French clichés and common misbeliefs

French clichés and common misbeliefs

This is something I had to write about.
I heard SO many stereotypes!

Have you heard those? :

“French people always eat in silence. And they only eat bread”

“French people are too proud to speak english”


“French people only have 10 clothes in their closet”

“French people are always grumbling about everything”

I’ve been living one year in Japan and in Australia, travelled Europe, and I heard those stereotypes many times. Especially the first two.
I will spare you many other things I heard, and limit to these because they seem to be widespread beliefs around the world.

First, Let’s talk about the first cliche.

“French people are too proud to speak english”

If you never heard this, let me explain the context.
It seems like many travellers and tourists in France asked directions to someone in the street, in english, and that person have replied to them in French.
That doesn’t make sense, do we agree?
If the lost person is speaking in english, what is the percentage of chance she would understand what you say in french?

Similar thing seem to have happened in stores, shops, restaurants, and many facilities.
The clerks just spoke in french to the english speaking person.
But the plot of that cliche is that, everyone think those french speakers could actually have answered in english. And instead of this, chose deliberately to talk in french…

What lead us to think, french people are proud. Ah, that may be true. I hate generalities but we’re speaking about this topic now, right?
Is the typical french proud? I think he is!
But is it the reason he’s not talking english when he should be?
The answer is… No!

Of course this kind of situation exists. But in 98% of the cases, that’s not the reason. Why did the french speaker answered in French?

Because he literally sucks in English!
I’m serious.

He’s so bad at it. And he’s, by the way, a pretty lazy creature. This is so much more easy to answer in french.
This has absolutely no relation with some proudness.
I assume things are evolving though, young french people nowadays are definitely better speakers.
The education system focus a lot more on english and foreign languages, just as many other country’s education systems I guess.

I have my idea about the case where proudness played a part in this.
I have worked many years in retail shops in Paris, and I’ve seen this situation one time:
A client spoke bluntly in english to my colleague, who didn’t know a word in english except maybe “Hello”.
She felt kinda offended by the fact he presumed she could speak english, and abruptly talked to her in english. She would have loved him asking first, in a polite way, if she speaks english or not.
And she was like
“Hey, that’s France here, why does he think I could speak english”?

I guess that’s what we would call proudness. 😀

“French people alway eat in silence. And they only eat bread”

Ok this one is tricky. One part may be true, and the other part is absolutely wrong.
Which one do you think is definitely wrong ?

The second part of course! French gastronomy is one of the most various and famous in the world, why would we limit our meals to bread?!
My ears stand up by themselves and jiggled when they heard that.
But, well… I reckon people have generally no idea about what is french food, especially in Asia where french restaurants are highly expensive places where you only get to eat fine kitchen luxurious food.
If you are curious about french food check this article:
French food

Anyway, do we eat in silence? Generally, yes.  Generally.
Silence doesn’t mean to make absolutely no noise, but to prevent making loud and disgusting noises, if possible.
The noise of slurping ramen is, indeed, not something you would do in France and could be considered as gross. Anyway we don’t usually eat soup noodle.
But I insist to say most eaters aren’t so silent, and, that’s not a big deal for most of us.

“French people only have 10 clothes in their closet”

Special Japanese cliche mention for this one.
The idea comes from a serie of books wrote by an American author, Jennifer L. Scott. It has been translated in Japanese and made a really big hit in japan.
That seems to have been sufficient to create a magical spell on people’s beliefs.

I feel like  “Come on, where the hell does this idea come from?! Why would the citizens from the most  renowned fashionable country in the world be so uninterested in clothes?
I’m still picturing in my head all my french female friends, looking at their closet overflowing with clothes, and saying
“Gosh how am I gonna do today, I’ve nothing to wear…”

Again, maybe those people exist. I mean, as for in any country, people who like to have a very tiny closet surely exist in France.
(I must admit, this way you don’t hesitate for 3 hours about what you’re gonna wear!)
But believe me, as a french, I’ve never met anyone of this specie. I have no idea where this specie is hidden?!
The author of this book belongs apparently to this rare humanoid group, and says she learnt that from the family she lived with in France.

She said :

“While in Paris, I observed the beauty of the ten item wardrobe. I noticed that French people whom I saw on a regular basis (mainly my professors, shopkeepers, and friends) wore the same clothes in heavy rotation unapologetically and with great panache.”

Which doesn’t necessarily means they only have 10 clothes but wear the same favourite clothes a lot…
Hmm I guess that speaks to a majority of people, not only french people, am I wrong?

“French people are always grumbling about everything”

I won’t make a long comment on this, because this is absolutely true! Unfortunately.
We do grumble and moan way too much.

Actually, we like to speak our mind.
French people don’t consider they’re moaning, they may not be totally aware of this as a cultural particularity, and just want to express their mind and whatever goes through. A way to make the conversation.
Ok sometimes they are just really grumpy and purposely doing this, it’s like a vicious circle,  you’re in a bath of groaning people and can’t help behaving the same way.

Have you heard about other cliches ?
Please let me hear it and  feel free to share your opinion in the comment section!

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