Hi! I was wondering, you don't have to do this if you don't want to or if you're too busy or whatever, if you have any tips on doing french characters? I'm thinking of putting a french character in my book and was wondering about maybe some stuff about english/american that's weird to you or something just like, about the french people? Again, you can totally ignore this if you're uncomfortable or if you don't have time, I know you're a busy gal. It would just be super great if you could ^.^
Hi anon ^^
It’s a tricky question because French people can be very different according to the place they live, their social or ethnic background, their education or just because of the fact that we are all different but I’m gonna try to tell you about “general trends” and our relationship with Americans. Here is a (certainly incomplete) list, in no particular order.
- French people have a pretty “dry” and dark sense of humor. If they are a bit “mean” to you, it means that they like you and that you are a part of their circle. Think South Park, Georges Carlin, Chris Rock and even for some people, Jimmy Carr. Also, all the “white guuurls” jokes don’t make any sense to us. It doesn’t mean that we don’t joke about racial stuff but it’s different. So yeah, we are often pretty violent verbally, but it doesn’t mean we are angry. It can be a bit baffling for foreigners because they don’t know when we are joking or when we are really angry.
- We don’t have the same racial stereotypes. For instance, this racist cliché about black people liking watermelon or chicken is beyond understanding for a French. I remember this hilarious French forum thread about Mary J. Blige being called out because she was in that Burger King commercial 4-5 years ago. People were outraged and didn’t understand why it was such a problem. “If this damn woman wants to be in a commercial, it’s her problem!” - “I don’t understand. Is it because she’s a rap artist and it’s not good for her image?” - “Are vegans not happy or something?”. And it’s finally after the 50th comment that someone explained that the association “chicken/black people” could be seen as racist in the USA and the whooole thread went O____o
- Ok, sorry about that one but….the American “PC culture”. It doesn’t mean that in France everything is allowed or that we are not offended by precise topics, it means that we often have the impression that American are offended by the tiniest things. Whether it’s objectively true or false doesn’t matter: it’s the general impression that we have. For instance, in political debate shows in France, when someone is easily offended, you can be sure that at a moment or another you are gonna have a “We are not in the USA” (or more recently “We are not in Sweden” - Sorry Sweden :S) from one of the participants.
- No, we don’t hate Americans for fuck’s sake. Ok, sometimes, we tend to see Americans as a bit arrogant (but we see ourselves as fucking arrogant too, don’t worry) but we have for instance nothing against American tourists. We also have a great respect for WW2 veterans:
(US army veteran Jack Schlegel, 91 y.o at the time, in front of the street named after him.)
- Everything is the government’s fault and the government should do
something about it (whatever the problem of the moment is)…but on the
other hand, it shouldn’t interfere too much either. xD
- French people have no problem finding ways to get around the law when they judge the law is restricting their everyday life and that “we can’t do anything anymore in this fucking country”. Simple example. Before, in cafés and restaurants, you had a smoking and a non-smoking area. It stopped when an anti-smoking law was voted and that all the bars, cafés and restaurants had to become 100% non-smoking. Do you know what happened? The shop owners installed heating devices in the restaurant terraces to give people the possibility to smoke outside and then, they closed the terraces with some sort of plastic wraps. You are outside and inside at the same time. Inside because you are hot and you can eat like in a normal restaurant but outside in regard of the French law.
- We love to complain, we are big mouths. That’s our way of communicating. For instance, this is how French illustrator Uderzo sees us (and it’s also one of the most famous gags in French comics: A fight that starts because of the bad smell of the fish shop. You have one in every volume of Astérix)
- We are a bit pessimistic. We are individualistic (you can see it in the way people act toward each other in the streets, they don’t care about other) but we see the ideas of solidarity and fraternity as important (don’t fucking touch to the NHS). It’s a fucking contradiction. We are also a bit disorganized but as it’s our way of living we don’t realize it. It drives tourists and foreigners living in France nuts.
