Apr 302010
 

(sent by Obade from NYC)

OK, I’ve been quite silent lately. One reason is that I’ve been busy (in my real life, you know, with my real job and those sorts of things –yeah, contrarily to popular belief, my job is not to maintain this blog; I wish it was, but let’s admit it, the pay sucks).
Another reason is because the next question in line (yeah, I try to answer questions in the order in which I get them) has been puzzling me since the very first time I got it a few months ago (yes, I’m really behind, I know). First, I thought about simply ditching it, but then there were a few parts that I deemed somewhat interesting (at least worth sharing with you). Also, I don’t see how I can really answer those questions without being at best patronizing and at worst a total jerk…
So here it is, unedited, in bold, with my comments here and there in it. Feel free to elaborate in the comments.
Greetings Frenchman,

I’m thinking seriously about moving to France (probably Paris) in the not-so-distant future. I’ve been studying French for awhile and wouldn’t mind taking the chance. I intend to meet people and make friends and get a job. I’ve only studied the French language so I know next to nothing about the culture and I want to keep it that way. I enjoy extreme learning and I don’t mind struggling along. I went from 9 years on a farm in Virginia to 25 years in New York. Extreme learning is what I do instead of Sudoku and bungee jumping.

OK, people, rule number one when you’re thinking about moving to another country: do not do like her. Making a point in not learning the culture of a foreign country you’re interested in is not only nonsensical  (how exactly can you be interested in a country if you don’t know its culture?) but one of the surest way to crash and burn once you move there if you end up doing it. And no, moving abroad is in no way comparable to moving from Virginia to New York City.
One area where I don’t want to take chances is romance. Just in case I meet a nice (hopefully uncircumcised) French fella, I need to know a few things. I’ve read that the French are relaxed about sex, but:
And this is where the weirdness starts. First, am I the only one that thinks that it’s totally messed to not only not want to learn beforehand about the culture of a country where one wants to move, but not want to take chances in love either?… I mean, isn’t love all about taking chances? Can you even love if you don’t take chances? And why do I feel like this blog is turning more and more into a dating advice blog? Oh and what the fuck is going on with that “hopefully uncircumcised” thing? (yeah, be warned, this entry won’t be as much a dating advice entry as a sexual advice entry – what in this blog led people to mistake me with a sexologist? I’m not totally sure yet).

1. Would it be customarily inappropriate for me to initiate anything from the first kiss to the first sexual encounter?

Have you read this blog before?

2. If I do initiate something, would that be considered as loose behavior, culturally?
I thought you didn’t want to learn about the culture? You wanted to do some… How do you call it? Oh yeah, “extreme learning”… Here is some extreme learning for you: initiate something, and see how it’s being perceived.

3. I am a monogamous female and would like to be in a serious, committed relationship with this “nice French fella”. “On average”, are French men interested in that sort of thing?
Seriously? Come on, everybody knows that French people are a bunch of promiscuous individuals that are only interested in orgies and meaningless random sexual encounters.

4. Have you heard or are you aware of any comments about how French men regard American women, particularly African American women? Should I prepare to be alone in Paris?

See there. (ok, sometimes some people ask questions that have already been asked, but in this case, let’s be fair, I received this current question before I answered the one that is linked)

5. If such a relationship is possible, how sexually uninhibited, by French standards, am I allowed to be and still be respectable when I come up for air? Would that expectation be considered silly American baggage? We have a saying over here that a woman should be a lady in public but a whore in the bedroom. How true is that statement in France? Understand, I’m trying to avoid being seen as an ACTUAL whore…unless a respectable businessman hooking up with an African American whore is a good thing in France.

At this point of the letter, yours truly is rolling his eyes and is slowly becoming speechless… But wait it gets worse:
6. I check out internet pornography occasionally. The French videos are probably 90% anal sex. Is that just for smut appeal or is that a French favorite? I do have a high pain threshold, but I’m still a little nervous.
See what I meant?
Because we all know that pornography represents reality, especially nowadays with such subgenres as gonzo trash… How old are you? I mean, you’d be a 12 years old virgin, I’d understand your question, but you’re at least 34 (9 years in Va and 25 in NYC)… Is your sexual life similar to what one can see in porn? If yes, no wonder why you’re afraid that people may confuse you for a whore… Actually I’m sure the sexual life of most prostitute has nothing to do with one can see in porn either, but we’re really off-topic now, don’t you think?
Oh and by the way, in case you all wonder, I have no idea where this “French porn is 90% anal sex” comes from. I’m not exactly a porn watcher, but I doubt that such a figure is realistic.

