A few stereotypes about France and the French
The stereotype ....     The reality ....
  • A sophisticated French woman is always accompanied by a haughty French poodle, neatly shaved, with curly hair and ribbons ....
  • In France, you hardly ever see this absurd animal which is, in fact, a very "low class" attribute (some would say "un chien de concierge") ...
  • Very few people (except in the Basque country) wear a beret and there are only two very small manufacturers of berets left. The French smoke significantly less (38% of men smoked in 2010 instead of 60% in 1974) and they prefer American cigarettes ....
  • The French are always complaining
  • True ! The national archetype is the "r├óleur" : someone who is always dissatisfied and afraid of being fooled, grumpy ("grincheux"), whining, protesting, marching in the streets, etc. It may be explained by a general lack of confidence in other people and the necessity to be always watchful ...
  • French waiters are arrogant
  • Before you repeat this stereotype, ask yourself : "What did he say exactly?". If you don't know, because you don't speak French, realize that it may come from his body language only.
  • More to come......


Mutual stereotypes


Here is a list of some stereotypes about the USA which are considered common French wisdom. Some of them can be partially true but none of them is 100% true.

French stereotypes about Americans :

Now look at some American stereotypes about France :
  • Americans think that they are always right
  • No real friendship is possible with Americans : it is always superficial
  • Americans are only interested in American things
  • Americans are naive
  • More to come....
  • The French think that they are always right
  • The French do not work, there are always on strike
  • The French are dirty
  • The French hate Americans
  • More to come....
Some examples of American "common wisdom" about France ... ... which may be partly true but the general statement is grossly exaggerated!
  • "The French are ashamed of their past during WW2 and they refused to face it until US historian Robert Paxton published his books about Vichy in the 1980s"

it is true that immediately after the war, with a strong Communist party supporting an aggressive Soviet Union, it was politically sound to rebuild the country looking at the future rather than the past and its crimes but also, it is not true to say that the shameful collaboration was not acknowledged and evoked ; there were countless books, articles, TV programs, films long before Paxton published his (excellent) books, but they were in French and opinion leaders in the US (the NYT, Fox News to name a few) do not read anything French (read more).


  • "The French are anti-Semitic"

I have tried to answer this question elsewhere on site but, if it is true that anti-Semitism does exist in France, it exists also in the US, with other forms of racism.


  • "France is the capital of bureaucracy"

True again, but not "only in France"


  • "The French health system is Socialist and you can't choose your doctor"
This is absolutely wrong and it looks like this statement is used for domestic use only, to defend the US system which is largely considered in Europe as extremely unequal, socially unfair and expensive for results which are not better (read more)
Other stereotypes include : the French are not interested in other cultures, etc.
The image of the French.... (according to a poll published by the Los Angeles Times 2005)

The adjectives associated with the French (from a survey in Britain, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden) are :" pretentious, haughty, vain, snobbish, arrogant, chauvinistic, neo-colonialist, self-obsessed, stubborn, disobedient, humouless, righteous, preachy, cold, distant, impolite, frivolous, shallow, agitated, disorganized, talkative, carnal, immoral, out of touch, egocentric, bon vivants, nannied, dirty." Wow !

To related pages : French attitudes, irksome France, more stereotypes, Joie de Vivre in France, questions about France, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
  • "French Toast - Heureuse comme une Américaine en France", Ramsay, Paris 2005

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Together or separately, Harriet and Philippe Rochefort speak about Intercultural Differences : click here for information.