(asked by Patricia from somewhere – I guess the US)
Do French men really find American women fascinating?
Ah American women! The object of fascination of all Frenchmen!!! Or are they?
Well, first I guess we need to define “fascination.” Personally, I always found mole rats to be extremely fascinating if you see what I mean.
I guess we need to separate two things here. First, American women, the way they are depicted in the French media and the fascination that results from it. Then, actual American women in France.
If you’ve spent even the slightest amount of time in France you know that for some reason, French media are literally obsessed with the US. Don’t ask me why, this is something I could never figure out (although I’m sure the Marshall Plan has something to do with it).
French news always talk about what’s going on in the US, French tabloids care about US celebrities as much if not more than about French celebrities (even if French reality TV wannabe celebrities are stealing the spotlight more and more… I’m not sure, I just happen to see a lot of unknown French people on the cover of tabloids lately, so I assume they must be coming from somewhere, and reality TV is the most likely culprit).
However, you know how the media are. They talk only about “eventful” things. They won’t tell you “nobody died in no accident today” and same thing goes when they talk about people and celebrities.
When the media talk about things happening in your own country, region, city, you usually understand that this is not all that’s happening, just a few special things the media deemed worthy of attention.
However, when the media talk about foreign countries for some reason, people tend to forget that what is being talked about is not normal nor usual, simply because they don’t have the “normal, uneventful” frame of reference in front of them. And this is very true for French people and the US. Add to this a little generalization, and there you go, you get a country that’s pretty weird (to say the least) to French people’s perception. Weird, often equals with fascinating, and yes, in that sense, the US is a fascinating country for French people, and that includes people and women, especially when they get Angelina Jolie, Sarah Palin, Lady Gaga as “American women” examples.
Now, we have the other “fascination” that Frenchmen can have about “real” American women, by that I mean, the ones they’ll actually meet.
Here, we need to reduce our population to mostly students and mostly in Paris because I’m going to talk about the fascination that French (mostly Parisian) students have with American (mostly in Paris) female students.
Why mostly/only in Paris?
Nothing against Parisians for once, it simply has to do with the fact that this is the only place in France where you’ll find large amounts of American students (this having to do with the fact that many Americans are unaware that there are other places in France).
And in Paris, the reputation that American women have among Parisians, is that they’re easy and slutty (which can be fascinating to some).
Why is that?
Well, because it’s true!
Ok, don’t get me wrong here, I -by no means- am implying that every American woman in Paris is easy and slutty. Far from it. However, a minority is. Thing is that –as usual– the well-behaved majority is “invisible” as they won’t be noticed and they won’t be labeled and they won’t give a reputation to people from their demographical group. Most of the time, people won’t even know that they’re Americans when they see them in the street, bars and clubs (because this is especially in those two last places that the reputation of American women originate from).
Let me explain.
American women have a certain way of going out and clubbing that is very different from Parisian women. Parisian women are dull and boring; it almost seems that they don’t like to have fun. Even when they go out, they feel the need to be serious, unsmiling, drinking just a little because they don’t want to be drunk and those sorts of things (ok, not true for all of them, but you see what I mean).
So even when American women behave “normally” (for American standards) in such places, their behavior will be already seen by Parisian men as fun, intriguing, inviting, and yeah, fascinating.
Remember, the simplest things like a smile to a stranger, French women don’t do that. In France, if you smile to a stranger, that means you don’t want them to be strangers anymore. And American women always smile, go figure why Frenchmen always think they want to know them, and end up inviting themselves at the tables where they sit for better or worse depending on the situation (and the guys).
It’s quite simple. When I lived in Paris, I happened to have a lot of American female friends, and it was almost impossible to go out in a French bar at night, we always would end up with random Frenchmen at our table trying to pick the girl(s) up. Thank god, Paris is full of Anglo pubs, annoying Frenchmen avoid them: first they’re not confident in their English skills enough, second, those places are not bling-bling enough for the Parisian young bourgeois.
Clubbing now. I rarely went clubbing in Paris (I didn’t like the scene and I was slowly getting too old for that anyway) but put simply: in France rubbing one’s butt against some guys crotch is not considered dancing, it’s considered initiating sexual intercourse. Do you see what I mean, and why French men could get misled about American women’s intentions when they dance?
