Ask Tom Tuesdays: Differences between American and French women

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Ask Tom TuesdaysThere’s something about French guys… and you just want to hear what they have to say! I’m often asked what my husband thinks about American culture, food, the people and more. Curious minds want to know what French guys think about all kinds of things, so today, my husband, Tom, is kicking off a new series called The Frenchman speaks: Ask Tom Tuesdays. He’s answering your questions about whatever you want to know….

Up first? The differences between French and American women. Go!

Ask Tom Tuesdays: Differences between American and French women

First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank my husband for taking part in this series. It’s not easy to write well in a foreign language and his English skills make me really proud. So thank you, Tom, for being open to this.

Ask a Frenchman

Ready? In case you missed it, I’ve written before about how to look French, but reader Rayni has the following question for Tom:

Question: What do you think are the biggest differences between French and American women?

Tom’s answer:

Before I start, I just wanted to share this disclaimer:

This post reflects only my opinion which is based on my own experiences. Depending on everyone’s own experiences, things can be viewed from a different angle, so you can totally disagree with me here. Please keep in mind that what I write here is just a general feeling, and that it doesn’t necessarily apply to each and every individual…

So what are the differences between American and French women… to be honest, this is kind of a tough question for my first post! It’s tough because as I said in the disclaimer, it’s related to my personal experience, and most of all, because Diane is American, and considering that aside from her and her family, I don’t know any American women well. But I’ve visited many times and watch a lot of American TV, so I’m qualified to answer although I’d better watch what I’m going to state here!!!

Ok, well, it looks like I’m buying some time here with justifications, so finally, here we go:

Personality: Cold vs. warm?

I think that the thing that struck me the most about my interactions with American women was that I’d generally find them warmer than the majority of French women. I’ve been able to speak to American women in some situations where I’d never have ended up talking to French women I think. It seems easier to have a conversation with an American woman, even if you absolutely don’t know her at first than with a French woman. I’ve talked a few minutes to cashiers, to random women in the street just asking for directions and other small talk situations that wouldn’t really occur with a French woman beyond a simple exchange. A lot of times (and I think this is particularly true in big cities, but not only in cities), French women seem to be colder on the outside, less open to conversing with strangers and don’t really show any interest. It often contrasts with the enthusiasm that American women can show towards the person they’re conversing with.

I find that the American social style is really refreshing (even if that enthusiasm can sometimes be excessive and look fake).

Beyond what I just mentioned, I think the French standoffishness is a way for French women to keep that sense of being inaccessible precisely to be more desirable. That behavior can be summed up by the French saying that translates to, “Follow me I will flee, flee from me, I will follow.”

As a consequence, French women can often appear vain and haughty, carrying a I’m-too-good-for-you-face. Even if French males are used to that, I must admit that it can be really tiring over time. That being said, I always wonder if American women tend to be more open, enthusiastic and curious toward me because I’m French and they notice the differences? My nationality could also play into that friendly attitude.

American relationship code

In the course of my relationship with Diane, as it was getting more and more serious, I noted something I wasn’t really expecting. At some point we started talking about the future of our relationship and Diane told me that we were doing nothing more than dating up until that point (although we both weren’t seeing anyone else and clearly wanted to be with just each other, yet didn’t say it). That was really surprising for me, because in my mind we were more than just dating — we were partners and had been for a while, so I was almost shocked by what I heard — that to her, we were just dating. I finally figured out that she said that because we were not officially anything else.

There’s some kind of American dating code where you have to take the next steps and go from dating to being exclusive, because if you don’t talk about it, you’re not really sure where the relationship stands.

It seems that for Americans, first you date, then you’re boyfriend/girlfriend, then engaged and finally you get married. If you’ve been in a relationship for many years, as long as you haven’t taken the next official step, you’re still considered just boyfriend/girlfriend I guess. When we started talking about the idea of getting married, Diane helped me understand that for Americans, there’s an engagement first and that usually comes with a proposal and a ring (and that I’d better not mess up!).

If I was getting married to a French woman, I don’t think I’d have tortured myself too much to make the greatest proposal ever (it was still up to the American standards I think!). (Diane’s note: It was! Cliffside on the Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the ocean. Then later he managed to find a florist who sold him rose petals. And even got my favorite frozen yogurt and RAN over a mile back to the hotel to get it in the mini fridge before it melted in the LA heat.)

I first thought it was about Diane, something she wanted, but I soon realized that the same was going on for all her friends. American women seem to be more attached to norms in a relationship process, whereas I think that French women don’t focus that much on the steps (people don’t really get engaged nowadays before getting married and having kids in France). They can live a happy relationship without having to follow the “code.”

