10 Common Myths or Stereotypes about French Men

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March 23, 2014

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Do you know the French men as much as you think you do? Whether you're already living in France or planning a visit any time soon, knowing some of the common myths about them will give you better insight.

We all have our opinions and beliefs about what French men are like. But are they true or just myths? Find out below as we list down and investigate ten myths about France's male population.

french men myth

1. French men are arrogant and rude

When travelers were polled with a question of who are the rudest people in the world, guess who came out on top?

Yes, the French did.

While travelers love and adore Paris, apparently, it's not the same case for its people. Stay a week or more in Paris and you will more likely encounter a rude French man or two, but that doesn't mean it’s true for everyone else.

French men come off as rude not because they are inherently that way but because of the language barrier and cultural differences. Take for instance interrupting while someone else is still talking. That is deemed rude in other countries but, in France, that's just the way it is. The French just tend to talk over one another and they also love to defend themselves. While that comes off as arrogant to many, defending your stance or belief in any argument is a character trait that is considered strong in the country.

The Verdict: PARTLY TRUE, PARTLY MYTH

2. French men smoke a lot

I know we've all seen movies where a Frenchman is having a smoke. Sure, some French men are perpetual smokers with a cigarette always on their hands, but that doesn't justify the stereotype that majority, if not all, French men are heavy smokers.

When talking about countries with the most smokers or highest cigarette annual consumption, France is not even on the top 10 list. Instead those who topped the notorious list are its neighbors including Russia, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria. In 2013, cigarette sales dropped by 7.6%---that's about 4 billion less cigarettes than the previous year.

The significant decrease is attributed to French turning to electronic cigarette smoking instead. According to a recent survey, about 7.7 million French people are now using e-cigarettes on a daily basis.

To further debunk the myth, let's bring in some statistics into the picture. In terms of the number of cigarettes smoked by each adult per year, Serbia comes out the champion with 2,869 followed closely by Bulgaria with 2,822 then Greece with 2,795 and Russia with 2,786. We could go and on but we wouldn't see France until rank 59th.

France's consumption is 854 per adult annually. Compared with the top ranks, it’s considerably lower which means people should just stop caricaturing the French people as the epitome of smoking public.

The Verdict: MYTH

3. French men stink

Whoever started the myth that French men stink was just jealous. Ha! We all know how the French are known for their kisses, culinary masterpieces, intellect and exceptional romantic xxxx. Now, who wouldn't covet that?

Seldom, if not at all, will you encounter a Parisian that smells bad. In fact, they are some of the few breeds in the world who look clean and smell the part too.

But just for the sake of argument, the idea that the French smell can probably be associated with the people's smoking habit and fondness for aromatic wine, cheeses and food. Cigarette smoke is sure smelly as well as some cheeses with strong aroma that other people aren't used to.

The Verdict: MYTH

 

4. French men are too lazy

When five Nobel laureates call an entire nation lazy, does that make the stereotype true? Maybe not, maybe yes...But they at least have their basis, right?

Now the question that begs to be answered… What made them label the French as too lazy, work-shy, inefficient and unmotivated?

From an economic standpoint, French men are deemed lazy because they get paid high wages but they only worked three hours a day. That observation, or more like a rant, is from a US tire company chief executive delivered to France's industry minister in a letter. In that same letter, the executive further criticized that the French have one hour for breaks and lunch, three hours for work and three hours for chitchats. Put that way, that does sound like French men are indeed lazy.

But don’t go making any conclusions just yet.

On another end of the spectrum are claims that French men are, in fact, among the most efficient and productive people in the world. They may work fewer hours than most developed nations but the country's economy and high standard of living may be proof that productivity is also part of the people's work ethic. Despite the 16% less in working hours, France still manages to stay on par with its neighbors.

The Verdict: PARTLY TRUE, PARTLY MYTH

5. French men are incredible lovers and kissers

Aside from the iconic Eiffel Tower, what is France famous for? The world famous, amorous French kiss, of course. Not only is it considered a timeless gesture of affection but it is also dubbed as the most passionate kisses there is. Kissing in France is more than an act. It is an art form that French men more than willingly and happily indulge even in public.

With that in mind, there is truth to the myth that French men are great lovers and kissers. It doesn't imply that they are above the rest though, just that they are really expressive and passionate when it comes to romanticism and showing love.

The Verdict: TRUE or not???? ( I am French so I am biaised) 


6. French men routinely have several lovers

Given the world's presumption that the French have some God-given sex appeal and talent for romance, it seems logical to believe the myth that French men's favorite sport other than football is having several lovers or mistresses at the same time.

