La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life
"France is a seductive country, seductive in its elegance, its beauty, its sensual pleasures and its joie de vivre...but seduction is much more than a game to the French: it is the key to understanding France."
Elaine Sciolino, an American with many years residence in France, explores the French concept of seduction in La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life.
The "United States of Europe"
In earlier centuries, France was considered the world's cultural flagship, and to be considered very well educated, one would need to learn French. French was the language of high culture, of intellectuals, and diplomacy. As a diplomat around the time of the U.S. Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin ingratiated himself with the French and helped gain their support for the fledling United States independence.
But not any more
Much to the dismay of the French, their language and culture no longer have the influence of years past. English has become the language of trade and diplomacy in Europe and elsewhere, and U.S. culture (movies, TV, books, internet memes) has enormous influence on people from Madrid to Johannesburg.
Still seductive, though
Despite France's "falling in the ranks," so to speak, the French are still working from a different playbook when it comes to interpersonal relations. They view seduction (not simply the sexual kind) as a key part of connecting with other people. As I write this, I'm trying to think about just how to define "seduction" apart from its obvious sexual connotation. Consider that a bakery tries to "seduce" its customers; a student giving a presentation in high school tries to "seduce" her class; a politician is said to "seduce" the public as he campaigns. In this context, seduction is more like engagement or enticement. It can be a sort of flirtation, but not one, necessarily, with a sexual overtone.
Let the man flirt, will you?
In the early 2000s, I was waiting in line at a sub shop near the university campus. The guy ahead of me was paying for his meal and clearly flirting with the cashier. From his accent I sensed he was from Brazil. He kept chatting away just a little longer than he needed to make his purchase. I couldn't be sure, but it looks like he was close to the all important procuring of a phone number. I could see the undergrads in line behind me getting impatient, and I wanted to say to them: "Let the man flirt, will ya? He's workin', here!" While in the U.S., people in line would just like it to keep moving, in France they might give him a round of applause. OK, that's probably not a reasonable speculation, but you get the idea, right? In France, people are expected to seduce each other in light, playful ways.
Despite losing its status as the hub of intellect, language and culture, France still believes in seduction and flirtation—the little dance that U.S. residents sometimes forget.