Dating in Paris 101: How (& Where) to Snag a First Date at the Bar

Lulu White Paris

Dating in Paris can be a challenging experience, but also incredibly fun. The French love to flirt and if you play your cards right, you can meet someone pretty much anywhere: the boulangerie, a party, a park, and, in this case, a bar. Get yourself a pint or pour another glass of wine, here is the first in a new series with tips for men and women to survive and succeed at the Paris dating scene.

I’d read once that the French don’t pick up in bars, from my experience this is far from the reality, however, it’s probably true that French women might be a little cooler and harder to crack which has led to this theory. Perhaps it’s also the word “date,” it is true that the French don’t date in the traditional sense of the English word, nevertheless, they do play the game of seduction and the tried and tested approach below can lead to scoring new phone numbers. Note, this is guide is less for clubs as, well, after a certain early morning hour, pick-ups happen more readily than meeting a someone with dating potential. At the bottom are general tips and a list of flirting-friendly bars.

It’s Friday night, you’ve put on some nice clothes and are ready to get the weekend started with your amis and pourqoui pas… put out some amorous vibes? You’ve noticed someone super sexy across the bar. What do you do then?

Give a Sign

You need to let them know that you’re interested. Unless your target is gifted in telepathy, they’ll need to have some sign of your attraction. That said, be subtle, don’t immediately dance his way or plunk down a giant pint of beer in front of her. You have to succeed at the jeu de la seduction first.

Make Eye Contact

Men please don’t stare or she’ll get creeped out. There’s nothing worse than a piercing eagle eyeing up his prey. I’ll usually purposely avoided looking in guy’s direction when I felt under his obsessive fixation. Look her direction occasionally, she will notice and chose or not to meet your gaze. Women, if you sense someone checking you out, try to get a better look on the sly to see if you might be interested so you don’t exchange glances with someone you’d rather not.

at the bar

Look Away

Once eye contact has been made, don’t hold their gaze for too long, not that first one. Look away and then wait a few minutes and try to catch her eyes again. By looking away you’ll have captured her interest and launched the game of seduction.

Look Back, For Longer

When you’ve seized her eyes this second time, you can lock her gaze for a little longer. At this, women might want to give a smile, it should only be small. If she doesn’t, the man can give a small, sly smile. Very small, but enough for her to see that you are indeed interested and that the first glance wasn’t a mistake. Hopefully she will then return your smile. If she turns away quickly without smiling that probably means you should give up. However, if she meets your gaze a second time, and keeps it for a second, even without the smile, there’s definite potential. She could be playing a bit coy, she may even teasingly ignore you for a little while, which gives you time to plan your next move.

Free Yourself Up

Okay, you’ve now determined their attraction might be reciprocal… but he or she is likely to be stuck across the room or blocked by a defensive line of friends. Don’t worry. if she really wants to talk to you, she’ll find a way to free herself up. It might take a little time, so be patient. If possible, make yourself readily accessible and if possible get a little closer to where she is. La fille should slip to the bathroom or offer to go for the next round of drinks. If she does go to les toilettes, don’t follow her all the way there… place yourself in the path of her return. 

I’ve been surprisingly accosted outside the bathroom on several occasions, both happy surprises by suitors I’d played a bit of cat and mouse with. However, once I was exiting the bathroom stall of an all-too-common Paris unisex bathroom and came face to face with this adorable guy who’d been eyeing me up from across the quiet bar. He certainly succeeded at the surprise factor, but the poor Serbian was only able to say “you are beautiful” in English and couldn’t even ask me what my name is… let alone phone number. We were left blushing and smiling at each other through an awkwardly long silence which could only be broken by me saying “merci” and slipping back upstairs.

If you’re in luck, she’ll have gone to the bar instead, a perfect and much safer place to strike up a conversation… hopefully in a mutually spoken language.

Have Something to Say

Well, more than just one line. For les garcons, stay clear of cheesy pick-up lines, don’t ask her if she “comes here often” or if she “has the time.” Whatever you do, don’t declare your undying love or admiration in the first lines. You don’t know her, there’s no way you can be in love with her yet. Like the staring mentioned above, giving too many odes of amour right off the bat can seem really superficial or too keen. On the other hand, you can tell her that you’d really been wanting to talk to her since you saw her, that is sexy. We all like a little flattery, but we don’t want to drown in it. In addition, you’ll just be giving her the upper hand if she thinks she has your utmost devotion right off the bat.

For Women: Be Receptive

Women, if you’re feeling positive about the guy, be open to his lead. If you’re shy, try your best to not give off the cold shoulder. You’ll both gain more confidence with some smiles and exchanging some friendly chatter. French men can be extremely admirative; don’t be afraid of this, but remember to take their words with some caution. 

Le Balcon at the Alcazar

For Men: Be Gallant

If you’d started chatting her up at the bar, offer to get her a drink. If you’re encounter happened in another part of the bar, still offer. Either way, you’ll earn points for being a gentleman and your gesture will also prolong your discussion. For foreign guys, the French are generally more gallant, so follow suit if you want to score une francaise.

