5 Idiosyncracies of the French

That’s a bit of a droll title, but all of these things were obvious to me before I got on Aer Lingus Flight E0182 but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that there was a definite what the fuck feeling when they were happening to me for the first time. As you will see I’m not a politically correct American so this blog will be full of expletives, real life occurrences and some discussions on French views (definitely not PC then…).

(Disclaimer: anything that comes across as severe criticism is not at all, as every Frenchie I’ve met so far has been really nice but I just like to humourously depict those quirks they have which I find weird and wonderful)

1. French Kissing

As previously mentioned a peck on each cheek is required when you meet someone for the first time, and every time you see them and leave them thereafter. Now, when I have grumbled about this the French boy has commented on the fact that yes, because I am a woman I have to kiss everyone, as he just kisses the women (the males in families and very close friends on special occasions faire le bises). This is just another layer on the inherent sexist nature of French society of which I am only just beginning to crack into.

Here’s a little story:

Hannah’s first little French soirée ended thusly, it was absolutely hilarious, when we announced our departure everyone stood (eight in all) and we went around the circle saying goodbye (of course men don’t kiss unless they’re family) but I am of the female variety so there I go kissing eight people in a row. Some of which I had not even had any interaction with! I mean really… I am becoming accustomed to it now and lately the worry is when I meet people back home in Ireland I’ll go in for the smacker – I can only imagine the responses.

2. French Grumpiness

Ah the old cliché. The French are not as grumpy as we imagine them to be. No, really. In fact, I believe they think I am the grumpy one. The good people of the shops of Reims are possibly of this opinion. How come in France when people say “bonjour” to one another, it is as if saying hello to me is the highpoint of their day? Especially the women, their voice goes so high on the “jour” part I am concerned about what is happening to their lower parts. It’s ridiculous. I however, sound completely depressed when I say bonjour. In contrast I think I say it to them with the air of someone whose dog has just been run over. Oops.  Must work on drug induced bonjour.

3. French Humour

I get it. Then I don’t get it. Then I do get it. But then I really don’t think it’s funny. Why is everyone laughing so much? It’s a little bit racist, a little bit image-fascist (that’s totally not a term but look I made it up – it’s in relation to the fact that fat people are constantly to be made fun of), and completely not politically correct. I am beginning to be in absolutely two minds about this. The French talk about everything, nothing is taboo. In their opinion talking and talking and talking and talking (they never shut up) is better than remaining silent on a topic resulting in a powder keg full of tensions ready to boil over. But must they laugh at the things I was brought up not to laugh at? By contrast, my hilarity often seems to get lost in translation. A friend explained to me the difference between des patates and des pommes des terres, which is this: patates is familiar and pommes des terres is not. I asked her “so if the potato is your friend it’s a patate and if it’s not your friend it’s a pomme de terre?” This led to much confusion and hilarity about “potato friends” and while we laughed a lot, she didn’t get the joke. I basically was making fun of how the French language is so absolutely ridiculous to me sometimes. On many levels, which I won’t get into here.

4. French Gastronomy

No, this is not a post relating to amazing French food, which can indeed be pretty amazing. It’s to the sheer pomposity of this: In France every meal has a name! It is not simply “dinner”. For example the ham, cheese and potatoes I had on Sunday (which was a very fine meal let’s not forget) is called Raclette and I find this highly amusing. French cooking is highly superior to most other nationalities it has to be said; but the fact that the French have deemed “ham and potatoes” with a fancy title is brilliant. They are just gas I love the Frenchies . I would say that Irish people are very modest and unassuming (ham and shpuds anyone?) and I suppose this is why this makes me laugh, albeit in a bemused fashion. Of course being vegetarian I didn’t eat the ham just in case anyone worries the French have turned me over to the dark side.

5. French Pessimism

This is most definitely not a cliché. The sad fact of France having the highest number of suicides per annum attests to this. Sometimes, an air of gloom goes around a table or a living room and I feel as if everyone has gone into their own “why on earth are we even aaaliiive what is the point?” monologue inside the soft doughy interior of their little philosophical baguette heads. I don’t really know what to do with myself at these points, but I think in Ireland the answer would definitely be: “let’s crack open another one shall we.” Alcoholic sorrow is better than plain sorrow.


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