Life in Paris

Des faux stéréotypes sur les français

1. They all smell like garlic 

This, believe it or not, is not true. It’s somewhat similar to the British stereotype that says we all drink tea. Yes, a lot of people DO drink tea but with a population of around 50 million you can’t expect everyone to enjoy a brew just because the Queen did. It’s the same with the French.  The French do not smell and they only smell like garlic when they eat snails, as anyone would.

2. French women don’t shave their armpits

I’ve been in Paris for over 2 years now and I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t shave her armpits. They are definitely more focused on natural beauty than we are; they wear less make up, they make being glamorous look easy and their beauty is very subtle…but as much as they uphold natural beauty, most women do shave their armpits.

3. The French are rude

Okay, so some French people can be a bit impolite but who isn’t compared to us Brits?! We apologise just for breathing and always say please and thank you to anyone and everyone. As I explained in my previous blog this ‘misunderstanding’ about French behaviour is actually due to quite a large cultural divide. If the English or Americans made even a small effort to learn basic French words they would soon see that the French are not as rude as everyone thinks. They’re rude to lazy foreigners who think that being an English speaker means they don’t have to make any effort to speak any other languages when they travel. Imagine a French person coming to the UK and refusing to speak in English, what would you think?

4. The French hate the Americans

This is actually completely false. Since France refused to go to war with Iraq you could argue that it’s the Americans who dislike the French. France has embraced all the big franchises such as MacDonalds nicknamed MacDo to sound more French, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Hollister and Abercrombie into their society and understand that by doing so they can help to boost the economy. Young people also try to emulate the Americans and American films are extremely popular in France.

5.  French toilets are disgusting

I remember my first date with my French ex-boyfriend. He took me to a lovely little brasserie on Rue Mouffetard and we had a couple of drinks overlooking the square. I thought I’d better use the bathroom before we went to dinner so off I went to find the toilet. At first I thought I’d entered the mens, this couldn’t possibly be the ladies, could it? What I found was a hole-in-the-ground squatting toilet. Apparently, they are quite popular in France, but this was the first one I’d encountered. Needless to say I didn’t use the bathroom here and prayed that the restaurant would have a normal loo. To my relief I soon discovered that these kind of toilets are very traditional French cafes and brasseries. Most places have normal, clean toilets.

6. All French people smoke

A lot of people do still smoke in France and it’s definitely more present than in the UK. However it’s definitely changed since the law prohibiting smoking in public places was introduced in 2007. I have a lot of friends who used to smoke but quit after this change and at least people can’t smoke in bars anymore! It makes it much easier for people in France to quit smoking now.

7. French women are stick thin

In general, I think French women are thinner on average than women in the uk. The majority seem to be around a size 6-8 whereas in the UK I would guess the national average is around 10-12, it’s only a small size difference but it’s definitely noticeable.

8. French people wear berets while riding bicycles with baskets full of baguettes

I’m quite sure that anyone who comes to Paris expects to see the stereotypical image of a French person riding a bicycle. Thanks to the amazing Velib system there are literally bikes and people on bikes everywhere you look. Generally speaking they are carrying baguettes in their panier. The one thing they are definitely NOT doing is wearing berets. This is something that is much more popular in Brittany. In Paris if someone is wearing a beret, they’re a tourist.

9. The French won’t speak English and will laugh at your French

This is 100% NOT true. French people always try to speak English even if you speak to them in French. It wasn’t until I became bilingual in French well that people finally stopped replying in English and even now if they hear just a hint of my British accent they often say ohhhh vous venez d’ou? I think a lot of foreigners think they aren’t very patient because of their mannerisms. When you speak to them in French they will often say Quoi?? Ehh?? or Pardon?? but it’s not to be rude it’s just their way of letting you know that they don’t understand so you need to repeat, speak slowly or speak in English.

10. Mimes are everywhere 

I have, kind of sadly, never seen a mime in Paris. Maybe they’re all hiding out in some secret Mime cave…you never know, this is Paris after all.

One Comment

  • Robert Dean Hubbard

    We’ve been to Paris for many weeks at a time during the past twenty years. Regarding “rude French”, that misconception is largely due to many Americans coming from smaller towns where the faster pace of a big city and its inhabitants give the tourists an impression of curt responses from the natives. The same thing is said of New Yorkers and for the same reason; people in a big city say things more quickly and may stare at you intently for a few seconds to see if what was said actually was processed by the deer-in-the-headlights tourist. Tourists are also very slow on the sidewalks so it’s no wonder they may be bumped along the way. Americans especially are usually loud and boisterous without regard to their surroundings. It’s easy to be unfriendly to such tourists. Not knowing some of the language is simply irresponsible and invites an uncaring attitude toward the lazy guests of the city. The rudest and crudest people in Paris these days are among the throngs of Chinese and Russians.

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