others. You like to share what you love and are proud of it.

You can become “friends” easily and quickly with anyone. You care about the people you meet.

Once you’ve get to know somebody, you can hug to say hi or goodbye.

If you’re French:
You say bonjour only, maybe with a handshake depending on the context, and a shy smile, to people you never met before. Don’t try to ask “how are you doing?”, or you’ll be considered as a super intrusive person (seriously, don’t try this).

You use the pronoun “vous” to talk to strangers (vous is the formal form of tu, which is our “you”).

You have to have a step-by-step cautious small talk with unknown people, by not being too expressive at first, in order to feel them out before being too friendly.

You shall not talk too much or brag about your salary/personal life/happines/accomplishments, to people in general — this is considered really rude and arrogant. You might be judged as a jerk (yes, basically, the French shall not show their pride!).

When you’ve already met someone once, you mandatorily have to greet this person by doing the bise. It is kind-of a kiss on each cheek. Even if you’re at a party and there are 20 people, you HAVE to do the bise to EVERYONE individually, or you might be considered rude and not friendly.

Chap 4: Relationships


The first thing you should know about French people’s way of building relationships is that we usually do it only with people from our private circle (friends, colleagues, classmates, family, friends of friends, friends of family members). There MUST be a connection to start bonding with someone.

But, here in the USA, you do not really have to know her/him to become friends (or more).

Which is a major difference from my home country, and very confusing!

The way Americans flirt, especially, is very amazing to me. First, have you noticed that no words such as “dating” exist in French? Well, I guess that’s because it doesn’t really apply to us. As said above, we do not really hang out with strangers. This is very uncommon. So, when you want to “date” someone, you usually have had several bonding experiences together before, usually with other friends.

Most of the time, French people meet their girlfriend/ boyfriend at a party headed by friends, from friends-of-friends, or from the workplace. We do not really randomly ask people to go out.

Actually, to be honest, we do not even talk, or even look at people we do not know.

Try that in France: Try to look at a stranger (in the eyes) in the streets, smiling. Well, this person is going to look down and walk away. Because you’ll be considered intrusive and aggressive. Moreover, you might have a hard time trying to ask a stranger to hang out with you, because it is considered very savage and coarse.

French people also usually date one person at a time. There is no such thing as the “interview period.” We just try with someone, and then go hang out with another someone should the first one not reach our expectations for dating. We do not date several people at a time, ever.

Finally, I have to say that I really enjoy the respect you have in manners. I think that, paradoxically, we don’t have such a nice, gentle demeanor in France. It has been lost I guess. There are really few men in my home country who would open the door for me, offer to hold my bags or walk me back home, without second thoughts.

Actually, I don’t even think I experienced that. Ever. And feeling like a lady is very, very nice.

So, as romantic as my home country is often considered, I must admit that a lot of things, actually, are not that charming about us. Indeed, if I put myself in American’s shoes, I guess that I would consider French people cold and rude.

But, do not get yourself fooled by this facade. We are not that bad after all!

Thank you for reading! See you soon for another slice of French feelings.

Floriane Simondet is a graduate exchange student from France, majoring in Business Administration.

Comment on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: