Apr 212008

(asked by Linda from Brno, Czech Republic)

Well, well. It’s pretty hard to reply properly to this question. First because I’m not a woman. Second because of the language we’re using right now.
Strangely the English language, so rich in vocabulary, really sucks when it comes to friends.
There is only one word: “friend” to express a vast variety of relationships from vague acquaintance to somebody you’d give your life for and love more than anything on Earth (you’re just not having sex with them… or maybe you do. In any case, this is not of my business).
I know there are other words and expressions to modulate the lack of precision of this word (buddy, pal, BFF, etc.) but still…

And in my opinion, this has an influence on what English speakers think friendship is. Sometimes they can be best friends with somebody in a matter of minutes. Some other times, they can ditch a very intense friendship in a matter of minutes too.

Well, things are pretty different in France.
First we have a lot of words for “friend”:
This list being incomplete.

This variety implies that people that are your friends in English are one of those in French, and you won’t do the same things with a “ami” and with a “pote”, you won’t tell them the same things, you won’t feel the same for them.

And to start answering the question, yes, I have the feeling that French women have very few “amis” (which is the strongest kind of friendship) while they have no problems with the rest.

One thing to take into account here is that friendships in France are pretty different from the ones in the English speaking world (well, actually, I’m not that sure about the non-US English speaking world).

Real strong long-term friendship in France are usually lifelong (or at least last decades) and are usually made in high school or college. It takes months or even years to build these friendships and it’s one of the main reasons why foreigners moving to France as adults have sometimes such a hard time making real friends in France.

French women tend to have these kinds of friendships too, but much less than men. And to tell the truth, I’m not too sure why.
Maybe, one thing I’ve noticed is that despite the fact that France is supposedly an egalitarian country when dealing with genders (could be better, but it’s much better than many countries, including the Anglo ones), traditions are long to die, and I’ve noticed among my female friends that once they find their life-partner, they tend to enter their man’s social circle, their slowly fading, especially their female friends…

So, I guess entering their man’s social circle is one reason why they don’t keep long-term friends. But that doesn’t explain it all.

The other possible explanation (that would also be the reason why French women don’t really make new female friends when reaching adulthood) is that sort of constant competition French women tend to be with other women, especially when they’re single…
In other terms, other women are the enemy…

It seems a little farfetched but maybe not as far from the truth as I suspect.

So to summarize:
Single adult women don’t have real female friends because of competition.
Married (or in couple) adult women have their man’s friends as friends.

I must admit I’m not totally satisfied by this answer though.
Maybe because French women do make friends…
If a French woman wants to complete my answer, do not hesitate to comment on this.

More Questions Answered:

  2 Responses to “I have heard that French women are not really that much into friendship. Is it true or is it just a cliché?”

  1. Hi David,
    thank for this exhausting answer. I like the insight.
    It leads only to one thing…if you often prefer not to have a female friend b/c of competition, it is because men are so unstable that as a consequence, there is very little trust?:)))))

  2. What the hell do women do when their marriages break up? Now that would be difficult. I almost feel like enrolling at a French university JUST to try and make some friends!

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