Disclaimer: The following observations are based upon my last four months studying here in Paris, as a young (not-too-obnoxious) American student. They are in no way scientific or quantitative, and if I quote numbers, I’m making them up. If my opinions appear biased, it’s because they are. Please keep in mind that I adore the city of Paris, and I jest because I love. With that having been said…
Stereotypes of the French
1. French people smell bad.
True. In the US, it’s accepted that most people shower and put on deodorant every day. In France, however, as my friend Jake has put it: you either “do or you don’t do” deodorant. I’ve found a large percentage (let’s say, 57%) do not “do” deodorant. I can forgive (to a certain extent) smelliness on the rush hour RER, because people are packed in like sardines with a smell to match. My real issue is the sheer number of individual people who will walk by on the street at any given time, leaving the scent of rotten animal carcass and body odor in their wake. The one thing that I will not miss about this country: people who smell as bad the cheese.
2. French people are rude.
I have found this to be both true and false. In traveling to other parts of France (Normandy, Brittany and southern France), I have found people to be much friendlier than in Paris. Parisians have an air of arrogance, as if your presence or absence in their store/restaurant/etc is of no matter to them. They close themselves off to people that they don’t know well, though I have found this to be true more with adults than with people my own age.
Most young adults that I’ve met have been friendly and open to conversation. If they want to speak English with me, it’s not an insult to my French but rather because they are excited to converse with a native speaker. Which is funny, because I’m usually anxious to practice my French on them.
3. French people think that Americans are loud and obnoxious.
True. Because compared to the French, Americans are louder and therefore come off as obnoxious. This was one of the first things that I noticed upon coming here. My friends and I would be having a conversation on the metro, and I would suddenly realize that we were being much louder than everyone else. No one really talks while riding public transportation here, so it made us stick out. We don’t notice it at home, because everyone is speaking at the same decibel. Here, though, it becomes much more noticeable.
4. The French make the best bread in the world.
I do not want or need to eat bread in any other country, ever again.
5. The French are fabulously fashionable.
I’ll put it to you this way: I was called out by a 70+ year-old man for wearing shorts and a flannel shirt to walk to the grocery store. All of my jeans were drying, so sue me! But seriously, don’t ever leave the house in sweatpants here. It is unacceptable.
In conclusion: They may smell terrible, but they definitely know how to bake a baguette.