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The Truth About French Stereotypes

Friday, January 24, 2014

As Mat and I talk about him moving to America with me, I really think about how we Americans view the French. Ha. Before ever coming to France I had the traditional image in my head: thick mustache, beret, striped shirt, bicycle, and baguette. Oh and his name is Pierre, along with every other person in this country.

I asked Mathieu to put the beret on just for pure entertainment.
My friend Ryan wore this exact costume last Halloween, just to poke fun at our French friend Guillermo. So far I've seen 2 people who have dressed this way..sorry they biked too fast for me to ask if their names were Pierre.
Cliché french costume
I also had the impression that all French people were hairy. Welp--the men are. But quite frankly I question any man with a shaved/waxed chest anywho. As for the girls, it's completely false. I think that was one of my first questions to Mat actually, and he was baffled that we even thought this.

You all know where I'm heading after this right? Smelly. Of course. Okay so this one I'll be real honest with. Our gym smells like a porter potty sometimes, and the tram can nearly set fire to my nose hairs, BUT, it was the same in Italy. So I'm not succumbing just the French to this. Europe does not allow for aluminum in the deodorant and they are not 'antiperspirants' either. Therefore, until my mom sent my over a box of chemicals (aka American antiperspirant) I too smelled very bad.

Side note: Mat showers 3-4 times a day so I can tell you he smells great.
Paris, France September 2013
On a serious level the one stereotype I wish didn't exist is that the French hate Americans, and that they are mean people. Every single person I have met here has been wonderful to me, with or without Mat around. They make an effort. Before I knew French it was really hard for me, and yet still with as little of English they knew, each person tried their hardest to speak with me. One girl even went as far as to sit with me and go back and fourth on Google Translate.

A really strange coincidence is actually occurring while I'm writing this that I just overheard on tv. Previous president, Nicolas Sarkozy said in a speech to the U.S Congress "France is the friend of the United States of America. It is not simply I, the French president who says that; I am simply the expression the voice of the people of France." This is far more accurate.

For some more less serious stereotypes, I was also convinced everyone was healthy and stick thin. Stick thin, yes. Healthy? Eh. The things they do differently: they don't snack and most of them smoke. The French don't fear dessert, cheese, alcohol, or basically anything. But they also don't overindulge in it either. While I'm arm deep in a box of cookies, Mat is patiently waiting for dinner.

Speaking of him, I stereotyped the French with being romantic. This one is completely true. People making out in the streets, men buying flowers for their women, and couples spoon feeding each other dessert. Depending on my mood that day I either think it's just so0o0o cute, or I'm sick.
The boys on New Years Eve 2013
I give the frenchmen credit though, they respect women more than I have ever seen. Chivalry isn't dead here. They know how to be courteous: holding doors for girls, apologizing when cursing, pulling out chairs. Every single one of Mat's friends kisses my cheek hello before shaking his hand. It's sad that my American generation is completely shot of this.

This whole stereotype thing is a worry for Mathieu a bit. Would you want someone to automatically think you hate their country? Or that you don't shower and are rude? Of course not. However, my friends in America welcomed him with open arms, and although I know he might encounter a few ignorant people along the way, I feel like we don't really believe our own stereotypes sometimes. Oui oui.


credit: http://ohsacrebleu.wordpress.com/category/french-culture/ for cliché frenchman photo

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