Blog: Post-doc in Paris 6

Blog: Post-doc in Paris 6

Author: Tibiriçá Gonçalves Vasconcelos

French People and Their Reputation

After some time off, I’m back. Now, to talk about my impressions of the French and Parisian culture and the people. A good subject heading would be “stereotypes and myths”. When you are about to go to France, it’s normal to hear: “Prepare yourself … Do you speak French? Nobody will speak English to you there … In France people aren’t very welcoming …” About this I can say, “Ok, French people are more bad-tempered and not as welcoming as Brazilians — who are known for carnival, football and violence.”

However, strong preconceived ideas and generalizations are never good. Individuals are different from each other and wherever we are, we find all types of people. In France, it isn’t any different.

Based on my impressions, people in Paris do speak English. Actually, they do this more than I wish, since they always start speaking English after listening to my strong accent. About the bad mood I should say that they aren’t the most friendly on earth, but their reputation is over exaggerated. Besides, “bad mood” is my middle name. So I’m at home …

Of course, it’s not necessary to be an anthropologist to know that the French and Brazilians are different. French people seem more restrained while Brazilians “react” more to others actions. Something that, in a Brazilian group, would provoke a wide discussion full of remarks, laughs, amazement and much else, in a French group will provoke just a discreet look. I have seen cases of Brazilians who were only able to live in Paris because they were living in the Brazilian House. On the other hand, others feel completely at home. In my case, as I’m naturally more reserved, this isn’t a problem.

People who intend to live abroad have to keep in mind that they can’t change the others way of life to make themselves more comfortable. It seems obvious, but several times I have caught myself wishing that Parisians were more open or warmer (like Brazilians are …) because I want learn the language, understand the native culture or feel included. Then, I remember that if I wanted to be surrounded by people like Brazilians, I should stay in Brazil.

Again I say: regardless of where you are, there are all types of people. This means it is important to be a good observer and know the right moment for deeper interactions. Once, a native said me that Parisians don’t interact with each other because they are always tense. They don’t know exactly why, but they are. However, there are places where they’re relaxed — in bars. I don’t know about that, but why not take it into account? I also heard from someone from the south of France, that French people don’t look people in the eyes. Interesting theory! Speaking of theories, let’s look at another one: In the winter, Parisians are more open because there are fewer tourists in the city. On the other hand, I have also heard that, like anybody else, Parisians are more open in the summer. Would these two theories void each other out??? Then, are Parisians never open and do we come back to the initial stereotype???

Ok, I would say that this is too much thought on this subject. So, I’ll just try to relax … I’m in Paris after all …


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