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May 17, 2005

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» Francophiles and phobes from Internet Commentator
Abiola points to a Guardian piece on the book - "Pourquoi les français sont les moins fréquentables de la planète*" by (Frenchmen) Olivier Clodong and Jose-Manuel Lamarque - on how the French are perceived by their fellow Europeans and suggests: [Read More]

Comments

Pearsall

In my experience, I've found the French outside of Paris to be kind and friendly people. It helps if you speak French, of course.

Paris, however, is even more stuffed with wankers than NYC or London.

James R MacLean

Just a personal counterexample, nothing more: in 2002 I travelled to Paris, bilious at the prospect of being horribly abused by the irate French (I can be identified as a US national from outer space). Instead, I found the French to be invariably delightful, charming, courteous, helpful, and patient. I am not kidding. My French was horrible, and I suffered from stage fright speaking it, but people helped me along nonetheless.

Before the trip, I had confided to my friends that I was really frightened of travelling anywhere in Europe; the ones who had actually been to France all advised me that they had enjoyed a warm welcome. I was totally incredulous until it happened to me. Subsequent experiences have confirmed this impression.

This is just my experience.

Factory

"Mon dieu! Could it be that there just may be a touch of truth to the stereotypes about the land of the Franks?"
Yar, just like all those black/jewish stereotypes have that 'touch of truth'.

Hmm that was a pretty obvious statement.. hmm..

Abiola Lapite

" Yar, just like all those black/jewish stereotypes have that 'touch of truth'."

Yeah, cuz the French have historically been a highly oppressed minority ... Get your head out of your backside, mate.

Randy McDonald

Who says that ethnic stereotypes are produced only by oppression?

Abiola Lapite

Where did I say they were? Frankly, this is just plain fucking stupid; my point, if it wasn't already abundantly clear, is that only humorless, sanctimonious pricks would object to the notion that there just might be substance to the perceptions about the French given how widely held they are, and just because something is a "stereotype" doesn't mean it's an inaccurate reflection of reality.

There's a world of difference between stereotypes which spring from attempts to rationalize discrimination against hated minorities and rules of thumb which spring from widespread encounters with particular peoples, and anyone too dense or too intoxicated with self-righteousness to get this point isn't worth trifling with.

lamin

It may just be inter-European rivalries. After all, the French were culturally dominant in Europe until quite recently. And they wear their culture not only their sleeves but also on their streets, parks, etc. just to make you notice. Maybe other Europeans as tourists resent being constantly reminded of Victor Hugo, Moliere, La Place(mathematician), Fourier(mathematician), Le Besgue(mathematician), Descartes(mathematician), Pascal(mathematician) as they traipse through Paris and elsewhere in France.

The point about stereotypes is that they may also be totally false as witness Steve Sailer's recent V-Dare nonsense screed on African cultures.

Given that humans are most interesting when known as individuals the poll about the French should be taken with a lot of salt.

Jim

I found a few years ago that people outside Paris were lovely. There was a period when it was a bonus to be visibly American in a contrarian kind of way. Having my grnadmother along helped; people were especially sweet.

I disagree that stereotypes tend to be false; they tend to be true, but only of groups, not of individuals. I know that Americans tend to impress people all over as childish, and you know, we work at that. The test is when you get the same judgement frorm independent sources. Both in the US and in China people think the Cantonese are devious.

Randy McDonald

There's a world of difference between stereotypes which spring from attempts to rationalize discrimination against hated minorities and rules of thumb which spring from widespread encounters with particular peoples[.]

Um, not necessarily. How about stereotypes which spring from attempts to rationalize discrimination against hated minorities frequently encountered in a given society? Or, how about stereotypes which spring from widespread encounters with peoples associated with unpopular polities?

Abiola Lapite

"Um, not necessarily."

Sure, and the sun won't necessarily rise tomorrow.

"How about stereotypes which spring from attempts to rationalize discrimination against hated minorities frequently encountered in a given society?"

Yes, that's the French you're discussing right there, almost as discriminated against globally as the unfortunate White Anglo-Saxon Protestants ...

"Or, how about stereotypes which spring from widespread encounters with peoples associated with unpopular polities?"

Does it occur to you that the reason said polities are "unpopular" is precisely because of widespread attitudes of their populations?

I'll be blunt: this line of discussion is just intensely stupid, and I have zero patience for whining that seeks to paint the French as "victims" of anything whatsoever.

Xavier Kreiss

Just a few thoughts from a Frenchman.

1) "the French": do we all have the same characteristics? A 20 year old Frenchman whose parents are of Arab origin, an 80 year-old Alsatian, a Breton university professor and a Corsican grocer? The point here is that generalisations are dangerous. The research, however, is interesting , because it doesn't juge, but simply asks other Europeans how they see us.

2) yes, in some places especially (Paris) people have had bad experiences and we CAN be arrogant, rude, etc. So - in my experience, can Americans, for instance. That doesn't make them bad. And we also have qualities.

