We soon realised that we were talking about two completely different situations: he was a man and I was a woman.
To add to this fundamental discrepancy, when I lived in Paris I taught English in the private sector, which meant that I spent rather a lot of time travelling around in a short, straight skirt and tailored jacket. In Paris, men will sometimes even go as far as offering their seat in the metro to a young woman dressed in a conservative style.
This is not something I do in Toulouse, and I have noticed that people are a little less polite here. Old women, of course, have to stay standing up, which is hardly surprising since they appear to have become invisible (best not be old in Paris, in any case). ) for women over here is that it takes a relatively long time to get to this stage of invisible old age.
French women fulfil their side of the bargain by looking enticing, which requires quite enough effort; they are not going to take any further steps such as being encouraging.
No doubt this is why a (male) Australian friend of mine, who managed, after a year in France, to acquire a French girlfriend, confided "Whew, that was hard work".
After barely a year in this country I was in fact rejected by some politically correct Australian friends (ex-friends) because they thought I was adapting too well to French society (and also because I was letting my hair grow long, although this was more because I couldn't afford to go to the hairdresser than because I was succumbing to the dominant paradigm).
I admit that now, seven years down the track, I am so used to having doors held open for me that when I come back to Sydney I get hit by them as they close... But cultural differences do not always fit simply onto a scale of more or less sexist, more or less correct.
As for the other side of the bargain, it has its ups and downs.
Whereas in some countries (and notably Australia) courtship is something that happens between two people, in France it is the man's job, and quite some job it proves to be.(The club's age group is mainly between 30 and 60, the innuendo getting more explicit among the older half.) One result of this generalized "drague" is the mixing of the sexes: men and women actually talk to each other at social occasions, rather than separating along strict gender lines with the women in the kitchen and the men in the armchairs, like in Australia.This is rather pleasant, but of course there is a down side: it is hard work to establish any kind of female complicity, let alone the easy-going, almost automatic sense of solidarity I used to think was normal.It is actually easier for a woman to establish a friendly relationship with a man than with a woman here, though of course this relationship will often be based on a kind of diffuse flirting (in the English sense; be careful, in French "flirter" necessarily involves intimate physical contact -- something of which my dictionary, once again, fails miserably to inform me).Of course, this whole system -- and even more so, enjoying it -- is terribly politically incorrect.This is called "la drague", a word for which my dictionary fails lamentably to provide any translation but "dragnet"; it does better on the verb "draguer" which is "to chat up girls", and the noun "dragueur", which means either a "dragnet fisherman" or a "guy who's always after the girls".