Dipping my hard baguette…

frenchman-smoking-animated.gifAs you know, I loooove cultural differences and clichés. I just love to sit with a bunch of foreigners and hear them moan and nag about the French. I love being in a country and hear what people’s opinion about the French is. The worse the cliché is, the better it is and the happier I get. I have already posted a few of the comments I heard during my various trips, but here are some more specific things I heard while hanging out with Brits. Through my job, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of British people and for some some strange reason, they seem to ask a lot of questions about aspects of French culture I had never really thought were either interesting or relevant.

When you ask a French person what they know about England, they will tell you about the nasty food, the pale looking red-haired people, the rain, the Queen, hooligans and the fact that we call them Roast Beefs, although nobody really knows why. But apart from tha, not much else.

One cliché the English have about the French is that we are supposedly more refined than other Europeans… This is quite funny to hear, because when you know French people, you realize there must have been a huge misunderstanding somewhere or else, French marketing must function very well somehow. Because, Brits are, according to me, extremely refined… in their questions at least. Let me explain…

Let’s have a look at some of the recent questions I’ve heard from Brits: Why do French people make hard crust on their baguettes when they eventually dip and therefore soften the bread in their coffee? I had honestly never seen it that way, and actually thought they had a point. But I just wonder why would anyone even come up with such a question.

Another example is: why are coffee cups so small and croissants so large? Why not readjust the size of both in order to facilitate the dipping of the croissant into the cup? Aren’t French people annoyed at the coffee entirely disappearing in the croissant or on the café table? I honestly don’t know. I swear I had never thought about that.

Neither had I thought of why we still do our grocery shopping at the butcher’s, the baker’s etc…, i.e so many different stores when everything could easily be gathered in one place? Seriously, I don’t know. There are supermarkets all over the place here, and more and more people use them, but still, a few ingredients just have to be purchased in special stores. That’s just the way it is.

French and British people used to be enemies. We were basically at war for centuries (until a former French prime-minister, Edith Cresson, called the English male-population: faggots (not as in cigarettes)… a terrible insult ouch! But at the same time the Brits represent the largest foreign population on French soil. They roam most villages in Normandy and Dordogne, live with us all year round and still get so happy when they get together and moan about the French who can’t drive, have no sense of humour, never work, smell bad, constantly cheat on their wives and drink like there’s no tomorrow. Whether they live in the UK, France or anywhere else, Brits have this really clear point of view about the French. And when they get together and fire one cliché after the other, I just sit there and enjoy. And sometimes, when I’ve drunk like there’s no tomorrow, I wonder why French people never talk about the Brits? Does that say something about the French or about the English?

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10 Responses

  1. it’s weird, isn’t it? And when you go to London these days, it’s full of French people who live there and actually find that, despite the weather and the food, they quite like it! I was amazed when I took part in that phone-in on Europe 1 by the fact that all the French people who called in thought London was cool. But you know, as a rule, English people don’t really talk about the French very much – until something goes wrong or football’s involved. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me what French people are like, for example. The ones you meet are probaby just showing polite interest!! (in the same way that French people I meet ask me about Tony Blair anf the Iswich murderer…)

  2. I think all nationalities are refined… in their own special ways. It’s interesting, though, to wonder why things are sometimes so culturally different between different countries. It’s always a fun topic of conversation!

  3. it is good to know that the shopping is not yet fully centralised in France. I enjoy shopping in specialised stores and i believe they do it better when they specialise rather than big supermarket chains attempting to do it all and sell it all. J’aime parler avec mon boulanger le matin 🙂 at the end of the day i think it it because the Frogs understand what “la joie de vivre” means. Vive la France.
    Funny enough, when i away from my country, i miss it and defend it (verbally) when someone “attacks” it (verbally). But when i go back home, i am the first to criticize: “these people drive like idiots”, “the bureaucracy is ridiculous in this country” etc….
    But i enjoy listening to other people spit out clichés as well! Ha!

  4. I LOVE the title of the post (and also the content… but the title is hilarious). :mrgreen:

  5. LOL, hilarious post. Clichés can get on my nerves because they tend to feed the misunderstandings and hatre between the people but some are still cute and funny. Some can be contradictory just like: the French are refined but they don’t wash and are smelly, French women don’t shave their armpits, but they are seen as some of the most beautiful and sexiest women in the world, etc… Try to fight those judgements and nobody will believe you. Maybe some people need those steady clichés to reassure themselves in a constant changing world. : )

  6. I forgot to mention about the shops: I had a talk with some American people a couple of years ago, who were surprised to hear we had some supermarkets and malls in France. They thought we only had tiny shops like in the old movies… clichés again : D

  7. Today I gave a little talk to my son’s class at school about English Christmas traditions. They were fascinated. We then discussed other differences between different countries.

    And then one bright kid asked me why there are so many differences in cultures and why do we speak different languages..and he’s only 8! I was gobsmacked.

    But yes – none of the French people I know ever discuss the Brits or the Americans very much and when I raise the topic in my classes, there isn’t much interest and they don;t really know what to say.

    Maybe life is just that much more insular here? (And I don’t mean that in a negative way.) They are preoccupied with their own lives, politics, culture.

  8. A Brit moaning that the French or anyone for that matter never works – that has to be the most hilarious comment ever … or contradiction in terms. Happy Merry Season to you!

  9. Frog – as usual, wonderful perceptions and observations from a sexy man.

    Personally, I think the French are a perfect balance of refinement and crazy, and it’s why I love them so much (well, it’s one reason anyway).

    It also goes to show how powerful perceptions (which are created through language and story) are in shaping what we all see as “reality” – when, in fact, if you question what you perceive, question the reality you take for granted about a given person, culture or thing, you often find that it’s mere illusion.

    Happy holidays!

  10. Why does everybody drink coffee? It tastes like crud. I never heard of dipping a baguette in coffee, but it sounds like a great way to ruin a perfectly good baguette!

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