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People are people

I have been surfing out in bloggie land and have recently seen some strange tales of life in France. These tales by these particular expats are not true or could be told by an expat living in America, England, Germany or what-have-you.

Please, when you are reading blogs on the internet understand that another person is not going to have the same tales or see things the same way even if they are living in the same city on the same street in the same apartment building.

To a huge extent we make our experiences in life what it is by how we deal with it and how open our eyes are to the big picture.

A favorite is that French hairstylists are bad. I have had as many bad cuts in America than in France. I think that it may be true for all hairstylists in all countries. Maybe, that is why when we find a good one we will follow them just about anywhere. Back in Ohio, I had a good stylist that I drove 40 minutes to see because they were the only person I could trust with my hair. When I did go to someone else it was a nightmare.

I am using the hairstylist example because it is the nicest one I can use without getting really nasty. I think when you are a foreigner in a country it is easy to shine another light on things in a way that makes the reality fuzzy. I am guilty of it as well.

Some days I feel issolated and like everyone is staring at me with my accent and my American ways. Then, I have a French walk up to me and start asking me something in French all the while they are thinking I am French. It was me the whole time thinking I was standing out like a sore thumb and no one even noticed me at all in reality. It just depends on the day and whether I am homesick or not.

It is up to me how I translate my own fears and feelings of not fitting in. I can build a wall between myself and “the French” shooting nasty comments and reinforcing stereotypes or I can step out and deal with my situation knowing that over time I will fit in based on how I feel inside. How well I open up myself to “the French” or if I decide to continue as the little foreigner. It is up to me.

My husband was the worst French expat to ever live in America. He just was not meant to be an expat. He was meant to live his life happily in France. He was constantly saying, “You Americans….can’t drive…are fat…eat bad…don’t walk….don’t let people out….it’s too easy for you (college, jobs) so you are spoiled….and on and on. And…in France…we do this or that..” He generalized alot of things and flat out made some stuff up in my opinion. I often told him that I hope he never tells his French friends all his silly stereotypes that were so true to him but I felt were so unfair to Americans.

So, I understand the venting that is occuring from these bloggers because I saw it in my husband while living in America. Why was he so “anti-American” (and, at the end BOY was he hard to live with)? Simply, because he was homesick and wanted to go home.

Shortly, after moving back to France he started missing all the things he loved about America. He is just one of those people that can’t live out of their own country. He didn’t adjust well.

Please, please, please, remember if you read about grown French men and women using thermometers where normally it is only used in the case of a baby (basically where the sun don’t shine)….it is not true. Yes, I actually, read this on someone’s blog.  That she needed a ‘mouth’ thermometer because she didn’t have one in France.  I thought thermometers were all basically the same and the difference was up to you where you put it.  I have lived in France for two and a half years and had a baby in the hospital here all the while enjoying ‘mouth’ thermometers. You can even buy those handy dandy ear thermometers if you like. I think I would question the personal preference of this practice by these select individuals…because, that practice in any family or individual just ain’t normal. I, also, have smelled as many smelly people and seen as many greasy heads in the check out lane at my friendly neighborhood Krogers back in Ohio, USA as in France.

French do take baths and do wash their hair daily.
French women do shave.
French are not any ruder than any other nationality I have met.
French are people like any other people.

Don’t believe everything you read.

This must by my week of RANTS.
Sorry, but it had to be done.

Depeche Mode – People are people

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully

So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people
Have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you
So what could I have done
I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully

Help me understand
Help me understand
Now you’re punching
And you’re kicking
And you’re shouting at me
And I’m relying on your common decency
So far it hasn’t surfaced
But I’m sure it exists
It just takes a while to travel
From your head to your fist (head to your fists)
I can’t understand what makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
I can’t understand What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand
I can’t understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
I can’t understand (people are people)
What makes a man (why should it be)
Hate another man
Help me understand…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Pauline March 23, 2006, 3:07 pm

    You have said far better than I would, exactly what I think.

    There is good and bad everywhere !

