I heard a lot about French people before I moved to France, both from friends/media, but I didn’t really know what to expect or which ones would turn out to be true. I’ve only been France a few weeks and have only really been to Paris and the Nice area, so I can’t speak for all of France, but this is my experience so far!
French people are rude/don’t want to help you
Stereotype: BUSTED. I have had instances where a few people have been rude to me, like I mentioned here with the woman who wouldn’t give me directions when I was lost, and also at the grocery store. I COULD NOT find baking powder for the life of me and I finally asked someone who worked there. We were right by the aisle with flour, sugar, yeast, etc. and said said it was there. I said at least twice that it wasn’t there, trying to imply that she should show me, but she had no intention of moving to help me and then told me to go look in the bakery section. Needless to say, I walked out empty-handed. Well… with just a jumbo jar of Nutella in my hands. But for the most part, people have been just as nice here or even nicer than they are in the States.
French people smell bad
Stereotype: BUSTED. There are times that the tram is packed and it doesn’t smell the best, but that happens everywhere. I haven’t noticed French people being any more smelly than Americans.
French women don’t shave their armpits/legs
Stereotype: BUSTED. I think this is a throwback to an earlier age. I haven’t noticed any unshaven armpits or legs on women. However, apparently it is a thing that men trim their armpit hair. I haven’t seen it, but I guess it’s common.
Parisians are always in a hurry
Stereotype: CONFIRMED. Paris was crazy, but based on my experience in Chicago and also what my parents have told me about New York, that’s how every big city is. Parisians are especially rushed near the Metro; they definitely don’t follow the whole “stay to the right of the sidewalk” rule that people in less crowded areas of the States seem to adhere to. If there’s a big group of people going in the same direction, they spread out and take over the whole hallway/sidewalk/stairs until someone coming the other way FORCES them to move. And Parisians walk FAST.
French people don’t work
Stereotype: PLAUSIBLE. (Okay, I know that doesn’t make perfect sense, but I’m sticking with the whole Mythbusters thing I’ve got going here.) Obviously, French people do have to work, but it definitely seems to be less than in the States. LOOOONG lunch breaks are common, there are ALWAYS people out and about doing things like eating at cafes at all hours of the day, and even French teachers don’t seem to work as many hours as American teachers. I’ll have to get one of my teachers’ schedules so that I can see just how many hours they work a week. Oh, and almost everything here is closed on Sundays.
French people strike all the time
Stereotype: PLAUSIBLE. I haven’t seen any strikes in my time here, however, I do remember seeing a sign in the post office something about “In case of a strike…” Also, I’ve only been here a few weeks, so it’s possible some sort of strike will occur while I’m here.
UPDATE: Nationwide transportation strike Oct 24-26. Many flights and train trips cancelled. There ya go. CONFIRMED.
French people eat a lot of baguettes/cheese/wine/coffee
Stereotype: CONFIRMED CONFIRMED CONFIRMED CONFIRMED!! Nearly everyone in the grocery store leaves with a baguette, and it’s common to see people walking down the sidewalk with a baguette in hand, possibly munching on it. There are two aisles at the grocery store devoted to cheese and wine, and when walking down the sidewalk along outdoor cafes nearly everyone has a tiny cup of espresso. You can also get espresso nearly everywhere here, even in school cafeterias!!
French people are short
Stereotype: PLAUSIBLE. I hadn’t heard this one, but when collecting stereotypes about French people from my American friends this one came up. I wouldn’t include it if not for the chandeliers at my apartment- THEY’RE INCREDIBLY LOW. Poor David hits his head on nearly all of them and even I can’t clear the one by the front door. So maybe it’s just my apartment, but they seem to assume people are a lot shorter than 6’4″.
French people wear berets
Stereotype: BUSTED. I haven’t seen a single beret here. Sorry guys.
French people are open sexually
Stereotype: CONFIRMED! Between the condom machines along the sidewalks, the signs promoting birth control in my high school (oh, there’s a condom machine right next to it, too), the copious amounts of PDA, and women showing their bras (even girls at my high school!!), I can say with certainty that French people are WAY more open about sex than Americans. At dinner with some French friends, we even talked about this, and a French girl who studied abroad in Nebraska agreed that Americans are extremely uptight about sex and sexuality compared to French people.
French people eat at cafes often
Stereotype: CONFIRMED. Nearly every street here is lined with cafes, and each has tables outside. At any hour of the day, there may be people sitting there eating, drinking espresso, and talking, and at lunchtime they’re nearly all packed!
French people smoke a lot
Stereotype: CONFIRMED! Soo many people smoke here, even young women, which surprises me the most. I hardly know any girls my age in the States that smoke.
That’s it for stereotypes I can think of for now… if you’ve been to France, do you agree or disagree with my findings? Also, are there any other stereotypes about France/French people that you’ve heard and want to know about? Let me know in the comments!