It almost appears to me that if an American woman couldn’t take all those steps, she would feel like a failure.

(Diane’s note: It was never a lifelong dream of mine to get married and have a big wedding, but because of our circumstances, we felt marriage was the right step to take so we could live together since we knew we wanted to be together anyway. I figured since we only do this once, we might as well get engaged, get a ring and have a little wedding! Just at a restaurant with close friends and family. But I do admit that American women, in general, make a HUGE deal out of the wedding and it’s big business! And that’s not the case in France although it’s starting…)

Another area where norms seem to be prevalent is the beauty standards. French women, like American ones, are of course all different when it comes to looks. But from what I’ve seen over my trips to the U.S. and the TV shows I watch, I find that there’s a beauty standard featured, where the ideal woman would be a fit, long and straight haired blond woman (with a little tan). Here, I think French women, instead of trying to fit to a standard, would showcase their natural beauty, and use what they have to try to make the best out of what they’ve got. That’s not to say French women don’t tan or dye their hair, but it just seems to be more prevalent among American women.

Style: Comfy and chic

French lingerie

Among the dress code for French women is the lingerie! I have to admit that I was surprised that American women (at least for the one I know best! haha) don’t wear the same style of lingerie as French women. I really thought that Diane was just a little old school! But no, I was actually surprised to note that the lingerie at the Victoria’s Secret store was the same kind as the type worn by my wife. (Diane’s note: I admit I go for comfort when it comes to everyday undergarments and don’t see the point in wearing frilly, sheer, lace bras when they leave bumps under a t-shirt and let the whole world know when you’re cold.)

French women always wear sexy lingerie, bras with lots of lacy style, and every day, not only when they go to a date. Once again, American style seems to be more about comfort (I’m not saying the style is bad, it actually look nice, you can just tell it’s not made to be just sexy, but comfortable too like that seamless stuff, Diane just told me the word).

Another area which illustrates the differences between American and French women is how they choose to dress. Most French women would try to always look chic, or let’s say at least a little dressed up. I was pretty surprised the first time I went to the U.S. and saw so many women dressed very casually in stores, at Starbucks and everywhere. Like sneakers and lounge pants!

Most French women wouldn’t go out of their homes wearing a hoodie and sweatpants if it’s not to go for a run. Even to go get a baguette at the bakery, they tend to dress up. Senior citizens too! Same thing when they just go grab a coffee with a friend (or should I say, sit down for a coffee, since we don’t do the take away in France). (Diane’s note: So true! Even our 68-year-old neighbor wears heels, a full face of makeup and “smart” clothes to walk the dog. And we live in western France nowhere near Paris!). I’ve read things about foreigner men who would underline that chicness and find it attractive. Even if I can’t disagree, I also really like how American women can sometimes just think about comfort and look relaxed where French women torture themselves and wear heels when not needed at all, but just for the look!

So there you have it, the differences between American and French women. Those differences are what came to mind the most just based on my experience.

the end

Again, a BIG THANK YOU to Tom for being a good sport. So readers, tell me, what differences have you noticed between the two nationalities? And what part of Tom’s answer did you find the most interesting?

Do you have a question for Tom?

Submit your questions in the comments below, via email here or on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe you’ll see it answered in a future post (hope to run this once a month or whenever Tom has time). And as always, thank you for stopping by!

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Comments (27)

  • Molly @ Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips in Paris!

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    LOVE the new series! Awesome job Tom! There are always so many questions I want to ask Frenchmen! I’ve been in a relationship with a frenchman and we went on three, what I would call dates, which went amazing, then out of nowhere, a note like we were breaking off a relationship that had been going on for a couple months. So weird! We’re friends now but still flirt all the time. haha Still hoping it goes back to being a ‘relationship.’ ooo the accent! haha

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for checking out the new series! Yes, the dating “norms” are definitely different in a lot of areas, but I was just upfront with Tom and said whoa wait, we need to talk because I think it’s a cultural misunderstanding. And then once we talked things through, we realized we were on the same page. Hey, gotta keep it interesting right?? Hope you get back w/the French guy if that’s what you want. ;-)

      Reply

  • Grace

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    This was so interesting, I can’t wait for the rest of the series!
    I think its interesting that French women dress up just to run a small errand, while American women will just throw something on to go get groceries, or something. I think thats really cool, because, even though it takes longer to put some effort into an outfit before going out, its more respectful of the people you’ll interface with while out and about. Not everyone wants to see someone wearing just sweatpants and a hoodie… no matter how comfortable it is.
    Awesome post, loved it d^_^b

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Tom is so thrilled everyone liked his blogging debut! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, it is cool that women look put together and there are way less sloppy looking people here. But I hate putting in all that effort with makeup and hair and nice clothes if I’m only going to the bakery! Ahhh, guess I’ll never be French!

