Single woman in Paris

Feb 5th, 2006, 04:49 PM
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I have to say I trust Anthony's advice and observations as well. He lives in Paris. No matter how old he is he has a good vantage point to respond to this question. Anthony, I will be traveling with my 24 year old daughter this spring, I appreciate your insites. Merci.
Danna is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 06:00 PM
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luluredux, I hope these answers don't discourage you from going into a bar or jazz club in Paris! Who knows, maybe you'll strike up a conversation with someone who'll end up being "the love your life". (just kidding, of course!).

I go to Paris frequently solo, but as I'm MUCH older than you, I don't have to worry about men pestering me. I love the beautiful parks in Paris, and you can definitely make friends (albeit temporary) by complimenting dogs and children - especially dogs. The dogs
of Paris are one of my favorite things!

Anyway, you'll love Paris. Just be yourself, and do what you're comfortable with.
Sue4 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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Hanl, your information and personal experience really helps. Of course, a guy talking to a woman in a bar in the US hopes to get her number or hit the jackpot, but if that doesn't work out, he generally takes it in stride. I wasn't worried about physical danger, but what you said about being insulted and called a tease (while not dangerous, just well, insulting, and a bad way to end a night out)was more what I was concerned about, especially in a culture where the general reaction would be, "What did she expect, talking to a strange man in a bar?" In my experience, the American attitude would be, "she owes him nothing, so he needs to be a better sport about going home alone tonight."
To me, that seems to be the real cultural difference. I know some people must think I am a nervous nellie, but I have wanted to go to Paris since I was a child, and I just want to know as much as possible so I can have a great experience, and not a shocking or upsetting one.
So, in short, be reserved around strange men and hope that my natural inclination towards solitude prevents me from going crazy by the fifth night of not talking to anyone. : )

On a lighter note, besides the big white purse (now I know what kind of tote I'll buy!), what seem to be the general trends in Paris for the spring? Skirts: long, short, full, straight? Pants: cropped, full, skinny? Are dark jeans dressed up with nice flats and a jacket okay for sightseeing and shopping during the day or should I keep them at home?
luluredux is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 06:15 PM
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I agree with Suze! Listen to her advice.
Sure, you may get propositioned but I always say I have a boyfriend back home and not once has any guy ever said o.k. then, done talking to you because I have no chance. Good conversation is just that most of the time.I've have lots of friends here and overseas who I have met by striking up a conversation. I don't care where you are men will be men and women will be women (well in most cases) and by the time you've hit 30 you should pretty much be able to handle yourself in any situation. So go have fun and worst case scenerio if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, NO works in any language.
laartista is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 09:03 PM
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I've lived in Paris for some extended time periods while attending university twice, and I don't mean to imply I was a permanent resident, but more than a casual tourist, and things are different there, and in many ways France is more conservative than the US. You don't do the same things socially with men, and you are going to be known as a tourist, you can bet, and different expectations are going to hold.

I wouldn't do, in any case, a lot of the things you propose, not because I think they are necessarily dangerous, but they just aren't the kind of interactions I have with strangers and they seem kind of instrusive. I would never compliment strangers on their children's behavior, as that seems rather patronizing (coming from an American, no less), nor would I approach anyone's child or dog. I would not probably initiative conversation with strange men in bars. I don't go out to clubs alone, so can't comment on what that would be like. I do dine in restaurants alone, and certainly cafes, places like that. I have talked to strangers in these places, including men, but I am not overtly aggressive and initiative with them.

I don't know, I think you are overanalyzing this thing too much, to some extent. Some French men are extremely aggressive with women in public places, and they don't need encouragement by you initiating things with them in bars. I've had trouble getting rid of some when I have been in places alone and never even started a conversation with them and have told them bluntly I am not interested in them and would they please leave me alone. I'm talking about regular cafes and restaurant, let alone bars and clubs. I remember one guy was really a pain who just came over and sat at my table a the Couple brasserie in Montparnasse when I had not even smiled at him, and I had to call a waiter over to get rid of him after he wouldn't leave when I politely asked him to.

There is a certain class of man who likes to prey on female tourists in many European cities, and they will probably know you are one, so I think you should err on the side of discretion. Ultimately, you can be vocal, of course, and make it clear when you are or are not interested in.

