Tag Archives: stereotypes

Breton Pride

2 Dec

Soooo.  When I chose to study abroad in Bretagne (Brittany to you non-French speaking people) I had a vague understanding that the region was different from the rest of France, but for the most part I really had no idea

about it’s long history (here’s the Wikipedia entry if you need to brush up) and how that its impact is still very much present today.

The people here are fiercely proud of their heritage and its very common to see the Breton flag on bumper stickers, in shops, and even in murals/graffiti on the sides of buildings.

Which is why I find it particularly interesting that it seems to me that many of the “French stereotypes” come from Bretagne.

For example, that whole stripes thing.  First of all, this is one stereotype that is very much alive and well- I see people wearing stripes all the time- but the history of the stripes comes from Bretagne’s fishermen.  So the whole striped nautical thing is actually a Breton thing….and check out the Breton flag itself: stripe-y.

Another thing that France is famous for is its crepes.  I don’t know the whole history of it, but for some reason, they are native to Bretagne.  There are creperies- restaurants that serve only crepes and galettes- all over Rennes but they aren’t as prolific in other areas of the country.

There are other stereotypes of Bretagne that I’m glad have not permeated France, however.  This would be the Andouillette (which is technically Alsatian, but since I ordered it in Rennes, I’m blaming Bretagne. Ha. ), and the whole Bretagne Hippie style which is really really unfashionable…I wish I had a photo that encompassed this trend, but google image search has failed me in this department.

Other stereotypes of France that I’ve noticed are so incredibly true, but are so not limited to Bretagne:

1. Smoking.  I would say the majority of French people smoke and a large percentage of those people seem to roll their cigarettes.  They have these cute little pouches they keep their tobacco in.  Its a whole other side of accessories that I had never thought of.  Anyway, you’ll see students leaving classes with their tobacco pouch and a bag of filters in one hand and they’ll start to roll as soon as they get out the door.  Also you’ll often see people with cigarettes in their mouths on the metro, waiting for the doors to open,  so they are prepared to light up the second they hit fresh air.

2. Strikes aka Grèves.  Yes.  In my short time here, I have witnesses countless protests, railworkers strikes, marches etc etc.  Basically the French are very vocal about their right to strike and voice complaints about their country or their situation. I’m pretty sure there is a grève des sans-papiers going on right now- which is a undocumented workers strike.  Needless to say, undocumented workers striking is sort of an oxymoron, but people living in France who don’t even have the right to strike are going on strike.

3. Baguettes.  Enough said. This one is true beyond belief.  In the “Restos” or the university cafeterias, you get a free baguette roll with whatever you order…even if you dont really want it.  Haha.

More stereotype debunking to come (nudity, hotness, eyesight, fashion sense, etc)!!



23 Sep

Things I have noticed lately:


1. The French seriously tend to smell.  I know that its a stereotype, but stereotypes are based on fact, and their smell is no joke.  I swear France has a stench.  It consists of body oder, cigarettes, old pee, and more old body oder.  When I go to a lecture, I can smell it.  When I am on the metro, I can smell it.  Walking down the street I can sometimes smell it.  When I am in the computer lab, I can smell it on the chair from the person who sat there before me.  Its really very lovely.  Especially on hot days.


2. “American” things.  The French are really funny because they label things American and I have no idea why.  For example, there are a few sandwiches at the cafeteria that are “American.”  I want to know what makes them different from the French sandwiches!  They also have something called “American Sauce” which as an American born and raised, I have never seen any American use in my entire life.  So it beats me as to why it gets labeled “American.”  I know there are some other examples of “American” things but those are the only ones that come to mind right now.

3. France is apparently light-years ahead of the States in fashion, but with everything else, it just seems incredibly behind.


The L’Oréal hairspray that I bought today looks like it was made in the 80s and then saved to sell in France 30 years later.  It also smells like an old lady, but I’m not going to lie, I kinda like it…it’s comforting or something lol.  Also, sidenote, my conditioner smells EXACTLY like that pink bubblegum medicine that I was always prescribed as a kid.  Don’t even pretend to not know what I’m talking about, lol you have to know the stuff.  Anyway, back to the subject at hand, everything is hella retro here, but not in an ironic or intentional way.

Lost and Confused Signpost

4. Organization = Lack thereof.  OMG for a country of people that can be so particular about their rules, they have some of the least logical systems of doing anything and everything.  In the grocery store, the conditioner, shampoo, body wash and hand soap are all in different aisles and the bureaucracy in this country is absolutely ridiculous.  I could go on and on and on with examples for this one, but I’ll restrain myself.

5. Respect.  I always thought that young people in the US showed their elders respect, although in maybe a casual way, however the French blow us out of the water on this one.  I was in line at the Carrefour (have you noticed that all my examples come from the Carrefour? lol I promise that I do do things other than grocery shopping) and there was a boy behind me in line.  After him was an older woman, maybe 65ish but claiming her age, if you know what I mean.  Anyway she asked the boy behind me to reach up and grab her a specific increment of the “top-up” phone cards for cell phones from the turnstile by the register.  Whatever she wanted though wasn’t there, so after verifying what she wanted, they boy behind me in line went to a different part of the store and grabbed her what she wanted.  Can you believe that?  This woman wasn’t even that old or decrepit, she should have been able to do that herself.  I just found it very interesting and kind of refreshing but kind of irritating all at the same time.  I guess the verdict is conflicted.

6.  French women do not appear to sweat or even get hot.  Today was really sunny and so on my way to a lecture I began to sweat under my scarf.  I got to the lecture hall where there are 100+ students and I became even hotter due to all the people in a smallish room.  I took my scarf off and looked around me noticing all these women in sweaters and layers and none of them appeared to be hot let alone sweating.  Hmmm.


7. Glasses are way more common here.  My Buddy Holly/ Clark Kent -esque glasses aren’t really that unique, they are kinda sorta common.  They actually make me look a little more French.  I think I may actually buy some frames here.  There appear to be more interesting options here than in the US.


8. Fabulous Graffiti and Bathroom Poetry.  Obviously some of it sucks, like the gang shit that people scribble around on the sides of historical buildings, but some of it is totally rad.  In St. Malo I even saw some Charlie Chaplin graffiti.

Those are enough observations for now I think.  Although I am sure I will have too many to count by next year.


beret love

16 Sep


There are berets on sale at HM in France for about 5 or 6 euro and they are soo hella cute. I seriously want this red one, but i just can’t bring myself to buy it.  I swear it makes me look like Faye Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde.


ahhh.  wantttt.  The problem arises in the fact that if I wear it here, I will be a walking and talking stereotypical cliché of France.  And so I musn’t.  But I’ll be wearing one in my dreams tonight :P


Seriously!  They’re so damn adorable.

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