French Stereotypes – Vrai ou Faux?

July 17, 2019

Today’s blog post comes to us from UW-Platteville student & #APIabroad blogger Andi Fuerst. She’s studying abroad with us in Grenoble, France and today she’s diving in to French stereotypes… and why they’re false!


Even though it is considered an icon of the French people, you won’t see the average French person wearing a beret. The only people I have seen wearing berets are those in the army. I would recommend that you leave your berets at home as they will make you stick out like a sore thumb.


Most people believe the French are extremely rude, however this is only due to people not understanding French culture. Whenever interacting with anyone in France, before doing anything else, make sure you say “bonjour.” Forgetting this greeting, is essentially acting like the other person is a brick wall (and is considered very rude). I always picture the song from Beauty and the Beast, where before going about their day, everyone says “bonjour.” Just add this to your list of p’s and q’s and you’ll be fine.


I really don’t know where this stereotype began: that French women don’t shave. Regardless, most French women shave, and it does not matter if you do or don’t.


The French have a weird relationship with the United States. They don’t hate the U.S. They just disagree with parts. For example, they hate it when Americans act loud and arrogant. Now, not every person in France sees the U.S. in the same way. I would push you to be open-minded and kind and to try and ask some natives on their opinion.


I had always been told that the French smoke a lot, however I did not find this to be true. On the streets in public areas, I would say the French smoke as much as the U.S. They tend to smoke more cigarettes versus e-cigarettes. The reason I think this stereotype was created is that in France smoking is more of a social event.  I attended a barbecue with my host mom, and I watched as all night a few guys would roll a cigarette and then smoke it and repeat for hours. I have never seen anyone smoke like that in the states. When I asked my host mom about how the French view smoking, she agreed it was a social event and even included that those who do not smoke might smoke one or two cigarettes at a party, because it is a social situation. 


Most French people aren’t sitting down to a five course gourmet meal every night. Most meals begin around 7:30 – 8:00 pm (19:30 – 20:00). They are comprised of a salad, a main course, and a dessert. Most people have water with dinner, but it is not uncommon to have a glass of wine (especially when invited over for dinner). Surprisingly, the French eat super fast, but they spend a lot of time talking. With my host family we will generally finish dinner at about 9:30 – 10:00 pm (21:30 – 22:00).

Now, of course, I cannot forget about apéritif. Apéritif is almost strictly a dinner party activity. When a group of people are invited over for dinner, at around 6: 30 pm (18:30), they drink wine and eat simple snack like food, such as olives, pretzels, bread with or without dips, and for more special occasions, foie gras. But the most important part of apéritif is the conversation. Dinner in France is seen as a social event. 

Did you learn something new about France? Let us know in the comments!

And a happy la Fête nationale to our host families, French staff, advisors, professors & others who are celebrating Bastille Day today!


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