Love in Paris...
 A few facts about the French woman....    Facts about love and marriage....
  • Want to understand how French women manage to be so savvy, slim and elegant ? Read Harriet's column about la Parisienne, featuring the Seven s's: Slender, Sensuality, Sexuality, Savoir-Faire, Subtlety, Street Sense, Self-Confidence...

  • How do they eat all that food and stay so slim ? The 64,000 dollar question ! First of all, the women you see who are so slim are Parisian women in the touristic parts of the capital. These women are generally well-off and upper-class. They are very aware of fashion and of their " ligne " (figure). If you go out into other areas of Paris or into the provinces, you will see that the French woman is not universally slim. What you don't see ­ yet ­ in France is obesity on the scale of the U.S. Sadly, this will be a problem for the next generation due to unstructured eating habits and snacking on sugary and salty foods. This being said, the answer to how do French women eat " all that food " and stay so slim is that they don't eat " all that food ". Even at dinner parties, French women take a tiny bit of each dish, tasting everything, but managing to consume very little. A recent study showed that American dinner plates are much larger than French dinner plates so just imagine : the French dinner plate is already smaller and the French woman's portion must be only one-fourth of that plate. But remember : they don't totally deprive themselves and when they are invited to dinner, they never say " I'm on a diet ". They enjoy their evening ­ and make up for it the next day! Balance and moderation are French virtues that French women practice well. Read Lithe! Slender! French!by Harriet.

  • How do they get that scarf to look so French ? It's true that Frenchwomen have an inimitable way of tying scarves which gives them a casual but elegant look. How they do it must be inscribed into their French genes. There's no way to know about that but one thing is sure : whether it's the scarf or perfume or accessories, the main interest of the French woman is to emphasize her singularity. Her little black dress or tailored suit might be simple but watch for the detail : a pair of sexy high heels, a family brooch, sparkling earrings, a special shawl. In French society, conformity is not a value. Reflecting that, French women seek the object that will express her own personality, the object that will put the personal stamp on whatever she is wearing, whether it's a fancy dress or a pair of jeans.

  •  Names : When Mr.Frog marries Miss Jolie, according to a law passed in 2005, they can choose the name of their children between Kid Frog (most frequent), Kid Frog-Jolie (already traditional in certain regions), Kid Jolie or Kid Jolie-Frog (both still very unusual). When Mr Frog-Toad marries Miss Jolie-Mignonne, they give a headache to city clerks....

  • Marriage : more and more couples are not married (more than a half of children have un-married parents). The religious ceremony has no legal value and is not always associated with the marriage (only one religious ceremony out of three marriages). The civil marriage takes place in the City Hall, is pronounced by the Mayor or his/her deputy. The ceremony is brief and quite unspectacular by American standards. The young couple receives a "Livret de Famille" that they will have to keep for the duration of their common life and which will bear the names and information on birth and death of their children.

  • The "PACS" (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) is a contract between two persons (men and/or women) which has the legal effects of marriage in many matters (common property, tax effects, social protection, etc...) but can be terminated like any contract. It was created in 1998, it has developed very fast and it is rather largely used among homosexual couples. The number of PACS in 2007 was 103,012 (to compare to 266,500 marriages) with 13,000 terminations (to compare to 140,000 divorces). Marriage between people of the same sex is legal since 2013.

  • Inheritance : in France you cannot (by law) desinherit your children : read about it.

  • More to come

Useful tips if you have (or consider having) a French boyfriend or girlfriend
- French men grumble and raise their voice much more than any American man would do ; this (what most American women call) "verbal violence" does not have the same meaning in both cultures
- French women do not express themselves as openly as most American women would do : it does not mean that they do not have their own personal opinions but they do not express them the same way

To understand more : read French Toast or Joie de Vivre

  • Frenchwomen hold the European record for number of babies born and for longevity

  • 47,6% of Frenchwomen work outside the home (USA : 46,9%) and 6% only are in executive management position (USA : 5,1%) (Source : Conseil Economique et Social, 2000)

  • Paid maternity leave is 16 weeks (26 from the third child) and 2 weeks for the father (see Social Security). Read about the French way of raising children.

