Friday, July 07, 2006

Yes, France Really Does Hate Me

Well the French won. They will play Italy on Sunday for the World Cup. I cannot even begin to explain the atmosphere in Paris after the game yesterday. As soon as we walked out of the bar we saw a man shooting fireworks into the windows of a nearby building, people were walking around draped in flags, cars had massive amounts of people in them, on top of them, and everybody was shouting. It was a crazy, scary, exciting environment and the only thing I can compare it to is Mardi Gras.

I wanted to go to Champs Elysess but my friends and I thought it would be too dangerous. We ended up walking through the Latin Quarter and watching the people dance in the streets. We stopped to talk with a group of people around our age (mid to late 20’s) and that is where my night went south. I was talking very excitedly with the females in the group about how much I love football and how much I want France to win. They smiled at me and very rudely told me I couldn’t understand football or France because I was American and Americans cannot understand anything about football or France.

For those who read this blog on a regular basis, you know I am not a Francophile and that the French culture and the French get on my nerves. This is a prime example why I will never be able to say, “I love France.”

The French football team was the first French thing I liked immediately. Everything else I like now had to grow on me, but I instantly liked the football team and, after team U.S.A. was out, I cheered for France. I yelled “Allez les Bleus” so much my throat hurt and then I was told by French people I couldn’t understand the game, the French or anything because I am a stupid American. Thank you again France for reaffirming my belief that France houses the most unpleasant, negative people in the world.

I am not saying all French are that way, my friends never act like that, but I am afraid this type of behavior and attitude reflects a large percentage. This is also one of the reasons why I haven’t tried to learn more French; when I arrived here I was excited about speaking the language, but I ran into many people who more or less told me my French was so bad they would just speak my language. It is like they get pleasure out of making other people feel as bad as they feel. After about a month of hearing from the French that my French was intolerable, I just quit trying to speak it. I mean, after all, it isn’t as if French is the dominate language in commerce or anything and they are such jerks about it, why should I try. I know it is a lousy attitude and I want to learn the language now, but it was hard to talk myself into being positive in the beginning.

I truly believe the average French person strongly dislikes the United States and Americans and they have no problem telling an American how they feel. They will tell Americans how much they hate the American lifestyle while wearing Levi’s and Sketchers, drinking a Starbucks coffee, eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger, and listening to 50 Cent.

I could respect their attitude, whether it is deserved or not, if they weren’t so nauseatingly hypocritical about it and if they could give me a concrete reason why they feel the way they do. However, most of the time I never hear a valid reason why they dislike Americans so much, just the same old mantra of bad politics or bad lifestyle. (My friends are not included in this generalization and certainly not the whole of France, but as an expat living here, this is how I see the general attitude.)

Anyway, a lot of my enthusiasm died after talking to the random French folks; I realized my friends are part of my bubble and I don’t really consider them French and therefore I forget how I am really viewed by the average person in Paris. I felt like a total moron for thinking the French might actually appreciate the fact that I was trying to fit in here. It took the wind out of my sails, so to speak, and I seriously doubt I will cheer as vigorously for the French team now. I still want them to win, but I don’t want to celebrate with the French population. If I watch the game at all, it will more than likely be at a friend’s house or on my computer.

24 comments:

marion said...

Angela, you make me want to promote the States in my country. I think a lot of (silly) French people have decided Americans were stupid because it was easier for them to pigeonhole them in this way rather than to try and understand a very different culture. Rudeness and ignorance are everywhere: a Polish person I know was once asked by an American couple if they had tvs and had heard of the Beatles in her country. Unfortunately it seems that this sort of behaviour is quite frequent in France towards American people. My advice is not to take it too seriously and to take every single opportunity to take the piss out of people who treat you this way! And they WON'T like that... The French are not renowned for their sense of humour.

Anonymous said...

However France does not hate you and your friends find you fantastic x x
even though they are sorry to hear you're not having such a good time here sometimes

marion said...

it was marion by the way

Sebastien Blache said...

hello despised american girl!
you can't watch the game in the privacy of you (or someone else's) home - you have to go to michel's bar!!!!
we've already talked about what you're referring to in your blog, since I was there: i'll just repeat what Peggy told me yesterday about you: she was so impressed that first, you supported the French team (as you don't have to after the nice anecdotes you can tell about your experiencs of Paris and Cergy) and second, that she said you'd "bluffed" her with your knowledge of the game and you commitment into it! There you go!
See you tomorrow!

Tim said...

