From Marseille, France
I promised this post – exposing some of the French stereotypes that pervade our (read: American) thinking about Europe. There’s a motto about traveling, especially when you go to a place with expectation, that you end up seeing what it is that you want to see. We go to places like France with certain expectations – perhaps, it’s bakeries on every corner, perhaps it’s something as simple as wine with every meal. Sometimes, it more, leading to disappointment. But more often, we just see what we want to see
I’ve seen that France before, but this trip, I’ve done and seen things differently. Strangely, compared to my previous trips, this France I’ve seen while spending all my time with French people.
So, French Stereotypes exposed. Disagree? Post in the comments!
#1 – French people drink wine with every meal.
STEREOTYPE – If that is so, how come I haven’t had wine once yet, even though I’ve had at least one meal with French people every single day that I’ve been in France?
#2 – French (and Europeans) don’t get drunk like Americans – because they began drinking at a younger age, they know how to better handle alcohol than Americans who can’t legally drink till they are 21.
STEREOTYPE – Certainly not the case at the big university party I went to in Cergy, France. Lots of obnoxious binge drinkers, lots of people way too drunk, causing fights, etc. I even heard my friend, who had previously lived in America, tell her friends that AMERICANS can hold their alcohol much better than French people. Myth busted (don’t sue me Discovery Channel)
#3 – The suburbs of Paris are dangerous – never go there.
STEREOTYPE I had expectations here too – images of disenchanted youth, riots. So, hence my surprise – the suburbs are quite nice, and very clean. Like American suburbs, not much to do, but, I never once felt unsafe during almost four days out there.
#4 – All French people smoke
Ask my sore throat this. Sadly, true – smoking is very common among French people, even youth. By smoking I mean cigarettes, but Europeans also mix tobacco when they smoke weed.
#5 – European Integration = United States of Europe
If you spend a lot of time in the European capitals, you often feel like Europe is really becoming a single country. Europeans of all nationalities everywhere, everyone speaking English, the European flag flying proudly.
And it’s true, Europe is getting closer. But I’ve been surprised to find, in my travels, how little most French people have traveled around their neighboring countries. To give some context, France as a country is smaller than Texas. Germany is the same size as California. Yet many French people have made few treks outside of their Texas to California, or Florida (Italy). So this is a MYTH – albeit one with a caveat.
Regionalism remains strong even in this age of integration, and it’ll be many generations before integration’s true promise is realized. We forget that Europe is sedentary – America the country where you can be born in California, go to elementary school in Seattle, high school in Kansas, and then work in Washington DC, and not be considered weird. In Europe, this sort of fluid movement is rare, in communities that have stayed fairly stationary for years. In France, you have many who move from the countryside to big cities, but little movement beyond that.
#6 – French people hate fast food
Alright, I have a confession to make. Many of you know me as the guy who never eats fast food. Well, I failed. My 4th night in Paris, I met my friend William and his friends, all French, before we were going to a huge party. They’re from the suburbs, and we didn’t want to spend much money for dinner. I told William to show me his life in Cergy, which meant take me to places you would go normally.
Where did they go for dinner that evening?
Fast food is as common in France as the US, though it’s different. KFC’s in France have no bisquits (NO BISQUITS! What’s the point?) or original recipe – and don’t even think about asking for KGC. The non-original recipe fried chicken runs about 2 to 3X what original recipe chicken goes for in America. But with Sandwich Grec (mmmm) stands everywhere, kebabs, french fries, fast food is as ubiquitous in France as the States, but with it’s own local flavor.
The most shocking thing about KFC? It was full of well dressed, good looking, young people. In America….it’s usually more like this.
In Marseille today, two days here, then back to Paris before leaving France for the Netherlands and, more cold. Next post on Marseille and my reasons for coming to visit this oft hated and loved city, the 2nd city (and distant 2nd) of France.
testing, 1,2,3 – had some issues with comments in my last post. should all be fixed now!
Great article !
But, about the wine drinking, I think you had this impression because you spent time with young people…
Older Frenchies, with more money, more life experience and more taste always have a bottle of wine around!
It this because of the money young people lack? Good wine is definitely more expensive than beer.. Or because of the generation gap? Our parents are definitely more into wine drinking than us, probably because there wasn’t anything else to drink at their time. We have more choice!
So: younger people = beer. older people = wine. Some drink both (but not at the same time).
I’m surprised you didn’t write about the most well-known fact about the French: the lack of English knowledge! Well it’s not a cliché, but the truth! 😉
yes…the lack of english knowledge is quite true, as is the shyness of French people to use their english.
how can i make old, French, wine drinking friends? but, meh, im not a big wine drinker anyway (i used to be, but now…Beer). How’s the beer in Germany?
What about the myth that French people hate Americans? True or what?! 🙂
Ahaha Great Article ! I just read it ! 🙂 Congratulations for this new version of your website !
ALL FRENCH PEOPLE SMOKE / WRONG !
actually Americans smoke more than the French !
a fact is a fact
usa ranked 57th
France ranked 61th
so please give us a break with that
Also Germans smoke more than French
people from luxemburg
and of course chinese