Take this post with a healthy dose of salt. Especially if you have low blood pressure. I know I do.
Since the word for “date” doesn’t exist in France, (not really anways), I thought I’d make a list of potential signs that you’re on what Americans would view as a “date”, perhaps even as “dating”. This is not necessarily what the French view as dating. They might just call it “being in France”. Of course, you could very well be dating and in France. Up to you to figure it out.
Anyhow, in France in general, no matter what the subject, things are often not as defined or straightforward (see previous posts about, hmm, EVERYTHING in France), either because: a) the language doesn’t have a word or English equivalent, b) because having to define something when it is clearly, or as is more often the case, ambiguously implied, is seen as “American”, or c) talking about defining something is just not done in France very often, due to the comfort levels, cultures, and/or ironic sense of humor of those involved, so whatever relationship it is – well, is. Sometimes you can’t put a label on it. Or as I was told, “Profites!” (Make the most of it)! –> This is a very ‘French’ concept–one that I fully endorse. The closest American equivalent to this strange idea would be “go with the flow” (which, sadly, does not do the above-mentioned concept justice, neither in meaning nor in practice).
The top 10 signs you might be [on a date/in a relationship/or at least in France]:
1. you get asked if you’d like to aller boire un verre, and more than a few times.
*aller boire un verre = to go for a drink. That’s the straightforward translation.
*also, especially when the above question and resulting event (re)occurs with high frequency over an extended period of time, one can conclude–unless said Monsieur can be in two towns at once–that he is not [aller-ing to boire un verre] with anyone else. Thus the concept of “dating” is understandably confusing in France, since ‘dating’ in the U.S. is not necessarily or commonly exclusive (ie, people can ‘date’ more than one person at a time, which isn’t really done in France).
*Sometimes, on those days when you are not at the same locale as this Monsieur, a half-hour’s notice is the norm. You may very well have been chilling in your sweats studying (since you weren’t planning on seeing the French public that day), and then have to pull yourself together in 10 minutes so you can walk to said café within the other 20 minutes. This is very particular to the French culture.
2. the guy pays (for everything, and doesn’t let you pay, or if he does, even then there is a limit).
*If Monsieur forgets his wallet, so for once you are allowed to pay for the 16h/4PM tea, but then for the rest of the afternoon/evening he pays with his checkbook, doesn’t tell you ’til you go up to pay because you’re an American girl, after all, so you can handle this – and then you find out that he’s already paid the bill! Even though you fully intended to pay and were even looking forward to it, for once. (My only question upon reflection would be: You FORGOT your wallet, but you have your *checkbook* on you? Well, either way, classy move on your part).
3. the words aller boire un verre, se voir, RV à ___ . . . , are used: whether in person, talking via cell phone (what a concept, right?!), or in a text. It is three different ways of avoiding using sortir which is the most blunt way to say “to go out (with)”. Tu fais quoi?, T’ es où?, T’ es en ville?, On peut aller boire un verre, si tu veux, and other seemingly innocuous conversational phrases = Do you want to go out? Generally. Especially if he calls you and asks, when said Monsieur is one of the more indirect and self-admittedly shy (timide) men – at least when compared to the ‘typical’, often quite direct approach of other Europeans. Such is my theory, anyways.
4. 99% of the time, none of your friends are present. (Yes, sometimes your friends come along, or you invite colleauges. Going out in groups is much more common in France – whether or not the people in the group are in relationships, seule, or as is often the case, somewhere in between- not as in “It’s complicated’ – but rather, ‘It’s French’).
So, logically, the above makes just two people fairly uncommon and somewhat obvious. Most of the time.
5. you go to a bar and play multiple games of billiards and/or watch only the first half of a soccer match at the same bar (because sometimes he might have to catch his train on time if he does not live in the same town as you. On second thought: Wait–who would only watch *half* a game of soccer?)
*Seriously. Do you know many guys (or girls) who sit at home, watch the first half of a soccer game, then say ‘That was a thrilling first half! Guess I won’t watch the second. Might as well turn off the T.V’. You don’t? Exactly. They probably aren’t there just to watch the first half of a soccer game on a megatron screen when they could have gone home much earlier and caught the whole game.
6. the [on se voit en ville?/aller-boire-un-verre] lasts from 4-7 hours, which you only realize after the fact (hopefully. Otherwise, you are on a bad date if you are looking at the clock – yikes)!
*4 hours does not actually seem to be that uncommon in France. Or as other American girls have described it, “marathon dating”. Although of course, “dating” doesn’t really exist in France, or rather, people rarely acknowledge that it does. (So that’s why the French stay slim. Endurance training via socializing. Hmm).
7. the [on se voit en ville?/aller-boire-un-verre] surpasses 7 hours, he “accidentally” forgets about the time even though he always keeps the train schedule in his messenger bag, and thus misses the last train ’til the morning, ends up sleeping at the train station, and is not bothered by it. Even if the train station is completely closed ’til morning. (OK, this may be exceptional regardless of the culture). I’ll have to check on that one.
8. when he *admittedly* doesn’t mind missing his train ’til the morning, insisting that he can drink coffee to stay awake for the 5- or 7AM train; when missing the train becomes a pattern. Well, French coffee beats Starbucks coffee any day.
9. if you feel secretly compelled to ask him if he popped out of a Jane Austen novel*, since his sense of humor is remarkably similar to Austen’s satirical Henry Tilney. That, and his mother must have taught him perfect manners. (Or his dad. I mean, I’m not sexist).
*unless, of course, he resembles in any way Mr. Collins, Mr. Wickham, or any other 19th-century cad described by Miss Austen. Although I suppose you could still be on a date with one of them. (After all, look at Lydia Bennett). To those non-readers of Austen: just ignore point #9.
10. it is 15h/3PM and you are drinking tea in a bar while playing chess, doing magic tricks with cards, or end up playing an actual, ‘legit’ game with a box of matches, which the owner unquestioningly gives Monsieur, as you are repeat customers and have really hit it off with the owner and his wife.*
*You know you’re a regular when the owner and his wife fait la bise every time they see you and monsieur, to the point that they even greet you with the familiar (not the formal) Salut! Ça va? annnnnd, it just so happens that they know your host dad, since he is a doctor in the center of town. Of course they do.
The above may possibly followed by bar hopping accordingly for a combination of coffee, Belgian beer, dancing, restaurant-searching, and/or kebabs* and cola. Conversation is a given throughout, usually consisting of general mockery and humour (please see point #9). You know, just like in the U.S., right?
*as kebab shops are the only thing besides clubs open after 10PM, that is.
Oh, and the Irish barman’s cat likes to join your table for half-hours at a time, dig it’s claws into your legs, then run across the table to switch sides. Even if neither of you are “cat people”. Ironic. Yes, sadly, I can only buy so many pairs of tights at Monoprix. Please, Cat-whose-name-is-never-remembered, don’t ruin my 10th pair of tights. She (the cat) generally prefers Monsieur anyhow.
P.S.: Un ami/une amie means a friend or your friend, etc.; ton (petit/e) ami(e)/ton amie, petit(e) ami(e), petit(e) copain/copine, ton copain/copine means boyfriend/girlfriend (basically, once possessives are used with any of the above). Un/Une pote, un copain/une copine means a pal or a buddy (which does not usually mean the same thing as saying un ami/une amie).
Remember, though, especially if you’re actually in France, there are always exceptions to the rule. This is hardly a definitive list, although if you recognized more than 3 from this list, you can at least be certain you’re in France (or possibly in a country once colonized by the French). As my friends in France put it: “En France, tout est permis, même ce qui est interdit”. (In France, everything is allowed – even what isn’t allowed).