Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Stereotypes /

When something annoys me, I wait for a while to see if it still bugs me after some time. In this case, it did. What am I talking about? Celia Walden’s article on the seven lessons in the art of being a French woman (published on The Telegraph here). I didn’t understand what we French women had done to deserve this. Maybe it was as simple as having a strong French accent. Or being French-born. Seriously, what is it with this obsession with French women? It seems to me that such an obsession shows a close relationship with psychotic processes, and says more about perceived British shortcomings rather than how we French (if there is such a thing as ‘we French’) truly are. I have been told countless times that I shouldn’t complain because the myths on French women are considered to be positive, but try being taken seriously in a technical job when everybody else holds the belief that you are a glamorous creature who preys on unsuspecting British men at night. A myth, positive or not, remains a falsehood. And for the record, I am so tired at night that I tend to sleep, just like most mothers, come to think of it. Surprising, right? I know, I know.

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I have tried countless times to correct false beliefs, but quickly realised that it didn’t work. In fact, things became even worse. I noticed that, when I was trying to give some fact-based evidence to my interlocutors that they were completely wrong about the French, it entrenched their pre-existing positions. Truth be told, it was backfiring on me in a massive way, and I was getting even more personal comments like ‘all French men have a mistress and your husband probably has one, whether you like it or not’ (don’t you love it when people know your life even better than you do?) or ‘French women are such sluts’ (Really? What did I do again?)

In short, just telling people the evidence for the truth doesn’t work. For instance, would you believe that we French don’t say ‘oh la la’ at every possible opportunity? Well, we don’t. But myths don’t work like that. I had to learn to go with the flow and try to change myths little by little. Sometimes it works. Most of the time I must admit that it doesn’t. The beliefs are so deeply ingrained that I am not sure I can do anything about it. But hey, I will keep trying. So here it is: a point by point response to the article:

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French women don’t do sisterliness

Don’t you find it a bit rich? Seriously, Celia, who are you to lecture us on sisterhood when you slam French women at the first possible opportunity? And try asking a British mum for the phone number of her kids’ tutor to see if it is any easier…

French Women Don’t Get Fat… because they drink a lot of black coffee and smoke

For the record, I don’t smoke, I only have one coffee a day, and I am a runner. Oh, and here is a newsflash for you: there are fat women in France too. Just saying. Maybe Celia is pissed at us because she hasn’t lost all the baby fat? No need to blame French women for this, because I can assure you that we have absolutely nothing to do with it. It takes time, you just have to accept it and make the necessary adjustments, if it is your priority of course. In fact, Celia, why don’t you come with me for a run in Hyde Park next time you are in town? It will teach you a thing or two on how we French women run maybe?

French women love a pharmacy

I don’t think that this is specific to French women. It is a French thing, and it has more to do with the fabulous healthcare system we enjoy in France. When you see your GP there, you often end up with a prescription longer than the arm. Over here, your GP will tell you to suck it up. You will have to convince him or her that you are sick. In France, it is the opposite. You will have to convince your physician to go easy on the drugs. It’s a cultural thing, and has nothing to do with French women.

They also love matching underwear

So what? Is it a crime? Maybe that’s why we have the reputation to get more action in the bedroom. And seriously, Celia, it is also time to move on from the granny pants. I thought I should let you know. You might even like it.

French women terrify French men

Well, I hadn’t noticed. My husband seems fine, and we have lived together for the last two decades. He doesn’t seem traumatised. I have never thrown his Blackberry through the window. And even if you were right, it is a shame that we don’t terrify British men too. It would have saved me the embarrassment of getting unwanted advances and love declarations just because I happen to be French. So, how can I terrify British men too please?

French women don’t whinge about glass ceilings

Life is too short to whinge, right? I passed that stage a long time ago anyway. I am not sure it is a French thing. It’s just me. You should try it.

Lastly, French women don’t take advice

Celia, if, like me, you had been educated in France, you would have had to take a lot of advice. You would have been corrected and told off every day. Unlike over here, in fact, where kids are barely corrected when they make a mistake.

I wonder how people would react if I were to write a similar article on British women. The thing is, I simply wouldn’t, because it would be far too offensive. So much for being French!