Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What Do THEY Think of US?

From New Zealand to New Brunswick; San Francisco to Sidney; New York to Nottingham plus every other country and city in the world where most everyone speaks English, the French have neatly lumped us into a language lexicon they call: "Les Anglo-Saxons."

Though inaccurate -- which they readily admit -- it's convenient as are most generalizations.

It seemed only fair to turn the tables and ask them what they think of us since I spend an inordinate amount of time asking others what they think of them.

My specific question was: "What do you like, dislike, admire (or not) 'chez les Anglo-Saxons?' "

Prepare yourselves for some unsettling surprises. Among my respondents most have traveled, if briefly, to the British Isles, Canada or the United States. Renée is the only one who lived abroad for several years in Richfield, CN.  Taking that into account, many of the answers I suspect come from articles, films and television programs which have left them with certain stereotypical impressions of us. 

Here we go. . . ("They" equals Anglo-Saxons, for reference.)

Cristel: I think they often have an air "précieuse" and "coincée" which is to say, "inhibited, repressed" and "affected."  However, she quickly adds, "I love your (she's speaking generally) sense of humor."

One thing I don't understand though is, how can a woman leave her house without any makeup at all, just for herself if not for anyone else?

Sophie: In general I think they make little effort to make themselves look pretty. Sometimes I'm surprised by their association of colors like red and green as if they didn't own a mirror.

Also I think they're loud. 

I've noticed too, since we live in an area with lots of different nationalities, the English and somewhat the Americans like to find their compatriots rather than becoming part of a French community.

Claudia: In England they eat cheese after dessert, can you imagine?

Anglo-Saxons don't seem to have any interest in coquetery. I don't understand. It's so much fun.

On the other hand, I think they have no fear when they get dressed. If it's comfortable, that's what counts. It's not like us we'd rather be miserable and look good than be comfortable and maybe look not so great.

Edith: I love the eccentricity of the Englishwoman. I think it makes her fascinating. We don't seem to be able to pull that off with any charm. It's a shame.

American women can be sumptuously beautiful. Sometimes I think though they can be overly concerned with always being politically correct. It can be very boring and constricting.

Sandrine: We take time to eat a real lunch which I think helps us stay relatively slim even though recent statistics say Europeans in general are heavier than they were in the past. I'm not sure Americans eat properly.

Also, now here's something I really don't understand: Why would an attractive woman, well-dressed for work, wear tennis shoes with her ensemble? Why wouldn't she choose to wear ballerinas, they're pretty and just as comfortable? It makes no sense. Why does she want to look ugly like that even if she's only walking from the Metro to her office?

Anne:  I think, American women in particular have lost their femininity. I believe being a wife is a metier, not something to be taken lightly. Our role, even if a woman works, is to support her husband and make whatever sacrifices necessary for her marriage and for her children.

When a woman gives up her femininity it is she who loses the most. What is more pleasurable then being séduisante, pretty, flirtatious and charming? It makes our lives rich and amusing. 

Renée: I loved our life in the United States. I've never seen such openness and generosity. You have to live years in France before you're invited into a French home. I was invited for "morning coffee" by our new neighbors before our boxes were unpacked.

Another thing, we Frenchwomen think we're the world's most extraordinary mistresses of la maison, well let me tell you I was in absolute admiration of my American neighbors. I've never seen such perfect organization. I learned a lot. And, they were good cooks. 

One thing though, I think American men could be a little more romantic and charming with the women in their lives.


Marsi said...

Fascinating. I liked what Anne said about femininity, and it is definitely true that many American women give that up once they're married. (Reminds me of the old joke: How do you turn a fox into a cow? Marry her. Sexist, I know, but there can be a little element of truth in there.) I was glad to see that no one mentioned that sometimes you see people here who are so overweight that you can't distinguish their gender. (Eek.)

We Americans are very open and generous. I agree, and it made me happy to see that mentioned.

In general, it seems the French think we Anglo-Saxons are out of touch with our femininity and are afraid to look sensual and pretty. Did I get that right?

Bonjour Madame said...

I will be re-reading this but it seems like the general consensus is we don't spend a lot of time enjoying being a woman. I have to agree. It's rare to see a true lady anymore who is very feminine. Flirting is almost taboo due to the politically correct craziness that took control of this country over a decade ago. Why do we all have to be the same? The male/female dynamic can be so fascinating and fun.

I totally agree with we can be "loud" comment. I'm a pretty reserved woman and I've got a friend who is so animated, loud, and likes to create a scene at all times, bordering on trying to be offensive. It makes me cringe every time. No lie, she was showing off after a cabaret performance we attended and fell flat on her behind in front of a large crowd, then later knocked over a glass and broke it with one of her big gestures. I love her to death, but this kind of behavior is definitely not feminine!

This was a very fun post to read. I really enjoyed it!

nettiemac said...

I love this post. I want to mull it over.

I admit to being guilty of running out of the house in the mornings sans cosmetics and waiting to put some on in the privacy of my office. Mornings are so rushed...... le sigh. I need to improve that part of myself.

knitpurl said...

I too need to re-read and mull over this post. I was struck by the no make-up. Guilty here, but in heat and soggy humidity why wear it?? Also I was caught up in the comment of dressing for comfort. I feel a compromise can be made. My thought is been there done that. As a "woman of a certain age" I think I deserve some comfort (not sloppiness), with reservations as to day, time, place, etc.

Loved Marsi's comment on those who dress sexless. That is so so true!

tishjett said...


I suspect you could move over here and slip right into the lifestyle.

No, you're right it is rather surprising no one talked about obesity. One woman, however, mentioned how shocking she found Americans who put their babies and toddlers into beauty contests. I told her that little aberration was just a "special" (French definition of the word) group of women.

Yep, you got it right.

tishjett said...

Yes, Stephanie, that's what they think. When they said that I thought: "Oooops, this is going to upset a lot of American women," but apparently not.

Frenchwomen do not see the contradiction between feminine and successful or ambitious. I fear we often do.

tishjett said...

Hi Nettie,

I used to do the same thing when I was in New York, but no Frenchwoman would because of all the people she runs into en route to her office or to buy her baguette.

tishjett said...


May I suggest, in hot, muggy weather over your major SPF (of course) dust your skin with a huge brush you've swept across a Nuxe or Guerlain bronze powder compact. It gives you a little color and absorbs moisture. (Blow on the brush before you gently, quickly sweep it over your nose and across the cheeks, top of forehead, chin, under chin.)

Add waterproof mascara and a little colored gloss, your favorite lipstick -- or not -- and you're done.

Marsi said...

For at least a decade now, I have "threatened" to write a manifesto, which I plan to title "Pretty Isn't the Opposite of Smart." I really wish more American women got that -- though my girl Michelle O. does, and she sets a great example (even with the big, goofy belts).

I re-read the whole post and was once again amused by what Sophie said about Americans' dismal color combinations, as if we don't own a mirror. Or apparently a color wheel! I just bought a color wheel a few months ago (as a knitting and sewing reference), and you know, it truly is handy to see the relationships among colors.

tishjett said...


Have been thinking about what you said. Why don't you write a "guest post" and we'll put it up here, signed by you.

What do you say?

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