I’ve tried to ask my questions in a sensible way most of the time.

Sensible way? Wow, I wonder how you’re like when you’re not sensible…
These may seem like stupid questions to you, but I’m serious about this stuff so be gentle, s’il vous plait ;o)
Whoops, epic fail from my part on the gentle aspect… But come on, “gentle” doesn’t really match the contents of your questions. And no, “stupid” is not the exact term that I would use to qualify your questions.

Feel free to expound as much as you like…I need all the info I can get!
Well, at this point, I’ll let the readers do it.

More Questions Answered:

  23 Responses to “A very puzzling e-mail I got (or how the Frenchman is being a jerk again)”

  1. Wow, David, I do not wonder why you were hesitant and amazed at the content of this e-mail…

    It seems as though the writer of the e-mail is confusing Internet porn, which is made to cater to fantasies and make money, with actual French people and equating porn with French life…Yet, she does not want to risk meeting an actual French man and discovering that reality is different from fantasy…

    If this is the case, why bother moving to Paris, as she claims to plan to do?

    I grew up as an expat from infancy, and I can say that living in a culture different from the one on my passport provided rich learning and social experiences I would not otherwise have had and broadened my perspective in many ways. Although cultural differences are important to understand, particularly if one is a resident of a particular region or country, so are similarities. We are all human beings and everyone deserves respect, and enough open-mindedness from others to learn about them, and whatever culture they come from.

    This is supposed to be a culture-related blog, not a dating or sex related site, so I suggest the writer of the e-mail read about France, especially Paris, if that is where she intends to go, and stop using porn sites as a guide.

  2. As one American chick who actually did move to Paris (and loved it) with very little knowledge of either the language or the culture except for the movie "Can Can" and "Irma La Douce", to another (who at least can speak French), I think I'm pretty qualified to answer her questions.

    1. The only difference I have seen between French men and American men is the whole uncircumcised thing. They all have similar annoying habits like leaving the toilet seat up and leaving hair in the sink and issues with their mothers. Otherwise, if you got that lusty feeling, go for it. The worst that can happen is he says "No".

    2. Don't worry so much about the sexual faux pas– there are ads with naked or just topless women everywhere. The French have been influenced by Catholicism, not Puritanism. Sex is only dirty if you try to hide it. Which is why the Puritans didn't sail to France, they headed for Boston.

    3. See my answer to question #1.

    4. The French are colorblind. It doesn't matter if you're black, white, yellow, or green. Just don't play up the whole "African-American" thing. You are an American in their eyes and that's it.

    5. The "lady in public/whore in bedroom" is the same in France.

    6. Forget the porn, just go with what you know and are comfortable with. The few French guys I've talked to find anal pretty gross.

    Don't get discouraged if no one seems to understand your French–and I guarantee you will encounter one or two people who will make you feel like an idiot trying to speak French–ignore them and move on. I didn't speak much more than "S'il vous plait" and "merci" and I still got along pretty well with the locals. If you smile a lot, it helps.

    When I lived in Paris, I tried not to let my "American-ness" show too much. Having lived in New York, you probably have a decent sense of fashion. Even in "casual" mode, the French never look like slobs. Remember this. Do get a metro card–it's cheaper in the long run. Find yourself a good boulangerie, fromagerie and locate two nice chocolatiers– they will give you the comfort and strength to get through any bad days you might have. Otherwise, just enjoy being in France. Paris really is all that and then then some.

  3. Wow. I'm a little gobsmacked – that was just weird. I feel a little dirty just from reading that. It starts off ok but then it's just a long downward slide from there..

    But don't ever change, Frenchman – love your style and the fact you don't hold back, tell it like it is!

  4. *_*
    srsly?

  5. O La La ! This is the funiest set of questions I have ever read but,in my oppinion, it represents 100% the unbelievebly firm, innocent and stupid way many americans ask questions about other countries. What I enjoy even more is that the first comment, from World Citizen, clearly does not realise what could be wrong in this ignorant-arrogant-offensive-rude-ridiculously simple way of asking a french person such horrid and horrendous things about french culture and lifestyle but goes on answering the questions ( through personal expertise…)!

    In a way,both questions and the first answers prove there is a whole DIFFERENT world, out there … Maybe cultures cannot really communicate but collide …

  6. Seriously. Is this a joke letter? lol

  7. Lol. Btw, I sent you a rant about drinking in bars a while back. Feel free to ignore that. I wasn't drunk but I was pissed off and randomly venting. Life in France pisses me off sometimes, but that's not unique to France & it's worth it :)

  8. Don't worry Gwan, it's coming… (it just takes long)

  9. What a funny blog.:) I love france and the french language. If i need any information i sure will ask :) Meanwhile, i am laughing my american ass off . Bisous!

