For anyone out there who might be a new reader here, my husband is French. His name is Tom and he’s lived in France his entire life. Although he has a French passport, I surprisingly don’t think of him as French. What do I mean by that? Just that I don’t think of him as “the French dude I married.” He speaks perfect English, gets American culture, enjoys American shows and just fits in with everyone back home. He’s not a foreigner in my mind. I just think of him as Tom and not any different than me. Over the years, I think I’ve Americanized him and he’s always had an interest in learning English, watching American TV shows and visiting my homeland — Tom is more like a regular ol’ American with a funny accent. But, and then of course there’s a but, a little quirk emerges that clearly crosses him over into French territory.
What kind of French quirks am I talking about?
Quirks you notice about your French husband
Tom is going to love this post, and by “love” I mean not-so-secretly hate. He hates being the center of attention and likes his face on the web even less. So the fact that I picked a somewhat embarrassing photo? Well, I think I’ve just won wife of the year! In my defense, he agreed to let me put the above pic in my post. Whatta guy.
OK, moving on…
As I was brainstorming for this post, the question I kept coming back to was this: How many of these quirks are part of Tom’s personality and how many are characteristically French guy things? What part does one’s culture play in their overall personality and habits? It’s hard to say. But everything on my list has come to be quite endearing and even entertaining at times.
I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but please keep in mind that not all of these things will apply to every French guy out there! I’m writing this about my husband and things I’ve personally observed after 4.5 years of marriage. 😉
Don’t forget to check out Tom’s column “Ask Tom Tuesdays” here >>
Quirks you notice when your husband is French:
His feet are in slippers all the time.
Barefoot? Are you kidding? Even in the summer, Tom’s feet are securely snuggled into cozy sherpa-lined slippers. At night, they’re left next to the bed for the morning trek to the bathroom and then left in the front of his closet for when he takes off his work shoes at the end of the day. Unless he’s in bed or in the shower, if he’s around the house, Tom will have slippers on. My brother and sister-in-law even got him a new pair for Christmas!
He’s diligent about closing the volets
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m not a volet lover and find them a hassle and annoying more than anything (although electric ones on a timer that you don’t have to open the window to open/shut or would be fine, like the ones in Alaska). I like morning light! Anyway, good thing Tom occupies himself with all-things-volet because I’d just leave ’em open if he wasn’t around to take care of them (and I have). It’s like a magic internal clock French people have — 6pm and the volets get shut!
When something is quite good, you rarely get more than a “pas mal“
If I bust my butt on a special dessert, I used to have to give Tom a special look to ensure he’d react appropriately and tell me how GREAT my cake was. Otherwise, if I left him to his own devices, he’d say “pas mal” in response to my “how is it?” question. That literally translates to “not bad” and is a suitable response in French to everything from not bad to actually quite good. I’ve had to coach Tom’s lips (that sounds dirty) on how to form sentences that include “excellent,” “awesome, and “absolutely delicious” for family gatherings among Americans — but only when it’s true, of course.
12 Reasons you should marry a French guy >>
Being well dressed for simple errands
I can assure you that if Tom is out in public — even for a simple doctor’s visit when sick, a pharmacy run or taking Dagny to the vet — he’s going to have on nice jeans, boots and a sweater. Sometimes even a nice button-down shirt underneath that sweater. And I must say, French guys’ style seems to be pretty on point. Forget casual jogger pants and a t-shirt. If he has on a t-shirt, it’s definitely been ironed. He dresses up, always. Dressing down is what he does on trips to the USA and fits in perfectly. 😉
A need for speed
Tom is not a reckless driver at all, but he does seem to zip around corners and put the pedal to the metal more than I do. Getting from one place to another sooner than later is one of his fortes and 130 kmh on the autoroute seems to be just a suggestion.
Me, on the other hand?
Well, when gas is expensive as all heck, I tend to gingerly reach the top of each gear and let myself coast to a red light instead of accelerating toward it just to brake 5 seconds later. Tom drives with a little more peps than I do. I think this may be a French thing. But being speedy is only when they’re behind the wheel! French people generally — outside of driving, that is — tend to slow down and enjoy life!
And a few stereotypically French guy things Tom doesn’t do?
