“The French are rude” “They smell bad” “All they consume is either cheese, bread or wine or all the above” “They don’t like Americans” “French people never work” “They have exceptional clothing quality” “They’re such a romantic culture” and so it goes. These are the majority of the stereotypes and preconceived notions I had heard before coming to France nearly two months ago. I confidently can attest that the majority of these stereotypes hold true—in the most endearing way possible! While yes the French have the possibility to be dismissive, there are plenty of people who will spend all the time in the world trying to help you. While, yes the French can smell bad, it doesn’t help that being in a confined, hot classroom all day helps their case. Sure they might eat a lot of bread and wine and cheese, but hey who ever said that was such a bad thing?! My point is that these stereotypes mainly hold true, but that does not mean that every single person in the country of France embodies it.
This is one of the many things I’ve learned while being abroad is that, stereotypes, while they virtually exist everywhere are natural to human perception. We group people in particular ways subconsciously and assimilate people with similar traits—its natural! Some stereotypes are only noticeable though once living in a place for an extended period of time. Thus far I think the only stereotype that you would need to actually live in France to understand is their clothing choices. After a few weeks of classes and looking around to see what my peers were wearing I noticed an abundance of re-worn outfits—totally not a bad thing since I am guilty of that too. But from what I’ve seen for the most part is a higher quality choice of clothing and accessories than an excessive amounts of low-quality clothes. Even then, this stereotype is a not negative by any means and if anything is a compliment to the French for their quality and style!
As for the French I can’t speak entirely on their behalf but I have picked up on little cues during various group projects, out to dinner and so forth. I suggested once that we use a “google doc” as a PowerPoint so I too was able to contribute on my computer since I’m not familiar with the French keyboard (which by the way is different). After a quick little scoff I got the response “You Americans love your google docs”. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond since to me it just seems the most efficient way to all work together. After some thought about it, I realized that is the stereotype—“us” Americans look to be efficient and don’t realize that sometimes other people don’t understand how to use an operating system such as google docs. Long story short we did not use the google drive for the project and we ended up using regular PowerPoint and sending the document to one another as soon as we finished our individual part.
The only stereotype that majorly does not even hold true is that all French wear stripes, neck ties and berets. That’s why I’ve chosen this photo, to represent the utmost French Stereotype from head to toe. There are some elements that are true such as the smoking, baguette and wine bottle. Yet, they are not stereotypes here they are a culture. For example, I have three hour classes with a 15-minute break at the 90 minutes. During this break practically the entire school can be found in the front courtyard taking a cigarette break as a means of social communication. Another example is that almost everyday on my way home from school I can see someone carrying a baguette—not because it’s a stereotype but because it is their culture to get fresh bread daily. This is how they grew up and how they know how to go about their daily lives. Living in France has helped open my eyes that these stereotypes we hold about different culture may hold true but that is because it is a part of their culture and who they are as a nation.