And there I was just tackling “normal” fun-loving young American women in France and especially in Paris…
Now, there’s a certain number of American women, once again, mostly students, and mostly in Paris (but that applies to American students in almost any country in the world really) that think that spending time abroad allows them to behave as stupidly as possible. Some sort of weird belief that “abroad” is not a real place, you don’t have to respect any rule there, especially not the local ones (one cannot totally blame them for that, their country gives them the example with its international politics). So they think that abroad, they can do the craziest things they can imagine, because nobody will never know back at home.
Of course, the fact that by doing this they usually totally disrespect local cultures or habits and very often they also totally disrespect themselves goes way beyond their heads.
And because those students (once again, it’s by no means the majority, but they are the “visible ones”) seriously lack imagination, the “craziest things they can imagine” is very often unoriginal (and thankfully harmless for the local populations) and very often results in drinking even more than they do at home and being sexually promiscuous, much more than they do at home (that’s what happens when hypocritical puritanism is the only thing that keeps you in check when growing up).
Sadly, those few idiots, give to all American female students the reputation of being sluts and morons (and that too is fascinating for male French students) but it’s usually the least negative effect from this pitiful behavior as STDs and rape are also part of the picture. A part that is usually not being publicized much.
OK, I guess I covered the two principal ways American women can be fascinating to French men.
I’m sure there are a few less important ones too.
Did I forget something important?
Ouch! A real exposee' on the young and the restless American students abroad. Studying abroad is supposed to be FUN and Cultural. I guess we parents are the last to know that fun doesn't mean cultural.
Ihave studied abroad three times-once as a college student in 1984 and twice as a grad student most recently this summer (2012) where I was in Paris lving in a residence with undergrads. Sadly, everything the author says is dead-on. Many of the girls behaved ridiculously, They wore skimpy clothes, got drunk, and would stumble back to the dorm at 4 or 5 in the morning. They ignored everything that was told to them about the inappropriateness of their behavior and even ignored that they were in a city of 11 million people where rape and murder exist like most places in the world.
this american woman living in France (not Paris) has been found consistently fascinating on the part of most french men I have met since coming to France. lucky me!
Did some American girl break your heart? You are way off base with these comments.
It seems your comments are based on observations of behavior and not by actually speaking to anyone. Insinuating they pass around STD's..you have lost your french mind!
I'll admit the behavior of a college student is less than stellar, but that does not make them "sluts and morons". Morons is to indicate they are mentally retarded with an IQ of 50. Hardly, someone who can study at university age. Never mind study abroad in all those very smart, uptight french universities.
I'll admit they lack proper judgment. Getting stupid drunk and sexually aggressive is shameful. However, that is the life of an American college student- at play. It is a shame you do not see these same college students at work, studying in the classroom, volunteering, or possibly their grades? You may have spoke/judged differently .
I was in Paris the night of the
Solstice music festival. I saw many many french females and males( very young-non university age) acting just as you described the American students. So i guess they are fascinating too.
Yes, the girls work hard and get good grades, but that’s not the point. What many of them-the ones that get noticed the most-show to the Parisians is the “shameful” behavior as you put it. The behaivor is moronic and most definitely slutty. It is moronic to dress in skimpy clothes, get wasted, and stumble home in the wee hours of morning in one of the largest cities in the world. I witnessed this first hand, three times, as an undergrad and twice as a grad student. I have three teenage children and if any of them behave like that when they study abroad, they will be coming home on the next flight.
Where can I start?
I guess I can answer one statement after the other.
So, did some American girl break my heart? Well, yes it did happen many years ago, but that was not in France and she was well behaved.
Just seeing and not speaking… Well, how can I explain this?
With the fact that most of my friends when I lived in Paris were Americans? Oh and my job there was being a teacher… to American students… And one of my good friend worked in a US study abroad program in Paris, you wouldn't believe all the crazy stories of what some students would do (basically "serious" stories and incidents would come to her ears because of her position, the lighter ones? Oh students wouldn't be shy of those). I also could mention all of the friends of friends, but you get the picture.
I'm not insinuating they're passing around STDs? I'm telling that they get some because of their unwise behavior. I thought the sentence was clear enough (no, I'm not insinuating that those girls rape people either).
Concerning the term "moron" you know exactly what I mean, and don't fool yourself, I've met my share of stupid students, even a few graduate students.
"Smart, Uptight French Universities"
LOL for the uptight part.
Also, you may not be aware of it, but the vast majority of American students studying abroad don't do it in local universities but in study abroad programs from their own US university.
Is it a shame that I didn't see those students at work?
Well, for some of them, yes it's definitely a shame I didn't see them at work, especially for those whose teacher I was.
