Living cross-culturally is challenging and no matter how many classes or how much training one has – you really learn by doing it because life isn’t a textbook and everyone experiences daily life differently. I didn’t realize until living abroad how much American mid-west culture is “engrained” in me. This colors the cultural glasses that I wear and what I see the world through. I’ve had many experiences and challenges living in Massy, France. I must admit that I looked at the cultural differences between the USA and Cameroon, but I naively thought that since Paris is a huge tourist destination for American’s that living in an outlying suburb of Paris wouldn’t be too different that living in a large US city. I was completely blind-sided!
This week our afternoon professor handed out a sheet about stereotypes other cultures have about France. I started thinking about stereotypes other cultures have about American’s and it hit me how different the USA is from East to West, North to South and the Mid-west. I’m guilty of blaming a whole people group when I encounter mean people but while living in the USA, I didn’t blame all American’s when I encountered mean people. All people are made in His image regardless of locations or cultures.
Here is a translation of some of the stereotypes that we discussed of how the rest of the world views the French – we were asked if we agreed or disagreed with each of the statements and why? Do you have any thoughts on any of the statements below?
- The Japanese view the French as a sophisticated country, conservators of the environment, elegant and the art of life. Also the French are loud, brutal and neglected, but warm and patient.
- The Americans have an image of the French with berets and baguettes and also innovation with technology with the TGV, Aruane, Minitel … and also recognize the talents and their creations but they find the French closed, cold, and distrustful.
- The Dutch have an image that the French respect the rights and culture of man, that they are welcoming; the most open in all of Europe but it has recently been degraded to not as open.
- The Danish view the French as aggressive.
- The Polish and Swedish consider the French loud, impatient and not very hospitable.
- The Swiss consider France an unsafe country full of petty crime.
- The Germans still dream of living like kings in France.
- The Belgians view the French as drafts, inefficient, and self indulging.
We have met kind and caring French. We have met open and closed French. I don’t think we have met too many loud French people. We always seem to be the loudest ones in the room or the train. I also haven’t seen too many people wearing a beret – but I’ve seen almost everyone walk down the street with a baguette in hand.