ANGERS: French people love “love”


“The French have no problem with love!” the French guy I’ve been seeing exclaimed. He was so confused why I thought it was weird for couples to be affectionate in the classroom, or just in public in general.

As an Arab-American raised in an Orthodox-Christian home, it was always impressed upon me that being affectionate in public (or even in private, really) was somehow inherently bad, something that only married people do; and even then, it was something that should be kept to a minimum. Although maybe my upbringing was a little stricter and more “traditional,” it’s really not too far off from how I think other American families function.

In America, PDA does not have a good connotation. In France, I’m pretty sure that phrase doesn’t even exist.

My questions started when I observed a French couple (American students and bi-lingual French students take classes together in English) holding hands and kissing in class. The teacher and the other French students didn’t even flinch. All the American students were looking around, bewildered and not sure what to think.

When the American students would go out together on the weekends, we soon realized how normal it was for a person to walk up to you, kiss you, and then leave. Now, I know this happens when people go out in Austin as well, but there’s something fundamentally different about it here. No one does a double-take; no one talks about it. People don’t make it a point of gossip like,  young people in America seem to do.

When I’m walking through town, everyone is holding hands and kissing. In stores, couples stop to kiss—and they kiss passionately.

I even saw two kids—they couldn’t be older than seven-years-old—holding hands as they walked.

This past Saturday was a beautiful day, so the American students decided to walk around town. We stopped at the fountain in the Jardin du Mail, and I immediately (but subtly) pointed out the three teenagers on a bench near the fountain. Two of them were a couple, and they were kissing passionately as their friend sat less than two inches away and texted.

Naturally, we took pictures and giggled amongst ourselves at this unmistakable “third-wheeling.”

When I told the story to the French guy I’m seeing, he was so confused. 

“Yeah? So?” he said with squinted eyes.

“That’s not weird?” I said.

He just shook his head, laughed and said “silly Americans,” as per usual.

I always assumed that the French love “love,” but I didn’t realize how weird they think Americans are for our cultural attitude toward love and public displays of affection.