As far as "normal American student partying" goes, I know this one quite well too (contrarily to what you imagine, I'm only talking about things I know very well here) and this is part of my point:
Not only "partying rules" are not the same everywhere, and you should be aware of that fact when you're abroad, but for those particular stupid students I describe, it's worse, because they think that because they're abroad, they can do crazy things that they wouldn't do at home.
Concerning Music Fest on June21st, well, not your typical partying day, and yeah, young French people can go a little crazy on that day. However, it's a special day, and not your typical way of partying either, and I'm sure that day is indeed fascinating for people who don't have Music Fest in their country.
Americans aren’t the only students who believe that when they are abroad they can be complete whores.. I’ve met plenty of exchange students from Europe who completely lost their dignity in the U.S, thinking that no one back home would find out.
I think your explanation applies in other countries as well, not just France. American women (and I speak as an American woman) have that "brainless slut" reputation in many foreign countries, even in countries where very few American students study abroad.
I wish those few women who go crazy and act inappropriately abroad would realize that they're putting other women at risk. When they create the impression that American women are available for sex "anytime, anywhere, with anyone", they're creating a situation where a man won't take "no" seriously and will rape a woman because "she's American so of course she wants it." I am in no way excusing rape, but people need to view their time abroad with realism rather than as some romantic fairy tale. It's not the same as being in the US. People often WILL assume your behavior represents all Americans.
I also think you've touched on an issue most Americans never think is an issue which is smiling at everyone. In many cultures, smiling at a stranger can be viewed as a sexual invitation. Or, an indication of idiocy. But, Americans do it reflexively, and (I speak from experience) it's really hard to stop.
And, unless you've lived abroad and understood the local language, Americans do not understand how large the US looms in the popular imagination. American television media rarely report on events in foreign countries, so we assume other countries receive little reporting about the US. Wrong! It's crazy and I personally think media should focus more of their reporting on local issues.
I don't think the Marshall Plan has anything to do with it (maybe you're joking?). I've never been to France. My experience is with Russian-language media, and they are just as obsessed with the US. I think it's because it's easier to talk about something happening very far away. It's like arguing about what happened on some TV show; what you say doesn't really matter because you can't affect anything. Local issues are more difficult since you can affect things and the people who you might offend are closer to home.
All in all, though, this was a great post. A nice dose of reality for American women going to France.
Thanks tictoc for this comment, you're right on all accounts.
-I didn't develop the smiling to strangers thing here because I have previously done so (I should have linked):
-The Marhsall Plan: I was not joking. The US established supremacy in the world after 1945 by several means. One of them being "media invasion", in Europe, it was part of the Marshall Plan (part of the Blum-Byrnes agreement, although I could be wrong).
In Russia, things were different for obvious reasons, but I assume that during the Cold War Russians were as fascinated by the US than Americans were by the Russians (but Russians had a long tradition of being interested in foreign cultures, this is why Russians learned so much about the US and Americans next to nothing about Russia). Then in 1991, when the USSR fell apart, the US was the only superpower left and were already ubiquitous in other major countries, it was just "natural" that it became the same in Russia too. (now, all of those are mostly assumptions, what I know about Russia is what I've read and what a few people told me)
Hmm this is an interesting blog first of all I´m not American but I am a female student and went to Paris. From my experience I did not get bothered super much by Frenchmen but I do have to admit that because of men in Holland I was taught to not smile at them and even look away because a look can be enough for them to think that you like them and than they start to bother you balablablala so I kind of took that way of behaving with me to Paris and it worked. The only times I noticed that I was getting a lot of attention or suggestive looks thrown towards me was when I was laughing with my friends having a good time. Let me explain that with my friends I´m very hyperactive and happy not in a dumb way just lively and I dont drink or rarely drink BUT I love to dance. I consider myself as a dancing queen quoting Abba. And I did notice that Parisian women have this cool serious attitude a bit mysterious and if you´re a bit of a dancing happy person you do stand out. The way I still made sure that Frenchmen did not invade my privacy (of course you always have a few assholes but thats life) is by not looking at them and not giving them the sense I was partying with them but exclusively with my group of friends I had the time of my life. But I notice that fascination is a big word I mean every time I spoke Dutch towards my friends even in low voice I caught attention from people did that mean that they found me fantastic? No, I guess they might of just figured I'm not from France and were simply figuring out from where I was from (seeing as I'm black but speak a language that is recognizably European). I think at most when behaved properly (see modest) you might attract a little bit of attention as foreigner however if you're rubbing your ass against some random dude in the bar you'll "fascinate" ANY men in the world.