      Reply

  • Alan

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    I really enjoyed the new series. Please thank Tom for jumping in and sharing his views.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      He loves the response, so thanks for taking the time to read his point of view!

      Reply

  • audrey

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    Thanks for the new addition to an already great blog. I find it interesting in that the first question asked is very indicative of the differences between French and American women. As Americans we give little thought to asking “personal” type questions straight off of the bat. Well done, Tom!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      So happy you enjoyed the post! Funny you mention personal questions — a question dealing w/that was submitted for a future Ask Tom post. Stay tuned!

      Reply

  • AntKristi

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    I love this series! So funny and fresh, and interesting to hear the Frenchman’s perspective. Still waiting to hear if he has any nice French guy friends in Austin he can introduce me to…except I’m pretty intimidated now by the whole lingerie expectation, oof. :) Great post!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Unfortunately, he doesn’t know anyone in Austin or Texas as a whole. ;-(( Yes, damn the French and their totally non-functional lingerie!

      Reply

  • Kari

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    The difference in the relationship code is a big one! My boyfriend skipped over the “what are we?” conversation as well, which led to a big misunderstanding when he told me how he wanted to introduce his friends to his “copine.”

    I know time is a little different for international couples because of visa issues, but my boyfriend said that if he was with a French girl, he would definitely wait at least five years before making a legal commitment. Not sure if that is an idea held by many French men or women, though.

    Oh how I miss sometimes going out to run in errand in the early morning wearing decent comfy clothes and not feeling judged…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hahha, glad it’s not only me. I think we’ve all had French guy dating mishaps because the expectations are different. Apparently, there’s no casual kissing either. If you make out, in his mind, you’re a couple!

      Reply

  • Madeleine

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    This is a darling blog post! It’s great to get your perspective, though I think you probably could do so without those cute disclaimers. Maybe it’s a French thing? Maybe Americans are so used to giving their opinions that everyone just sort of naturally understands that, hey, this is your perspective only.

    Anyhow, I’m surprised that you like the more casual look of American woman, not that you prefer it, but you seem to understand how it’s practical.

    I visited Paris earlier this year and went crazy worrying about dressing up enough to not stick out. I guessed it worked since I was mistaken for a local several times. You merely have to wear skinny jeans and a scarf, it seems! I fell so in love with France that when I returned I actually found Americans were too loud in restaurants and could really stand to dress up more. Funny! I only spent a week in Paris… Now, I feel out of place if I want to dress up a little to go to the store. No one seems to do it, especially during the summer when it’s hot.

    I’m really looking forward to reading more of this blog. This is my first visit and I was sent here by Ella Coquine. She said I might better understand the whole having a pet in Paris thing if I read this blog. Yeah, I have the fever to live there. I don’t have a solid plan yet, but plenty of ideas. And I’m studying the language. Those years of high school and college French did little to help me on my visit, but there’s nothing to motivate you to learn a language than feeling lost in another country.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi it’s Diane (maybe Tom will comment later on after work). I think Tom opted for a disclaimer because he’s seen me post stuff (clearly my opinion) using the words all or everyone and then someone will comment and say well I know a French person who isn’t rude/a smoker/etc. So just to avoid any misunderstandings and to be polite I guess. ;-) It’s the French way!
      It feels good to dress up sometimes and there’s no better place than Paris to do it. Glad you loved France! And I’ll have to thank Ella Coquine for sending you here. A post on pet culture in France vs. The USA is coming soon… Thx again!

      Reply

      • Madeleine

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        Thanks Diane! I haven’t caught up on everything on your blog yet. I’m looking forward to hearing more. Not sure how easy it would be to take my pets with me to Paris. However, if I do go to Paris to live, it would probably be for just one year. I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world to leave them with a sitter for a year. Would make me sad though… By the way, your blog is very inspirational. I’m still trying to convince my husband that we can do this.

        Reply

  • stella

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    I love this new serie! So interesting!

    We don’t date in France, i would say. If you go out with a guy/girl you can say ou are boyfriend/girlfriend. But I think most of the girls want to get engaged,with a ring and a formal proposal! (at least most of my friends do). And we dream more and more of a wedding like in movies, like in US.

    I got engaged two weeks ago, and I think it was a “in like a movie” proposal. Now I dream of my wedding, like in movies, outside, under a flowery arch.

