Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

We had a few quiet months but right now it is coming back with a vengeance: I keep reading articles about ‘the French’ and how extramarital affairs are not that big a deal on the continent. It is not making my life any easier.
Some British men still blush when I talk to them, because of my accent. I don’t know what they are thinking. Maybe that I am hitting on them? That I ooze sensuality? That I fancy them? Next time, I will pretend that I am German. Or Swiss. Most middle-aged British men are not listening to what I say for the first five minutes (sometimes even longer). Then, usually, I get a comment like ‘you look very French’. I retaliate ‘you sound very British’. Or I just smile. Most of the time, I give up and try to work with women. Much easier. I used to find the whole thing flattering. Now, I am just tired of it.
Give me a break. Being French and a woman is a double whammy: you have got to fight against the sexist clichés AND the stereotypes against the French. You need a good dose of patience and it is important to keep things into perspective: it is a cultural thing, nothing personal. I have learned to ignore the winks and the smiles after an allusion to the behaviour of DSK and the likes.
In London, they make it sound like the French have invented extramarital affairs. All the articles usually paint an idyllic picture of open marriages and glorify women who swallow their pride while their husbands have a roving eye. Apparently, being unfaithful is not that big a deal in France.
What a load of rubbish!
Come on, the aristocracy in this country has had affairs for ages (just look at the Royal Family!), and it doesn’t have much to do with the French, does it? They did it all by themselves. Affairs are not the privilege of the French. Over here, there are plenty of website for married people who want to cheat on their partner. Such sites might exist in France but apparently it is not as big a business as over here.
I sometimes wonder whether such articles are written by frustrated journalists who would like to have the opportunity to stray but are too afraid to do so. Admiring the French for their perceived promiscuity is an easy way to forget their own frustrations.
What would we do without stereotypes? I once was offered an ashtray despite the fact that I don’t smoke. As I am French, people assume I smoke. Well, I don’t. I gave the ashtray to my then British boss, who was a smoker. Maybe I should have kept it to throw it against the wall when I get a silly and inappropriate question about whether my husband has a mistress -because, apparently, all French men do. Instead, I play it cool. I say ‘oh yeah, the three of us had lunch on Sunday, it was great. Actually, she is waiting for me in the car right now, she is giving me a lift to the spa. Must go’. Or I take the moral high ground: you don’t cheat on a woman like me!
And here is why I feel angry this morning: while I was writing this post during my morning coffee, a British guy wearing the mandatory stripey suit came to me and asked me whether I knew him from somewhere. I didn’t –I can’t even have my coffee without anyone bothering me, can you believe it? He even wrote his number on a napkin. I won’t post it (I hesitated). Great, on top of everything else, I need to change coffee shop.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London