‘I hate the French’ Learning to overlook stereotypes

Whilst waiting at a bus-stop on a little Island off the coast of Morocco, I was approached by a middle-aged American man sporting a Red Sox T-shirt.

He heard my British accent and we immediately struck up a conversation concerning England. The man raved for a good ten minutes about the beauty and culture of England, not stopping long enough to notice my bemused expression.

As soon as he learned that I had spent the last year in France, however, his expression transformed from a gleeful grin to a disgusted grimace.

As I started describing my experience to him, he cut across me- loudly and boldly proclaiming: “I do not like France in the slightest! England I will visit, but never again France. The people are snobby and rude – and I hate them all!”

I was stunned. Never before had I been so offended. A barrage of hateful retorts surged through my head, but I reminded myself that he was simply ill-informed. I finally settled on taking a more passive approach.

“Where in France did you go?” I gently asked him.

“Paris,” he responded, nose still wrinkled.

I took a breath. Choosing my words carefully, looked him dead in the eyes.

I explained that the French are not unlike any other nation. Every person is different, and though he may have found a higher concentration of rude people in Paris, that is the case with major cities across the globe. And, more to the point, that certainly is not the majority.

I relayed to him my life in southern France and how entirely family-oriented and empathetic the people were, preferring to spend every day with family and friends. I suggested maybe what he mistook for snobbery was, in fact, a sense of pride and happiness in every Frenchman’s soul – the same sense of pride we Brits and Americans feel for our great nations.

We have all generalized before, have stereotyped different races, cultures, orientations, ages or religions. Something that we must remember in order to fully comprehend and accept this world is that each and every one of us is a unique individual. And as such, we are entirely unlike the person sitting next to us. Although I sincerely hope the man I met at the bus-stop learned something that day, I still to this day have no idea. He simply grunted wordlessly, and climbed on the bus.

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