He rarely buys baguettes, doesn’t use his checkbook, knows how to stand in line and not cut people and picks up after our dog. What else could you want in a man?
Taste of France says
I burst out laughing at the volet item. My neighbor noted that we didn’t close our volets, so I’ve been more careful since. My husband is from the north and they don’t have them, at least not like in the south, so he doesn’t care.
The other things–slippers, writing checks, lines, dressing well, driving fast–spot on! Also, an aversion to paying for parking. And an ability to spend an entire day at the table (lunch bleeds into dinner, which then goes on until midnight).
Oh wow, I had no idea there are no volets in the north. Like Lille area or where? I remember seeing them in Normandy. Maybe I should move there 😉
there is a reason why there are much fewer Volets in northern France…and in the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany for instance. It has to do with the development of protestantism in the area, which is a push for more transparency. People should not hide anything, especially, on the seashore, when men were away for several days.
Interesting, thanks for explaining that Arnault. I had no idea.
I always have to figure out the same thing – are these quirks just him, or are they French?! He HATES when I drip water on a clean floor. He respects French meal conventions (no eating salé at gouter time! gasp!). He LOVES his cozy sweatpants (his “jogging”) but his mother and sister hate them! We don’t have volets in our city apartment (thank goodness, they are TOO DARK! I need the sun in the morning!) but at his parents’ house in the country the volets are always duly lowered and opened at the appropriate hours. It would drive me CRAZY if I cooked and he was like, “C’est pas mal.” I would probably stop cooking. So he says, “mm, c’est trop bon chérie!” and I continue to cook 🙂 BUT he’s been known to buy baguettes at Monoprix which horrifies me, since I am a boulangerie snob.
Good on Tom for letting you post his picture and write about his quirks. What a stand-up guy!
Oh cool, glad you have some quirks to mention as well. I think it’s so interesting but when I was brainstorming for this post, Tom is like “stop with the quirks, i don’t know if they’re French!” hahahah. Tom can’t bear seeing me pop a blueberry in my mouth before dinner if they’re on the counter. Something sweet before the meal? NEVER!
I love that you hate volets too, for the same reasons. Solidarity! And glad your guy knows the rules about pas mal, worst 2 words ever.
Melissa Bauernfeind says
My dad ALWAYS wore his slippers when in the house and it’s now a joke with my husband and me that my dad’s go-to phrase for everything was “not bad”. He could love something or like something and it was always the same response – that’s not bad. (My dad was born in Canada, raised in the US – his heritage was German, Polish & Scottish).
Sounds like he’s cut from the same cloth as Tom haha. Europeans!
Had to laugh at the pas mal thing, sounds like an English bloke thing too.
Perhaps you notice this more as I would say Americans are more effusive than us Northern Europeans. Can I ask you, does Tom (or did he?) nudge you with his elbow?…a kind of flirting thing?
Yup, I think a lot of the European habits and mannerisms are similar. I can’t say the elbow thing rings any bells for me. Don’t think Tom has ever done that!
Funny and interesting post. Not sure I would love my wife to post my quirks – whether they be American or just my own specific quirks!
Maybe its time for another Ask Tom Tuesday’s so he can turn the tables. 🙂
You’re right – pas mal sounds terrible to an American in literal translation. But of course the American need to declare everything “awesome” is annoying. I will say my mother -in -law was not typically American in that regard – or as I used to say she was “not given to superlatives”. But she did stretch a little further than “not bad”.
Thanks! Well, Tom is a good sport and was 100% OK with this post — definitely wouldn’t have done it if he objected. I actually asked him to write the opposite for me (payback) and he said he’d think about it but we shouldn’t hold our breath.
I’ve curbed my awesome a bit but I’d take awesome over pas mal any day! I have a post in the works about American enthusiasm so stay tuned for that. And I’m glad your mother-in-law stretched further than “not bad.” Sometimes things are AWESOME 😉 Sorry, couldn’t resist. Thanks for checking out the post, Todd!
The love of my life doesn’t own slippers, just saying, he is always in thongs no matter what time of year it is. Like most Aussie blokes he likes his beer but also his wine.
Sounds like a lot of Floridians… when the weather is nice, why not? And a note to anyone out there, I believe thongs is what Aussies call flip flops so Jo-Anne is not talking about thong underwear. Hahah, maybe?