Thanks DeeDovich Von Poet, you're giving a good description about how to have fun (a thing Parisian women don't know how to do) without being stupid and careless (a thing that American students don't always know how to do).
That's what I like about you Dutch people.
I love reading your blog. It amazes me the questions that people ask And I admire your patience in answering them.
Anyway, I am one of millions of American women who have studied abroad. Your description of their attitude and conduct is spot on. I was amazed by what I saw of my fellow Americans. And you're right, it does give the wrong impression of us as a society. I think the clubbing scene is a big part of it. If dancing here wasn't grinding, I think there would be less problems.
I actually did study in a University, and not through a program. So I was just another student at the school. I was sheltered from the other Americans at the school involved in those programs. I preferred it that way because I had a more "cultural" experience if we can go that far.
I think the fascination thing is strange, I've had a francais I was helping with his English (and he my French) tell me that talking to me was like being in a movie. c'est bizarre, n'est pas?
You did the right thing. When spending time abroad, don't stay with your compatriots, get to know the locals.
Concerning the "like being in a movie" it makes perfect sense to me.
Let me tell you shortly how I felt when spending my few hours in several countries.
Let's start with Japan: I had a very long trip to get there, I was exhausted, after landing, there still was a 3 hour bus ride to get to my final destination, and yet, I didn't close my eyes a single second, I'm not sure I even blinked: everything, every single things was different, new, amazing, interesting.
First hours in Hong Kong: constant amazement in that city where rich and poor, modern and traditional mix in ways I had never imagined before (like: modern building being repaired and wrapped in bamboo scaffolding).
Even my first time in England was "exotic" with all those little cottages and whatnot…
And my first hours in the US? They're unforgettable too, but for very different reasons: every thing was familiar, every single thing I had seen many times over and over again, except this time I was seeing them for real. My feeling? I was not in the real world anymore, I had entered "movie world."
I realize that this is an old thread, but the first time I had dinner at a lovely, somewhat formal, Parisian restaurant, I looked around me and noticed these very serious French people, sitting up very straight in their chairs, talking very quietly while slowly eating! As an American, albeit, one who has lived in large American cities, I was still taken aback and felt like someone had called central casting and I had somehow landed in a movie set! Once I overcame the “unreality” of the situation, I quickly became aware of what was expected of my behavior, and adapted myself to it, and dropped some of my Americanisms, so as not to offend anyone. (I’m actually a fairly quiet and serious person anyway, but I do like to laugh and joke in public!) Another time, I was enjoying a meal at a cafe, that was so delicious it almost made me weep, when a lovely woman from the Marais district sat down with me to chat, ignoring my very bad French, but patiently answering my questions concerning the lives of French families, children, and the worldwide effects of technology on us all. I will always remember her kindness, and the way she carried herself so beautifully, and so unlike my compatriots at home. Of course, I saw all of the usual sights that draw tourists to Paris, but the memory I most treasure was eating dinner that night and feeling the immense joy and pleasure of knowing that there is a treasure trove of rich experiences that no visit to a museum orca monument could ever equal.
You took it personnaly, but Mr frenchman is being funny and nice.
One basic idea that comes up very quickly about american womens is : fat.
Sorry if you are offensed and feel this rude, but I believe it is what ppl really think.
Second thing, US and UK students are in general, more responsible about their studies (because they pay for it), and much less about their way of life - because they live in a protected environment, and have an hypocrite education about sex and alcool.
Of course, this a general point. each person is different, etc, etc
You have your opinion, and I assure you I did not take Mr Frenchman's post personally.
I did not give it another thought, until you replied today:)
As for American woman being FAT, All of euro believes that! So it is nothing new. ( ignorance at it's best)
In Africa, FAT woman are treasured. If a woman does not gain weight after being married many people think there is something wrong with the marriage.
I am curious where you are from?
Soo you see, "different strokes for different folks", makes the world go round
I’m planning on going to college in Paris, but I’m a bit nervous about the American stereotype you mention here. I’m really quiet, not the typical American, and I’m a real “francophile”, so I really respect the culture. (And thanks to your blog, I’ve learned quite a bit about it!) I want to live in France after college, too. Do you think that the stereotype will really affect how others act towards me?
Well, don’t be.
Yes you’ll meet stupid people who will label you as a “stupid American”.
