going past french clichés

Around this same time nine years ago, I arrived the City of Lights with awe & a pocketful of wonder to a brimming future. Just a year & a half shy of a decade of bonjours, the French cities, food & wine, and the French, going past my first impressions of France, how real are the clichés? From a happy tropical island to a charming country where speaking in public transportations is frowned upon.

Posing by La Tour Eiffel on the summer of a new century

The French and soaps. When my cousins found out I was getting married to a French, they all started a banter on how the French are hygienically challenged for being the perfume capital of the world. Although I did have the same impression, it was not for the French alone but for the Occident. This may go back through history & a lot of centuries ago where hygiene evolved. The French are as much hygenically conscious & like all over the world, there will be occasions of a funky metro ride or a stinky air pocket by the men's section. But no, the French are not smelly even if they're not too fond of wearing perfumes.

The French don't speak english. It has always been the main worry in visiting France, travellers stock up with pre-constructed French phrases. France have always devotedly preserved their language & I even learned that in coping up with the current progress, every english word would have its french equivalent. Computer to l'ordinateur, email to le courriel (short for courrier électronique), which I find absolutely normal & amazing. And even through all these efforts, a lot of the French would tell you that their language & its many dialects are dying in its literary form. But the generations to come are more interested in being fluent in english. It is even now part of every job qualification. It's not that they don't want to speak english, you'll be amazed how a lot of the French are just embarassed to put their speaking ability to the test.

The French are snotty & snobs. I agree that being one of the most visited countries in the world is not a reason for the unpleasant reception of the French. When I arrived Paris, I felt so unwelcomed. I was even terrified to go inside shops. I got by with my pathetic French while pointing to things I like. Afterall, buying is the easiest thing to do when there's a language barrier. But moving to Marseille from Paris, there was already an obvious change of ambiance. Although Marseille can be extreme as to be superficial, it is said here that the weather greatly affects one character. Then from Marseille to Spéracèdes, there is once more a big difference. I am absolutely at awe how charming the locals are.The thing is the more you get out of the big, touristic cities, the more people become pleasant. Indeed the French can be snotty & a snob but a little smile & a little crooked French can most of the time startle them & melt away this most famous cliché.

The French customer service is rude. There is a difference between being a snob & having a rude service because you can be snotty with good service or you can have both snotty & a rude service. The worse kind. Even after all these years, I still find the service in France rude in varying degrees. Not ev
en a smile or fluent French can give you a good service. Even this barrio is not spared. It is not to say that good service is hard to find. Well, you can find it in 5 star hotels & restaurants or in those little shops in the corner. No worries, the French do not really seem disturbed when you seek their service, it's only because customer service is non-existent here. This can be traced back to the relation they have for their jobs that reflect on their unending strikes & protests.

The French are cocky. I have always associated the term bourgeois to the classy & wealthy and apparently it is likewise identified to the French.
In a different bourgeois kind of way. If there's one thing that impressed me the most about France, it would be their nationalism. On one hand, their arrogance can be rooted right here for the French have always aspired for the best. With its innumerable wine varieties, around 350 kinds of cheese, its delectable gastronomy and enthralling cities to small villages & landscapes, they have been forever portrayed the epitome of elegance on film & books throughout time. Not to mention their passion for politics. On the other hand, it is plain cultural. We may consider them arrogant for having a distant character very common with the French. I noticed how they remain loyal to childhood friends & almost do not accumulate the same level of friendship in their lifetime. They are very private people with odd humor because I find them a little bit too serious at times. But the only way to get through the French is on the table with good food & wine, discussing the current political status of France.

Ah, the French. Going past the clichés, how real & relative they are with our own personal experience, France would still be the country everybody dreams to visit. Difficult to get away from the essence of France. The country of romance, in a charming little village, by the patio, with a wonderful rosé wine & some suacissons, listening to Charles Trenet's "La Mer". How cliché is that? You have to find out for yourself.

"Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" is the first book I bought about France & the French, intrigued by the caption, "(why we love france but not the french)," haven't gone past chapter 1 but it is an intereting read.

Check out my old post, Things that make you go "Huh?!"


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. Nice reading here. I will always identify France with Les Mis and the names of its sweet-sounding characters: Eponine, Monsieur Marius, Cosette, etc.

    And will always associate it with opulence, perfume, class, good food and great wines and rows and rows of wine orchards.


    Indeed, you're so blessed. And your posts attest to that. You always sound happy and contented. I like that. I actually envy that (ssshhhh....I don't want your blogger friend to hear that. Hehe.)

  2. I am very much interested with France and its culture. Love the sound of its language. I read a book with a title like this Unleashig your Inner French Girl several years ago. I forgot the exact title, though. It was written by an American woman married to a French guy. I saw some French movies. Always, follow Americans observation about France.

    Thanks for clarifying some issues for me such as French people amd English language. I always fear that if we go to Frace, we will be lost d no one will assist us bec. we do not speak the language

  3. Hi Nebz! Yes, France really has its magic. And even though these clichés may be true for one & not for another, it's still one of the most visited countries.

    Les Miserables.Honestly, I've never associated it with France. LOL! I should reread it. But I won't dare in French :) I assoicated it more to The Little Prince though.

    Hi Malor! France is survivable even if you don't speak the language (I think like Japan will be so hard). Sometimes it's nice to get lost in the little villages in the middle of nowhere. You should really visit us here!

  4. I heard a rumour that the French schools are going to have English as a mandatory subject and not just as an elective? Am not sure if this is true though. Nice observations... but yeah, trying to find pleasant customer service in France is like digging for a needle in the haystack! :)

  5. They are indeed snob but once you get to know them they are really nice even the old people :D !

    Well, about speaking English they're really bad in language accdg. to what I have learned. Though, I have encountered a lot of hubby's friends and relatives most of them manage to speak well. Just like in your entourage ;) ! Certainly because they are very nationalist just like you said and sometimes ashamed of making grammatical errors! Some are multi lingual co'z they could speak Italian, Spanish, German and even Arab di ba ! European language syempre !

  6. hehehe for this post (with matching grin smile ) well i have a copy of this book, my french brother in law gave me. He said he can't read it!!LOL just kidding! musta na ating !!

  7. Kala, I thought it was already mandatory for a certain age but it's true it's an elective in lycée (highschool). Kids now are more confident to speak english.

    Haze, the French are great once you get past the pleasantries & getting to know you stage :)

    Hilda, happy to put a grin on your smile! The book is actually quite interesting but it's just not easy reading. And I didn't even finish chapter 1.