Relationships

For visitors, Paris is the City of Love.

For Parisians, it is the City of Relationships. Every Parisian is in a relationship. That relationship is more or less official, more or less successful, but it always is. Consequently, there is simply no singles scene in Paris. If sexual tension is what makes a city fun, Paris has officially become the most boring city in the world.

All young Parisians are in relationships. For them, the main reason to be in a relationship is simply not to be single. Most young Parisians are averse to life: they see most things as threats, most risks as primarily dangerous, most singular paths as awfully unsafe. Danger for them is around every corner. They view relationships are round little things with no threatening corners; the threats of a relationship they feel they master and choose—this feeling is a reassuring one. Therefore their relationships are long-lasting ones. Not quite good enough to get married, not quite bad enough to break up.

Being single after the age of twenty-six is the clear indication of a troubled mind. If not a troublemaker, that person has got to be a trouble seeker. While the English language has the good taste of distinguishing “alone” from “lonely,” French only offers seul. Not being in a relationship means being seul. The threatening shadows of loneliness, only darkened by the local inexistence of celibacy.

Most surrounding elements create the perfect scenario for a life of romantic dissatisfaction: absence of a singles scene leads to sticking with the wrong person, which itself leads to many a frustration, which inevitably—in a nonreligious city—leads to divorces and breakups a few years down the road. Older Parisian men who still have a form of moral and religious grounding do nonetheless stick with their spouses (unless it is the other way around). They like to flirt and compliment beautiful women—which usually amuses the French and shocks foreigners. That charming France—sadly—is vanishing.

Courting is no longer a Parisian habit. The only way Parisian men like to play it is safe. Parisian women on the other hand, caught in the double obligation to be neither sluts nor single, become undesirable. Absence of flirtation becomes the norm after the age of twenty-six.

Curtains closed.

The dry local environment inhibits natures and ambitions. Ironically enough, as Parisians are more and more in relationships, they become less and less likable. Which, needless to say, makes them stick to their relationships even more.

 

 

Stuff Parisians Like Useful tip: If you have a vague fantasy about Parisians, rest assured, the few that do not follow the pattern explained above usually end up with foreigners. Those are the wise ones.

Sound like a Parisian: “Ils sont ensemble depuis cinq ans. . . . Ouais, ça se passe bien je crois. . . . Non, ils sont pas mariés, non non.”

Want more? Get the full story here…

Coming to Paris soon? Make sure to put O Chateau on your list. Join us for a wine tasting, a nice glass of wine or simply to meet the author of this silly text. It’ll be a pleasure to have you.

20 replies
  1. Chiara
    Chiara says:

    Damn! Troubled mind, troublemaker and trouble seeker: 3 for the price of 1. Next time, Parisian people will pull a face when discovering my single status, I’ll be sure to answer “…that’s because I’m trouble, Baby…”.

    Anyway, while I’m looking for a “personne troublante” in Paris (better call Jim Phelps for that one), dear Olivier, go on writing, I love it ;)

  2. Radi
    Radi says:

    That is hilarious! I have been travelling “seul” for the last five months through Europe, tonight (in Paris)was the first time that it was “bought to my attention” in a kind of “oh” way…apart from one waiter in Greece who asked if I was lonely, but quickly followed up (after my quizzical look)with “even when you are alone you always have someone with you” when the bill came, I told him my friend would pay…good job Oliver!

  3. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    L… Merci beaucoup. I will do my very best. I must say opening the new O Chateau has taken a lot of my time over the past few months but things are starting to be in order now so I should be able to write more and post more regularly. Thank you very much for your kind encouragements and continued support.
    Chiara… Thank you very much. As long as some people dread the untroubled, there is still a lot of hope in this world. So merci to you.
    Radi… Gotta love the Parisian elegance!! I think one of the main perks of being Australian is these gigantic holidays you take. Love it!! Make sure to come say hi at O Chateau one of these nights!! We designed the bar to be a great place to come have drinks or dinner on your own. Plus I always have a form of admiration for someone who drinks alone.

  4. Roch
    Roch says:

    Isn’t it like that everywhere ? Anyway I’m Parisian and I don’t know that many Parisians living in Paris the way you describe it, appart from me of course.

  5. keylan
    keylan says:

    Hi,

    Je ne sais que choisir entre rire et pleurer?

    Tell me you’re not living in Paris? Cause your Paris is something i don’t know.
    My Paris (and i’m living there since i’ve been born), isn’t quite that looking.
    People are always single, between 2 short-lasting relationship. If i agree with on the “they are affraid to be alone”, it never meant that they are really deep in a relation (not even close from the “Not quite good enough to get married, not quite bad enough to break up”).
    As a mater of fact, as there’s much more women than men in Paris :
    1/ There’s a lot of single (women)
    2/ Men don’t stay in a relation that isn’t fullfilling their expactations. They go from one girl to another like butterflies in a meadow.

    Regarding your translation for alone and lonely, please remind that even if english counts more words than french, usually French people use twice more words than englsih ones : So in French there’s a word for lonely, and it’s surely not “seul”. “Solitaire”, this is how the word and its meaning are translated in french.
    Parisian are no lonely people, they really don’t like it, this is why most of them won’t confess that that they’re alone.

    Last, and least, being alone with 26 isn’t that extraordinary, but yes, you get to be look at like a weird people if you’re a women over 28 and not engaged, where it’s ok for a men to be single til 34 :(

    However, if you’re in Paris, enjoy.

