This Is What Parisians Really Think About Public Displays Of Affection

When the City of Love just means people making out next to you in the metro.

Paris: a city immortalized in our minds by its luminous cafés, splendid architecture, Haussmannian boulevards, the glistening Seine... and, if you’ve spent more than a day in the city, by its amorous couples. Men and women strolling the streets hand-in-hand, embracing on the platform of the metro, kissing passionately – with varying degrees of intensity. 

These public displays of affection feature in the backdrop of the Paris we know and love, so, in a city where making out in the middle of the street is par for the course, we were curious as to what Parisians really thought about it. We reached out to some of the locals to get their own opinions on PDA. 


First of all, everyone was quick to distinguish between the different types of PDA that they have encountered in Paris. While many agreed that a little bisou on the lips was cute, and even touching to witness, they were just as adamant about setting limits: “we can’t consider a kiss, an embrace, and behavior that verges on public sex, in the same way,” said Hélène. Émilie agreed: “when we show affection for someone, it should never become vulgar or disgusting. For example, a woman doesn’t need to dress provocatively in order to be sexy. It’s the same for PDA... a passionate glance or a romantic embrace is worth more than an orgy.” Meryem was particularly opposed to one of the most popular forms of Parisian passion: the metro make-out. “It’s a dirty and crowded place, and I for one wouldn’t be inspired by [it].”

A passionate glance or a romantic embrace is worth more than an orgy 

Emmanuel offered a slightly different take. “I think that every person should be free to express the love they feel for another in whatever way they wish. If you want to take the girl you love in your arms and kiss her, and if she also wants to, why not? There are limits to consider, but it also depends on how much importance you place on what others think, as well as your personal level of comfort.”

Every person should be free to express the love they feel
So how do these Parisians actually react when they themselves get swept up in the moment? “Who hasn’t dreamed about living out a passionate relationship on the picturesque streets of Paris?” quipped Émilie. She admitted to “several little things that aren’t particularly original in Paris: kissing in a cafe or under the awning of a boutique until the rain let up, and walking hand-in-hand in the most romantic streets of the capital.” For Meryem, “it usually takes alcohol. Shortly after meeting my current boyfriend – who used to work with me – we started making out at an office party at a club and surprised our colleagues.” Emmanuel has gone all out: “at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, we found a tranquil spot under a tree and lay down together. We had our arms around each other and were kissing. I kept looking around me to see if there was anyone there, because I don’t think you should be too shocking.”

We found a tranquil spot under a tree and lay down together

As for why PDA flourishes in Paris, our French friends had several hypotheses: “I guess the '60s and '70s really did their work here,” said Pascal, hinting to the cultural revolution engendered by the May 1968 revolts. “I do think that French people tend to be more open toward sexuality.” Many of them conceded that, even as natives to the city, Paris remains the city of love par excellence. “This image comes from both literature – La Dame aux Camélias – and cinema: Casablanca, Amélie, Midnight in Paris,” said Hela. “Walking through Paris with a loved one has a particular charm, and can even be narcissistic — you know that you look beautiful against such a gorgeous decor.” 

“Her beauty invites us to create our own love story,” Émilie concluded. “Paris is love: it’s something that we’ve grown up with, and it stays with us.”

Cover Image: