Will I be considered a stalker in France?

(asked by Michelle from the US)

This question starts out sounding like a personal “I met this French guy….” question, but I do have a cultural question at the end.
Last autumn, I was in Paris for a week, and one day I was standing on a street corner, map in hand, completely lost. A man stopped to help me, and we ended up talking for about an hour (mostly about travel and American politics). During the conversation he told me his first name and where he worked. Eventually, he said that he needed to leave for an appointment, and asked if I had a business card to give him so he could contact me again. I didn’t have a business card, so we just said goodbye and that was the end. I wish that I had just written down my phone number or email address and given it to him, but I didn’t. This autumn I will be returning to Paris, and I was thinking of stopping by his workplace just to say hello again. If this were an American city, I would feel okay doing that, because Americans tend to value being very open and friendly. But in Paris, I don’t know. In French society, would it be considered a violation of someone’s privacy to stop by their place of employment without being invited first? I don’t want to do the wrong thing.

Well if he told you where he worked, you’re allowed to stop by. It’s not an invasion of privacy as long as it’s his workplace and as long as he gave you the address and you didn’t look it up behind his back.
But if I understand correctly that happened last year, right? And you spent a grand total of an hour together, right?
Oh well, who knows, maybe he’ll remember you, and if he told you about where he works that kinda means he was hoping you’d stop by and you could see where that both brings you from there.
The fact that it’s his working place and not his home address for example is a good sign, home address would be creepy.

Also, as you asked me this question last August and we’re now well into the Fall, are you back in Paris? Did you stop by his office? How did it go?

More Questions Answered:

Frenchman Written by:

14 Comments

  1. Monique
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    Send a card with the place you're staying or your email stating how he may remember who you are. Including a flower. And wait for a response. do not be disappointed if there isn't one plus, give it a few days to actually get to him. A platonic phone call may also work.

  2. David "a Frenchman"
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    If you want to freak him out, yeah, that's a good way to start… 🙂

  3. Nathalie
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    Agree that the note and flower idea is a thoroughly sinister.

    I'd also say, to be honest, that telling you his first name and where he works during a street conversation doesn't seem to me like any kind of invitation to make contact. He asked you for a card, so he could contact you if he wanted to, but he clearly didn't give you a card, or volunteer his phone number. Or in fact push beyond the businesslike request for a card to the much more intimate/informal thing of exchanging personal phone numbers. To me that message is clear, and it not one that suggests he'd be pleased to have you show up at work a year later, even if the conversation was great fun.

    But, given that you've presumably done whatever you decided by now, do tell!

  4. E
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    Does telling someone where you work mean you hope they'll stop by in France? I wouldn't see mentioning where I work as a form of invitation and would never assume someone else giving me that information meant they would not mind a visit. Unless someone specifically says, "Stop by sometime."

    Still…I'd like to hear how this turned out…

  5. David "a Frenchman"
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    Yeah, I'm a bit perplexed by that.
    This is how I interpret it too, but I don't know.
    I never tell anybody where I work, even my friends just have a vague idea where it is.
    Not because it's private, just because, I don't know, unless it's convenient to meet or something, it's not an issue.
    If I meet someone randomly, and would like to hopefully stay in touch, I'd give my e-mail address and/or Facebook, but not my workplace.

    But this guy maybe different.

  6. E
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    Maybe. I could see how it might come up in even the most basic conversation…especially in talking to an American since that seems to be one of the things we talk about with strangers. He could have mentioned it and meant nothing by it. Since he didn't offer any real contact information (phone, email, FB), I'd never consider hunting him down at work. But maybe that's just me.

  7. David "a Frenchman"
    November 25, 2009
    Reply

    Yeah, I agree…

    But now, I hope she did go, and she'll read this and tell us all about it.

  8. E
    November 26, 2009
    Reply

    I hope so too. It's borderline stalker behavior, but very courageous…and kind of cute that the encounter stuck with her a year later. I hope it had a charming outcome even if it's not something I would ever do.

  9. Natalie
    November 27, 2009
    Reply

    Love these questions & comments!

    As a French-American young woman, I tend to have a split personality in many fields (see my blog), and especially when it comes to dating: sometimes I'm rather straightforward, inviting guys out, and other times I'll play the craziest mind games.

    I'm pretty sure, though,that randomly showing up at a French guy's workplace would be considered stalking. But upon reading your post on "Why French women don't ask men out", maybe a French guy would find such behavior surprising and refreshing. I can't wait to hear what Michelle actually did…

  10. Galaxie
    November 27, 2009
    Reply

    It's me – Michelle. I did not try to look him up. It did seem inappropriate, and yes, kinda crazy. I think I initially got caught up the excitement of discovering Paris, which can do things to a girl's head! Thank you for posting my question and thanks to the constructive comments. I do appreciate it!

  11. Leesa
    December 3, 2009
    Reply

    Hmmm…
    Interesting question and glad for the follow up!

  12. RK
    December 3, 2009
    Reply

    I don't think it would be an offense to visit him at work.
    I even think he w(c)ould love it.

    The surprise effect, can make the thing more beautiful.

    Btw, that blog's cool, but french people aren't so different than others.
    We're just human 🙂

  13. Tamara
    January 30, 2010
    Reply

    Hi, following on this, a Frenchman friend of mine gave me his business card, with his place and address of work and his work phone and email address. I haven't got any home details, nor have I asked for them.

    His birthday is upcoming (well, two months time) and, having a conversation about how to wish him a happy birthday, somebody suggested I send him a birthday card. Now, I know that in the UK and the USA people give cards for everything, but that is not the custom in Spain, and I'm not sure about France…

    That, on top of the fact that I only have his work details, and given the answers on this topic, leaves me wondering whether sending a card (or a small gift) to his work address is a poor idea.

    The person in question thought that a text message or an email with a birthday wish was inappropriate…

    Any thoughts would be appreciated…

  14. David "a Frenchman"
    February 1, 2010
    Reply

    Once again it depends on how close you are to him (not that close as you don't have his home details I assume)…

    It's true that we Europeans don't send cards for everything and anything like Americans love doing, but birthday cards are something we send.

    But you usually send birthday cards to close friends and family and not everybody does (Personally, I never send birthday cards except for exceptional reasons, and usually my mom is the only one that will send me one).

    On the other hand, sending an e-mail or a text message to someone you're not that close to is perfectly OK.

    So:
    -It all depends how close you are from the person.
    -Stop asking advise to the "somebody" you asked for some.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.