Article Contributed by Karol Osinski - Intern
In A Few Lies About France: And the Truths that Go With Them
Ever since I can remember, American attitudes towards the French have been less than favorable. The French are thought of as nothing but stuck up, rude cowardly people that hate Americans and should be hated themselves. This is strange considering how instrumental each country was in the creation of the other. Wherever these attitudes came from, they exist, and they are powerful enough to keep many Americans from adding France to their European travel itineraries.
This week I am going to take a look at some of the most popular French stereotypes and give you all some much truth, along with some hints for those of you who are thinking of crossing the pond to experience France for yourselves.
1. The French are rude. There are rude people everywhere. However, there are no more in France than in any other country. Why do people get this impression? Simply put, cultural mix-ups. If you are traveling to France there are some things you must keep in mind. First, you are in someone else’s country; treat it and its people with respect. To avoid offending a Frenchmen and incurring his wrath there are a few things to remember. First off, when approaching someone, always begin by saying “bonjour.” It is considered rude to simply start talking like we do here. Secondly, learn a few key phrases in French. “Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?” is a good one to know. It means, “Hello, do you speak English?” By at least attempting to know some French, you make an attempt to respect the culture you are surrounded by, instead of coming across as someone waiting for the world to accommodate them. Finally, to avoid dirty looks and bad service in a café, keep it quiet. The French are a low-key kind of people. Loud is rude to them and they will respond in kind.
2. All French people smoke. More true than the last one, but still false. There are a lot of smokers in France. However, not everyone is puffing away. If you go, be prepared to deal with some second hand smoke in cafés, restaurants, on the street and even inside the airports. Although smoking rules are more lax than in the USA, most people will ask the waiter or owner whether or not they can light up, especially if no one around is smoking (something to keep in mind for any smoking tourists). As is the case in the US, France is working towards being more non-smoker friendly, but haven’t come nearly as far as the US or other nations like Spain.
3. French women don’t shave their armpits. Maybe this was true at some point in the past. I’m only 23 years old. I know there were plenty of hippie women in the US about 35-40 years ago that didn’t shave theirs. All I know is that when I was in France the women were not only shaven but otherwise impeccably groomed and fashionably dressed, many of them more so than American women. I didn’t see one hairy female armpit.
4. The French hate Americans. Yes and no, let me explain. Many French people take issue with the American government. Let’s not go into why. However, most French are very good about separating American people from the government that rules them. Of course, no matter where you go, there is inevitably some jerk who will hassle you for being this or for being that, so if you run into that guy it would be best to simply ignore him.
Aside from that small chance of running into a jerk, the French are friendly. The key to getting along in France or the French is respect. Keep in mind that you are in, or dealing with someone from, a foreign country, learn some key phrases in French, keep your volume down and stay out of talking politics with the locals. Doing so will assuredly break these stereotypes and give you a new appreciation for the rich culture of France.