Thanks to cartoons, the word “France” renders several image connotations in the American mind: a love crazed skunk, Pepe Le-Pew, the future lung cancer victim Cruella De Ville, or the sweet school girl Madeline. Before visiting France and witnessing the people and customs for oneself, people have firm ideas of what France is like due to American made stereotypes. Having had these certain stereotypes in my mind, after visiting France I discovered which ones were true, false, or exaggerated.
Myth: French are rude and hate Americans. Ruling: False
This couldn’t be more false; the French are actually extremely welcoming. The key to being welcomed into France is to not expect they will cater to you. In other words, don’t arrive demanding they speak English and awe over your American culture. You don’t have to speak French fluently to visit France. It’s a good idea, to learn a few phrases such as, “Je suis American. Je ne parles pas français” (I am American. I don’t speak French). It shows that you gave some effort to communicate with them in their native tongue.
Myth: French cuisine is bizarre. Ruling: Exaggerated
Some foods on the French menu would seem odd to Americans such as frog legs and snails but these are specialties. The French eat rather simply and the staple foods hardly vary from those in America. The French primarily cook with lean meats, vegetables, grains etc. They value the freshness of food in France, and pay specific attention to the use of flavors in their cuisine.
Not only do they eat smaller portions than in America, but they only eat three times a day: le petit déjeuner, le déjeuner, et le dîner. They appreciate the taste of food and like to experiment with new flavors. Meals are seen as very important times of day for the French because it is viewed as a time of conversation with family and friends.
Myth: French love to kiss. Ruling: True.
This is true because of the French greeting. Upon seeing a friend or relative it is proper to kiss the person on both sides of the cheek. Otherwise I don’t believe French couples are anymore inclined to kiss more than American couples do.
Myth: The typical French image is a beret on the head, a loaf of bread under the arm, and a scarf around the neck.
This image is as accurate as describing all people from the Southern states of America as camouflage-wearing-gun-carrying individuals. While this may true of some people, it should not compensate for the whole French image.
The Italians designed the beret and very few French people actually wear them.
Bread is an essential part to the French diet and the reason this idea of carrying bread has become a stapled image is because of the numerous bakeries throughout France. Food in France is typically eaten very fresh. So after a daily walk, or on the way home, many will pick up loaves of bread to carry home.
It is true that many people wear scarves but not more than in America and other parts of Europe. It is true that more males wear scarves in Europe then in America.
Myth: French smoke like chimneys. Ruling: True
For generalities sake not everyone smokes, but in France it is true that a majority of people do. This is very common in all of Europe. Many start smoking as early teenagers and continue into their late adult years. Smoking is popular in America but in France it seems to be more acceptable habit.
Myth: French eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of wine. Ruling: Exaggerated
French are known for their wine and cheese but that does not make it is an everyday part of their diet. A glass of wine might accompany dinner, but cheese is usually saved for a special occasion. Vineyards are very common, especially in the Southern part of France. So why can’t the French enjoy the fruits of thy own labor and land by enjoying a glass of the best French fruits: le vin?