Archives

Stereotypes

Top 5 reasons Ron Swanson should reconsider about the French

Ron Swanson is a fictional character from a TV show that is now over. At the core of his personality is a rugged individualism, fervent belief in small government, and a powerful dislike of Europe (except maybe Scotland, on account of whisky). And although it’s true that France and much of Europe could be considered a “socialist hellscape”(his words) to someone like him, I think Ron and those like him could stand to take a closer look at the French people and their history. He might find more in common with them than he thought, as I hope to show in this top 5 list.

5: Fine wooden furniture

Ron doesn’t betray emotion about many things, but he’s a passionate woodworker (like the actor who plays him, Nick Offerman). Ron even won the “Indiana Fine Woodworking Association Award for Best Chair”, which may be the only award he ever cared about. But did he know that the French construction of wooden chairs has been a big deal for centuries? I should know– I once had to spend about two weeks studying them in a French history class.

Just look at that chair, Ron! Doesn’t that make you happy?

4: The cultivation of the moustache

The reputation of the facial hair of the upper lip of French men is well known, and this is another thing Ron has in common with them.

Left: famed moustache owner and literary giant Honoré de Balzac. Right: Ron Swanson.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 9.15.43 AM

The resemblance is uncanny.

3: The cooking and consuming of meat

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 8.51.24 AM

Yup. I googled “french steak” and this came up. If Ron hadn’t throw his computer in the dumpster, he’d probably spend all day at work drooling over pictures like these.

2: Social standoffishness & general stoicism

While it’s a vast overgeneralization to say that the French people are cold or rude or what have you, there’s certainly a cultural difference between them and the hordes of tourists who descend as locusts upon their lands. As a government employee, Ron knows what it’s like to be hassled. I imagine he’d get a lot of mileage out of body language like “the Gallic shrug”, which would allow him to speak his mind without ever saying a single word.

1: BREAKFAST FOODS

I’ve got good news for you, Ron. Although many French people will have a simple piece of toast and some coffee for breakfast, they also know their way around eggs and meats, as well as waffles and pastries.

http://footage.framepool.com/shotimg/727604607-buffet-du-petit-dejeuner-assiette-froide-oeufs-brouilles-corn-flakes.jpg

Save France, Save the World: Sneak peek at Edge of Tomorrow

I’ll be the first to admit that from seeing the trailer, I thought that “Edge of Tomorrow” was going to be stupid. But still freshly drenched in sweat from running to catch the last métro home after an avant-première in Paris, I will now admit that I enjoyed every minute of it—especially seeing Paris in post-alien-invasion mode. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say that the movie reinforces in the most entertaining way possible the idea that the French must always rely on external forces to save their butts in time of war, even in the future.

This morning, I was at the exhibit in the Jardin du Luxembourg that shows press photos from the journal Excelsior of WWI in France. You can see the 175 photos in exhibit on parisienimages.fr. I highly recommend it. Tom Cruise is nowhere to be seen.

You can also see “Edge of Tomorrow” soon, which has Tom Cruise in every scene, and not-so-subtle WWI references with the “Angel of Verdun”—not Rodin’s sculpture, but rather the kick-ass love-interest (thankfully, minimally so) and fighting companion of Tom Cruise, who seems to embody the good old USA saving the world. Have I said too much already?

In a year filled with WWI and WWII retrospectives (at least here in France), it’s nice that we can also honor WWIII (or IV or V or whatever number they’re up to in the future where aliens have once again shown complete disregard for the Eiffel Tower) knowing that France will be quickly overcome by alien forces as they were in WWII, and that only Top Gun Cruise can help.

I’d love nothing more than to report the cynicism of the French audience in the face of another USA-centric Hollywood blockbuster, but the fact is, they ate it up (as they do most Hollywood fare) and so did I. As I ran to catch the métro (at the Louvre station no less), I gave the still-intact Louvre a smug look of American superiority. On behalf of all pearly-white toothed Americans of all future invasions, we, the Americans of Hollywood, would like to say, “You’re Welcome.”

How the French see Americans: two videos for your viewing horror

“Le conseil du jour 7 – L’ancien corres’ américain” par Le Conseil du Jour sur maTVpratique.com

I can’t decide: Is this video simply not very funny or is it funny but so painfully accurate a portrayal of an American in Paris that it’s hard to laugh. You decide.

Next, let’s see what insight “travel expert Kate Thomas” can glean from her real live local friend Elise:

So there you have it: French people don’t hate Americans. If we just treat them like cats all will be well with the world.

We here at What The French?! may never have the kind of astute and nuanced socio-cultural awareness exhibited in these videos, but one thing we do know is how to help you learn French. Buy a copy of What The French?! on iTunes/iBooks, and you too can sit at a café that serves food on giant triangular plates. You too will be able to bombard locals just like Elise with your own needy questions—only you will be doing it in French.

Stereotypes of the Francophone world, part 2

You may have seen maps of US states or countries of the world labelled by the first Google suggestions given when you ask “Why are (people from x country) __?” But those searches have all been done in English, to my knowledge.

So what happens when we search in French about other countries with high populations of French speakers? Last time, we looked at four francophone countries in Europe. Today, let’s take a look at North America and the Caribbean. We can’t cover every country, and many don’t have suggested Google results, but here’s a smattering of stereotypes for you.

New-Map-Francophone_World

Canadians (outside of the Québecois): Nice, maybe healthy (maybe not), and afraid of the dark. I find this adorable.

French Canadians: they do that weird swearing thing, they have an accent, and they are no longer pickup artists. What happened? Who hurt you?

US of Americans: I guess we’re all a bunch of fat, stupid, circumcised, English-speaking French-lovers. I guess we are stupid if we love a people that calls us fat and stupid.

Mexicans: Fat and longing to live in the land of the fat free.

Haitians: Oh my gosh, you can’t just ask people why they’re black.

 

Notes on (very unscientific) experimental set-up:

The search syntax “pourquoi est-ce que les (x) sont” didn’t really work, but “pourquoi les (x) sont” and just “pourquoi les (x)” did. Go figure.

I stole the map from here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New-Map-Francophone_World.PNG. And by stole, I mean used a work released into the public domain.

Stereotypes of the Francophone world, part 1

You may have seen maps of US states or countries of the world labelled by the first Google suggestions given when you ask “Why are (people from x country) __?” But those searches have all been done in English, to my knowledge.

So what happens when we search in French about European countries with high populations of French speakers? Let’s find out:

francophone europe large

In red: France. The first and third searches, if true, might explain the second…

In yellow: Belgium. I’m almost inclined to say they can do anything they want, as long as they keep riding their motos in pyjamas.

In white: Switzerland. It seems they’re the rich, cultured kind of racists, not like those redneck Belgians.

In blue: Romania. They have the impressive distinction of not being known for their racism, although the first result, ‘dirty’, may well come from the other three countries above, and prove that yes, they are a little bit racist.

Surprised to see Romania mentioned? Although French is not an official language of the country, Romania has tons of fluent French speakers and well-established cultural ties (read about it here; scroll down a bit to get to “Francophonie”).

Note: the syntax “pourquoi est-ce que les (x) sont” didn’t really work, but “pourquoi les (x) sont” did. Go figure.

Sources:

1. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Europe_political_map.png

2. Google.

google analytics code: