1. Dressing nicely doesn’t make you “gay.” I remember one of the first times a guy friend from the States came to visit me in France, and in total seriousness, remarked on how “gay” a lot of the men looked. (He had the good sense not to make the comment about my boyfriend, but I knew he was thinking it.) And I could see how, compared to our town’s uniform of boat shoes and khaki shorts, it could be a bit of a shock. But wearing well-tailored jackets, linen shirts, or — gasp! — scarves, has nothing to do with your sexuality. Being stylish and taking pride in your appearance is something we all deserve to experience if we want to, without having to worry about gender or sex.
2. Food is God. Whether it’s making time for a good lunch, instead of sadly picking at a sandwich at your desk, or taking the time to make yourself a reasonable-ish meal when you get home, French men put a premium on food. (Women do, too, of course, but I would argue that American women are pretty good about appreciating the human importance of food, too.) And like good art or good sex, food is just another indispensable pleasure of life that we must take time to enjoy.
3. Ladies first. It’s a stereotype, yes, but I’ve cross-referenced it with all my girlfriends, and French men really are good in bed. And it’s not some magical sex move that doesn’t exist over here, or a sentient penis. It’s just about taking care of women, and making her having a good time the priority. It’s honestly not much more complicated than that.
4. Culture is something that everyone should participate in. While this is definitely better in the more cosmopolitan American cities, the truth remains that “let’s go see an expo at the museum!” is a suggestion you’re unlikely to hear a group of Yankee bros make on a Sunday afternoon. And yet, as anyone who has made friends with a group of French bros knows, going to see museum exhibits or new art films becomes a suggestion so frequent as to be grating. But that isn’t a bad thing! It’s just that I wasn’t used to it. Wanting to do cultural activities that your mom usually suggests seems strange at first coming from a 25-year-old guy, but it’s a wonderful thing once you get used to it.
5. Work-life balance is something that happens every day. As a lot of us here tend to think of “work/life balance” in terms of “saving up for something really good” or “work hard, play hard,” it can manifest in having really long periods of agonizing workloads that lead up to an uncertain payoff. (Or, worse, mentalities like that grotesque Cadillac commercial.)
But French men, for the most part, are invested in a work/life balance that happens every day. You take coffee breaks with colleagues, you always make time for a good lunch in a real restaurant, and you try your best to spend time with the people you love.
6. Romance is not dead. And no, this doesn’t mean taking you on a stroll along the Seine whilst singing Charles Aznavour songs and juggling baguettes to win your favor. But the idea of having multiple, thoughtful dates, taking time to get to know one another, and making an effort to make your time together special is not a dead concept. Yes, you will also meet guys who just want to make out in the smoking room of a dance club, but we’re speaking in averages. And on average, French men are much more interested in creating a romantic beginning to a relationship. (Something as simple as informing himself about wine so he can make a thoughtful choice at the restaurant speaks volumes.)
7. Not making boobs a big deal. This is more about French culture in general, but it is most noticeably manifested in how French men view them. Breasts are everywhere — on TV, in magazines, in street advertisements, on beach advertisements — so it’s not this weird simultaneous fetishization and disgust. Breasts are simply parts of the human body, sometimes sexual, sometimes not. And with them, it doesn’t have to be a big deal, because the female form is not pornographic by nature.
8. When in doubt, wear a white button-down with two buttons undone. It’s simple, it’s effortless, and it’s incredibly sexy. (When paired with good hair, this can transform nearly any man into a heartthrob, even if he is miles away from your type.)
9. Travel is indispensable. I’m often shocked at the degree to which my American guy friends put travel on the back burner, even when they know that it’s important on some level, and that they really want to do it. I don’t know why, but amongst the women I know, it’s much more of a priority, because it’s seen as an incredibly meaningful human experience — and it’s easiest when done while young and untethered. But French men are perhaps the most aware of this fact, and put an extremely high value on the act of traveling, seeing new places, and moving around. There will always be people who choose to stay put (as someone who is pretty familiar with small French towns, I can confirm that not everyone travels), but it’s generally much more important. And yes, on a continent as small and navigable as Europe, it’s easier to change countries. But even changing states can be pretty incredible, and we simply don’t do it enough.
10. Life is meaningless without love. The love of friends, the love of family, the love of romantic relationships — it’s all deeply important. And instead of being seen as something that must be enjoyed and worked on after office hours, love takes the most important role in the French male life. Life is simply too short to be more concerned with material possessions than passion and happiness, and this is something that we’ll all eventually learn — but some cultures simply seem to learn it earlier than others.