  6. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Lil… I’m afraid so!! Nothing appeared on this side. Sorry sorry.
    Roch… I don’t believe things are the same in comparable cities. I do believe French youth is in terrible shape. I only wish people had higher expectations, or a tad more clairvoyance maybe.
    Keylan… One thing all the French have in common is that they’re very quick at blaming “la société”, “l’Etat” or other people for their problems. A tad more introspection and self criticism would do most Parisians – men or women – some good. Undoubtedly, they would grow as people. Chances are it would even make them more lovable.

  7. Lil
    Lil says:

    strange… well, i was saying, i remember a guy friend who was panicking at being single at 28. i quite admire his determination as he soon found a girlfriend (what he set out to do) and they got married two years down the road.

    perhaps it’s a good thing i don’t look my age or i’ll be getting the “no-ring” pity look. now, where are the wise guys hidden? ;)

  8. David
    David says:

    You’re hilarious as usual!

    “the few that do not follow the pattern explained above usually end up with foreigners. Those are the wise ones.”

    So true… :-)

  9. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Hmm, if every one is coupled up and yet everyone is divorcing or breaking up, that means that the only way to find a partner is to steal someone else’s! That must be interesting…

    I don’t know, Olivier, you must know more than I, but I have to say that during my week in France I saw no evidence at all of the waning of the charming, complimentary/flirtatious French male. It was enough to turn my head. Do you mean to say that it used to be even more extreme?! I was on cloud nine the whole time I was there – people (okay, men) would just talk to me, a complete stranger, as though they were interested in what I had to say, as though they appreciated my presence. It wasn’t phoney, it wasn’t creepy, it was just very nice and very fun. I felt so sad having to return to my usual suburban homemaker existence, where I often feel completely invisible as I go about my daily activities. I think that here, men (half the population!) see the ring on my finger, and since I’m married and they’re usually married, it means they have nothing to say to me. Just talking to another woman is not tantamount to adultery! But you’d think it is. They ‘check out’ women just like men anywhere on the planet, but they do it in secret when we’re not looking, so that we never know. (Well, that’s what I think! lol)

  10. peter newman-legros
    peter newman-legros says:

    as ever an erudite and targeted look at an aspect of life in the French capital written with, dare I say it, panache, and wit.
    Perhaps I have misunderstood, or perhaps you have used the term “celibacy” in a deliberate double meaning, or, perhaps it is still primarily used in US English to mean unmarried, otherwise I cannot quite decide whether your single Parisian is made sadder by the fact that other coupled Parisians are together and thus officially unavailable, or whether they are saddened by the idea that all around them are making “amour” whilst they are left to “their own devices”…

  11. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Lil… Strip clubs?
    David… Many thanks. So where is your girlfirend from?
    Margaret… A small fringe of the male population still walks up and talks to pretty girls on the street; and should they be from a different country, even better – simply because they know that most Parisiennes (especially pretty ones) will not even respond to them. Not sure that fringe is the most commendable though.
    Peter… Thank you very much. Not sure about erudite but thank you Peter. As per celibacy, it was indeed the US version. Interesting to see where your mind is going though ;-)

  12. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Oooh ah, in the US & Canada the meaning of celibacy is the same as in the UK, meaning “not sexually active,” such as in the Roman Catholic priesthood. The French word “célibataire” used to make me chuckle. We’d use the word “single” to express that meaning, generally. Though there isn’t really a noun to go with it (“singledom?” “singleness”?) for the state of being single so Oliver’s excellent sentence would be hard to keep intact with a simple substitution. “..only darkened by the local inexistence of other singles,” perhaps? Nah, just leave it the way it is. It works.

    As for the fringe, I do see what you’re saying, Olivier, but that’s not really the kind of person I meant. Strangers walking up to you on the street is one thing, but I was talking about situations where there was already some reason for interaction. I found French men were more willing to continue a conversation that could have ended earlier, and they certainly gave more compliments (some subtle, some not) than the men I am used to.

    I’ve been meaning all weekend to come back and tell you this one: last week when I was standing in line at the bank, the man in front of me apologized to me for having looked at me, or rather, for having seemed to have looked at me. It was just that there was a dog behind me in the line (yup, a little black pug) and he had turned around to glance at the dog. He didn’t want me to think that he had actually glanced at me (my legs, specifically, I suppose, since it was a small dog.) So, he made sure he apologized “Sorry, I didn’t mean to look at you, it was the dog behind you…”) and then turned his back to me once more. “That’s okay,” I said, and I was cracking up inside, thinking “THAT is what I was talking about, Olivier! Case in point!” Sorry, I didn’t mean to LOOK at you or anything…LOL

  13. Ieva
    Ieva says:

    Why do I have a feeling that keylan is a ‘bitter over 26 years old single lady’ :D
    Great and funny article! Cant wait to experience Paris and visit O’Chateau

  14. Delphine
    Delphine says:

    I have just recieved your book I bought via Amazone they recommended it to me when I ordered Paris vs New York.
    I love it. You have now a big new fan !!
    I have already visited your place in Spring and like very much the concept.
    Bonne chance pour le livre, les dégustations et le bar à vins

  15. Claire
    Claire says:

    Ha. Thank you Olivier for putting into words what I have been thinking for some time. I am 24, Parisian, single and happily fooling around with foreigners or the last few fun guys in town, but everyone around me is trying very hard to show me how perilous that is.
    Only my most optimistic gal pals say I can still get married before my 30th birthday…
    I should move out to California.

  16. Kate
    Kate says:

    Thank you! Hilarious. I have this theory that Parisians stay in bad relationships because they’re too lazy to start dating (of course terribly difficult in the absence of a singles scene). Will definitely grab the book and congrats!!!!

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