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Top 10 Myths About France and the French People

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There are plenty of stereotypes about the French: they stink, women don't shave their underarms, they are rude, they hate Americans. Don't be fooled by these myths and urban legends. The truth is far more interesting. Here is some myth busting a la France with this list of top myths about France and the French people.

1. The French are Rude

Woman smoking outside of cafe
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This is easily the biggest stereotype about the French, and the most inaccurate. The French are among the friendliest and most helpful people I've ever encountered. There are cultural differences, however, that lead some to believe the French are rude. The key is to understand the culture and learn at least some basic French terms before you go. A very little effort towards education and understanding will go a huge distance to getting friendly treatment from French people.

2. French People Hate Americans

This generality is completely untrue. The French, in fact, do a much better job than Americans separating the idea of the American people from the American government. If anything, certainly since the French opposed the war in Iraq, one could more easily argue that Americans hate the French. There may be some French people who dislike Americans, but most are friendly and polite to their U.S. visitors. In fact, French teens and young adults adore and try to emulate Americans.

3. French People Stink

While I have encountered an occasional French person whose body odor would take your breath away, this is actually quite rare. Yes, the French aren't as obsessed as Americans are about daily showers and the scent of soap. Most practice perfectly acceptible hygeine, and it is unusual to encounter a person who stinks here.

4. French Women Don't Shave

This may have been the case in the past. I don't know. I've been to many a French beach, and I've never seen a French woman who needs to shave. Maybe I missed them all. I found that the French women not only have wonderful style, but are always impeccably groomed.

5. All Women Go Topless at French Beaches

Sure, you will find some exposed chests on the French beaches. Many women, however, do remain covered. As a female sun-seeker, you won't feel out of place keeping a bikini top on at most beaches. Some beaches tend to be more topless than other beaches, but there is almost always a mix of women with tops on and tops off.

6. Visiting France is Too Expensive

It can be expensive to visit France, if you aren't careful. There are so many ways to save a few euros here and there, and they truly add up. Something as simple as your decision on a destination caqn save you hundreds. Choosing a four-star campground instead of a three-star hotel can do the same. Eating breakfast at a bakery instead of your hotel can even save you dozens of euros, especially over a week's time.

7. All French People Smoke Cigarettes

Yes, the French do smoke. But there are plenty of people who don't smoke there. The country has come a long way towards being more friendly to nonsmokers, and now has smoking bans in effect in many public places. In just a few years, there have been dramatic changes in how often a non-smoker will encounter second-hand smoke in France.

8. A France Vacation Only Appeals to Women

Bullfighting. Medieval villages. Some of Europe's most rugged mountain climbing, skiing, ice climbing, kayaking and hiking. A heated fervor for soccer matches. And topless women at the beach (see myth #5 above). This is testosterone heaven. Hearty and heady beers. Yes, France is best known for some aspects that aren't the most masculine, like fabulous cuisine and wine. That doesn't mean a guy can't have a good time here.

9. You Must Speak Fluent French to Visit

If you will be visiting a major city, like Paris or Nice, you can probably muddle through without knowledge of French. The French people, however, consider it rude to address them in English. You should at least learn somde basics to simply avoid appearing inconsiderate. If you will visit rural areas or even smaller cities, learning at least some French is crucial.

10. French Toilets are Disgusting

OK. I must confess. Sometimes this is true. Most of the public toilets in France are perfectly acceptible, however. Shopping malls, fine hotels and upscale restaurants feature the best digs. Cafe toilets are usually OK. You will, on occasion, still encounter the notorious hole-in-the-ground squatting toilet.
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