  • Jessica March 23, 2006, 3:42 pm

    Oh, oh…. I had a feeling I knew exactly where this was coming from. I checked to make sure, and of course, I was right ;-). This website is so frustrating, I must suggest you STOP reading it, as I did after I pointed out to her that she was being overtly racist. You can’t try to have a rational arguement with an irrational person.

    It’s very hard to read things like that on other people’s blogs. So hurtful. Especially when the very people you love most are French, or half-French (the kids!). I did a post about the same subject, a while back.

    http://www.4213miles.com/blog/archives/2005/09/france_vs_ameri.php

    And… on the issue of the socks, they make them lower than anklets, without elastic…atleast, they used to.

  • Pauline March 23, 2006, 3:51 pm

    I have sock things (I bought them in Gap) that just cover you foot. So you don’t actually see anything, but you don’t have that hot and sweaty foor problem.

    Great for the summer months :)

    Like this, I hope the link works:

    http://www.gap.com/Asset_Archive/GPWeb/Assets/Product/185/185207/category/gp185207-03viv01.jpg

  • M@ March 23, 2006, 4:04 pm

    Your experiences are mainly centered around Alsace, right? While most tourist end up in Paris or other big city. I mean the difference between the town in BFE where I grew up and a city like Indianapolis is huge.

    You can’t judge a whole country based on one city, but if you’ve only been to the one city that’s all you have to base your views on. It doesn’t make it right, but it happens.

  • M@ March 23, 2006, 4:04 pm

    And hey who are you calling an orange. ;)

  • Pumpkin March 23, 2006, 4:50 pm

    Jessica,
    I really enjoyed your blog this morning and read your wonderful post. I then went to the blog in question from a comment from one of your readers. But, I had read a post about checking temps in funny places on another blog that I had a link to and deleted it right away. Can you imagine someone in America or another country reading these posts and what they would think??? So, I just had to post about it. :)

    Pauline,
    Link works great and I am in love with those socks! I will be getting some. I hate wearing socks because they look weird with shorts or skirts but the smelly feet are much worse. These socks are a wonderful find.

    M@,
    It is true that Parisians can be ‘special’ just like New Yorkers. But, the bloggers in question were way beyond that. They were blogging about French in general not just Paris. I just wanted to remind people reading blogs to read deeper into the posts and the blogger and not just believe what they are reading.

    I guess Americans are apples for the ‘Big Apple’ and the French are oranges for ‘Organgina’. In any case we are all a little fruity. :) ;)

  • Pumpkin March 23, 2006, 5:46 pm

    You know if they were complaining about all the strikes, protesters destroying property, doggy doo sidewalks, not smiling Parisians, crazy parking, or French endless paperwork…we’d all be in agreement. Even the French themselves are tired of all that. But, to say the things they did in their posts were really not fair to the French or even accurate about the French.

  • kim March 23, 2006, 5:49 pm

    OH MY GOD…. I THINK THAT WITHOUT KNOWING, I JUST WROTE A POST ABOUT THE SAME EXACT SUBJECT

  • Meredith March 23, 2006, 6:16 pm

    I agree with you. My bad days are not caused by being in france, but by stuff that could happen anywhere. Although the strike thing has me quite mad now for personal reasons, there is stuff in the USA that gets to me, too. As for shaving, I’ve got mostly french girlfriends, and they are all meticulous waxers. They have not a stray hair to be found and would be horrified to be seen hairy at a pool. I hang out with french moms and hygiene is very important to them all. I’ve been here over 15 years and haven’t met anymore stinky or hairy people then I would have in the usa. A funny thing is that one of my closest american friends in the usa does not shave at all, hairy legs and armpits. And in france, I don’t know anyone like that. And like I said, I’ve been here over 15 years and I have lived in Paris and all over the south. And I have the greatest french hairdresser, I would never get my hair cut or highlighted in the usa, now.

  • Pumpkin March 23, 2006, 6:32 pm

    Kim,
    The more the merrier…I say. I am happy we both posted the same thing. Hmmm. That must mean something. We are both seeing bad information out there and it is bad enough that we are taking the time to post about it.

