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. Read More »

Breastfeeding: France’s apathy , USA’s pressure and UNICEF’s misleading data

Formula vs breast milk. I have decided to write about it as soon as I witnessed the stress women were facing with today’s society view on breastfeeding.

I was a breastfed baby, and always heard positive talks about it from my mother. This pretty much summarizes my knowledge on the subject. Besides my mother, none of the mothers in my family breastfed. By choice. Because in France, we are not ashamed nor pressured to say “I do not want to breastfeed my baby”. No judgement whatsoever. On the other hand: the USA. The country is well known for having a strong opinion about it. It is a public opinion often broadcast on TV-shows and movies.

Personally, I felt like giving it a try. I educated myself on the subject towards the end of my pregnancy. I didn’t want to pressure myself by reading tons of potentially scary stories. I wanted it to come naturally.  And it did. I loved it.

But, the more I nursed my daughter, the more pressure I felt from the outside (among Americans). For personal/medical reasons, I had to feed my baby half breast milk/half formula.  I sometimes felt embarrassed talking about it. I would here: “do you still give her formula?”. Well, you know… my baby has to eat at some point so…Yes I still feed her with formula. I felt like I had to justify myself for it.

Long story short. It was clear to me that the two countries were not on the same page. Pamela Druckerman (author of Bringing up bébé) confirmed my first impression: “French mothers barely breastfeed. About 63 percent of French mothers do some breastfeeding. A bit more than half are still nursing when they leave the maternity hospital, and most abandon it altogether soon after that. Long-term nursing is extremely rare. In the United States, 74 percent of mothers do at least some breastfeeding, and a third are still nursing exclusively at four months.”

She is an American in Paris, I am a French in Boston. We had the same feeling.

Until I decided to do some research to understand what was really happening. And here are the numbers from governmental sources:Read More »