I love the “pas mal” part. Over here, it is so funny to me as a French guy to hear people use the word “awesome” so easily. You finished your plate in a restaurant? The server will tell you “awesome”! It’s sunny outside? Awesome! You have new shoes? Awesome! You can imagine how surprised I was when I came to the US, coming from a country where everything is just “pas mal” 🙂
I think that Americans have become very accustomed to choosing from a handful of maybe 4 or 5 words to express satisfaction. So instead of just saying OK or great or cool, we say things like amazing and awesome to mean “ok great.” Now was something really amazing or awesome? I don’t know, who am I to judge how someone perceives something. But in some cases, it’s just a word we rattle off to acknowledge something someone else said. Like it becomes rote. I have a post in the works about American enthusiasm and would love to get your perspective since you’re a French person living in the USA. I can imagine your shock when you hear awesome everywhere. But if I had to pick, I’d rather hear awesome than not bad for everything! Just an overall more positive tone, even if it is overused and fake at times!
Totally agree with you Diane. I prefer “awesome” to “pas mal” too. Saying “awesome” a lot was a joke we had with a French expatriate. You know how mockers we French people are 🙂 But honestly, my friend and I like it a lot. It reflects a positive attitude that we love in Americans. Sometimes I think that in France, we lack of enthusiasm. Why don’t we do more high fives in France? For me, its so awesome! 🙂
Let me know if you want more perspectives from me.
Love your posts, they are awesome! And you know I mean it since I’m French 🙂
Mary Z says
I love this post! I admire Tom for always dressing well, and I like that he wears slippers. Very classy. I wondered if he is Americanized because of being married to an American, or would he have been pretty Americanized anyway, if he learned English and likes our culture and TV shows? How do his parents feel about him being Americanized? I also wondered if when I stayed in apartments in France and either never closed the volets, or sometimes left them closed for privacy – I wonder what the neighbors thought?!
Thank you, Mary. I think Tom has adapted to the American culture for a few reasons: 1) My influence and our trips there, so he’s exposed to it 2) He genuinely likes the American way, the country, the sights, the shows so is open to it and 3) Deep down he’s a casual guy who enjoys wearing shorts and a tshirt! So he adapts to American style when in the US. But he’s not overly formal or anything and his “French” clothes work just fine in the US. Just when we go to Florida, he can rock flip flops and a baseball cap like the best of ’em. 😉
I don’t think his parents really consider him Americanized. I mean I think they’re proud of him for being able to speak English so well but they don’t really see him in all-out American mode because they’ve never been with us on a trip to the US.
Well about volets in apartments, unless you’re on the ground level, from a safety perspective there’s no point in closing them. Now people may close them to block out the light or heat but as long as you weren’t on the RDC, I think plenty of people leave the volets up. Or at least in the main area of the apartment and only lower the bedroom ones if sleeping in the dark is important. When we were in our apartment, we only ever closed the main living room volets when we were on vacation, otherwise they were up!
Mary Z says
Thanks for the reply! 🙂
Marina - Imaginibus says
Story of my life! My husband is French, too, and it took me a while to notice that some of his habits might be due to his nationality than to him.
Where are you from originally? It’s so hard to tell if the traits are personality quirks or more cultural. Makes for fun writing anyway!
I’ve dropped by from #AllaboutFrance and found your post really entertaining! I agree about the well dressed sentiment – my partner is English but my French male friends are way more better dressed overall. My partner has some typically British quirks – making sure all the appliances are unplugged before going on holiday!!! every Brit I know does that LOL.
Thanks for stopping by. Happy you liked the post!
Harriet Springbett says
Ha ha! My husband is French too – but he doesn’t speak English, doesn’t wear slippers, doesn’t dress up to go out (even to an interview), isn’t bothered by shutters and drives pretty slowly. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if he’s really French!!
Hahaha, it just depends on the person 😉
Susie Kelly says
If you don’t mind me saying so, he’s extremely lookable-at, and apart from the ‘pas mal’ he sounds perfect. 🙂
I wish my English husband could learn to love slippers the way the French do, but sadly he is beyond training now, and muddy wellies and/or grass mowings trailed throughout the house are the norm.
