4 Tips for Fending Off French Men

4 Tips for Fending Off French Men

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As an independent young woman with an eye for adventure, I tend to bristle at the suggestion that there are certain times and places in which a woman should not travel unaccompanied by a man. Coming from the ‘anything you can do I can do better’ feminist school of Annie Oakley/Mia Hamm, I am offended by the mere implication that as a woman I am not allowed access to certain arenas of the world deemed unsafe.

Some of my annoyance comes from what I see as paranoia stemming largely from ignorance. I cannot count on one hand how many people, jokingly or in earnest, have reacted to my plans to travel in Europe with references to movies like Hostel or Taken in which young women run into trouble while traveling in Europe. I haven’t seen either of these movies, but the the alarmist attitude built up around them is very frustrating.

My experience has been that the dangers of a European city are less than or equal to those of an American city, only made more complicated by linguistic and cultural barriers, which are often easily overcome.

I’d be a fool to deny that sometimes being an independent (as in, unaccompanied) young woman puts one in a dangerous situation.

However, while fears about the dangers of being a young woman traveling abroad are indeed frequently inflated, I find myself forced to concede the point that certain situations are more dangerous for women than they are for men. As angry as that makes me, as much as I want to deny it and assert my level headed nature and my street-smarts as sufficient defenses against any and all dangers I might encounter, I’d be a fool to deny that sometimes being an independent (as in, unaccompanied) young woman puts one in a dangerous situation. It’s so unfair. It makes me so angry. But, in some cases, it’s just true.

For example, this year I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris with two female friends. While waiting for the big moment under the Eiffel Tower, we were mobbed by hordes of young men-on-the-prowl. We ended up having a bit of a scare when a couple of guys started following us on the way out. Luckily, we lost them pretty easily in the crowd, but for the first time in my life I remember thinking that I would have felt so much more secure, and I would have had so much more fun if I had a male friend with me to send the signal that my friends and I were off limits.

I remember thinking that I would have felt so much more secure, and I would have had so much more fun if I had a male friend with me to send the signal that my friends and I were off limits.

My point is not that a guy would have been any more capable of defending us than we were capable of ourselves. It simply meant that us being alone sent the message that we were available and therefore made us vulnerable to unwanted attention.

So, what did I learn that night? Not necessarily to remember to bring a male friend next time I travel; it was just to accept that certain situations can become more dangerous for women alone than they are for men.  Being aware of that fact could help make those situations less dangerous.

Some other things I learned from our night of unwanted attention from Parisian men:

4 Tips for Fending Off French Men

1. A confident and assertive tone transcends language barriers.

The most effective way to shake an unwanted advance seemed to be a firm “No” or a familiar English phrase like “Go away.”  Trying to reason in French worked to a point, but sticking to familiar phrases in a confident voice seemed to work better overall.

2. Giving a little signals implies you might give a lot.

If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, flat out refusal is your best bet. Thinking that you’ll just flirt a little to satisfy someone so they’ll go away is going to work against you, not for you.

3. If someone is following you, don’t invite a chase.

Stay where there are plenty of people, and if possible, find a law enforcement officer and stand near him or her. You know when people are afraid of dogs and they start running to get away and the dog just chases them more? This is exactly what happened when we tried to get away quick. When we stopped, turned around and said calmly but firmly that they needed to leave us alone, it took a couple minutes but eventually they got bored and left. If they hadn’t left, that would have been a good time to consult the nearby Parisian policeman.

4. Stay sober.

Hey, if you’re going to drink, you’re opening yourself up to vulnerability. While skimping on the champagne earlier in the night felt like cheating for New Year’s in Paris, I was very glad later on that I had a clear head with which to assess my situation. It’s important to keep a balance between being alert and aware and being paranoid. While under reacting can be worse, overreacting to a situation can cause a problem in and of itself. Stay alert and stay calm at all times. Panicking will never get you anywhere.

I’m sure that many have had similar experiences, and I’m interested to hear other opinions about women traveling alone. I for one am not going to let such dangers stop me from doing and seeing all there is to do and see in the world, but I will do so fully informed of the risks involved and equipped to handle them properly.

What do you think? Are there places women just simply cannot go alone safely? Is the fear for women travelers over- or underestimated? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that having a man with you would have been a good idea? What is the best course of action in such a situation? How does the perceived and/or real danger to women traveling alone affect how and where women travel? How can we change that?

4 Tips for Fending Off French Men

Related Reading

A Would-be Local’s Guide to Paris
8 Unusual Things to Do Around Paris
Delicious Encounters with French Men and Desserts
Paris Survival Guide: Pretending You’re Not a Tourist
A Girl’s Guide to Blending in in Paris
Thirty Years Living in France: Moving to the French Countryside

Do you have tips for fending our French men? Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

French Men: 4 Tips for Fending Off French Men photo credit: Jessica Shen

About Maggie Dziubek

AvatarBased in Chicago, constantly dreaming of adventure. My mission is to tell stories, especially those that may not have otherwise been told.

International Studies major, French/Journalism minors at DePaul University.

One thought on “4 Tips for Fending Off French Men

  1. Avatar
    Chantel
    July 13, 2013
    Reply

    I just read another story about safety for women travelers especially those alone. I feel that there are times when having a man would offer protection. Reading the article on how Indian women or women travelers keep safe in India. It’s the mentally that men in India have on woman. It said that they don’t respect woman who travel alone and expect to get Pervs stares and cat calls. This will make most women uncomfortable especially when in a foreign country. I think it’s better safe then sorry especially if your traveling in a country where women rights are a bit different.

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