- We don’t open easily and sometimes we can see as suspicious someone who asks too many questions, particularly in Paris (less in the south, though)
- There’s a great hypocrisy concerning money. We live in a country where the notion of social classes is very important to us, where rich people are often despised and not seen as examples and where we don’t talk about how much we earn…but a lot of us want to be rich: we spent millions of Euros a year in lottery games. Speaking of social classes…
- Our relationship to communism is different. At the time where USA were obsessed to know who was communist and who was not, the communist party was one of the strongest parties in France, particularly among the working class. Consequently, it’s not unusual for a French to have a communist grand-father. In other words don’t freak out if you hear someone says “My grand Pa, who was a member of the Communist Party in the 70′s…”
- Lunch break is important. It baffles foreigners to see how long we take to have lunch even when we are busy. And we are obsessed with “good” food too. Yes, that one is true…even if we are the #1 European con summers when it comes hamburgers. Once again: contradiction.
- Hugging people. That’s not natural at all. Either we kiss people on
the cheeks (2 times or 3 times or even 4 times depending on people or
on the region they are from. It can awkward sometimes because you never
know how many times someone will kiss you), either we shake their hands
but hugging feels very…intimate and awkward.
- Secularity. We don’t joke with that shit. The US President ending his speeches with “God bless America” is something you will never see in France. The French President ends up his speeches with “Long live the Republic, long live France”, no reference to God.
- We don’t care about what politicians do with their private life and we don’t expect apologies when it happens. If they cheat on their wife or have 5 mistresses, it’s their problem. When the affair between President Hollande and Julie Gayet became public, a lot of people were not happy that he cheated on his partner, Valérie Trierveiler but the main concern was that he did all this using the tax payers money…and that he got caught because honestly, François, it’s not good for the image of the country.
(At least, we had fun with “scooter memes”)
- There’s a French obsession around a graduation degree called “The Baccalauréat”. French parents ABSOLUTELY want their kids to have this degree…while complaining that this degree has no value anymore because French schools have turned into an idiot factory (”une usine à crétins”)
- There’s a kind of “rivalry” between Paris and the rest of France. Parisians seem to see themselves as better than the rest of the country (it’s not my fault if it’s true…just saying. What? Yes, I’m a Parisian, how did you realize?) and the rest of France sees Parisian as grumpy, cold, despising, full of themselves, stressed sons of bitches. (ok, this is maybe true too but being amazing and fab comes with a price, ok?)
- Names. Like seriously enough with names like Yvette, Nicole or Robert if you write about someone who is in their 20-30′s.
Nathan, Lucas, Léo, Gabriel, Timéo, Enzo, Louis, Raphaël, Arthur, Hugo,
Jules, Ethan, Adam, Nolan, Tom, Noah, Théo, Sacha, Maël, Mathis. (most given boys names in 2015) and
Emma, Lola, Chloé, Inès, Léa, Manon, Jade, Louise, Léna, Lina, Zoé,
Lilou, Camille, Sarah, Eva, Alice, Maëlys, Louna, Romane, Juliette (most given girls names in 2015) are fine.
- France is a multi-ethnic country….
…so you can have a French character called Fatou or Sofiane. We have a lot
of people from African or north-African descent, particularly in big
cities. And exactly like French names, the trends have changed when it
comes to the names of kids from north-African descents. For instance, bit less
Mohamed and Fatima and more Rayan, Anis, Ilyès, or Sara. On the contrary,
Asian kids (mainly with parents or grand-parents from China, Thailand,
Vietnam) tend to have French names.
- We have a love/hate relationship with our national football team. They are a bunch of rude uneducated thugs with no values..except when they win, of course.
- We don’t care about striped shirts (at the exception of people from Brittany: striped shirts, the famous marinière, is imporiant) and mimes. Unless we are loaded, we don’t wear designer clothes.
- I don’t care what boring French movies with Louis Garrel show you, we don’t live in this kind of apartments (except for some rich people, of course):
And speaking of movies. A lot of French people pretend they know something/care about old movies but a lot of us have never seen a Nouvelle Vague movie. They are even considered as boring and pretentious.
- American supersize stuff. Is it really necessary? I mean, you can feed a family of 4 during two months with some of your portions.
- That thing below…
…is a fucking “pain au chocolat”. Don’t let people from the south west of France tell you it’s a “chocolatine”. They will try to fool you but stay strong my little one!
Voilà! The result of brainstorming with some friends. TLDR: We are loud, full of contradictions, nice if you understand our sense of humor and don’t touch to our NHS.
Good luck to you and happy writing. ♥