3) we do, sometimes, have a chip on our shoulder- it's not easy going from an colonial empire to a catastrophic military defeat (1940) and then having to "reinvent" ourselves as a medium-sized power .
We don't like to be taken for granted, either.The way to our hearts is, for instance when asking for something, to try a few words in French. Then we'll proudly say "can I 'elp you?". Make a step in our direction, we'll come to you.

4) the fact that this research was conducted by Frenchmen, who published the results, should also remind people that we're not afraid to turn our critical eyes on ourselves.

I see that several people have reacted by countering the views expressed, saying they had had good experiences in France, that they found the French kind, helpful, etc. I'm glad they had such experiences, and hope they will have more next time they go and visit.

I think we're no better and no worse than any other nation. But the results of the research do give pause for thought.

Justified or not, these criticisms are interesting. The people who conducted it, and those who judge us, do us a service. As one of our philosophers, Arthur Comte, pointed out, it's not possible to stand at a window to see oneself go by in the street. Someone else must do it.

Amitiés à tous

dsquared

I think it was Theodore Zeldin who noted that as far back as the 1960s, there were always fewer striptease shows in Paris than there were conferences on "the crisis of Frenchness". In general, people dislike the French for the same basic reason they dislike the Americans - the natural state of jealousy toward someone you suspect is having a better time than you are.

Randy McDonald

"[T]hat's the French you're discussing right there, almost as discriminated against globally as the unfortunate White Anglo-Saxon Protestants ..."

No. I was pointing out flaws in your argument. There are other types of stereotyping beyond the two that you identified.

"Does it occur to you that the reason said polities are "unpopular" is precisely because of widespread attitudes of their populations?"

So, Russians were disliked during the Cold War not because they were citizens of an aggressive totalitarian state but rather because they were rude?

"I'll be blunt: this line of discussion is just intensely stupid, and I have zero patience for whining that seeks to paint the French as "victims" of anything whatsoever."

Even when they are? (Differing values of victims apply across the spectrum, of course.)

Oiseau_AEG

Stereotypes are common in every society. Even in such a mixed society as America is, we look down our noses at others.

Mexicans are thought as lower class, blacks as violent and dangerous, Arabs as terrorists, but most of this prejudice is created by the media. To ask other nations to judge a neighbor is irrelevant in judging that society. Countless times I've heard people dislike Canada for no credible reason. Mexico is seen as a drain that sneaks drugs and unemployed workers into our society.

So to ask French neighbors their stereotyped opinions will only prove the fact that a society dislikes all who differ from their own.

Also, an important question is left unanswered in this essay. Do the French neighbors look to each other in good light?

I hate Oiseau AEG

Yo Oiseau AEG your a douche bag...die... i think ur french and we dont like french people...Go jerk your paintball gun

citizen of the world

I think the French can be very generous if you can become friends with them. I've found them to be more genuinely helpful than the British and more thoughtful too. I think this is because they are more 'emotional' and 'sensitive' individuals. After all, they did invent 'socialism'.
However, I do believe there is some truth to the external rudeness they display towards strangers. I feel it's a 'fear' mechanism of which they use to defend themselves. They seem to be more strict on adhering to their 'French' way/system/etiquette of doing thing compared to the British culture of which is not my native culture either. I have lived in England for 20 years being a Commonwealth citizen of the former British Empire. I've therefore had to also adjust to the British 'way' which although their rules have presided over my own country, I've found the British to be conservative too. The Brits display open gestures of politeness but it can be deceitful. The Brits are also notorious for being extremely cruel without a thought to another individual or society. Look at the former British Empire and the subordination of her colonies.
Anyway, we are here to talk about the stereotype of France. I do agree that they display their agitation quite easily. I also sense this is how they deal with their fellow french people as well. It is kind of confusing to understand their rules of politeness which they emphasise strongly if you are a foreigner. But I also find their 'smugness' or 'opinionated' attitude quite rude as well. Plus, the French seem to complain how native English speakers never really make an effort to learn another language. Strangely, I've seeme to come across lots of sites where they point out it's French in particular that the English should learn. But why is French so important? I speak French though not well but I've heard from French people and experienced myself that when I do speak their language, the French lose their patience. So instead they speak English instead to show off how much English they know. I do not really understand the point of speaking French if the French are going to be impatient and speak English to you anyway. It's kind of childish this behaviour that they put on. And they pretend not to understand you if your grammar isn't precise enough. Yet, if you correct their poorly pieced together bits of English they become irritated quite easily. Sorry, but these are facts so if you're French try for once to be mature & not to get so annoyed.
But every culture has a stereotype and mostly they are negative. I could go on and on about the negativities of British, Italian, American, Canadian, German, Chinese, Japanese culture etc... As I feel with most countries that suffer from 'We should be the next world power' syndrome.
Anyway, those are my two cents about it.

Jamie Melly

Meines Erachtens hat Randy Macdonald Recht - I think Randy is right. All but one stereotype: Americans are all bumbling fools with no idea that this "superpower complex" they drag around with them makes them a joke to the rest of the planet.
Threaten people with your nukes - you won't see the French causing the deaths thousands of Iraqis for oil.

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