The French woman’s guide to dating (no cleavage, no sexts, and no smiley emojis)

When you’re single in Paris, the possibilities for romance are endless.

Here, Florence Besson, Eva Amor and Claire Steinlen reveal the French woman’s secrets of seduction – in and out of the boudoir.

Be sexy everywhere

Always cool and always prepared – that’s the secret of Parisienne style, so no Ugg boots or sequined tops. You need to adopt a quietly seductive style. Coco Chanel said, ‘I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little…maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny.’

On a first date, go for the light touch: a suggestion rather than a statement; sexy without saying so. Choose simple lines – a sleeveless T-shirt with bare shoulders, a white shirt giving a glimpse of black bra… Aim for your target. If he’s a hipster, wear jeans; a business lawyer, opt for a skirt; heels for the man in finance and flats for the up-and-coming artist. Heels with a miniskirt are a definite no (too ‘exotic dancer with an excessive libido’), but obligatory if he is over 42 (unless he is as short as France’s recent presidents). The heels should never be too high – the aim is to seduce, not put yourself on display.


The tricky phone number question

Any Parisian well versed in the art of flirtation knows that offering your phone number before it has been asked for is simply not done. And if he doesn’t request it? If he wants it, he’ll find out.

There are three golden rules about texting:

1. Reply to his messages but avoid starting conversations yourself too often, even if you’re dying to. Never send an, ‘I was drinking a spritzer and thought of you…’

2. Try to limit the number of texts you exchange. We are beyond rapid-fire exchanges. Don’t impoverish dialogue by thinking you have to go on with the back and forth.

3. If you’re over 15, avoid smiley emojis, although you are never too old to go crazy with a unicorn or a dolphin as ‘proof’ of your affection.

The first date: do I treat it like a job interview? 

Of course you’ll lie. He will too. His anecdotes, frequent laughter and enthusiasm are designed to impress. But be careful not to embellish yourself too much. Don’t list your qualities, assets and activities. You’re not for sale. As the writer François de La Rochefoucauld said, ‘We gain more by allowing ourselves to be seen as we are than by trying to seem what we are not.’

What about putting out feelers to discover his tastes and express yours: what does he think of your mutual friends (what he says about others says a lot about him)? The important thing is what lies behind the conversation and the good vibes you are gently exchanging.

We slept together and he hasn’t called

Don’t waste time wondering why he hasn’t called. The more you try to understand, the greater your risk of spending weeks weeping over a guy you don’t even know. Don’t listen to your girlfriends who gently mislead you. He doesn’t ring because he doesn’t want to, that’s all there is to it! Forget about him and consider the next encounter.

Just because you spent the night together doesn’t mean he’s sworn undying love to you. Women may be liberated, but deep down we still believe that a night of sex equates to attaching a love lock to the Pont des Arts. To help you get over it, the most courageous thing you can do is delete his number. In Paris we have Rodin, Poussin, Delacroix and countless other men – all fascinating in other ways – awaiting you for a nocturnal session at the Louvre. If you’re going to be a single woman, you may as well be a smart one.

On paper it’s perfect, but there’s a but…

If you don’t fall deeply in love straight away, so much the better – that can be a good sign. If you do fall in love, you will be fully conscious and sure of your feelings rather than bewitched. At the same time, if you feel as though you’re in a bad play, going out with someone else’s ideal man, run into the arms of that sizzling waiter or the slightly disreputable guy who makes you fantasise a hundred times more!

People are sometimes tempted to have a relationship with someone who seems to tick all the boxes but whom they already find boring. Just think of the efforts you will have to make to keep this ‘rational relationship’ going and then find the courage to leave and finally be free to make the right choice. Give it no more than three weeks. After that, listen to yourself. If you don’t want to be with him you don’t want to be with him and that’s that. No circumstances oblige you to sacrifice your heart. Look at Cécilia Attias, who divorced Nicolas Sarkozy (while he was president), or Eleanor of Aquitaine, who dumped a French king and gave half of France to England. Be daring! Something so much better is waiting for you around the corner.

