French forget how to seduce

Once they were a byword for passion and romance, now they need lessons in love.
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The Independent Culture
Things aren't what they were with French stereotypes. Baseball caps easily outnumber berets and Big Macs top boeuf bourguignon. But now comes a blow to the cherished image of the Gallic lover. Veronique Jullien, 40, has set up the first "French School of Seduction", and though her service is open to foreigners, most of her customers are French.

"Seven easy steps is all it takes," claims the school's brochure. Ms Jullien estimates that she has treated more than 1,000 clients in the last three years, with about a 90 per cent success rate.

She is proud of the individual nature of her lessons, in contrast to the collective, group therapy approach of similar American courses, which she despises. The first stage is to build up a psychological profile of the client, or, as her brochure puts it, "discover yourself, your assets, your hidden talents and unused resources". Despite her negative attitude towards American methods, it appears that Ms Jullien has absorbed their jargon.

Having understood him, or herself, the pupil returns to the classroom for individual tuition on the biological and psychological differences between men and women: the French equivalent, it seems, of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Men and improve their relations with the opposite sex by understanding that their brains function in completely different ways.

Phase three of "Mission Seduce" is along the lines of Colour Me Beautiful - aesthetic improvements are made in keeping with a person's own personality. Veronique Jullien has an album of before and after photos. The models in the before photos pose with folded arms and negative body language; afterwards they are miraculously transformed into carefree, positive people.

My personal favourite is a bachelor wearing a Paisley jumper at home in his messy apartment, who metamorphoses into a suave man about town, in a dark overcoat in the classy Jardins des Tuileries.

Trainee seducers then receive voice and articulation lessons, to help maximise the impression they make during the crucial first 30 seconds of contact. They have the opportunity to "get to know the words and sentences which move the heart". Facial expressions and gestures are also worked upon.

Next, a theatre company is used to provide the clients with role-play situations where theoretical knowledge can be put into practice. This is the only part of the course where the clients get to meet each other. Ms Jullien believes that this is essential for the development of communication skills.

(It seems she has been correct in identifying this as a crucial weakness in her clients. Towards the end of our interview a potential pupil in his early sixties turned up at her office (French seductiveness knows no age barriers). He refused to respond to my greeting, whether out of embarrassment or rudeness.

At the end of the course, the pupils are released back into their natural habitat, the Parisian social jungle, equipped, in theory, with everything needed to be seductive.

This comprehensive and tailor-made programme is not cheap, however: the equivalent of pounds 500 for the two-month intensive format, and pounds 1,300 for the more leisurely nine-month programme.

Veronique Jullien, unsurprisingly, believes that this is great value for money: "You will be astonished with the results... nothing will ever be the same again!"

So why the need for classes in seduction? According to Ms Jullien it is a symptom of our times: "While we have evolved in terms of equal rights for men and women, we have regressed as far as male/female interaction is concerned."

Women's arrival in the workplace, it seems, has seen professional ambition usurp sexual libido, even in France. Veronique Jullien elaborates: "Women are too busy to waste time chasing men, and men find it difficult to approach successful women."

The aim of the school is to integrate seduction into today's liberated society. Ms Jullien points to Melanie Griffith's character in the film Working Girl as a role model.

"Many people think that it is hypocritical to talk of women's rights and the art of seduction in the same sentence, but what most of us want is affection and love.

"The techniques we need to learn are those that allow us to choose... without sacrificing other ambitions."

Our desires have remained traditional, she claims, despite the revolution in the workplace.

Yet just how seductive is Ms Jullien herself? I have to confess that I was expecting the true Parisian stereotype, immaculately turned out in a chic Chanel two-piece. In fact she is sporting a fleece and casual trousers. She is evidently conscious of this. "Excuse my attire," she says. "I went jogging earlier and it's been so busy today, I've not had time to change." I notice that under the desk she's wearing snake-skin ankle boots - an interesting choice of running shoes.

As for her own successes in seduction, she has been happily married for five years now. I ask her how she met her husband. "It was five years ago, on a pavement in Rome," she informs me. "He's Italian, he came straight up to me on the street and asked me for a coffee."

Perhaps the national model of French Seduction School is not so French after all.