    For the lingerie, I agree with Tom. When I went to New York, I went shopping and wanted to buy lingerie. In most of the shops I found the lingerie very simple and casual. Nothing sexy, with lace or “froufrou”. In France we only have one or towo casual bras and panties and many in lace! But I wouldn’t buy something not comfy either! It has to be comfy and sexy! lol

    I’m really looking forward to a new post like that!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Awesome to hear another perspective from a French woman. So thank you! I think the dating world (American vs French) is something that is very different in the cultures. American women like to go on dates (dinner, movie, picnic, whatever) until they know the guy is for them and many of my friends would date several guys at the same time. Nothing serious. I feel like this would hurt a French guy’s feelings because the understanding in France is that if you’re hanging out together and spending time on dates, that it must be serious. Not so in the US! So I’m happy Tom touched on that in this post in case any non-French women are dating a French guy! Thank you for weighing in as well. AND CONGRATS ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT! That’s wonderful!

      I have no clue where to buy good (not 100 euros/bra though), comfortable lingerie in France that actually has coverage and isn’t a little lace thing. Princess Tam Tam isn’t the greatest nor is Etam. I love La Perla but it’s out of my price range!

      Thanks for your comment and congrats again!

      Reply

      • Susan Walter

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        Diane have you tried Decathlon for practical comfortable underwear that doesn’t cost a fortune? The range there isn’t all for sportswomen who need super support and don’t care about anything else. I’d also suggest Auchan — last time I looked they had a range of very simple, very inexpensive cotton underwear.

        Reply

        • Diane

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          Thank you for the suggestion, Susan. I’ll have to check those places out. For now, I just buy from Victoria’s Secret at home. I think getting some things from the US makes me feel like I’m still attached to the US in some way. Like my underwear, my peanut butter, my toothpaste. ;-)

          Reply

  • Janine

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    Thank you, Tom! This was great fun to read!

    Reply

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

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    Thanks for the post Diane and Tom, what a fascinating insight! I heard a similar impression from the French guy I was dating before I left…

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for checking out the post! The world of dating is definitely weird here. Thankfully I only dated one French guy and don’t have to worry about misunderstandings now.

      Reply

  • Maria

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    Hi Tom, moi je habite en France depuis 4 ans. Tonight I am going out with a man who I just clicked with at a party some weeks ago. I am Swedish myself and I am in my 40:s and speak and understand french. There is only one BUT here and that is BUT I don’t know how to be funny in french. In english and swedish I can, and I am afraid that he will not find me interesting enough – that he will be missing that part where I don’t get all the subtilities of french. What do you think Tom – does it matter to a french man that a woman doesn’t master his language to perfection?

    Reply

    • Tom

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      Hi Maria! I don’t think you should be worried about that at all. I mean everyone is different, but there’s much more when you interact with someone than just words and language subtleties. There’s body language and facial expression and overall personality. I’d say to look at the bright side of it, you have something different that you can bring to that person, and I think it makes you interesting, more than if you mastered all the subtleties of French. I’ve personally never even considered that as a problem, and I’ve been able to have very good laughs with Diane when we met, even if neither her or I would master the other one’s mother tongue at that time! So go ahead, and if it’s worth it with that person then you’ll have plenty of time to master French and its subtleties ;)

      Reply

  • Fab

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    Hi,

    I have read this post sometime ago and I just found myself here again…I don’t where to start, but I will just say everything is a matter of perspective. It looks like Tom is not fan of French girls. For whatever reason that is.

    As for me, I prefer the French (but mainly European women); and I’m not a big fan of American women. That’s just me. I live here in the States, but I also lived in France, USA, and in Cameroon while growing up. I have dated girls from those countries and a few others (Japan, German).

    I must say the American women are not on the top of my list. I can go on and list all the things I don’t like, but I will skip it. Tom, with all due respect, the grass is always greener on the other side. I don’t want to sound like a douche, but it looks like you only said the things you knew your wife would like. And you gave the people on your site when they wanted to hear.

    I like “chic” women; which you said the French are
    I like “sexy” lingerie; you’re talking about “comfort”
    French (and the others I have met for that matter) tend to be frank, American women, most aren’t.

    I can go on with this too. But you get the point. But again, I don’t want to generalized.

    Anyway, have a good one

    Reply

    • Diane

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      HI Fab, thanks for your comment and checking out the post. I understand where you’re coming from and I think everyone has their own preferences and brings a bias to everything (not just dating). Isn’t life about perspective? I mean we can find chic and beautiful women from all over the planet regardless of nationality. I guess the trick is finding the partner that you love and vice versa regardless of where they were born or what stereotypes they fall into. It’s perfectly fine American women aren’t at the top of your list. Variety and choice are wonderful things. Hope you found someone to make you happy. ;-)

      Reply

  • sylvain

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    First of all, American Women are way more beautiful than French women . Can’t compare

    Reply

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