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Don't bring bad wine to a party; avoid 'tourist clothes'

Don't bring bad wine to a party and avoid 'tourist clothes': For English women in France, how to be the perfect madame
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With their reputation for being perfectly preened, primped and poised at all times, it’s no wonder French women tend to intimidate the British.
But according to one, the Gallic approach to life can be learned – just as long as you’re not too bothered about being punctual.
Géraldine Lepère is determined to dispel the myth that Frenchwomen are perfect and to teach British expatriates how to avoid embarrassment in social situations across the Channel.
She has written a book called Comme une Française – Like a Frenchwoman – which was inspired by her own experiences of struggling to fit in during two years living and working in Leeds.
Miss Lepère realised that many Brits are daunted by the formidable reputation of the French, especially after a torrent of publications – with titles such as French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Children Don’t Throw Food – telling them how their continental counterparts do things better.
But Miss Lepère, 27, from Grenoble, said: ‘Our reputation is such that [British women] get the impression they’re doing it all wrong.
‘We daunt them, so I break down the clichés and explain without taboos our codes – ones we don’t even know we have.’
Arriving on time for dinner in France, for example, is a cardinal sin.
‘You British are so punctual, but in France if you arrive bang on time you are likely to be met by someone without make-up and an uncooked dinner,’ Miss Lepère warned. She said she always tells her foreign friends to be 15 to 20 minutes late, but no more as this would be ‘impolite’.
The non-initiated should also brush up on current affairs as the French love to debate, she added.
British women – and those from America – are also advised to learn to take compliments in their stride, and make sure they do not interpret them as a come-on or even as sexual harassment.
‘How many foreign married women are thunderstruck to hear their French friend’s husband tell them “You look ravishing this evening”?’ she asked. ‘We flirt all the time.
‘If a man in the street tells you “You are very pretty mademoiselle”, this doesn’t mean he wants to sleep with you, it just means he thinks you are attractive so he tells you.
‘My advice is say “Thank you”, take it as a free pick-me-up, like a sunny day.’
Miss Lepère found said she found people to be very ‘warm and open’ during her time in Britain – but admitted she was perplexed by conversations that revolved around TV and popular culture, and shocked to see colleagues go out wearing miniskirts in subzero temperatures and drink her under the table.
She found she only began to understand British culture when she began to join her colleagues on their Friday lunchtime pub outings.
Realising many of the women among the 150,000 British expatriates in France must be going through similar issues, she decided to write her book and launch an online course.
She admitted French women do have high standards, but added: ‘If you start going toward them, you’ll find they love foreign culture and the British have a very good reputation in France.’
By Ben Spencer
Daily Mail - Fly at a Smile-Price