(asked by Regina from Malaysia)

I am Asian from Malaysia and have been really confused with my reaction to a French man which I cannot seem to find an answer to explain as I am not sure how French men generally respond to girls taking the initiative?

The incident is as follows:
Last weekend, we were at a after work party disco event. One of my french colleagues J. got really drunk, and started saying that he loves me many times, although he is married. I felt really uneasy by it and I told my other french colleague C. about it. C. told me he will protect me if anything happens. Anyway, J. approached me a few other times and both C. and I decided to walk away to the drinks bar. Whilst we were walking away, unconsciously I grabbed C.’s hand. It was in a very busy party. C. did not let go of his hand. In fact C. and I interlocked our hands and he also squeezed it lightly.

After a while, when we are near the drinks bar, we let go of our hands and carried on joking and pretend nothing has happened.

My question is:
How does the French generally perceive when the girl takes initiative holding their hands?

Many thanks for your opinion.

Best regards,


I’m not sure whether or not I’m making a big mistake answering this question. See, despite the fact that I announced that I was more or less done with answering relationship questions, they are still the majority of questions that I receive, because a lot of people obviously don’t bother clicking and reading links that say “READ FIRST!” Of course, I usually send those e-mails to the trash as soon as I read “I met this French guy” in the text.

However, I’ll answer this question because I think it is interesting and applies to general culture and habits, not just a particular case and the thoughts of one particular individual. I’m saying that I’m afraid to answer it, because I’m afraid some people will think it’s ok to send their personal questions my way again.

Oh well…

My first reaction to this question was “strange question” and it almost ended in the trash. Yet, I knew I should keep it somehow. Why is that? Well, while I’m sure that the act of holding hands has a quite clear meaning to anyone reading this, fact is that it has a different meaning depending on your culture. Actually, when talking about obvious acts in your culture having completely different meanings in another culture, I often mention that in some regions of India, men hold hands under certain circumstances and there’s no sexual undertone to that behavior.

And truth is that I have no idea what holding hands entails in Malaysia.

In France however, if a woman starts holding your hand and you’re male, it usually has an obvious meaning: she wants you.

Yet, I have to put a grain of salt here. I know of a few examples, especially in stressful situations where a woman holding a guy’s hand will just mean that she feels safe with him. However these situations are very very rare. And if it just means that she feels safe with him and nothing else, unconsciously it most likely also means that she wouldn’t mind if he made her feel safe in her bed too.

You never really know.

Actually, I have a personal example on this topic that I could never figure out. It was the 90′s, I was in college and I had this female friend with whom I was pretty close to and in a few (drunk) situations she grabbed my hand in the streets for an extended period of time (not hours, but not seconds either).

Was there some sexual tension between us? A little bit.

Was she just feeling safe with me or did she want me? Tough question. I always assumed that she was just feeling safe with me, but she wouldn’t have minded if I had made her feel safe until we reach her bed and more. That never happened. Why? Well, first, I was foolishly in love with another woman at the time (foolishly because it was unrequited) and second, my friend had just broken up with her boyfriend who happened to be one of my good friends; and as I don’t have a penis instead of a brain, I knew that would upset my buddy if I did the nasty with her so soon after their breakup. Also, did I mention that I’m the one who introduced them to each other?

Had the circumstances be different, I would have totally done her… or would have been gravely mistaken…. We’ll never know…


But enough about me, though this example was to show you that as usual with French women you never know ( icon wink What does it mean to hold hands for a French? ), so C. may have gotten the wrong impression. Or not…

French women reading that, what’s your opinion?

No, not about the fact that I never stop picking on you, about the holding hands situation.


pixel What does it mean to hold hands for a French?

