I'm going to take a moment here to attempt to mythbust some stereotypes about the French people. For the record, my lovely, non-judgmental friends, this list has been compiled to represent the most common stereotypes that Americans associate with the French. And my decision to award something a big old T or F (that's true or false), is based solely on my personal experiences. Got it? This ain't science, and it's not a sociological study. I know this because that was my major and I have never used my major for anything. Including this. So. Enjoy!
Major French Stereotypes, Say Americans
1. "Ooh la la!"
This is way true. French people say this all the time. It can be "ooh" or "oh" or "ah," and the "la"-count may go up or down depending on who is speaking and how emphatic they are trying to be. But seriously, I hear this all the time, from everyone. And it's more glorious every time.
2. They smell/don't bathe/armpit hair, etc.
I give this myth a big fat FALSE. While it is winter, and maybe people get a little smellier in the warmer months (who doesn't?), I have not run into an epidemic of un-showered people. In fact, one of my favorite things about France is the two-kiss greeting, because it gives you an opportunity to get really close to men you are just meeting. And so you get to smell them, and they often smell great...so you hope you have the opportunity to get close to them again...win-win!
Now, I am not going to say that EVERY PERSON IN FRANCE smokes. That's really obviously not true. My host parents don't smoke, for example. But, literally (and I mean that LITERALLY, not the fake-version of the word literally), actually, every young French person I know smokes. A lot. All the time. You can't do it in bars, but I've been to a few house parties where I am the only person--literally--who is not smoking. So...mostly true!
This one is more of a wash. I can't decide. Because some men I have met here in France are totally normal, or boring. But then I have met a few doozies that have been so incredibly forward in their intentions that I cannot deny this stereotype. Probably the most forward men I have ever met (including New York construction workers) have all been in France.
5. Clothes (stripes, berets, moustaches, fancy all the time, super stylish)
Most of the stereotypes I have found relating to fashion have been very true. The French love stripes, the vast majority of people (including college students) don't go out in sweats, almost everyone dresses very classically. No, people don't wear berets, and facial hair is pretty much the same as it is in the States. But yeah, you should try to look good if you come to France. Not trendy, but classic and put-together. Oh, and most French women (meaning, people a little older than me and up) don't wear tons of makeup. That's true too. But they look amazing anyway. Sigh.
I have no experience with this one, as I am not currently in a war with anyone in France, but I will say that French people enjoy talking about American politics, and they are not afraid to argue. So I would say, false!
7. Eat really "badly" (cheese, butter, wine, chocolate, etc) and "weirdly" (frogs, snails, etc)
The food stereotypes are all true. You can't get substitutions on menus, everyone eats their cheese and the fatty part of the meat, drinks wine like it's water, etc. Escargot is everywhere, along with steak tartare, frogs' legs, tongue, liver, etc. But it's just not....weird here. And the portions are much more in tune with what a person should be eating. You're never going to get a giant portion of fatty foie gras--but you will get enough, and it will be heavenly.
French people are not rude. (Also, New Yorkers are not rude.) In my experience, if you are nice first, if you try to do the right thing--come prepared, attempt French, smile, use the "vous" (polite version of "you")--people will be people. But if you assume everyone will speak English to you because you're American, or if you don't do your research before you go somewhere, or if you're a bitch...well, I don't blame them! False, my friends.
9. Effeminate men
Overall, I don't think men in French are more effeminate than anyone else. They tend to be skinnier than men in American (not hard). They dress better, which is fun for subway watching. Some carry bags, which is just practical. But they are just different, culturally. And trust me, there are some hotttttt French men.
Honestly, I have no context for this one. I am pretty white, despite my attempts at rapping, and so I don't have any experience in the kind of racism that is said to permeate France. I have heard of certain areas outside of Paris where I could go to see racism, but that's not very high on my list of things to do. So I can't really say.
Finally, I would also like to say that the French like to replace some words with sounds. This is something I do occasionally. Sometimes words don't cut it, you know? But they do it all the time, especially blowing air out of their mouths quickly. I will demonstrate it for you sometime, and upload a video. But it's late here.