    Meredith,
    At the Strasbourg hospital the nurses used the steril water to clean my sons eyes and nose and then the nose again with a q-tip. He had the fastest bath by a French nurse that I have ever seen in my life but BOY was that baby clean when she got done. I, a mother of three, learned some things that day in the hospital.

  • kim March 24, 2006, 6:08 am

    You and Thomas did really excellent posts!! Between the both of you, what you said was perfect. I really wish the best for her. I think that being in a place where you are not happy is bad enough, but being in a place where you are not happy and not happy with the person you are with….is worse!! She needs love…that would help:) I could be anywhere, and as long as I had my frog, I would be happy in love!

    I really love your posts pumpkin, you have such wonderful insight!

    take care, kim

  • Pumpkin March 24, 2006, 8:44 am

    Well,
    She wasn’t the only blogger that I saw with some strange information about France on their blog. You may want to check out Lickety Split or something like that. This is the one I deleted from my sidebar because I felt even if she was trying to be funny she wasn’t. She was posting about having no way to take her temp by ‘mouth’ because her French husband or boyfriend told her that it is only done the ‘other’ way. Any semi intelligent person knows better and I for one would have went straight to Auchan or a pharmacy to buy a new themometer. She made it sound like all French do that and there are no ‘mouth’ themometers in France. She was more suttle than the other person you are talking about but she was just as wrong.

  • misschrisc March 24, 2006, 8:56 am

    Great topic Pumpkin.

    Yes I have a problem with one of the blogs in question particularly after a recent post. There is a big uestion mark over my had as of late regarding this person’s blog. I’m beginning to think it’s a joke.

    However I do have to defend Sammy! I think Sammy’s thermometer post was just a poke of fun at her husband. She has a very sarcastic sense of humor that does generalize a lot for the sake of the story but whose intent is never really harmful. I’ve been reading her blog for while now and I never ever would see her as anti-French. I think she’s well travelled and very open minded. I’m sure her ignorance of the thermometer thingy was just that, a little confusion.

    And my husband puts his thermometer “there”! The doctor has always told him it’s more accurate. We have several thermometers in our house and he has his own–I tease him endlessly about it. This kind of thing is just more accepted in Europe that’s all. It may be generalizing to say it but it’s true!

  • Pauline March 24, 2006, 9:43 am

    Misschrisc – I too was wondering if that whole blog was a wind up too. If that’s not the case then she needs some help and a one way ticket home.

  • samantha March 24, 2006, 2:43 pm

    I have to disagree a bit – I don’t think the majority of French people shower or wash their hair everyday – it’s more every other day, for two reason : 1, water is expensive here, and 2, many believe washing your hair everyday dries it out. I also think that being a little smelly is more accepted here – it’s considered natural to have body odor, and they’re not ashamed of it, nor do they feel obligated to try to hide it, like the Americans do. Some of the woman at my gym go straight back to work after a 45 minute aerobics session without showering, others shower first. Some have hairy legs, some don’t.

    As for hairdressers, I never had a problem getting the cut I wanted in the US – but yet in France, I’ve never once gotten the cut I’ve asked for, so I do think there is some truth to that. What used to be a relaxing event has now become stressful and one that I put off for as long as I can. Congratulations to all of you who have found a hairdresser you can trust, I hope one day I will too.

    I also think that on the surface, the French can seem rude to Americans, but it’s only due to cultural differences – they don’t feel the need to smile at everyone they see, or make small talk with someone they don’t know, etc, and that can be perceived as rudeness. The differences in customer service also add to this. Though in French eyes, Americans are often seen as superficial and fake for these same reasons, so it goes both ways – it all depends on what you’re used to.

    Again, this is all just my experience/opinion – obviously it depends on where you live, who you know, what you do, etc.