  10. This woman sounds a bit ridiculous–moving as a 9 year old child is very different than moving as an adult woman in your mid-30s. I get what she means, that she's willing to play it by ear generally but wants some specific guidelines for dating, I just don't think that it's possible. That's the one thing that really differs from person to person and you can never predict how someone is going to react to you as an individual based on cultural norms. If I HAD to offer advice, I would say to generally err on the side of being a bit more conservative than you are in New York, but remember too that a lot of the reason that French men date American girls in France is that they like the ways in which we're different from French women. Again, that would be up to the individual. Your advice/refusal to give advice is, I think, spot on.

    • I actually STUMBLED upon this! So glad I did. I’ve met a man from France, online (he now lives here in the States) and we’ve been communicating. I’m interested in his culture as I’m most definitely interested in him and hope to meet him. The French are people too…not a bunch of perverts! OMG! When I read what this woman had to say,I was mortified, but, at the same time,laughed my American ass off,too!

  11. I think she does want to learn about the culture…but not beforehand. Not that I think that's a smart approach…just that it's better than not wanting to learn at all.

    As to the rest of her questions…OMG. I wish I could offer her some sort of gracious and gentle defense, but those questions are weird…and gross. Clearly, there is such a thing as a stupid question. And she didn't even limit herself to one. Not well done.

  12. well…that's just…bizarre, really.

    "hopefully uncircumcised"?? pahaha!

    strange that someone who's obviously seen enough porn to start making statistical analysis of individual countries should care for such fripperies.

  13. Ahhhh, I don't know where to begin. Let's start with: You are a brave man.

    You're also hilarious.

    Just found you. Plan to keep you (don't panic, not in any weird sort of way, as in "follow" put you on my list, that sort of thing). Someone with your sense of humor must be shared as far and wide as possible.

    If the "lady" doesn't want to learn anything about the culture she is definitely going to have a fun, deep learning experience. That "deep" thing doesn't have any deep, hidden inner meaning I hope.

    Well, it's been a pleasure.

    Warm regards,
    Letitia

  14. Clearly this woman is uncomfortable with her sexuality.

  15. I'm French and I just discovered this blog. I like the educational part. But it's also very funny, thanks to all the writers. About this letter: Like everybody, this letter made me laugh, but I think it's a good thing that this person wrote it. communication is always the good way. Some few advices: first: don't "idealize" France, before coming over here. second: whatever the question is(even on sex things) , always ask: at least you will make people laugh, and they'll forgive you as you are a foreigner.

  16. Zut alors! hahaa this was amazing, just love the fact she felt the need to tell you she had a high pain threshold. “what in this blog led people to mistake me with a sexologist?” oh and to answer that question, your french.

    • What’s up with my French? I’m not sure I understand the last part of your comment? (and I doubt any body here has ever heard or read my French)

      • I think it was meant to be “you’re (you are) French.” lol Don’t you know, every French person is a sexologist! That is why people ask these inapropriate and insipid questions.

        • Oh, I see…
          One day, an Autralian friend of mine suggested that people who confuse “your” and “you’re” to be shot in the head. I can’t say I fully disagree.
          Seriously, I don’t understand how a native speaker can make that mistake (yes, that tells a lot about education in some countries).

          • Shot in the head? That’s a bit much. When writing and when typing, people mess up and may leave out certain letters. In this case, Abi left out the “e” in you’re (as in you are) and it came out as “your”. Just like you left out the “s” in Australian. (Unless there is a country called “Autralia”.) Yes, the education in some countries is not the best (you’re probably referring to the US) however everybody makes mistakes when typing (hello, typos) regardless of their country’s education. I love your blog Frenchman, and I think that you are intelligent and hilarious, but I hope you don’t seriously think that people who confuse “you’re” and “your” should be shot in the head. Anyways, I subscribed! <3

          • No I don’t seriously think such people should be shot in the head. That’s a figure of speech.
            However, no, confusing “you’re” and “your” is not a typo. Typos as forgotten letters or mistyped letters done by individual.
            That one confusion is widespread among some English speakers, even when they hand write something, and it denotes of a serious lack of understanding of the grammar of their own native language, which is more than embarrassing.

  17. Ok…I see now…”Denotes a serious lack of understanding….” Good point, Frenchman.

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