I go out a lot at night in Paris and do various things, but I am interested more in performing arts and concerts, things like that.
Christina is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 11:18 PM
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Luluredux I'm sure you'll be fine in Paris.
Re. spring fashion: I was there at the weekend but can't tell you what people were wearing as it was so cold, everyone was bundled up in heavy coats and scarves!
Generally speaking, jeans/flats/jacket will be fine for sightseeing. Of course, if I were you, I'd bring the minimum and take the opportunity to hit the shops once you're in Paris

PS There's a happy ending to my time in France: despite my complaints about Parisian men and their attitudes to dating, I found a gem and we were married last year!!!
hanl is offline  
Feb 5th, 2006, 11:34 PM
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I agree with Anthony's posts, as has been my experience traveling solo to Paris (only) four times.

Some Frenchmen are definitely very aggressive, and Italian men in Paris are even worse in my experience.

That said, I never felt in any danger. My advice, unless you are looking for ahem.. "a really good time"...don't speak to any strange men.

luveurop is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 12:46 AM
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To Luluredux :

As one of those nasty French men, and a Paris resident, I basically agree with the comments on this board, especially AnthonyGA,s on cultural differences, and men-women relationships, which may be a little worrisome to the newcomer.

However, bear in mind you will be unlikely to be in the sort of social interaction you can be at home. I mean you will probably not be in the situation to "get along" with Parisians. You will mostly interact with service staff. You will not use cafés, restaurants, the way the locals use them. The sights, and their immediate vicinity are tiny cosmopolitan enclaves, where attendance is 60-80 % non-French.

Adding to the language barrier, the "normal" attitude in Paris is big-city self-absorbtion. It is not a French thing, especially in large cities, to discuss casually with strangers, or to smile to people you don't know, irrespective of the gender (I am sure a French woman wouldn't). That's not coldness, but self-protection in a dense urban environment, and respect for privacy.
Trudaine is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 12:56 AM
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I've traveled in Paris by myself a number of times, and I prefer it because otherwise, men won't talk to me!

That being said....I've never been in an uncomfortable situation where a man has considered me "easy." I was in a cybercafe once and the bartender introduced me to a martial arts instructor from Marsaille--more to stimulate conversation in the place than anything. Believe me, the guy was excellent eye candy. We talked, I gave him some chocolate, and he grinned and said, "Hmmm, an aphrodisiac?" But other than that, the conversation was just friendly. And ~sigh~ nothing happened. I've been in other bars in Paris and have struck up conversation with people at the bar, with no uncomfortable consequences. As with any place in America, just be clear about your intentions (just friends?) and you should be OK.

Have fun and report back!
MelissaHI is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 03:51 AM
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Like mentioned above, everyone was so bundled up I can't say what's being worn now. But I can tell you what was in the store windows.

Skirts: just below the knee, nothing severe...all frilly and layered, very feminine.

Pants: 2 styles predominated. Saw a lot of straight, slim linens. The others were very tailored, slightly pleated, wider at the hem (think Katherine Hepburn)-- they may have been gaberdine. Granted, they were just bringing out the spring collections, but we saw very few capris or cropped pants. Styles were very feminine, soft and supple.

Skirts and pants were topped with those wonderful "scrunchy" little blouses and lacy sweaters.

Lots of jeans neatly rolled up over slim flat boots. You'll be fine in nice jeans and a jacket during the day.
JeanneB is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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All this has been really helpful and I appreciate everyone sharing their insights and experiences. I especially appreciate the fashion reports!

My sister lives in NYC and we talk about how irritating it is for New Yorkers to get through everyday life when gaggles of tourists block the sidewalks and expect the native (who may be trying to catch the subway or walk to work) to move for them. I realize that most Parisians are going to be busy going about their regular lives, getting to work, school, appointments, etc., while I'm bumbling around and exploring their city for the whole day. I don't want to be a rude guest or create a bad experience for myself, so that's why I asked the initial question about getting along.
I guess being informed and as unobtrusive as possible is the way to go.
Believe it or not, I'm not really a barfly whose social life circulates around talking to strange guys in bars and I'm afraid I've given some people here that impression. At home, I rarely go out, but I'm going to be in Paris! for goodness sakes, so I want to find evening activities that will be enjoyable. I now plan to go to some of the museums on the days when they are open late (to have something to do in the evening and to free up the day for shopping or strolling about), go to a Jazz club or a cabaret (preferably one that focuses on music rather than political humor since my French wouldn't be up to that), catch a movie and I may go to the ballet. Any particular recommendations for spectacular movie palaces, jazz clubs that specialize in Dixieland, swing or bebop (I'm not into contemporary or avant-garde jazz)or cabarets? Again, thanks for all the responses; they've really helped.
luluredux is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 07:45 AM
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I cannot thank you enough for posting this question. I will be visiting Paris the first 10 days of March to celebrate my 34th birthday, and am a tad nervous. This adventure will also be my first solo trip abroad. The comments here have definitely given me some insight regarding acceptable social behavior in well as prompting me to find a really great white bag!
thatgirldina is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 07:57 AM
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Hey thatgirldina, I'm so glad that this is helping you also! Have a great time on your trip and report back to us!
luluredux is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 08:10 AM
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My comments may seem old-fashioned to some, but that is only because France is old-fashioned, compared to countries like the United States, when it comes to relationships between the sexes.

