Before a singleton moves abroad, they should be briefed on the dating laws of their new country. It should fall under the responsibility of the Foreign Office or something, because it’s hard enough conversing in a different language all the time without the added complexity of interpreting a foreign mating ritual. My neighbour (the dealer, not the magician or the religious extremist) appears to be labouring under the impression that we are in a relationship. He has taken to calling me ‘ma Breeteesh’ and suggested we get matching tattoos. If we were working by British rules there would have been nothing in my behaviour that suggested I wanted to be his girlfriend, however relationships in France are a whole different ball game.
In the UK, when you meet someone you think you might like, you go on dates to the cinema and to restaurants. You talk. You find out what you have in common and you discover the character traits which you might not like so much about the person in question. And then you weigh all these things up and decide whether you want to give it a go. In France, if you see someone twice in the street you are practically engaged.
Just before Christmas I was on the tram home from work. The two men sat opposite me would not stop staring. They were talking in Arabic so I had no idea what it was they were saying but had a feeling it was about me. The tram arrived at my stop, and as I got up to leave so did one of the men, saying to his friend in French ‘I’m going with my girlfriend’. The man followed me down the street, shouting and running to catch up with me. ‘Don’t you remember me?’ he said and that’s when I realised that I did recognise his face. He had been on the tram with me before and had told me I was a ‘marvellous creature’. ‘We talked on the tram before.’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘you talked to me and I ignored you’. The poor man walked with me all the way back to my apartment building when I was finally forced to raise my voice in order to get rid of him.
So now I am in a similar but slightly more complicated situation with my neighbour (the dealer). I thought watching a film with your neighbour was a perfectly innocent past time. I do it often with my male friends at home and none of them have ever taken it as a sign that I’m expecting a marriage proposal. But at the end of the film, the Frenchy announced ‘Maintenant t’es à moi’ (‘Now you’re mine’). ??!?!?. What? So he explains that in his opinion it’s worth trying a serious relationship, there’s no point messing around and just seeing lots of different people. I try and explain that in the UK it’s more like the Princess and the Frog. Sometimes you might think you’ve found your Prince but often it turns out to be just another frog like all the others, so you usually have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the right one. At this he looks confused and asks whether I’m a believer. ‘In God? No.’ ‘You haven’t been baptised?’ ‘Nope, and I think it’s time for me to leave.’ So the moral of this story is: unless you’re looking for a life partner, stay away from French men.