Stereotypes About The French
When visiting any foreign country, it's easy to give in to stereotypes. It's a good idea to understand stereotypes and their sources.
There are several myths about French people that are heard throughout the United States and, unfortunately, many people believe some rather negative things are true of the French. The fact is that these stories are actually mass generalizations that could apply to a person from any cultural background.
While these stereotypes are untrue, many of these stories have some sort of reasoning behind them... the rest are just plain silly.
It is important to debunk the myths surrounding different cultures because they can be hurtful to others. This is because, like you, many French people are proud of their heritage. For this reason (and many others), it's important for everyone to respect cultural differences.
Myth #1: Everyone in France Smokes
While there are many people in France who do smoke, not everyone in France smokes. Many young people do not smoke.
There is also a public smoking ban in France that is currently in effect which makes smoking in public illegal. So anyone who does not like to be around cigarette smoke is free to visit France without coming back with lung cancer.
Myth #2: French People Smell Bad
What? Hygiene is practiced in France… just as it is in the US. This one's a total lie! The average French person bathes or showers at least once a day just as people do in the United States. This myth is extra silly because France manufactures a huge amount of perfume, so if anything, you'd think French people smell better!
Myth #3: You Have to Speak French to Visit France
This depends on where you're going. If you're visiting large cities like Marseille, Paris, Lyon, etc., then chances are you'll be able to get by just speaking English. If you're going off the beaten path to explore small towns and villages, then knowing some French is helpful. Of course, those fluent in French will have it easier, but it's not impossible to travel around France knowing no French.
It's considered polite to attempt to speak French (even if it's out of a phrase book) instead of assuming someone speaks English. I recommend starting out by asking the person if they speak English: Parlez-vous Anglais?
Myth #4: The French Hate Americans
The French are able to separate the American people from the administration that runs the US. Those who travel France and are respectful of any cultural differences will find that the French are warm, friendly people. It's important to think about where this myth comes from.
When visiting France, do as the French do. It's important to be respectful of cultural differences no matter where you're at. Problems start when we are disrespectful of others beliefs and lifestyles that problems.
By getting rid of the mentality that "America is the best country in the world" and accepting that there is no best, more people will have respect for Americans. It's just not healthy to have an "I'm from the best country in the world" mentality. It's not accurate and it's not a great way to get along with others.
Myth #5: French Women Don’t Shave Their Armpits
As one of the most popular French myths, this myth was probably spread by some guy seeing the one French woman who hadn’t shaved in a week. There probably are some women in France who don’t shave their armpits, but there is probably an equal percentage of women in the US who don’t shave their armpits.
Myth #6: The French are Snobby & Rude
This one depends on perspective. Before calling someone snobby or rude, it's important to understand cultural differences.
With a little education on a particular situation, a person can find they can understand and get along with just about anyone. That doesn't go to say that there are absolutely no rude people in France. There are rude people everywhere, it's a fact of life!
© 2009 Melanie Palen