Haha Susie, I’m sure he’ll get a kick out of your comment. He’s very modest. I LOL’d at the “beyond training” part. I hope you don’t have white tile floors like I do. Vacuuming once a day isn’t enough so I think I’d lose my mind with grass from boots. Ahhh. Thanks again!
FrenchVillage Jacqui says
I got quite worried when I started reading this post that I was a Frenchman! (I’m actually English, 45 yrs old and live in France) but slippers and shutters are my thing too!
No need to worry, it’s all in good fun. ;-( Thx for stopping by!
Phoebe @ Lou Messugo says
Ha ha! I see where you’re coming from but my French husband only shares the volet thing with yours (though he only closes them when we go to bed not early in the evening)….he almost never wears slippers and is often barefoot, takes (bizarre) pride in not being the smartest dressed, (read…badly dressed), drives at a regular speed, enthuses when necessary, buys at least one baguette a day, uses his cheque book to pay school bills (it’s the only option!) and never has to pick up dog poo because we don’t have a dog! He’s French, born and brought up in very Franco France but cut the umbilical cord (unlike his siblings) and moved to the other side of the world which I think makes a huge difference. Like pretty much all nationalities, people who have travelled (and especially lived abroad for some time) absorb other traditions and don’t conform to the stereotype as much. Deciding whether these traits are cultural or personal is difficult but I guess it’s a mix of the 2. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance.
Thank you, as always, for hosting and for sharing your husband’s traits. Love hearing about cross-cultural marriages. 😉
Becky Brown says
This is great! I always close our shutters, mainly because we live in the middle of a village. But I have to admit in my 3 years of living in France that is the first time I have come across the French word for them. Thank you for teaching me something new! #allaboutfrance
You’ve never heard anyone talk about the volets??
I’ve also heard volets called contrevents.
Haha this is great! I wish my husband was French sometimes just so it would help me integrate a little better. I must say I can’t blame him about the slippers. Ever since I’ve moved to France I’ve acquired the same habit. It’s the freezing floors and the fact that they’re often hundreds of years old makes me feel like I can never quite get them clean! My man is a Brit and oh my- I think I should do a follow up article on stereotypes of a British husband!
Thanks for checking out the post. 😉 And yes, definitely do your take on having a British husband!! Would love to read it!
So funny. The ‘pas mal’ thing drives me crazy from friends, can’t imagine hearing it from my husband! I had no idea those things were called volets 🙂 #alllaboutfrance
Yah, Tom learned his lesson real fast about pas mal. And yes volets, the bane of my existence. I LIKE LIGHT IN THE MORNING!
Your husband looks so French lol. I totally understand his need for speed, I’m the same and my husband fears for his life when I let loose on French motorways (and in Italy, he seriously thought he would not survive our honeymoon)
I usually drive the speed limit because I’m too scared of the automatic radar machines that sneakily snap a pic of you when you least expect it. Sometimes they’re marked ahead of time but other times they surprise you with a ticket in the mail!
You had me smiling through this entire post Diane, as I recognized so many of these. And I really like the pic of Tom!! He looks like an international celeb. Glad he approved its inclusion!
Hhahaha, I’ll be sure to tell him. Every time he sees that pic, he gets mad all over again that I used it. He’s a private guy. Maybe now he’ll finally smile about it!
Jeanette Blake says
We are from the UK but live in Canada. My husband is from Jersey, Channel Islands off of the coast of France. We lived there before moving to Canada. He always wears slippers! Me too actually. Maybe a European thing? He likes to dress smart but has been a bit North Americanized with the sweats! He would never them out though. Not a volet in sight here of course. Love that your husband stays French. It’s great to be different!
Dear Diane, you made me smile about through this post and especially about the “volets” things. My husband is french born in Toulouse so volets are important. Several months after I arrived to live here, my husband’s great-grandfather taught me when to open/to close and whether you let them open completely or only half open. Another thing french about my husband is that it is not ok to eat in front of tv. Yes, my husband wears slippers too!
Btw, have you noticed that a lot of frenchmen (old or young) go out wearing small bag?
I am sorry about my english. After living here more then 20 years, my english is getting rotten or you can say frenchified.