Angela, I have a great idea for you to get back at that french a-hole that told you you don't understand football or the french. Root like hell for Italy in the final on Sunday. I was rooting for France but after reading your post I will now pull for Italy.

Tim said...

Besides depending on your political perspective which of the two countries France or Italy joined the coalition in Iraq? It wasn't France.

Angela in Europe said...

And it is because of Marion and Seb that I always feel guilty about these posts! But I do think the "general" attitude is like what I described. It is unfortunate, because I think it is senseless.

Tim-I will cheer for France because they are a good team and I am not that bitter about the experience with those people. Besides, the Italy team plays dirty.

Pardon My French said...

I feel your pain, Angela! Don't let those bad apples get you down, though...I agree with Marion that it's better to give it right back, but obviously not in a nasty, upset way. When that happened to me the couple of times, it really got under my skin. And it wasn't even French people -- it was other non-U.S. Anglophones. So, Europe has two favorite sports...soccer (ahem), and taking the piss out of Americans because we're such easy targets.

I say, give people like that a small verbal 'claque' right back. They might even appreciate it...it's hard to tell. "No, frankly, it's not that complicated. We've got enough sports that it's not difficult for us to figure out one more. For example, I don't like Italy because they're total fakers. What else do I need to know?" That's a total crap example and I hope someone else will come up with a better one.

At any rate, it's also a distinct possibility that those other girls didn't know any more about the French team than you do. Just remember that the next time someone tries to give you a hard time about that -- if you ask them enough questions I bet you can back them right into a corner!

But anyway, yeah, I don't see that tendency as just being French, but at any rate it was difficult for this southern girl to get a grasp on. At times I can still get my feelings hurt but sometimes I can send the ball right back in their court. Go out and enjoy the celebration, just watch out for those firecrackers! I want to hear all about it, too.

Expat Traveler said...

Angela - I've heard that more people are like this from the Paris area. IT does suck and I feel for you deeply, like as in it sadened me to read what happened to you... Those people are just jerks in general and I'm sure they have trouble fitting in anywhere but in France. At least they will be the ones having trouble when they travel...

Good luck and keep your chin high! :)

No.1 said...

It's ashamed France turned from such a wonderful nation full of rich culture and a wonderful people to a tourist stop filled with two dimensional simpletons who've accomplished nothing of value in almost a century. Did they blow all their genius and talent and are now just utterly spent or is laziness and contempt a biproduct of socialism.
France - A nice place to visit, but not nice a place to raise a family.

Lotus Reads said...

Angela, like Tim, I was rooting for France only because of you - but after reading your post, I have to wonder if I really want to support people who, if they met me in person, would dismiss my support as being irrelevant.

Are the Parisians rude with every nationality or do they take perverse pleasure in being especially nasty with Americans?

I'm sorry you had your enthusiasm dampened like that, their reaction must have hurt.

Pardon My French said...

After reading other people's comments, I just wanted to leave one more...I live in a suburb just outside of Paris and I have found people to be nice for the most part. Once the fish market guy was a smart aleck because he thought I was British and then apologized when he found out I was American, and he said, "Oh, you know, it's just a little friendly rivalry."

It's a game for a lot of people, not just the French, and it's a game that Americans tend not to be good at. Apparently we seem superficially friendly at first (which weirds them out), and then we don't know how to react when they start their little game. I had an epiphany with one of my husband's friends when I thought he was being really obnoxious -- finally couldn't stand it any longer and told him outright that he was full of you-know-what and could he please give me a concrete example instead of making ridiculous generalizations. He ended up laughing, changing his tune, and we get along fine now.

And Tim and Lotus Reads, I have to say that even though France does drive me crazy at times, I think it's a great place to raise a family and I haven't met very many two-dimensional simpletons. Quite the contrary! I hope you go ahead and support the French team, even if a few of the fans are selfish and want to keep the glory all for themselves...deep down, of course they're happy that other nationalities would support them. Plus, I think the French team plays fair (as far as I can see) and I just love that.

Oh, and Angela, have you seen the movie Ridicule? It's been ages since I've seen it but it might help explain the whole verbal debate/game thing. Seems like it talks about the importance of being witty and quick on your feet for the French. You should come and spend time with my in-laws -- they're like that with each other! They're wonderful people, but they can argue like nobody's business. Very Latin. And the next time someone throws a sentence beginning with "You Americans..." in your face, stand up straight, look them in the eye, and start asking pointed questions to see how much they really know. I think you'll be surprised at how quickly you can make them backpedal! Once you get a taste for the game, you might even look forward to it.