Decide Quickly if You Might Actually Like Them

At some point you’re going to need to decide what you want out of this. If you were looking for a little action, buy her another drink (and another). But if you would like to see her again for real, keep the conversation going as long as it seems natural. Ideally you might find something in common which you could use as a premise to meet up soon: a concert, a movie, a new trendy bar you’ve been wanting to try out. All good excuses to exchange numbers, if you need one. French men are often not overly shy to just go ahead and suggest meeting up for un verre. Don’t overdo the first conversation, unless you’ve realized you’re soulmates from the get-go. It’s best to leave a little suspense for a proper tete-à-tete.

A Timely Text or Call

Great, now you’ve got her number, what do you do with it? Different cultures have slightly different rules, but personally speaking, I don’t like getting a message too early or too late. I’ve received text messages almost immediately. Bad idea. This shows you’re too eager. Make her pine over you a little. Unless your suggestion was to see each other the next day (another somewhat bad idea, but possibly necessary if you’re only in town for the weekend, for example) send her a message no sooner than 14-18 hours later preferably before 48 hours. Whatever you do, don’t wait more than a week. Girls can only languish for so long, after a week, we’ll think you’re not really interested and start looking elsewhere.

Once I’d succeeded at all of the above steps with this cute French guy I’d been visually flirting with at a bustling bar, on my way to get a drink at the bar I purposely brushing softly against his back and kept on walking (and additional successful tip!). I didn’t even have time to place my order and I looked over to find him by my side. He started chatting with me and asked for my number rather quickly as he was on his way out. He even said he’d give me a call the very next day. Nada.  Eventually he did send me a message… two months later. An sms which remained unanswered.

first date

Wait (but not Two Months!)

As much as I hate this, at first it’s really quite necessary to not reply immediately to a new romantic interests messages as soon as your phone chimes. Wait at least a few hours, unless you want them to think you’ve got nothing better to do than sit around waiting for their texts. Whatever you do, don’t don’t bombard them with lines of “I’m thinking of you” and “I can’t wait to see you.” This will usually make them not want to see you. This only stands true for the first days/week or better yet, after the first real date when you’ve drawn them in you don’t have to play the waiting game.

Create a Surprise

Women like surprises. It doesn’t have to be big or even material. It can be as easy as bringing flowers on your first “date” or remembering that she was taking Serbian lessons and thus taking her to a Serbian restaurant. These little thoughts count for a lot.

The first date will really make or break it, but you’ll have a little more luck with these tips!

General Bar Flirting Tactical Tips

  • Don’t stay in a corner, try to stand around the bar or in another social place like if there’s a terrace
  • Go with one, max two friends, more can intimidate possible suitors
  • People work up their courage a little later in the night, post 11 pm, so stay on your game
  • go to busy friendly bars, nothing too tame if you want to potentially meet someone
  • Be daring, but don’t be stupid

Le Pigalle

Great Bars to Meet Singles

  • Le Mansart – Young, bustling hipster crowd, very easy to strike up a conversation.
  • Le Pigalle – The “foyer” of the Pigalle Hotel turns into a hip “living room” party in the evenings, the casual, friendly set up encourages some chitchat with your fellow “housemates.”
  • Chez Jeannette – Similar crowd to the Mansart, but a little less space inside, hang out among the loiterers/smokers outside to be able to chat.
  • Le Point Ephemère – Cool, cheap bar and concert venue on the Canal Saint Martin. I’ve been chatted up several times here including the brushing past story from above.
  • La Fourmi – This grungy bar has a busy mix of ages having a beer or pichet de vin, a laidback atmosphere, the seating and space around the bar allows for good “eyeing.”
  • Cafe Chérie – With its large terrace, ample standing room in the interior and dancing till 3am-ish on weekends, this is an ideal location for flirting.
  • Aux Folies – Akin to La Fourmi, but even more local, this used to be a complete bar du quartier, a neighborhood bar, which has been “discovered” by a younger, cooler crowd. A quirky ambience, lots of outdoor seating or open space for mingling inside.
  • Le Rendez-vous des Amis (Montmartre) – You’d never guess you were just underneath Place de Tetre and touristy Montmartre at this local dive, As the name insinuates, here you’re among friends, you can rub shoulders with today’s cute, young starving artists.
  • Le Balcon – The recently reinvented mezzanine bar of the Alcazar is a good option for meeting classier date prospects.

1 Comment

  • Louise says:

    Just one thing: French people tend to associate “offering a drink” with a proposal to have sex or at least a way to openly express an attraction to someone. It rarely mean only “I want to get to know you better”. So French girls might be wary of a guy offering them a drink straight away and might refuse it out of caution. A lot of French guys get angry and feel “used” if a girl accept a drink, get into a conversation and finally don’t want to go further. They feel paying for a drink give them some rights to get more than just a friendly chat.
    Therefore, a French girl might feel more comfortable to accept a drink if the guy was initially planning to buy one for himself rather than just for the girl, and if she’s not sure she’s interested in the guy, she might really need to get to know him a bit before accepting anything from him.

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