So what? Screw them.
People who will judge you just from the clichés based on your nationality are not worth your time, are they?
The only important thing is that you need to keep in mind that when you are a foreigner (and it has nothing to do with American in France, but being a foreigner, in any country, I could go as far as saying when you are a minority, even if you’re not a foreigner), your actions will be judged as a representing your nation. When you’re a foreigner, you embody your nation to the locals eyes, 24/7. And the negative actions have a much stronger impact than the positive ones. It’s not fair. I know. As I was saying elsewhere, life is not fair, you can spend your time complaining about it like a brat or deal with it like an adult.
One last thing. People who label themselves as “francophiles” sometimes tend to have tunnel vision when in France (in depends who, the word “francophile” encompasses so many different types of people).
What I mean by that is that if you’re having a bad time, you’ll soon see all the negative aspects, and only them to the point you’ll quickly hate France with a passion. On the other hand, if you’re having a good time (and I hope you will) you may just see all of the good (and often superficial) aspects of the country and become oblivious to the bad.
Fact is, France, just like any other country, has both, having a rich and fruitful experience of living abroad means learning and being aware of both.
I think there are some valid points here. I’m an American from San Francisco who had many international friends and when we’d go out, my foreign friends would get constant attention even if they weren’t trying. It was very easy for them to get dates but much harder for me!! Then I moved to France for a job and all of a sudden I started getting a lot of attention, flirting, etc. It was MUCH easier for me to date here and of course, being in an “exotic” place was exciting and if I dated this guy or that guy, the news wouldn’t get back to my friends and family in the US so I felt much more “free”. Plus the attention meant that I had more guys to choose from and most were interested in a relationship - partly because it would take longer to get to know each other so the “mystery” was more intriguing. When you’re from the same culture, there’s less mystery, eh? So here I still am, happily married to a French guy for 4 years now - and that mystery still keeps things spicy
How awesome, did he ask you? what happened?
Oh, and Hi Frenchman! I love reading your blog posts
Lovin’ the blog, French man. How, though, would a “Parisian” woman dance in a club? ..with a male. I am not an American, (thus not being overly fond of this “grinding” action Americans tend to do when dancing) but a young Kiwi girl who has been to both Paris and america, and who la la loves to go dancing.
I absolutely love this! I can’t believe i found your website by accident.
Well I agree with this post, I spent two weeks in foreign language school in Paris this last summer 2011, and then two weeks in Nice too, so this brought back some memories!
In Paris, I found less men approached me, most either laughed at my attempt at french (even though I have been studying it for 4 years now) or loved my “American accent” and asked me to come with them to Austria and get married. But that’s probably because the only men who talked to me in Paris were old creepy ones, I couldn’t find any students there!
In Nice, I met my dream boy on Lido Plage- a French boy named Yann! He goes to University. we only spent one night together, but it was the most exciting night. We still talk through email, and i plan to return to Nice this summer, I hope he still finds this California girl interesting…
I only visited Paris once and would love to go back. I had friends tell me how rude they thought the French were when they visited Paris and I ignored them. I wanted to see some of the best art in the world. I wanted to look out at Paris from the top of the Eiffel. I learned a bit of French in a big hurry because I only had a couple months to learn, and I found that most of the people in Paris spoke English and were friendly to me. I smiled a lot. I am a smiler. I wasn’t going to change my behavior and I didn’t expect anyone to change theirs for me. People generally returned my smile. I even got a “sortof smile” from the “2 ladies cafe” owners. I was with my husband, so I wasn’t accosted in any way. He is friendly too. We had a great visit. We’d return in a heartbeat.
In my opinion, you get what you expect. If you’re friendly and confident, you get respect. No big mystery. I experienced the same treatment in London, and even Mexico.
This is a really fun read, Frenchman!
The one thing that I would add to your explanation, Frenchman, is that American girls often have a vision of the “french romantic” guy that is portrayed in movies and on tv. Thus, in addition to their whole “let’s get stupid while abroad” attitude, they are likely to see sleazy Frenchmen hitting on them as being far, far more romantic than they really are. E.g.: “His accent was sooooo cute (and romantic) when he asked me if he play with my boobies”. I noticed this when I was studying abroad. Truly gross Frenchmen would hit on these Americans, and the Americans would just eat it up and brag later about their “French boyfriend”. The boyfriend, of course, would brag about the stupid, slutty American he was taking advantage of (in French), sometimes even in front of the American girl if he was sure she didn’t understand.