Angela in Europe said...

No. 1-I wouldn't raise kids here because of the socialist/political climate. I am too American to ever think of raising a family anywhere other than the U.S., though.

Lotus-Like I said, I will cheer for France because the team is awesome and everyone plays like a gentleman, but it did hurt a little and made me feel very foolish for cheering for the team in public.

Pardon my French-I live in a suburb of Paris and have found the attitude I described very common here. I think that is why it depresses me so much; perhaps where you live the people are nicer or more educated. I am glad your experiences are better than mine and that you don't care to share them because sometimes I get a little bitter. Thanks for the advice about verbal sports, but I doubt I will ever participate-I am either too stupid or too southern to enjoy that sort of banter.

Pardon My French said...

Oh, you are not a stupid person and you know it. :) That's clear after reading your blog. As to being 'too' southern...there ain't no such thing, honey! Well, maybe there is, but that's another subject for another blog (heh). No, I can relate to this kind of culture shock and how unpleasant it is, especially if you were raised near where I was. Manners are important! Sorry if I got too bossy or carried away; you're a big girl and can take defend yourself, I know.

Angela in Europe said...

Pardon my French- I didn't mean I was stupid; I am just not very witty and I do appreciate the advice!

D said...

Angela,

At least you really did try to fit in and learn the language. It's unfortunate that people criticized your French skills.

Even my French father-in-law (who is a sweet guy overall) tends to talk badly from time to time about America and Americans, even when I am standing right in front of him! What bothers me the most is that some people here can be so judgmental while being extremely arrogant at the same time.

On a side note, since France has advanced in the World Cup the patriotism in this country has been through the roof! When I asked one of my French friends about this, he said..."during the World Cup is the only time when I am truly proud to be French".

cara said...

hi, new reader here. after living in canada for 8 years, i guess i got used to anti-americanism, serious or in jest. i think it's become a bit of a world-wise phenomenon that comes with the territory of our position in the world. that's not to excuse the attitude at all. it drives me up the wall, particularily for the reasons you outlined. quit buying into american "culture" if you are just going to turn around and bad mouth it. i live in corsica and really i mainly just get teased for being american. i haven't encountered any mean-spiritedness, thankfully. just questions about bush and jerry springer and mcdonalds. today i was asked what my humps means from that idiot black eyed peas song. try explaining that. wow, sorry i went on so long.

Julie said...

How rude, obnoxious, and ignorant.

You should have smiled right back and told her to f**k off. In your sweetest Southern-girl manner of course.

Warren said...

Well they lost and it serves the entire country right after the way they treated you. I must say that before the game I wasn't really for anyone but after reading your post I watched the entire game rooting for Italy the whole time. That will teach those french to open their insolent mouths to a "great american".

Anonymous said...

It would be quite interesting to have a French person write their own impressions about their integration into Us society...

Angela in Europe said...

warren-I don't think I have the attitude that I am a great American, but I do get tired of seeing t-shirts suggesting the death of the political leaders of the U.S. would be a good thing. I also get tired of people telling me what is wrong with my country, mainly because I think it is rude and often misguided. I want to get along with the French and with France in general because I live here, but sometimes I feel like the people are more than a little harsh. But, I certainly don't feel superior just because my country is a major world leader.

anonymous-I would quite like that myself as well. And a French person in England!

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Anonymous said...

Angela, I am so aorry for the problems that you have experienced. I am married to a french woman and we currently live in the US. I had many assumptions before going over there but now having been there many times and talking to many french people (ouside of Paris), they have always been very gracious. I wish you could experience the french people I have. It would definitely change your view. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

"They smiled at me and very rudely told me I couldn’t understand football or France because I was American and Americans cannot understand anything about football or France."
J'ai lu ton blog avec avec attention et je suis désolé de voir à quel point tu détestes mon pays. Cependant il me semble que dés le début de ton séjour en France ton attitude n'était pas des plus positives : tu n'es pas interessé par la France ni par la langue que tu trouves trop compliquée( voir tes premiers posts) donc je me demande pourquoi tu es venue ici ???
Tu te plains de la difficulté de vivre à Paris mais je peux t'assurer que cela n'a rien à voir avec la France ou les français et que tu aurais rencontré les mêmes difficultés dans n'importe quelles grandes capitales d'europe (vie chère, froideur des gens,...)
Si j'ai un conseil à donner pour une expatriation réussi c'est : évitez les capitales quelques soient le pays ! Paris n'est pas la France ...