Paris, France, French | behind the cliches

What is Paris? Who are parisians? I am sure you have your own opinion.

Paris? I hear “romantic”, “historic”, “lovely”, “city of love”, “dreamy”.

Parisians/ French? I hear “pretentious”, “socialist”, “mean”, “well dressed”, “slim”, “stinky”.

Extra note: “The food, OMG the food!”

Alright. I am very often told these assumptions, I find myself too many times unable to answer. Being expatriate for more than 5 years now, I have a fair perspective of the French culture in and out of France.

Let’s start with the basic. France is not Paris, like the US is not New York City. And French are not Parisians like Americans are not New Yorkers. I have lived in many different parts of France (from the capital to the smallest village, from East to West). I also have lived in different cities (big and small) and States in the United States (from East to West).

“Pretentious”

French are not pretentious, not willingly at least. I agree we can give this image. The truth is we have in mind to always be at the top of ourself. We also have a passion for debate. When a French has an opinion, good luck with it, let the trial begging. Both of these elements give an attitude that can look like pretension. We also love our culture, are proud of it and think this is the best. Just like you love your Nation, are proud of it and think this is the best.

“Mean”

We never are at a loss for words. Too honest maybe. It can lead to awkward situations when a French tells you what he thinks. I personally try to contain myself now that I live here. I’ve had situations in the past with no possible good endings because I spoke the truth to people who were not prepared to hear what I was saying. I probably appeared like a mean person. Oops…I’m sorry, I did not mean it.

“Socialist”

This is a touchy subject. The system is definitely more on the left side compare to the US but I don’t think we are that far lefty. Does this international opinion come from our political system? or the media? I doubt about the political option. Too complicated, not necessarily well known and understood by the average Joe.

How many times have you seen strikes paralyzing the country in medias. Why? Because they are too many and too strong, keeping the french population hostage. This is what we are known to be good at, right?!

What a shame. The reality is that so few French are members of a Union (strikes’ organizers). Only 8% of employees are involved in such organisations, against 22% in Germany, 25% in Great Britain and 35% in Italy.

It has always been this way since the creation of the Unions at the beginning of the XX century (only 300 000 adherents in France against 4 millions in Great Britain or Germany). They never have been as powerful as their European neighbors. Why do we hear so much of them? Because when it is little, it wants to provoc and be radical.

“Dirty”

No more or less than you. This assumption dates from the royalty age where baths were too few. They used perfume to cover the smell. We now are quite a civilized country with showers or bathtubs in every home with extra clean water.

“Well dressed and slim”

Fashion is part of our culture and omnipresent in the capital. It’s a matter of taste, I can’t develop something that relates to a personal opinion. French are cautious about their weight and are constantly careful about what they eat to avoid too much excess.

Paris

Oh mon amour. I love Paris more than any other city in France. I don’t need to explain why. If you have not visited it yet, I can only wish you to go one day.

Though, living there with kids is complicated for so many reasons. If you are a fighter for motherhood rights , it might not be for you. Nothing is really made for parents with infants in public spaces.

Extra note:

The food. I can’t deny how good this is , though… it is rare to find real French food in the US. Foie gras is probably the most discussed food in the US, even forbidden in some States, same with Roquefort cheese.  

This is the biggest mystery I am left with for now. Americans admit to LOVE french food but it seems to me it is rejected at the same time.

A few years back, I visited a French food importers based in LA. I then was informed that most French fresh food were forbidden to import into the United States. Some cheese are allowed, otherwise it is all coming from and made in Canada. It might have (hopefully) evolved a little by now though.

Voilà, French and France are almost no secret to you anymore.

Bon baisers !

E

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