Now, more than ever, the dating experience could use a little old-fashioned je ne sais quoi. And there’s no better way to get inspired than by studying the courtship rituals of French women, says Jamie Cat Callan. “We live in un-charming times, and if we bring a little more charm into the world, we will all be living in a better place,” proclaims the author of Parisian Charm School. To her, that Parisian “charm” means an irresistible combination of elegance, confidence, and mystery. And, she insists, it’s something we can all cultivate in our own lives—particularly when it comes to love.
But how? Here, Callan outlines eight ways you can dial up the charm while dating, from the first date to a long-term relationship. Some of her tips may surprise you, but think about it—if French women have mastered everything from breakfast to beauty, their offbeat outlook on l’amour is sure to be just as life-changing.
Keep reading to learn how to approach your love life like a French woman would.
1. Bring friends on your first date
French women don’t “date” in the typical American sense, says Callan. Instead of one-on-one dinners and drinks, they often go out in groups and host dinner parties. No, these gatherings don’t have to be formal—the best are potluck or involve a casual picnic. (As if you needed an excuse to show off your most brag-worthy side dish.)
So why is the group date approach so much better IRL than it looks on The Bachelor? Involving your friends takes away some of the pressure for first-date romance, which some experts say can get in the way of building a lasting connection. And if real-deal sparks do fly on night one? You’ll have plenty of witnesses to recount the story at your anniversary party.
2. Embrace active dates
When it comes to one-on-one hangouts, Callan says you’ll often find French couples taking walks outside. Not only is this option full of old-school charm, but there’s an added bonus—nature can help quiet your internal monologue. You know, that constant stream of thoughts (“Is he interested in me?” “What if she doesn’t want kids?”) that can cast a shadow over the early stages of dating. “This is a lovely way to get to know someone individually, without the [stress of] deciding if you want to be something more,” she explains.
Just be sure not to pull out your phone every time you see something Instagram-worthy—keeping technology out of the experience will further deepen your connection with your date, according to one study.
3. Appreciate what you have
To the French, the “pursuit of happiness” is a foreign concept, says Callan. The closest thing they have to this idea is “recherche de bonheur,” which can be translated as “looking for a good time.” Sounds a lot less aggressive, right?
Their mindset is something that we can all learn from—it’s important to be aware of what brings you joy in the present moment and to embrace it, rather than pushing and striving to change something in hopes that it’ll make you happier. This is true for everything, but especially when it comes to your relationship status.
4. Slow down
Try telling this to a breakfast-skipping, side-hustling American woman and you might just get an eye roll in return. But French women don’t hurry anything, Callan says, and this applies to every area of life, from eating—hello, leisurely lunch breaks!—to dating.
That’s because the French believe taking one’s time can amount to deeper gratitude for life, not to mention deeper connections with the ones you care about. So instead of squezing dates into an already-packed schedule, allow them a little room to breathe—and don’t be afraid to linger past your bedtime over another glass of wine.
5. Don’t overshare
Sometimes it’s tempting to spill your entire life story to a suitor in the name of #authenticity. But the French believe it’s actually much sexier to reveal yourself slowly, says Callan.
Sure, it may seem counterintuitive not to share all in the Snapchat age. But this tactic works because it introduces the element of mystery—it leaves your love interest wanting more and makes it more likely that you’ll have his or her full attention when you do share something personal. Need help thinking before you speak? Try meditating before your date.
6. Change things up
“Changer les idées” is a French expression that means to “be a little unpredictable,” Callan says. This is a perfect concept to apply to dating, since doing something unexpected is a great way to freshen up any romance, especially long-term ones. Take a road trip to a romantic restaurant, visit a cheap fortune teller, shake up your bedroom routine—basically, anything that doesn’t involve PJs and a digital device is fair game.
7. Use your outfit as a flirting tool
Lots of French women consider their accessories to be conversation starters, says Callan—but less is more. Think about investing in a few high-quality pieces that you can style with low-key wardrobe staples. (Yes, your go-to black leggings are fair game.) “Never look like you’re trying,” says Callan. “But you must try!”
One easy place to start: A super-chic scarf. “It is a very sexy thing to remove your scarf slowly,” advises Callan. To master this technique yourself, take your time removing your coat and gloves before languidly unwrapping your scarf from your neck. And what if it’s 75 and sunny? Callan recommends using a fan to flirt demurely instead.
8. Improve your conversation game
French women are masters in the art of clever banter, Callan says. This is definitely something that can be taught, even if you’re more comfortable flirting over text. Just get into the habit of talking to people wherever you go.
Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and strike up a chat with, say, the stranger sitting next to you in your meditation class. Not only will this allow you to to polish your conversation skills in a low-pressure way, but you’ll also be putting yourself out there in the world—upping the odds that you’ll stumble across your next great amour, no swiping required.
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