preconceptions: american vs. french

Well, here we go! Google auto-fill game, round two!

1) Why do French people not like Americans?

I really don’t think that this is true. The only time I ever felt “disliked” during my time in France was my very first day ever stepping on French soil, in Paris, at a cafe. I was with my friend Jed and our Parisian friend Cedric. When the waiter came to take our orders, Jed and I, giddy and nervous, just kind of smiled and didn’t say anything. The waiter looked at us like we were idiots (which was probably reasonable) and said something along the lines of “What’s your problem? Are you going to order?” So, Cedric saved us. We were able to laugh, but that gave me a bit of insight as to why people get the impression that French generally don’t like Americans. The correction to this assumption is: French people don’t like American tourists who come to Paris, don’t speak a word of French, talk loudly in English, and call attention to themselves. (Kind of like how Americans don’t always appreciate tourists coming here who don’t speak any English, talk loudly in a language that nobody understands, and call attention to themselves. Now it seems reasonable, right?) So, when you go to France, just try to blend, appreciate the city, do your best to communicate in their language (even if all you know is “Excusez-moi, monsieur, parlez-vous anglais?”), and remember: speaking LOUDER or moooooore sloooooowly in English will not help anyone understand you better. If they don’t speak English.. they don’t!

2) Why do French people eat cheese?

Well, we eat cheese in America too, right? The French just eat BETTER cheese. Camembert, Chevre, Roquefort, Tomme des Pyrenees, Brie, Raclette… ooh la la! It’s just delicious. In America, we put American cheese on everything. You know the plastic-wrapped, factory-made, man-made yellow cheese that comes on every McDonald’s cheeseburger? Personally, I hate it, but it is obviously acceptable to a huge part of the population. In France, their version of this is called Emmental, better-known to us as Swiss cheese. It’s cheap there, it comes on everything, and it’s delicious. BUT… I can understand where this question comes from. If you want to understand too, read my friend Noelle’s blog post about one of the worst French cheese experiences we’ve ever had.

3) Why do French people eat snails?

This puzzles me as well. The first time I tried escargot was during a Caribbean cruise that my family and I took during the summer of 2010. I was leaving for France soon, and thought that I couldn’t go over there without having tried it. Truth is… I would’ve been completely fine if I had never even looked at it. The way that my escargot was prepared was on a cracker, baked in cheese. I couldn’t actually see the little grey thing, and I didn’t have to take it out of the shell, so I guess I was lucky. Yet, the only thing I could picture as I was chewing it was a slimy little snail, crawling in the dirt. It didn’t taste bad, it didn’t look bad, but it just felt bad. Most French people can get past this mental image, so, in my opinion, that’s why they eat snails.

4) Why do French people surrender?

I personally like this answer, pulled from this website (yes, it’s one of the results that pops up when you enter this question in google): “People surrender because they are fed up with endless killings. If the French surrender, it’s because they’re humanists.” That’s all I have to say about that!

And finally…

5) Why do French men stare?

I am going to try to not sound feminist or boastful in this response. But, it’s true. French men stare. So do Americans, but French men have something different about their stares. They can be slightly creepy or slightly alluring. More often, they’re creepy. One of my most awkward stare-stories from France goes something like this: I had gone to the train station to see off friends Noelle, Jed, and Ed, who were on their way to Scotland for the weekend. It was about 9pm, and I was waiting by myself at the tram stop to head to my friend Flo’s house for apero. I noticed a man, about my age, who was also waiting… and staring. At me. The tram came, we both got on, and of course, we both got off at the same stop. Next thing I know, I hear someone (of course it was him) yelling “Excusez-moi, madamoiselle! Excusez-moi!” No. I will not answer you. The yelling continued, so I finally turned around, putting on my best angry-face, and said, “QUOI?” (“WHAT?”) In English, he continued. “Sorry… do you speak English?” The answer I should’ve given him should’ve been in French, and should’ve consisted of “Nope! Sorry. Peace out.” But, I answered, “Yes.” Him: “I just wanted to talk to you.” Me: “About what?” Him: “Anything, really.” Ooooookay. Too creepy. Me: “Um, sorry, I have to go.” Him: “Can I at least have your phone number? Or come with you?!” Me: “NO!” I scampered off, he wandered off, and I was finally safe in the fortress also known as Flo’s apartment. So, my point is, creepy French men stare. Creepy men in France who are not French stare. Nice, normal French men smile at you, start a normal conversation, and heck – you could end up dating one of them. So, avoid the creepers. Avoid the tram stops and train stations late at night by yourself. And avoid staring back unless you want them to “bother” you.

There’s a bit of insight. It may be biased, it may be completely wrong, but it is my opinion. Nonetheless, I hope you all enjoyed it!

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3 thoughts on “preconceptions: american vs. french

  1. Eric April 13, 2011 / 12:05 AM

    I love discussions on stereotyping. A very good read Haley! Call me sometime so we can talk… about anything really. Bhahaha!

  2. Michel April 13, 2011 / 2:56 PM

    Right, French are creepy ! Especially in the North ;)

    And snails are…. delicious ! :) Actually, snails don’t have any taste, but the butter that comes with it is gorgeous !

  3. mom April 15, 2011 / 6:47 AM

    So glad you are saving the creepy stories for now. Really.

    And, snails ARE delicious, when prepared with butter. Even Grant ate one.

    “Nice, normal French men smile at you, start a normal conversation, and heck – you could end up dating one of them.”- really?

    >3, mom

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