day 25

the french dislike americans: stereotype or truth?

i’ve surveyed several french people now, asking “who would you say the french dislike more—british people or americans?” the answer is always, resoundingly: americans. apparently, it goes back at least to the vietnam war era, when it seems that the french admonished us to get out and we resoundingly ignored them. iraq, being a near-perfect echo of the vietnam conversation, has not endeared us to them any more. so this statement, i submit, is truth.

last night, i knew that my flatmates had planned to “make a party.” i was invited, but i thought it would be better to go to the farewell party of a guy from oregon who i had met a couple of weeks ago. it was still early when that one died down, so i called to see if the one at my flat was still going. i asked about bringing some friends and was told it was okay. we arrived, in all of our glaring american-ness, and the entire room cleared out within about five minutes. truth in action?

the americans dislike the french: stereotype or truth?

this can best be summed up by a conversation ami and i had about canada. a while back, a canadian team had just won an important hockey victory over a u.s. team, and canada was in celebration mode. to them, it was a really big deal that they had beaten us. apparently, they were of the mind that we would be in a deep depression over having lost to them, but a gentleman ami talked to made short work of clearing up that mistaken assumption by remarking that “the americans have already forgotten who they lost to.”

it’s true, france. just as america doesn’t watch british television shows and movies, despite their affinity for ours, america doesn’t really think about you enough to even have an opinion. the interest just isn’t mutual. we don’t care enough about you (or anyone else, really) to dislike you unless, perhaps, you’re voicing dissent against some military invasion or another that “we” want to conduct. then “we” will do something goofy like call french fries “freedom fries”—for about five minutes. which is about how long it takes for us to forget about you again. that said, i submit that the answer to this question is…who are we talking about again?

french people are rude: stereotype or truth?

well, define rude. cutting in front of you line? laughing in your face at your pronunciation of french? refusing to speak english despite being perfectly capable of it? hanging up on you when you’ve called 9-1-1 (17, really) in distress? treating you like part of the furniture on the subway? offending you with their body odors? eating up whatever food you bring into the house, including the beautiful wedge of comté you went out of your way to get for yourself? if you consider these things rude, then yes, dammit—this is truth.

french men are romantic: stereotype or truth?

so far, i’ve been propositioned by a few of paris’s male denizens. one of whom, though he didn’t speak english, was perfectly capable of suggesting to me, when i declined sex, “six-nine?” and when i also declined that, he proffered, “just nine?” (and knowing the rudeness assertion to be truthful, i’m pretty sure he wasn’t offering a service.) french men can be aggressive in an overly sexualized way, and in keeping with this lack of gentlemanliness, it won’t occur to them to offer you a seat or help you with your jacket or any of those other niceties to which many of us are accustomed. so unless we are redefining “romantic” to include pushy and inconsiderate, this assertion is mere stereotype.

on the other hand, at the farewell party, there was a quite amorous french dude who seemed really fond of the “oregano” that was leaving. they already knew each other and seemed to have some kind of inside joke about shaving. frenchie was getting really close and touching dude’s face and asking dude to touch his, and, shortly thereafter, he grabbed dude by the face and laid one on him. pow! right in the kisser. i knew dude had a girlfriend, and i’d never seen anything like this in real life: a man force-kissing a straight dude on the mouth? i just knew frenchie was about to get knocked the f*ck out…but it didn’t happen. dude didn’t even get ruffled. so maybe some folks find french men romantic after all…maybe it’s just that those folks aren’t women.

a photo from the party (l to r):
ania & kasia (poland), me, and guillaume (france)

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1 Comment

Filed under life, paris, travel

One response to “day 25

  1. Patrique Vosges

    Dear I Am Jan,
    One night, while my study abroad group was sitting at night on the steps of Sacre Coeur, a german couple approached us about the idea of the American dream and whether it was myth or if we believed in it. We gave them a resounding no. But I think the rest of the world is under the impression America is ridiculously idealistic and we’re happy go lucky people. The french seem to take this to heart.

    One of our warnings from the director of the program was to “smile less.” For some reason it pisses the french off that we smile so much.

    I think Paris and New York are similar in that the denizens are quite proud of their city, and quick to point out people who aren’t. God bless both of ’em, I love both cities and couldn’t imagine the people any other way than concerned about their own affairs and disinterested in mine. A pro and con about big cities in general.

    Sorry for the long comment, and I hope you’ve made it to Spain by now, and feeling a warm spanish embrace.

    Patrique

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