For me, one of the biggest downsides to life in Paris is that French men and women are utterly incapable of forming platonic friendships with each other. The possibility never even crosses their minds, in fact. Men only talk to women in social situations if they want to sleep with them, and women only respond to men in a friendly way if they want to sleep with them, too.

It's very unfortunate and old-fashioned, and it cuts the French off from half the human race, since they can't conceive of non-sexual relationships with the opposite sex.

I had lots of platonic female friends in the U.S., and I still have many platonic female friends in France—but almost all of them are not French, because French women cannot deal with platonic relationships. Only on extremely rare occasions with exceptionally broad-minded French women has it been possible to make them understand that friendship without sex is possible and even enjoyable. And from all the feedback I get from my friends, the situation with French men is even worse.

On countless occasions I've warned UK and US and other non-French women of the ulterior motives of French men. They never want to be "just friends" unless they are truly homosexual; if they are straight, they expect to get a woman into bed sooner or later. If a woman ever makes it definitively clear that she doesn't want sex, she'll be insulted and ridiculed by the French man, who will consider her a tease, a slut, a lesbian, and so on. SOme of my friends have been very angered and hurt to find out that the only real goal of the seemingly nice French men they met was to sleep with them (and thereafter to move on, in some cases).

French women are just as bad, as they tend to feel insulted if men are not constantly gawking at them and flirting with them. They assume any man who doesn't do this is homosexual.

I think there are even a few French men who pursue women only because other men will consider them closet homosexuals if they don't try to bed every single woman they meet. Amazing but true.

I know it all sounds cartoonish and incredibly old-fashioned to women in America and some other countries, but it's still 100% true. So beware. It's a different culture. (It may seem familiar to women from Latin countries, but women from Germanic and Anglo-Saxon countries are in for a big surprise.)
AnthonyGA is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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There was a recommendation on the Slowtrav messageboard for a bistro with traditional accordeon music and chanson:

Though it's a way out of the centre.

It's linked to from
which might give you some ideas.
PatrickLondon is online now  
Feb 6th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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Patrick, the zinguers site is great and Le Vieux Belleville sounds like what I am looking for. I don't know what arrondisement it is in; I looked at the website for a clue and didn't see one mentioned. I will be staying in the 10th arrondisement, so I believe Belleville is not far from Bastille/Oberkampf. Need to check a map.

AnthonyGA, isn't it ironic that the nation that basically invented the salon as a place of civilized discourse between men and women and made the concept of platonic friendship fashionable in the 17thc. has forgotten all about it in the 21st? Ironic and a little sad. C'est la vie.
luluredux is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 11:32 AM
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If you are in a group environment it's a bit safer. The assumption of sexual motives is pretty much universal for one-on-one social interactions, but when you're conversing in a group you have a bit more flexibility. Still, it's incredibly easy for the French party to get the wrong idea.

I recall one French man saying that the only purpose for a married woman is to produce babies for a man, whereas a mistress is for sex. Another told me that a woman he had dated was surely homosexual, since she had not slept with him immediately on that first date. Such notions abound in France, and virtually nobody questions them.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 12:07 PM
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...those frilly layered skirts...are they still being shown/worn with jean jackets, as they were last summer and fall?
Anthony - very interesting insights into the cultural differences. I love to people watch, so will observe. In May I'll be in Paris also -- alone; I'm older, so I probably won't be talking to any men, except for waiters, etc.
travlsolo2 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 12:24 PM
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JeanneB wrote:

"I just returned from Paris on Friday. Believe it or not, you will want to carry a large WHITE purse. All the "new arrivals" displays were showing white accessories."

Is white allowed before summer in Paris?! Are you saying white white, as in pure white?

This is the most surprising thing I have read on this thread.
sandykins is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 12:39 PM
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while helpful to understand more of the cultural dynamics -which I believe Anthony explains very nicely by the way- i don't believe it needs to negatively affect your experience in Paris. hopefully this thread give you the information you were looking for to 'brave' nightlift in paris.

i have witnessed that the sexual expectations may be a bit more old fashioned than you are used to. my experience was observing males, and gay life/bars, and in the french speaking part of switzerland... but it was shockingly a more "old fashioned" dynamic than i am used to seeing in my home city. absolutely.
suze is offline  

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