Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Despite my British passport, everybody thinks that I am French. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. People assume lots of things about me. Such things may come from what they have read or been told. Who knows? I don’t try to understand it any more. In particular, one of the usual prejudgments is that, as I am French, I don’t shower a lot and don’t clean my house very well.

As a result, I have had mums coming to my house to ‘inspect’ it before they would allow their kids to have a first play date with my children –you never know, they might catch something (it is called a French bug, very contagious indeed –be careful ladies). One mum in particular even opened the cupboard under the kitchen sink and looked in amazement at my cleaning products. With kids, I try to disinfect as often as possible, and she was so impressed that she didn’t hear me come back from upstairs. She was still crouching when she asked me whether I was really French. What a bloody cheek!

Yes, my house is clean and I like to do a bit of spring cleaning in March/April. Honestly. That said, such misconceptions make me want to pick my nose, eat my bogies in public and forget what a vacuum cleaner is.  The sneaky mum then went on explaining that she had just come back from a week-end in Paris and couldn’t believe how dirty it was, with rubbish and dog poo everywhere. That’s why she was so intrigued by my lovely cleaning products.
I didn’t know what to say. I shut up. You can’t fight this, can you? And there is no point anyway. I can’t win. You have to choose your battles, right?

As I was angry, I went to the gym for a workout, and bumped into another mum at the sport centre. She was sitting at the café next door when I got out, after my shower. She said ‘You took a long shower, didn’t you?’. I didn’t know that my shower had to be timed but there you go, it looks like I am under close surveillance. I must be careful. I couldn’t help it, I had to answer back. I then said:
“ Did I really? That’s funny, because I don’t really mind body odours. I think that they are very sexy. Don’t you?”
She was stunned. I walked by.

I shouldn’t have said that.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • Good grief how rude!. I wouldn’t dream of looking in someone else’s cupboards uninvited. We all have to live with these stereotypical misconceptions. I am insulted on one thing or another about being British nearly every day, mostly about cooking. But we all know that the French eat snails breakfast, lunch and supper so why critise my boiled beef and jelly?

  • Carol Tomany

    That’s so sad. I have a friend who is French Canadian and she has one of those immaculate homes – spotless with nothing out of place. My Italian neighbours are the same. If we have them over, I have to spend the week cleaning to bring my house up to scratch! Lovely post

  • MuMuGB

    Thanks, Carol! You know, there is no real point in fighting such misconceptions anyway. I have learned to pit up with it!

  • MuMuGB

    They do indeed…What would we do without misconceptions? I put up wit it. As for food, my family sends me parcel full of French food every now and then because they are concerned about what I might be eating over here. I don’t try to understand any more. I told them that we even had electricity over here but they didn’t get the joke!

  • Now, just imagine that you looked like you came from the Middle East… You’d really be doomed!

  • MuMuGB

    I have to admit that such misconceptions are really hurting me. that said, what can we do? I just have to put up with it. that said, you are right, it could be much worse!

  • Preconceived notions are the birthplace of stereotype, and a breeding ground for hate. Sadly, it is human nature. We all deal with it. I’ve always heard the French are rude, people from Boston are snobs, Asians will kick your butt in a classroom and the sort. I actually just wrote about this on one of my sites yesterday. Being from Dallas, we have our own set of stereotypes. People associate Dallas with cowboy boots and hats, when this could not be further from the truth. Parts of Fort Worth still embrace that imagery, but Dallas has moved beyond it.

  • AnnMullen

    Yes, you should have said that. I can’t believe the nerve of some people. Making a joke is the only way. But I have a problem with some of the humor people use to poke fun at prejudice by using it on themselves. Bill thinks people are prejudiced against people from Dallas, but where I came from in South Texas many men did dress that way. So? As for clean, I have never been any good at doing it and I am not French. Now I have a lovely young lady who helps me.

  • Suerae Stein

    I cannot imagine someone looking through my cabinets and, on top of that, not feeling embarrassed afterwards! Amazing that someone can make judgements about a person based on their impression of a city! It is very sad. I’m sorry you have to endure such ignorance.

  • Caro Ness

    I absolutely think you should have said it! Hooray for you having sens of humour about people being so judgmental and small minded…

  • Jenny Woolf

    Good grief. I would have pushed the woman into the cupboard and shut the door, like Hansel pushed the witch into the oven. ( Or at least, thought about it 🙂

    Seriously, I would hesitate to let my children spend much time with someone who is this full of herself and so badly lacking in social skills. Still, just as our immune systems need developing by being in contact with a little grubbiness, so perhaps our kids need contact with people who simply have no idea about how to get along with others, if only so that they can see how nasty it is to behave that way. What do you think?

  • I think it was more than fine that you said what you did. Maybe she learned something!

  • Ha ha ha! I can’t believe you said that. Brilliant. 🙂

  • I can’t believe the nerve of these women. I hope you gave that one something to think about. As for French being unclean, I don’t think I’ve been overly offended by the smell of any French person who’s not living on the streets (except the Paris metro during a heat wave). And the French are extremely serious about clean houses — just look at the number of products in the cleaning aisle of the supermarché. And don’t get me started on their obsession with ironing! They have more variety of ironing appliances than I’ve ever seen. In the States I couldn’t even tell you where to find an aisle with the ironing boards.

  • MuMuGB

    It is indeed human nature, but that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? I wonder where such stereotypes are coming from? Wh do people like them so much?

  • MuMuGB

    Well, I am glad that you believe that I should have said that…I am still a little bit ashamed of myself, but I am sure that it will pass…

  • MuMuGB

    Well, I have learned to cope with it. Stereotypes are just a part of life. I will get over it!

  • MuMuGB

    Thank you! That said, it wasn’t very British, was it? It must be my French side!

  • MuMuGB

    What a great analysis! I think that it is important for kids to be flexible and yes, to learn to deal with such behaviour. I am sure that the lady in question didn’t mean any harm. She just didn’t get that it was rude to do what she did. She was just curious.

    Maybe it is me who needs to get more used to such behaviour…

  • That was brave of you to say that, but I can understand your state of ‘pissosity’. So, well done! I just don’t have any excuse or explanation for those mums’ behavior.

  • MuMuGB

    Joy, I have stopped trying to understand, there is no point. You have to choose your battles, right?

  • anon

    no offense to French people but the stereotype seems quite accurate to me in their case. I lived in France for 5 years and have shared houses with a number of French people and I wouldn’t say they’re dirty (seems like too strong a word) but are certainly a nightmare to live with- very messy, never do any housework, generally inconsiderate. I would never share a house with French people again after some of the experiences I’ve had

    • ramja

      As you say, it was just a (bad) experience. You would also better choose people sharing your house. It’s not a question of nationality.

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