  • Women are under-represented in the French Senate and National Assembly. France ranks #21 in Europe (out of 25). French politicians are very macho : read more about women in politics. and read a portrait of Segolene Royal, who ran for president in 2007.

  • The concept of dating does not exist in France : young people tend to move in groups and do not form couples the way they do in the States

  • Famous French women include

    • Joan of Arc, 15th century saint, who saved the French from the English and was burned at the stake in Rouen,
    • Marie Curie (Franco-Polish), first woman to teach at the Sorbonne (1906), twice awarded the Nobel price, once in Physics and once in Chemistry,
    • Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher and famous French feminist ("Le deuxième Sexe"),
    • and many others... (more in who's who in France)
  • French laws are sometimes late to adjust to the reality of society : read a funny anecdote about women wearing pants!

A few suggested books on French women :

  • Elisabeth BADINTER, L'un est l'autre, Odile Jacob, 1986
  • Edith KUNZ, Fatale - How French Women do it, Bridgewood Press, Phoenix, 2001
  • Michèle SARDE, Regard sur les Françaises Xème XXème siècle, Stock, Paris, 1983
  • Susan SOMMERS, French Chic - How to Dress Like a French Woman, Arlington Books, London, 1988
  • A.L.THOMAS, DIDEROT, Mme d'EPINAY, Qu'est-ce qu'une femme ? (préface par Elisabeth BADINTER), P.O.L., Paris, 1989
  • Edith WHARTON, French Ways and their Meaning, Berkshire House, Lee, MS, 1997
  • More bibliography

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....There is an agency called "Paris, le Grand OUI!" (!!!) which organizes a complete round-trip tour for couples who want to get married in Paris, together with their relatives and friends ... See other wedding agencies.

USEFUL TIP..... Getting married under French law is rather complicated and, practically, it requires you to be resident in France. Why not a religious wedding in France ? There would be no legal requirement whatsoever and the religious authority would just ask for the marriage license from the country where you were married. Check with American churches.


 The most romantic places in Paris....

It is not easy to get married in Paris, but if you want a place to propose to your loved one, here are a few suggestions :

  • A cruise on the "Bateaux Mouches" (or, better, a dinner cruise)
  • A walk on Ile Saint Louis (and an ice-cream at Berthillon...)
  • A visit of the Musée Rodin and lunch in the garden
  • A concert in the Sainte Chapelle
  • A visit of the garden of Impressionist painter Claude Monet in Giverny (20 miles NW of Paris) : any season but even Winter is spectacular
  • A dinner in one of the (expensive but beautiful) restaurants in a park : Pavillon Montsouris 20 rue Gazan 75014 (Parc Montsouris), Pré Catelan Route de Suresnes (Bois de Boulogne) : an unforgettable experience !
  • A cruise on the Grand Canal (in the park of Versailles Castle) : read a charming letter from a visitor from Australia
  • Read : Thierry SOUFFLARD, The Best Places to Kiss in Paris, Parigramme, 2002
  • More to come

Getting married in Paris !!!

Can you think of anything more romantic than getting married in Paris ?

  • Check with the nearest French Consulate
  • You need to have stayed in France for a minimum of 3 months
  • No religious constraint whatsoever
Any question (where, how, what, how much, ....)? For more details, read AAWE book (in bibliography) and why not ask a Wedding Planning agency ? (Harriet and Philippe Rochefort at the City Hall of the 5th Arrondissement of Paris, on their wedding in 197??)

 Required documents (less than 3 months old) :

  • French residence permit or U.S. passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Certificate of celibacy (from : American consulate)
  • Affidavit of law (from : Attorney licensed in both countries)
  • Medical certificate (from : any doctor)
  • Proof of domicile (check with consulate)   

In fact, it is much more difficult than in the USA : if you absolutely want do do something in Paris, why not check with one of the American churches in Paris ? Among them, the American Church in Paris has a Wedding Ministry.


DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? On Valentine's Day (Saint-Valentin, February 14), the city's 3,600 electronic billboards post love poems that lovers send to each other (submit yours at 01 42 76 47 47) ; on 12 lines of the city's buses, comedians read love poems to commuters.

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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