Before coming to France this year, there was one comment I received more than any other: “You can meet a handsome French man now!” But before I whacked out my best stripey top and reapplied the mascara I began to think about French stereotypes and how true to life they actually are. Do they really consider chain smoking more important than applying deodorant? Are berets permanently stapled to the tops of their heads whilst they down copious amounts of pretentious wine? And exactly how romantic is this land of all things suave and beautiful?
The French on: Fashion
Funnily enough when someone says French fashion I automatically think Gossip Girl hero and big city rich girl, Blair Waldorf. This already says a lot. Those that know me will have heard my terrible tourist tales of my days out in London- I simply do not feel like I fit in, and a lot of this is related to how I hold myself and especially what I wear. I think the stereotype of French fashion focuses heavily on Paris and the French Riviera. My fashion experience with the ‘average’ French person over the years has been a casual whirlwind of flattering jeans, nice jumpers and classy boots. However, I’ve also been met with shell suits, white socks and crocs. In short- it varies! Jean Paul Gautier and Coco Chanel might have been French but that doesn’t mean all French people can or want to own such posh clothes. When someone asks about French fashion, think cool and comfy, not Coco and cosmopolitan.
The French on: Drinking and Smoking
The assumptions about French smoking and drinking habits might be more on point. Walking to work in the morning it’s become the norm to walk past 14 year old girls having a cheeky cig before school. The same goes for my work colleagues. I’ve started to feel Jennifer Aniston’s pain but am determined not to let my lack of smoking affect my social life at work. As for drinking- it seems that if you have French citizenship you gain an innate ability to know which wine to drink in every social situation. Rosé is simply not enough anymore. The French really are the royals of the vineyards. Their waiters however always seem more than happy to help out- they know a thirsty clueless English girl when they see one!
The French on: Hating Everyone Else
That leads nicely onto the age-old cliché that the French are rude and hate off everyone else- especially the British. It’s true that French people have a way of going about things that is certainly different to many others. I’ve found that the French are confident, passionate and most importantly proud of their culture. They’re also very fiery. As I was writing this, I feared for my life as my French family had a full on domestic before my very eyes. They’re now fine, but my nerves are feeling somewhat frazzled. I think the cliché of the rude French might again be the curse of big cities. The impatient French waiters that many tourists have warred with are often Parisian, grumpy and rushed off their feet. In all honesty I have met as many nice people during my francophone travels as I have all over Europe, although maybe not quite as passionate.
The French on: Romance
Finally – l’amour, ooh la la. I’ve already written about French chivalry and all that jazz- I’m convinced it’s a real thing, but I also think a lot of French ‘romance’ stems from the slow way of life, the decadent food and the beautiful landscape. After all, who can argue with the fact that macaroons and mountains make a wonderful backdrop for a love story? No wonder so many people go to Paris in the hope of an engagement! However, being single doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the beauty of the country. France is the perfect country to rendezvous with pals in a gorgeous place. So even if you don’t bring back Prince Charming from your trip across the channel, good wine and good company will never be a bad thing.
Edited by Nicole Jones
4) Author’s own photo.