Whilst I am on the topic of Paris, and by extension, France, I figured I should get some little things straight. It has been done countless times, but it seems the world at large still believes in clichés when it comes to the French, and France.
Clichés (French word, by the way) are annoying. They are also, very often, untrue, at least in this time and place – turns out French women did really have a lot of body hair once, back at the time of the liberation of Paris at the end of the World War II… seems they had other stuff to think about besides shaving, waxing, or threading. Go figure.
So without further ado, here goes.
Ah! The endless question of body hair! I sometimes wonder if anyone has ever met a French person, say, EVER?! Actually, this is the one cliché that started this entire article. I read, on an otherwise very good travel blog that will go unnamed here another mention of… yes, body hair and its love by the French. Now, I’m sorry, but for someone who supposedly “travels”, you, dear writer, have obviously never set foot in France. Not only do French women shave, wax and all around wage war on their hair, if they were to not do it, the French male would immediately notice. STRAIGHT AWAY. Because, no, the French are not in love with the “all natural” look. Actually, this is the stupidest cliché, considering it is usually uttered by people who will, in the same sentence, assure you that all the French look like…
The French are beautiful and elegant
Supermodels! Last time I checked, Gisele was hairless, but let’s just move on. This one makes me laugh, a nation of Carla Bruni! Ha. She’s Italian, you know? But anyway, whilst it was true, maybe, that at some point, the French were thinner than some of their Europeans counterparts (let’s not even mention the Americans), it’s been a while since the fast food reflex has been implemented in the country of smelly cheese and wine. More kids run on burgers than on ratatouille here, so their waistlines have followed. The fattest woman I have ever set eyes on was in the middle of Paris. True story.
The French have style and elegance, you say? If you think the country is dressed by dear Mr K. and that all its women totter on impossibly high heels whilst scarf wearing men with impeccable manicures chat at the terrace of a café, you will be extremely disappointed once you get here. The French women I know who own (real) Chanel can be counted on one hand. That’s nobody’s everyday outfit. Most days, everyone in Paris is running around in Zara jeans and Nike trainers whilst stuffing overflowing sandwiches in their mouths and complaining about the tourists who walk too slowly (that’s you). Maybe what the French are good at is multitasking?
Good food, Good wine
Whilst supposed to be super thin, the French are also supposed to eat a lot, and eat well. Oh, the food, oh, the wine! Sorry to disappoint, but like style, the food is a question of class. 95% of the French eat disgusting readymade meals made with stuff named by a combination of letters and numbers. The microwave is most French’s best friend: same as everywhere else in the world. As for the wine, it’s good, yes. But so is Italian, Spanish, Chilean, Kiwi, Australian, American… wine. I never got what the fuss was about, unless you go get yourself a vintage that will probably cost you an arm and a leg (if not both arms and legs), the stuff you pick up in supermarkets isn’t going to be better than the stuff you can pick up in supermarkets everywhere else in the world.
The snails and frogs
No, just no.
Parisians are cultured and well read
My mum was a teacher. Some of her teenage students needed multiple tries to write down their names without spelling mistakes. You think they read Bourdieu, watch Goddard, and can discuss the merits of existentialism? Please! All you have to do is turn on the telly the moment you set foot in France. You will see the level of “culture” this country has. The Lumières were a mighty long time ago.
Paris is the Eiffel Tower…
Speaking of lights, can we all stop with the Eiffel Tower? The thing is ugly. I have a theory that everyone secretly thinks so, but nobody dares say it. Well I said it: it’s just an old pile of steel plunked in the middle of Paris. Get over it.
… and Versailles
Is NOT in Paris. Phew. Seriously though, it’s pretty amazing there, but no, it’s not in the capital. Even our old kings knew better than to live there. Versailles is a suburb, a completely separate city. That’s right, not even the same postcode.
Versailles, kings… As French clichés go, the next thing owes to be beheadings. So, here you go. The Revolution. The one where we stormed Versailles and got rid of the monarchy. The reason for all the strikes, the marching and chanting, because we’re French, free people, revolutionaries! We don’t let our “betters” think they’re better than us. Apart from the fact I’ve always rooted for Marie Antoinette and that most people seem to forget than the Revolution lead to worse, far worse, afterwards, it’s time to put things back in their places. We stole the idea from the English! Who, let’s be honest, did it way better than the French and didn’t end up with Napoleon, only to go back to a monarchy, slightly better, modelled after the English’s constitutional monarchy.
This isn’t a history lesson, so let’s just say: no, the French didn’t “invent” the Revolution, no, the French people didn’t “win” (actually, the bourgeoisie won, which is to say, the same as before, an “elite” class, only this one newly minted to their powers), and no, the will and pleasure the French take in storming the streets is not something that derives from their forebears fighting the Establishment. They just very much like a day off from work, and since you still retain your job when you go on strike, no matter how long the strike, it’s a good opportunity for a nice day out with the kids during spring and summer (funny, how the strikes rarely happen in the middle of winter). You don’t get paid, of course, but you can’t get everything.
Re-reading this post, I can’t figure out if I’m more annoyed at the people who don’t understand the French or at the French themselves. So I think it’s a good time to stop.
I would also very much like to mention, before anyone gets offended, that I truly, deeply feels everything I have just written.
Oh, and yes, for all the French out there who will be crying out that this is true, but about Paris, and that Paris is not France: you should really not mention that too loudly, some people might start to believe you and go check out the rest of France: now, what a mess we’ll be in then!