23 August 2011

Ugly Americans

I am not a happy camper this week.

Why?  I have decided to self-inflict pain on myself in the form of good food deprivation.  I hate it.  And we're only 24 hours in.  But something has to give, and I really don't want that to be the waistline of my pants.

See, I am married to a French man who embodies the French paradox.  He can eat and eat and eat, and still be skinny with gorgeous abs (you're welcome honey!).  I stupidly think that I too can eat and eat and eat, but yet I have the metabolism of a sloth.  And let's not even talk about my abs.  Anyhow, here I am, going crazy and all I can do is look at food blogs.  This doesn't really bode well for my blog either, since most of what I do is take you on culinary adventures to Paris's amazing restaurants.  Guess I'll have to write about other things for the next two weeks...

Like cultural differences.

Not too long ago, as my Franco-American wedding was fast approaching, I reflected upon how I was embarking on a life that require me to be a hidden ambassador (you can read that here).  Whether you like it or not, when you elect to live in a foreign country, you become a representative of your culture and your people back home.  And often times you become a sounding board for others to voice their disdain for you country's political/economical decisions and stereotypes.

This happens to me a lot.

For example, I work for a major American company, therefore this must make me super happy because I get to have the product whenever I want.  Or, because I carry an American passport, this makes me automatically share everything about myself with people and makes me loud.  And I smile a whole hell of a lot...oh, and I voted for Bush...twice. 

I've written a couple of posts about how Americans (and me) perceive the French, and how certain myths are just baseless.  I figure it is only part of my diplomatic duty to do the same for my people.  So my fellow French citizens (and other world citizens), let's talk turkey.

Stereotype 1:  Americans eat nothing but crappy food

Whenever I want to inflict fear into the heart of a French person, I simply drop the word Baconator:

Wendy's Heartattack Burger aka Baconator

This is an easily understandable stereotype.  Americans are statistically overweight/obese.  When people have access to American food abroad, it is McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, and Pizza Hut.  Many restaurants where one might go to in the USA for a nice dinner serve portions that are way too big.  We do have a lot of crap (who needs to eat a deep fried Snickers?!), but as I like to point out to a lot of non-USA citizens, we do still have a food culture.  Sure, it's probably not as pretty as it is in France, but it exists and it seems like it is making a come back more and more in small town USA.  Local food cooperatives, farmers' markets, organic food stores.  Americans are getting more interested in food and are enjoying it with heightened interest.  Every region in the USA, just like France, is known for its specialties.  Crab cakes from Maryland, BBQ in its many varieties in the South, a heavily Mexican Mexican food culture in the southwest, all delicious things lobster in Maine, and I can't even briefly describe the gorgeous food that comes out of Northern California.  More and more, you can find healthy, delicious, fresh food in the USA.  Just not at places like TGIFriday's or Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesday's.  But give us time, mes amis français...you've had how many years to perfect your food culture?  We're just gettin' started!

Stereotype 2:  Americans have no sense of fashion

Dear Parisians, let's have a chat.  If you were to ever leave Paris *gasp!!* and go to other parts of France, you would suddenly find that you do not have quite the choice that one has in the clothes department as you would in the 75.  Big cities might have nice shopping areas, but there is no Avenue Montaigne or Faubourg St. Honoré.  The same holds true for the United States.  Outside of bigger cities, you don't have much of a choice for clothes.  Now that we've cleared that up, let's talk about how those that live outside of major cities deal.  As far as I can tell, in France you have 3 Suisses, La Redoute, and limited selection on Comptoir des Cotonniers, Zara, Etam and others.  In the USA, you can buy clothes from virtually any retailer and have it delivered, allowing you to dress like your compatriots in NYC or LA if so desired.  Generally there are even more selections available online than in the actual brick and mortar store.  Now, our style is more casual than in France, and we definitely don't like being uncomfortable in our clothes.  So sue us (wait...that's our job!)  I see atrocious misconduct in fashion on both sides of the pond.  Let's stop the finger pointing, especially those that accuse us 'ricains of having no style but then stand in line for 2 hours in front of the recently opened Abercrombie & Fitch store here in Paris to buy a torn up polo shirt for 80 Euro.

Stereotype 3:  Americans are overly nice...to the point of naive.

I can see why we might be perceived as overly nice.  We do smile, especially at strangers.  We tend to think that we can solve any problem, especially with hard work.  We will talk your ear off (especially if we're from the South).  We can actually find perfection in many things.  I can see why Americans would seem happy to the level of overly medicated when they come to a country where you rarely smile at strangers. Where nothing is perfect, and anything can always be improved.  And of course in a place where customer service representatives actually find it self-gratifying to make customers cry and explode in anger because of their disbelief in customer happiness.  I could see why that might be annoying in such a place. 

Alas, that place and the United States have the highest levels of depression in the world.  We are, in fact, on the same level of unhappiness.

Stereotype 4:  Americans are loud

Yes, Americans are loud.  We like to talk loudly and use the voicebox that the Powers that be gave us without qualms.  But so do the Australians.  And the British.  I think my French neighbors who have crazy monkey sex three times a week are really loud, but that's just me.  Oh and the French playboys who are my other neighbors and have parties non-stop from Thursday to Sunday are pretty loud as well.  But I digress...All of us who live in this world can be incredibly loud.  During football (soccer) games.  And when we're a little drunk...Loudness is in the eye of the beholder.

Stereotype 5:  All Americans are rich

This is so a stereotype I wish was true.  Because then I would be rich.

Yes, we are a blessed people.  We're so rich with our big cars, big houses, and lots of stuff.  But in case you haven't been paying attention, the current financial mess we're reliving from 2008 was initially brought on by massive private debt among American consumers in the form of mortgages.  I should also mention that we have insane credit card debt loads, and a lot of young'ins have school debt from university.  Sure, we have it better than most, but we're not flush with cash either.

Glad we could share a moment together.  Now I am going to go chew my arm off...


  1. My favorite is that American Girls are sluts....

    I've gone on many-a first dates where 'they' thought dessert was included! LOL!

    Also, in re: to your waist line which I'm sure is fine, check out Les Cercles de la Forme. I lost my Frenchie fat there, they have amazing classes!!

  2. True story: Boyfrand once salted a Baconator. And he's loud. And can seem naive.

    However all of this applies only when drunk. Maybe they really are onto something here...


  3. Love this post. I feel like I've been smacked in the face with a lot of these stereotypes myself lately. It was starting to wear on me. Thank you for making me laugh, instead.

  4. @Ella Coquine: Yes, I do love that one too. You gotta love it when being straight forward about what you want makes you a slut. That and beer. I'll check out the place you recommended! I can't quite resign myself to a life of rabbit food and cigarettes...

    @Mariah: You're boyfriend doesn't count because he's just Boyfrand. There are no comparisons. Has he ever eaten a KFC Double Down sandwich while drunk? Can you guide him down that path next time? Pretty please?