Think of all those great women from history that you admire. Is it because of how many children they had or for their successful marriages? Not at all. Some of them may have been unhappy in love, but they were adventurers, writers, politicians and fighters. They grabbed hold of life and defended love in other ways. So yes, being in a couple is important, but it is far from everything. Living grandly and rebelliously like those women, with your head held high – that is truly marvellous!


He’s fantastic, but I’m scared I’ll lose my freedom

You are in love. And it’s scary. But hold on – nobody’s asking you to give up anything. What man would fall for an exuberant free spirit, a woman who comes home tipsy on rosé after an evening with girlfriends, and then want her to become some sensible, docile creature wearing satin slippers?

Dare to embrace this new happiness with all the wondrous possibilities that go along with it – but always keep a tote bag on hand with a change of clothes so that you can get away if you want to. Falling in love is not like entering a convent. You do not give up seduction. You remain a woman and a man engaged in an erotic dance.

I can’t help it – I hate that he’s a dentist 

Your eyes sparkled when your ex told you, ‘I’m a photographer’ – a job that is to 30-something women what a guitarist is to teenage girls – until you discovered that he specialised in school photos. ‘Producer’ was promising – you could really see yourself starring in his next film. But it turns out he only works in the business sector making commercials for a commuter-rail corporation.

A dentist? Well, maybe he’s responsible for George Clooney’s smile? Think of those celebrity parties. You can never take the profession at face value. A lawyer can be funny just as a DJ can be boring. Don’t judge the profession; instead take note of the approach, the way in which your man talks about his job. Are those days spent hunched over other people’s mouths his way of making others happy, or just of making a good living?

Do you know who the partner of the first woman president of the International Monetary Fund is? No, because you don’t give a damn. A great woman does not need a man in order to shine.

He complains all the time

He’s got problems? Welcome to the club. It’s not your job to reassure him all the time, to cheer him up when he’s sad, to fill his silences, to take him out, to feel sorry for him or play at being caretaker. Yes, you are there if he needs you, but what he wants above all is to dive with you into a world in which his worries have not monopolised his heart. So let him moan, listen to him a little, but do not put yourself in his place. Empathising with him too much brings down the mood, makes you seem like you are his mother and, to put it in a nutshell, kills love! Stop imagining what he is thinking about or feeling. His problems are often less serious than he thinks – explain that to him gently, and if he gets on your nerves, tell him.

He’s wonderful – I’m terrified that we’ll split up

You love it when he calls for no reason, the way he holds you tight, those dinners spent laughing with the people on the next table, those afternoons walking hand in hand as the sun sets. But if it all ended, there would be an enormous void.

But you’re not there yet, so don’t panic. Don’t let your lover sense that you are scared he will leave. Learn how to make that fear something familiar that you tame, something that concerns nobody but you. You are suffering from what is known as happiness vertigo. So take a step back as you would if you were at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Cling on to your life! Work, go out, cultivate your friendships and invest time in the things you’re curious about. By remaining centred in your own space, you cease to think only about him. You get your balance back, along with the joy of knowing that he is there. Above all, keep the good wisdom of our ancestors: when the crop is ripe for harvesting, you celebrate! Deep down that little worry that everything will stop is just one of the many secrets of love.


 On a first date don’t talk:

About your ex

For talking’s sake

About plans for ‘us’

About your parents

About your embarrassing ailments or administrative hassles (a flood, complicated application form, etc)

About your therapist

About your work in detail

Without listening or laughing.

This is an edited extract from Love Parisienne: The French Woman’s Guide to Love and Passion by Florence Besson, Eva Amor and Claire Steinlen, to be published by HQ on Thursday, price £12.99. To order a copy for £10.39 (a 20 per cent discount) until 18 February, visit or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15