11 Responses to “What does it mean to hold hands for a French?”

  1. I don’t think this is a “french” reaction. Most women (and alot of men) have been the subject of unwanted attention at some point. An easy way to rid yourself of a creeper is to act as if you are with someone else. So girl says to C, “this guy J is bothering me”. C volunteers to protect her. She walks away and takes hold of C’s hand, who squeezes it as if to say “I get it, you’re with me”. They go to the bar, J wanders off, C lets go of her hand and resumes the previous conversation. Sometimes it just is what it is, no deeper meaning.

    • It’s definitely not a French reaction, but the question was more “How will a French guy understand this?”

  2. OK, so as a French women, I tend to think that holding hands does have a significance, for me it really means I’m interested in the guy and giving the green light for him to go forward.

    And also, “yeah to relationships questions”!!! ;o)

    • Relationship questions are alright when they have a cultural significance, like this one. But you’d feel my pain if 99% of the questions you got were either “does he love me?” or “does he want to have sex with me?”
      I could start answering them, but then, I’d have to post a disclaimer that I share no responsibility in any depression, unhappiness and worse that would result from any action taken because of my answer.

      In any case, glad you’re stopping by Laurence. :-)

  3. As Frenchman has kindly asked for our opinion… I would strongly discourage any girl to grab a man’s hand in France (I don’t know about other parts of the world), unless she is interested in him.

    As far as I’m concerned, that’s how my last love story began. He hold out his hand to me while gazing at me in a crowded place. I could have refused it, and he perfectly knew it (I didn’t need his help, I was a grown-up girl and I could handle being trampling on by a crowd). It was just his way of asking : “Do you want to be with me”. And I answered “yes” by taking his hands. It was clear for both of us that this had the same impact than the first kiss (that generally officially starts a relationship).

    Of course, one could pretend that is has no special meaning. That the French kiss has no meaning either. Not even the first night. And not even marriage. Just to get our French men completely mad.
    But I think I’m a quite merciful girl, and holding hands is a rather clear signal for me to tell the man that he is on safe ground (well, as safe a ground a French girl could be that is).

    My point is not to say that holding hands will necessarily lead you to bed or marriage. But it is unnatural enough to put you in an ambiguous situation. I will conclude by saying that when you gave your hand to someone and let (him/her) take the lead, you should not complain about the place where he/she takes you. So… just don’t grab anybody’s hand. ;)

  4. Exactly.
    For once, there’s one sign that’s easy to read with French women, so let’s not screw this one up. ;-)

  5. As an outside American observer to this question/answers I might suggest that if she is worried that she led him on and he is a friend (and he starts acting interested) she could just thank him for being a good friend and helping to deter that other man…

    Would that work in France? Oh what a can of worms.

  6. I think holding hands is something intimate, as an opposite to “holding arms”, if one can say so. In the meaning of keeping steady, e.g. helping an old lady across the street. :P Holding hands is for romantic relations, as well as children. ;)

  7. I second Laurence and Frenchgirl: holding hands definitely has a significance for me. I hold hands freely with kids (only when they ask to, or for safety purpose) and…. that’s about all. My very bestfriends (girls) as well, to show them my never-ending affection and support, under peculiar circumstancies. Oh, and my brother, when putting up the “see how cute big sis’ is, how much she loves you? Buy her food/a movie ticket/whatever, then!” act, and definively not in public. I tend to be extremely self-conscious, if not uneasy, otherwise.

    As an example, my closest male friend and I often slept on each other’s lap, hugged, put an arm around each other’s shoulders, and more. Hell, I even remember sleeping in the same bed wearing nothing more than a t-shirt (and underwear, thanks God). But we never, EVER held hands in ten years.

    But! Everything has to be put into a context, and I think the situation described by Regina totally fits the “stressful situation” the Frenchman mentioned, hence the ambiguity and confusion.

    Regina, try to grab his hand again in a different, clear-cut situation, his answear should be quite clear then (well,”clear” by french standards, wich can mean “vague” for the rest of the world).

    Then again, when the question is basically “How will a French guy understand this?”, why ask the french women, dear Mister Frenchman? (you never know with french guys either, as far as I’m concerned!)

    Guys, what do you think about it?

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