I didn’t expect living in France to be easy when I moved to an isolated smallholding in the Limousin from London via Baltimore, six years ago. My cultural experience of the country amounted to just one week’s skiing and a day-trip to Dieppe.I was a city girl adrift in the countryside, without so much as a pair of wellies to my name.They don’t care if they lose face – something that turns your proper French Mademoiselle into a taut-skinned bore by the time she is 35. French men are known for their smoldering good looks and great romance, and in Paris it’s easy to fall in love 10 times a day: he might be sipping a café noir in St.-Germain-des-Prés, ambling through the Jardin des Plantes or reading Sartre on the metro.Not on purpose, anyway, and certainly not with a girlfriend.But off we went, to the local factory shop, where they were having a sale. ” she asked, holding up a beady, lacy, intricately embroidered bra-and-knickers set for my inspection. “I think I’ll take both.” I made a note to myself: no French woman is ever going to see me in my underwear, except perhaps the doctor. “You English are shy, aren’t you,” said the lady gynaecologist who examined me during my first pregnancy, as I stood naked in front of her, with no gown or towel to hide behind.Don’t overdress for soirées, she advises; do turn up late for dinner (by 15-20 minutes) and do brush up on politics; and don’t be so foolish as to mistake everyday flirtation for a come-on. She does her best to demystify her subject, announcing that “French women are nowhere near as perfect or sophisticated as you might think”.She tells us to throw ourselves into speaking French without worrying about our appalling accents, because to the French they’re actually “super-cute”.
I like Lepère’s approach, even if she is exactly the kind of intimidatingly perfect Frenchwoman whom she is trying to tell us not to fear. BUT WE'RE VERY FOND OF YOU ECCENTRIC ANGLAISES French woman Anne-Elisabeth Moutet says: French men aren’t too sure what they think of les Anglaises (this includes the Welsh and the Scots in the national perception) but, pace the shrewd Ms Géraldine Lepère, who advises unrestrained use of the word “petit” to mark your approval, they are very, very fond of les petites Anglaises.
That said, some of the difficulties I encountered took me by surprise, most of which could be summed up in just two words: French women.
So yesterday, when the Telegraph unveiled yet another French woman full of well-meaning advice about how to do everything better – in other words, more like the French – my first response was to roll my eyes.
That muddy period when you’re not sure how serious he is will be rapidly cleared up after you’ve been dating a French man for a week, by which time he’ll have begun referring to you as his girlfriend.
Essentially, an entire chapter of confusing mind games will be completely bypassed. French men phone regularly, and there should be one call for every day that he doesn’t see you.