Home > Social & Culture > What's True About French Stereotypes?

What's True About French Stereotypes?

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 20 Apr 2011 | comments*Discuss
French France Old Young Kids Traits

Are stereotypes about the French really true? Well, think of a typical French person and what do you see? A beret-wearing gentleman, parading his onions atop a rusty old bicycle? Perhaps an unshaven poet gesturing ostentatiously while a long extinguished Gitanne hangs from his bottom lip. Maybe it's an impossibly glamorous vision of couture and elegance, drifting through the crowded pavement cafés of Montmartre.

Well, they're all true! No seriously, they are. Well, perhaps apart from the onion seller...

Different Stereotypes

However, there are many more ingredients in French soup! France has long been a multi-cultural country with a proud tradition of integration. You could just as easily paint a picture of a North African teenager, dressed in an Olympic Marseille football shirt, one leg of his tracksuit bottoms hitched up. You may find them hanging outside the burger bar while a soundtrack of French hip hop clatters out from his mobile phone.

Or could it be the elderly lady, walking slowly around the supermarket looking for a bargain. That unspecified internal organ in the meat section? That's for her. Don't be offended if she pushes her way in front of you in the queue... it is quite acceptable socially to do this if you are of a certain age, are visibly pregnant or have a disability. The French won't bat an eyelid.

Perhaps it is the silver-haired biker with the regulation sideburns and cowboy boots. Riding his gleaming Harley Davison to the supermarket car park. Airbrushed wolves on the petrol tank, a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket (he will NOT be giving up his wicked weed just because the government says so!), and reliving his youth to a Johnny Hallyday soundtrack. Leave him be madam, he will be out of town by sun up.

Or maybe it is the middle aged woman who serves you at the boulangerie. A scarf tied jauntily around her neck, twinkly eyes that smile for her every customer and a figure which says, “I only indulge sometimes”. She will send you on your way with enough calories to apply for a mobility scooter. And well she may smile, for she knows you will return tomorrow!

Outdated Stereotypical French Traits

Then again, maybe even you won't realise they are French at all. There was a time when you could spot a French teenager a mile away due, in no small part, to their loudly-coloured back pack and red jeans.

Nowadays, a French youth is virtually indistinguishable from his or her UK counterpart. Skinny jeans and a cardigan? Check. Eyeliner and bright lipstick? Check. Unwashed and wearing a crusty old Metallica t-shirt that they found in their Dad's wardrobe? You betcha!

Go into any Apple store and see the identikit hipsters with their facial hair and oversized horn rimmed glasses. Yes, the French too aspire to live a life of youth and beauty via sexy, silver devices.

Embracing Society

Refreshingly, there is a somewhat different attitude towards those following a more 'alternative' lifestyle. The 'dogs on a string' types who strike fear into the hearts of many a middle class do-gooder in the UK are generally treated with respect in France and don't cause a lot of fuss. Let us not forget that elitism and privilege were overthrown in France a long time ago (well in theory anyway!). You will see these types outside supermarkets and Post Offices asking for change and yes, they will use it to buy booze, but there is a good chance that it will be red wine and it will accompany some cheese and a baguette!

One thing that most French people have in common is that if you speak loudly at them in English they will treat you like the fool that you are. French people are by and large a pretty friendly bunch. One wonders what type of person finds them any other way. Parisian life may be faster paced and the average inhabitant will likely be less than concerned about catering to your every whim, but isn't that true of any city?

The French do like to enjoy life though. This is why so many of us spend our holidays there (France is STILL the most visited country in the world with between 75 and 80 million foreign visitors per year), and why so many of us either think of, or actually do emigrate. You may even find some new stereotypes of your own.Happy hunting!

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Francophile
    Re: The Role of the Mairie in France
    Le maire is the person. Le mairie is the building. Why invite visitors to France to find their own stereotypes?
    31 July 2020
  • alpbabe
    Re: Cost of Living in France
    I'm currently at the start of my journey and planning to retire in France in the next 4 years. I'm a UK passport holder but left the UK…
    4 December 2019
  • Stacey
    Re: 'Live the Dream' TV Shows & The Truth About Moving to France!
    Hi We have just had our offer accepted on a barn in France and would love to…
    3 December 2019
  • Leah
    Re: French Law, What you Need to Know Before you Move
    Hi there! I am curious about filling out the paperwork for french citizenship WITH a criminal record -…
    27 August 2019
  • stewart
    Re: French Fashion
    We are a family of two and intend to move to the Loire valley area within the next 6 months. Can anybody give us a rough estimate of the cost of…
    25 June 2019
  • henryallan1450
    Re: Cost of Living in France
    i would ask you than i wish live south of France because i do like front Sea view very much but i feel bit worried about high rentals…
    29 April 2019
  • Natalie
    Re: Making Friends in France
    Hi. I moved to France last summer and am looking to make English speaking friends or join clubs in the area. I live in Pissy-Poville, a…
    27 January 2019
  • Natalie
    Re: Resources For Expats in France
    I moved to Pissy-Poville (13 kms outside Rouen) last summer and am looking for English speaking clubs and activities - anything…
    27 January 2019
  • manulang
    Re: Making Friends in France
    Halo. I wish you can help me , i want to make friend in France
    15 November 2018
  • Juliette
    Re: Cost of Living in France
    I have lived in France since 2016 and the cost of living is very high - the utilities are ridiculous the cost of insurance , house car…
    29 August 2018