  • Pumpkin Pie March 24, 2006, 3:17 pm

    In Strasbourg people don’t have body odor any more than in America. Most people are very neatly dressed. Most of the moms outside my daughters school have their hair fixed nicely and have fashionable clothes and we don’t live in a rich area or poor for that matter. All the French I know personally bath daily from what I can tell and they don’t have body odor. I haven’t seen anymore French that have body odor than I saw Americans with body odor in America. I don’t think it is more accepted here to smell….have you seen the French perfumes and smelled them…they are heaven. If the French didn’t care about BO why do they have the top perfumes in the world?
    I know that French in general don’t wash clothes that are not dirty just because they wore it only once to save on water. I did that in America even before I knew my husband. Most Americans will only wear an outfit once and then it goes in the dirty clothes basket.
    I haven’t seen any hairy legs on women in France but there were a few I saw during college in Ohio.
    I think it is easy to generalize and say this or that about the French or Americans or English or….but, really there are smelly Americans that bath every other day…I worked with a very clean woman that only washed her hair once a week and I couldn’t even tell. I have had bad experiences with hair in both countries more so in America but I lived for over 33 years and only 2 in France. I have had many French smile at me in the streets of Strasbourg. I have had more people stop me in the streets to talk and ohhh and awww over my kids than I ever did in America. It is in conversations that I see the difference mostly in civil servants. They don’t smile. Like I said it is easy to generalize.
    Everyone has their own story but I think we have to realize it is in part how we are interpreting things. I really just don’t think the French in day to day life are soooo different from Americans.
    I have lived in several US states and cities and some of those states were more different from Ohio than France in the way they dressed, thought, were educated and so on. These were Americans that I couldn’t identify with in any way. Americans aren’t even one cookie cut copy of each other.

  • kim March 24, 2006, 3:39 pm

    “Great topic Pumpkin.

    Yes I have a problem with one of the blogs in question particularly after a recent post. There is a big uestion mark over my had as of late regarding this person’s blog. I’m beginning to think it’s a joke.”

    miss chris? which blog are you talking about? which post made you question if its real? the one about where she lost her 2 year old son in the mall or what?

    I hadn’t thought about if it was real or not…????
    kim

  • Pumpkin March 24, 2006, 4:29 pm

    Samantha,
    I just wanted to add that I in no way am trying to be nasty to you. I can see your point as well. I have just found that the longer I live in France it is me that makes the differences more than the French themselves.
    I think your blog gives wonderful insights into French life that mine does not. You talk about things in your life that I don’t experience in mine. Just as, in my opinion, a blogger in let’s say Chicago will blog from another point of view from someone from Texas.

  • samantha March 24, 2006, 5:56 pm

    I know what you mean, Pumpkin, no offense taken. And everyone has the right to their own opinion…though trying telling that to the old French man that I spent an hour arguing over the CPE with this morning! *S*

  • Pumpkin March 24, 2006, 6:12 pm

    I can only imagine. lmao

    And, you should hear my mother and I talk about France.  We are talking again but it is still strained if we go anywhere near France or America.  We agreed to not talk about any religious, political or cultural topics for sure.

  • thomas March 24, 2006, 7:40 pm

    eeeer. about showers in France… I was taught to take at least one shower a day (in summer we had to shower twice a day). About body odors…er I dont know where some of you get your sources, but it is definitely not accepted…
    I dont know how to say that in english so I will go with french… Samantha, tu habites chez les bouseux ou quoi?????

  • samantha March 24, 2006, 10:35 pm

    Thomas, I don’t really know – everyone I know seems “normal” enough to me, but then again, the French tend to make fun of the Bretons, so who knows, maybe they are all paysans! *S*

    As for the body odors, I’ve had several different people tell me that “us Americans” are too self-conscious about body odor, and that it’s natural to smell a little….pheromones, and all that jazz.

    And pretty much every exchange student I’ve met (quite a few in the past 3 years) has said that their host family limits them to showering every two days because they think it’s a waste of water and unneccessary. Thank God I pay my own water bill, haha. Again, I’m not judging the French, it’s just that it’s something I’ve heard repeatedly since moving here. And having worked in several different industries since moving here, I can confirm that some (but not all) of my co-workers were indeed a little smelly, but it didn’t bother me – chacun son truc, as they say.

  • Jube March 25, 2006, 9:46 am

    Hi
    This is the first time I’m reading your blog and it really makes me happy that there are bloggers like you to counterbalance the racist blogs I came to read lately. I am French, living in France at the moment, and I have lived in America for some time. I don’t understand why some people have to complain about things that are not even true. I guess it is just a way for expats to get rid of their daily frustrations. I makes me mad that some French people do the same about America.

