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The French Side of the French

The French Side of the French

For those out there who have experienced the dream vacation and traveled to France, hopefully you were not disappointed. There’s the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, French Riviera, excellent food, a thrilling nightlife, and enough cafes to keep your afternoons occupied for ten lifetimes. but while on that memorable trip, you may have encountered some far less welcoming than others. And even though Paris is known for being the romance capital for holiday goers, universal inclusion is not one of its features.

While all of France predominantly  speaks French, those in the south have an accent that casually ends every word with a soft -e sound which is like nails on a chalkboard to many ears.

A stereotype exists that the French believe themselves to be superior in language, culture, and let’s not forget philosophy. Because of this, they’re thought to look down on foreigners for any number of reasons. Many have experienced the disapproving roll of the eyes when ordering drinks at a cafe or even while asking a question to someone on the street. Granted, every french man and woman does not fit into this category as some are incredibly friendly and more than happy to share their culture. But the stereotype does exist because more often than not, the mentality is in common circulation.

It's important to note that not all French people follow this persona. While many choose to display stereotypical behaviors as a common practice, the rest of society that prides itself on experiencing cultural diversity and open-mindedness towards all things new keeps the other side in line. That's why a casual stroll around Châtelet can be an absolute delight with the right crowd. And if you're lucky enough to attend a dinner party "pot-luck" style, you'll find the atmosphere as flavorful as the wine and various meat pâtés.

 

But when dealing with the more judgmental parts of society, it's important not to take this behavior too personally. As a native English speaker living in Paris and traveling around the country, I discovered that the distaste for those who are different was not solely directed at foreigners. French society breaks down into different groups. And because of this, many French also share an unspoken disdain for their fellow countrymen.

There is no better place to start than with the southerners. Because of the warm beaches, country air, and beautiful scenery, the south happens to be an ideal destination for many in France to holiday. But while the atmosphere is a good place for northerners and city dwellers to unwind, its population is tolerated rather than accepted.

While all of France predominantly speaks French, those in the south have an accent that casually ends every word with a soft -e sound which is like nails on a chalkboard to many ears. Though this difference is small, it is enough to make the northerners despise them and even act unwelcoming when one of these unfamiliars is spotted in the busy city streets.

Next on the list are the intellectuals. These are the educated, academics, and deep thinkers who praise themselves for thinking outside of the box. Many French feel that this group puts itself on a pedestal and considers the rest of society inferior. And because they hold premier positions with such establishments as the Grandes Écoles for those that pursue academics, La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs for the food lovers, and the Wine Scholar Guild, they are disliked for their countenance of superiority towards the rest of society.

Without as many achievements, the bourgeoisie hold a position that is purely in title and heredity. Wealth is passed down from one generation to the next making the idea of working a job more a hobby than a necessity. Their last names are known throughout France. This brings with it a sense of privilege that does take on the form of entitlement and the expectation of living a comfortable lifestyle that is guaranteed through family inheritance.

 

Just like those with money elsewhere in the world, the bourgeoisie tend to stick together rubbing shoulders with like-privileged individuals. France accepts them for their privilege but scowls at a level of wealth that so many other will not be able to achieve in one lifetime. While on the other side, this distinctive class maintains the high chins of its social status.

The French will be French depending on who you encounter, but it really isn’t personal in the least.

The Parisians are in a group entirely their own. For the rest of the country, they are thought of as rich and entitled professionals who travel away from the city for holidays and make sure that the distinction between themselves and the rest of the population is understood. To many, they come across as rude and self-indulgent without any regard for others. Because of this, they have earned a reputation across France as the ones who are good at spending money but are no longer welcome once the money runs out.

 

Lastly, the average Frenchman has good reason to feel resentment. He or she is not born into money, does not have the education to hold a significant position, will work long hours for little pay, and does not have the luxury of going on holiday as often as others. Sure, these people may not have the additional disadvantage of speaking with a southern accent, but the the other groups look down on them for their uneducated (often considered lazy) and unprivileged (often considered unappealing) lifestyle. Together, these groups make up the French collective, and hopefully this puts things into a bit more perspective.

It is important to reiterate that not all of France acts this way. Just like others around the world, there are some who are warm and friendly. They choose to give everyone a fair chance and then make up their own judgments about the person’s character. These are the gems in French society. And if you have the privilege of running into one, you might be finding a friend for life.

There are many positives and negatives to visiting France. But if French superiority towards foreigners is something that concerns you, don’t take it personally. France with its many different groups has many reasons to love and hate itself. Tourists just happen to be another group thrown into the mix. So travel to the top of the Eiffel Tower, swim in the Mediterranean, and eat all the cheese in sight. The French will be French depending on who you encounter, but it really isn’t personal in the least.

 

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