Saturday, May 12, 2012

Winking at work

I grow up believing that if someone (especially a guy) winks at you, he is flirting with you. So when the first time a French man winked at me, I was a bit lost. Later I found out that he was winking at all the girls, I felt relieved.

Now I really wonder what does winking mean for the French as it happens also at work. During a meeting, during one to one conversation, during group discussions...there is no way the person is trying to flirt when he winks to male and female coworkers and several people one second after another?

So I "interviewed" two coworkers. They said it could mean complicity. Like we are plotting something towards someone (during a meeting) and the wink is a gesture to say that we are the accomplices. That makes sense to me.

Well, the second part of the interview cracked me out though. I asked them what gesture would mean flirting in France then. The answer: "I don't know actually", both of them said after thinking for a moment. Oh my god they forgot how to flirt, aren't French supposed to be one of the most romantic people in the world?

Site note 1

When checking on Wikipedia about winking, I saw this note: When Frederick Spencer Chapman was training Chinese guerrillas in Malaya to shoot rifles, he found that a large proportion of them were unable to close only one eye at a time. Normal, the Chinese boys are not used to flirting with eyes.

Side note 2

This led me think of the interview with too girl friends here about relationship.
"When is the cutting moment that signifies he & she are entering a love relationship? For certain Malaysians, it starts the moment the couple hold hands." I explained. "No cutting moment like the Malaysians actually", they replied. Curious, I pressed on : "Does the boy ask the girl if she wants to be his girlfriend?" They looked at each other and said "No. There is no need to ask the question, the boy would know if the girl agrees or not". I think most of the Malaysian boys would like to date the French girls then.

Side note 3

The word "dating" does not exist in French. So when a boy asks a girl out on a date, he would not say "would you like to go on a date with me?", he would say instead "let's go for a movie / to a restaurant" and you might not know ahead if he intends to date or it is just a simple friendly outing. Well, my coworker disagreed with me. "You will know if it is a date or not", he insisted. Ok, I think they are blunt enough with their feelings that you got to know.


  1. Hi Bee Ean
    Very interesting post. This makes me think of us (Malaysian girls) dated our husbands the French. Well, during my dating days with my husband, it was true that we never said..well you are my boy friend or girl friend from now.. guess the felling was very obvious but there was not a cutting line..

  2. I don't really agree about the phrasing. "J'aimerais sortir avec toi/I would like to go out with you" unambiguously refers to dating while "On pourrait se faire un ciné/We should go to a movie" doesn't.

    Of course this doesn't mean that the second invitation has no ulterior motives if things go well but it bears no automatic romantic implications.

    About "the cutting moment", I think that it is simply when the two kisses. And I'm not sure that there would be much hand-holding before that because it would just be awkward with a simple friend.

    About flirting, it would be trying to have some one-to-one conversations, smiling a lot, asking personnal questions, maybe a little physical contact like touching cloth or examining jewelry.
    But I think that most girls would find rude and overconfident if a boy were to wink at them out of the blue in a "no need for talking, I expect you to fall in my arms" sense.

  3. Thanks Jem for the explanation.
    How would you say in French then "I'm having a date tonight"?

  4. Ce serait "J'ai un rencard/rendez-vous ce soir" ou bien "Je sors avec quelqu'un ce soir", "Je vois une fille ce soir".
    Thinking about it I think that the sentimental involvement is stressed by the use of "Je". Because you would say "On se fait un resto/film avec les copains/une amie.", meaning that it's more a group decision rather than a move that you make on someone by proposing this date.

    Of course this is only speaking of the times where the meaning could be ambiguous, because there is also all the unambiguous (and often rude) ways to express this between male friends like for example "Ce soir j'essaie de conclure avec cette fille" (trying to seal the deal).

  5. I've had the same confusion with clients winking at me at work, but since I don't work with any other young women- it's hard for me to tell what their intentions are. I think it's probably harmless, just like you've described here.