French Stereotypes – Do they hold up?
Okay, so we all know that the Stereotypes regarding the French are plentiful. But, really, can one culture hold up to being so many things? I moved to France for a few months to find out (granted this wasn’t my sole reason to move there), and here’s what I think you’ll find.
Stereotype 1 – French are Arrogant
Everyone has certainly heard of this one. Whether you hear it as too proud, cocky, full-of-themselves or a bunch of snobs it all boils down to the same thing… they’re arrogant.
However, if you go there you’re not even remotely going to land upon this generalization. You will certainly find the French incredibly friendly and humble. They will apologize that they don’t speak English so well and be so happy to help you when you put in a bit of effort in French. You’ll be shocked at just how hospitable they are. There are of course, exceptions to every rule and this one has 2:
1) You will need to learn French.
2) Paris doesn’t count. Even most of the French will speak about the Parisien’s as having an attitude.
Stereotype 2 – French don’t want to speak English
This is sort of a spin-off from the first. The thought is that the French are so cocky about their own language that they don’t feel as though they need to speak another language.
This one might be a bit more difficult for you to wrap your head around. They certainly show an interest in learning other languages, and English is right up there at the top with Spanish… but somehow, they don’t speak English anywhere close to as well as ANY of their neighbours. You’ll get many different explanations about how the school system doesn’t teach it well, to how past animosity against the English hasn’t worn off or how (as a whole) they don’t travel enough (although that’s hard to believe when you meet French people in every other country)… the fact of the matter is that English is not their strong suit, but it has little to do with lack of desire.
Stereotype 3 – French are fancy
I love this one! I will say that the French have a certain class to them that doesn’t come easily to us North Americans… but then again, isn’t that Europe in general?
You will most likely find that the French are not more caught up on looks and fashion than any other western country. If anything, you may find that their motto of freedom stretches into their fashion sense and you will feel comfortable in whatever you’re wearing. You’ll find very little judgement regarding your clothing and express your own take on the word ‘classy’.
Stereotype 4 – French stink
Another classic! They never bathe, and they just stink up the joint!
Well one thing can certainly be said on this one ‘their are some stinky-ass cheeses in France’. I’m almost certain that at least half the reason that we don’t allow some of those cheese to come to North America is due to the ‘smell police’… we don’t need any of that stink pollution back home (even if they are delicious).
Furthermore, they have higher rates of smoking and drink their coffee at the end of meals. Thus, it can certainly be said that French breath, at times, may have a certain odour to it that will make you wish you hadn’t learn to speak French after all… but that feeling won’t last.
You may also find that the French are more conscious of the products they use and their effects. Thus, they may not use the powerful deodorants and colognes that are all-too-common in North America. But saying they stink is incredibly exaggerated. They may not smell as though they swam in a bowl of strawberry juice and dried themselves with rose petals as some North Americans do… but aren’t those the people that make you get out of the elevator two floors too early?
Stereotype 5 – French are Artsy
The French have always been much more artistic as a nation. There’s a reason why Picasso, Monet, Hemingway, Fitzegerald, and a thousand others lived in Paris.
Here’s the first stereotype I will fully endorse… to the chagrin of a few people in France who did their best to convince me it wasn’t true. You won’t find that the French are particularly more talented or anything like that, but you will find that they are just a little more interested and thus spend more money on the arts.
My personal belief is that this all springs from the highway system. Because honestly, at times you will be convinced that the government hires abstract artists to draw rough sketches of road maps… and then they construct them exactly as-is.
The first time you enter a round-about and see three exits that all say the same thing, you’ll see what I mean… you need an artistic point of view to make sense of how three totally different directions are going towards the same city… 50 kilometres away.
But hey, this is all part of the experience in France!
So go learn French, and buy yourself a cheap flight, you won’t regret it.
You’ll never be disappointed by the way that the French shed the stereotypes that we have placed upon them from our high towers on the other side of the Atlantic.