    From my experience, the French are not particuliarly cool with stinkiness. Just about the same as the Americans. I’ve seen stinky people in both countries. When I studied in America, I lived in a small residence hall where students were really close to eachother. I had a great time there, and as far as hygiene was concerned, I saw all kinds of behaviors. Some people were obsessed with showers, others would shower about once a week, maybe even less. Some people were very very stinky. (By the way, thinking of showers, maybe it wouldn’t such a bad idea for the environment if we took less showers, but that’s a different story).
    As for greasy hair, I’ve see many people with greasy hair in France, and just as many in America. I guess the people who complain about that happening only in France never go grocery shopping in America.
    I have also found that in America a lot of people have very messy houses. But since I also have seen clean houses there, and since my own apartment right now is in a total mess, I will abstain from making any negative (and stupid) generalisations about American houses.

    Anyway, thanks for publishing this kind of post. There are so many cliches about France, positive and negative ones.
    It is good that the people who have never been to France have something else to read than the enforcement of basic stereotypes (rude, dirty, French lover, refined culture, hairy legs, haw haw haw laughter, etc.).

  • Pumpkin Pie March 25, 2006, 10:32 am

    Thank you, Jube.

    I think I have learned a lot by living in several different states in America because let face it each state is almost like its own little country in many ways. Moving to France was easier for me because I had ssen that people even in America eat, speak, think etc. a little differently based on where they are living and their family.

    My children are French as much as American. Actually, in a sense they are more French in that we live in France and they will know France and not America. So, it makes me as a mother angry to hear these things because I don’t think it is ok to be stinky here. I think it depends on who you are around. Even in America, as you pointed out, I knew several people who did not bath every single day but every other day. They didn’t seem dirty to me. I think it is easy to generalize and that some people have trouble being away from their “home” country as my husband did. Then, they are looking for things that aren’t even there because they are homesick.

  • Vilay March 25, 2006, 8:30 pm

    Jube,
    I think that the “stinkness” bullshit comes from the old anglo-saxon sence of superiority that they have when they want to compare themselves to the rest of the world. Imagine that they considere themselves as the “Westeners” whereas us, the French are some kind of European non Westeners greazy little dark (which means dirty for them) french. Did you know that their hysteria about germs-clean goes so far that the eggs producers in America whiten the eggs with bleach so they look white (which means clean for them).
    If you understand the big divide in their mind anglo-saxon-clean-superior-blablabla as opposed to the-rest-of-the-world-dark-if-not-black-dirty-smelly,
    then you’ll get their way of thinking.

  • Pumpkin March 26, 2006, 7:21 am

    While I don’t agree with my husbands methods…I never even knew I was anglo-saxon until I met him…he does have a point about the anglo-saxon mentality. I see it and acknowdege that I once thought a lot like that until I got out into the world and started putting myself into others shoes in a real sort of way.
    I don’t really consider myself as an expat because I know France will be my home for the rest of my life….I do see that the French are not perfect and I am sure there are French that say things about other nationalities….but, if I hear or read it believe me I will call them on it too.
    Americans are not uncultured idiots…they just need to travel outside the States more and watch more international tv. Americans don’t eat hamburgers and steak every day and do eat healthy well balanced meals. I have posted on those sterotypes already and everyone agreed. However, someone like my father in law could have pointed out that if that were true why are Americans the heaviest nationality in the world. And, as I told him….I still think that Americans do have a tradition of healthy foods but it is the soda pop and fast food that is causing the weight gain. It is happening in Europe now as well. So, it is easy again to generalize and seperate yourself from one group without saying the entire truth or showing all the facts.
    I think Sam was open in the fact that she admitted that it may be where she lives…I don’t know I have never been there…I know some places in America can be “different”. What troubles me it that people are saying it is French as a whole. That is the same as saying Americans are a bunch of uncultured idiots because most never travel outside of the States and can typically only speak English and are capitalist and selfish and self centered….
    It is the same…anyone can generalize!

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