La Petite Anglaise's guide to French pick-up lines.
Any expat female will tell you that when you arrive in Paris, or indeed anywhere in France, it can take a while to adjust to being chatted up by Frenchmen in the street. There is a directness to their approach which I had never experienced in the UK, and which took me somewhat by surprise when I arrived in Paris ten years ago. In France, it would seem perfectly acceptable to hit a complete stranger with the cheesiest of chat up lines. I would love to know what kind of a success rate they enjoy, but have never found any male willing to elaborate on the subject.
My theory is that you have to be French to know instinctively how to handle these situations gracefully. Personally, I am rarely flattered by the attention (although that probably has more to do with the low calibre of dragueur I tend to attract these days), and I often find it very difficult to brush off the more persistent breed of dragueur without causing offence.
Today I give you petite’s potted guide to cheesy French chat up lines. Because forewarned is forearmed.
"Vous avez de beaux yeux..."
The French equivalent of "do you come here often?" Although it might sound like a charming compliment the first time you hear it, it doesn't age well. After about the twentieth re-run I found myself hard pushed to even muster up enough enthusiasm to bother responding with a sarcastic "Ah bon?" However my real problem with this well-worn line is that the sleazy dragueur types using it very rarely look you in the eye while saying it. I don't think I'm suggesting that the line should be changed to "what a lovely cleavage you have there mademoiselle." But delivering this old chestnut with a little eye-contact would seem more appropriate.
"Vous êtes américaine?" [see also "suédoise" or "anglaise"]
Wrongly or rightly the French male seems to have the impression that all American girls are easy. So this line is likely to be delivered with a 'hopeful' intonation. Being more or less blonde (depending largely on the frequency of my visits to the hairdresser) and apparently non-French looking, I have been asked all of the above time and time again. The best line of defence seems to be to pretend not to understand a word of French. Either they give up, or the motivated ones start practising their dreadful Ingleesh on you. Which is likely to be good for a laugh if nothing else. And puts the dragueur at a distinct disadvantage.
"Vous avez une cigarette?"
Careful! There is nothing more bitterly disappointing than having a drop dead gorgeous gentlemen request a cigarette from you, who then turns tail in disgust when no "clope" is forthcoming. French people who ask you for a cigarette are often looking for just that. Similarly, "vous avez du feu?" may be a genuine request for a light, or another tired chat up line. A vous de juger.
"Vous avez l'heure s'il vous plaît?"
A word of advice: check whether the gentleman in question is wearing a watch before replying. There’s no point trying to work out how to say the correct time in French when it is patently unnecessary to do so, especially as it will more than likely entail giving away your foreignness and upping your assailant’s interest levels even further.
"Vous êtes charmante"
Thank you kindly. What a pity that you, Monsieur, are old enough to be my grandad and fug ugly.
"Mais je ne vous dérange pas, là. Je veux juste discuter un peu"
I beg to disagree.
My pet hate has to be the insistent chat up artist, who, despite my deploying the full armoury of rebuttals, persists and falls into step with me regardless. Even when I happen to be pushing a pushchair which contains a Tadpole. Motherhood, it seems, is no deterrent whatsoever to some people. “C’est votre enfant?” may be followed by a bold “vous habitez dans le coin?” One has to wonder what the desired outcome is: is it really conceivable that I might invite someone back to my place for some torrid extra-non-marital sex while my daughter plays with her toys in the next room?
I mean, really?
Petite Anglaise / Expatica
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