But is it really true?

For the sake of comparison, let's see how the French fared compared with their neighbors. After the highly trivialized and publicized affair of President François Hollande, a poll was conducted throughout Europe.

 With 55% of males confirming they've had sexual affairs with other people other than the one they're in a relationship with, the verdict points to the French and Italian men as top philanderers. Following French and Italian men behind are the Brits at 42%.

The poll seems to confirm the age old myth. Yes, French men are indeed notorious philanderers. Even though 45% of men in France remain faithful to their lady loves and wives, the majority are still committing the crime of juggling two or maybe even more lovers at the same time.


The Verdict: TRUE

7. French men drink wine all the time

Given that France produces many of the world's finest wines, it's safe to presume that its people also drink lots of them. You are wrong to presume that.

There's no denying the fact that though French men are considered rude, arrogant and snobs, they are also the world's best wine connoisseurs. When they drink their wines, they do it like it's an art. They do it slow, with care and much love. That doesn't make today's French men avid wine drinkers though.

Back in 1980, the French people love to drink their wines with meals. In fact, 50% of the population drinks it every day while 30% drink it once or twice a week. Fast forward 30 decades later, the number has significantly decreased to 17% drinking everyday and 45% drinking once or twice a week.

It goes to show that lifestyles in France have changed. And riding along in that change are French men not drinking as much wine as the previous generations do.


The Verdict: FALSE

8. French men love arts more than sports

Just because French men have a fondness for art doesn't mean they love it more than sports. French men are simply well rounded people. Sports, in reality, are very much a part of the country's cultural heritage.

It has a long history that goes way back and some of the most popular that the French go crazy about are tennis, football, cycling, rugby, handball and basketball.

If Americans consider sports their religion, so does many of France's male species. Two of the most popular sports events that happen in the country every year are the French Open and Tour de France.

The country's national football team has also nabbed a number of awards and recognitions at the World Cup or FIFA, a clear indication of the people's love affair with sports.

The Verdict: MYTH

9. French Men are effeminate

This is another myth with an ounce of truth to it. If Americans are strong, masculine and tend to prefer hard labor jobs, French men are effeminate. This is not to say that there are no masculine French men. It's just that the country's culture encourages the men to embrace their feminine side more openly.

In America, men showing their feminine side are considered gay or weak. In France, it's another story altogether which is why French men are more vocal about their love for art and romance. Wearing pink shirts in public is common. Even more common is kissing each other on the cheek. It is, in fact, a cultural expectation.


The Verdict: TRUE

10. French men hate Americans

In the same manner that Americans criticize French men, French men also do their own criticizing of Americans and other nationalities. They would even go as far as using Americans as the butt of their jokes.

Its witty humor that may be seen as hostile or sarcastic but it is what it is – a joke designed to elicit laughter for those who understand it. These kinds of puns or humor shouldn’t be construed as hatred because French men do not hate Americans. In fact, many of the younger generations even dream of going and living in America.

So yes, it’s foolish to think that there is some kind of hatred going on between these two male breeds. Dislike is a more appropriate word if we are going to tackle political differences and issues.

But that’s a topic too broad and sensitive to be discussed thoroughly here. For now, we’ll just settle with French and Americans enjoying banters and heated debates against each other from time to time.


The Verdict: FALSE


Quite a list of French man characteristics and myths, right?

What do you think of the list? Do you agree or do you have more French men myths to add? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

P.S: You would be doing me a HUGE FAVOR by sharing it via Twitter or Facebook.

About the author 

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Instagram

  • Good article, but I would however say that I don’t agree with some points.

    In the 1st stereotype, you say that it’s cultural that we interrupt people while they’re talking, this is not true. I’ve been raised learning that interrupting is rude and I should not do it, then of course I do it sometimes but try not to. However I totally agree that they think we are arrogant because of the language barrier.

    Concerning the French lover : I don’t think that it actually applies, most people see French people as romantic but in the fact it’s a false image that are mainly shown in the French movies. I don’t think that French are that romantic. For example Latinamerican are way way way more romantic than French.

    Concerning the men are effeminate, I think that everyone judge French people by looking at Paris. But if they would go to the countryside or smaller town they would see that we don’t give a shit about arts or taking care of ourselves. This could also probably be applied in some cities, for example people from New York are probably more effeminate than people from a Midwest town. And art amateurs in the US are probably as effeminate as French art amateurs.

    So as you can see I am myself French and as you have said we like to defend our opinions 🙂

    • I am ok with disagreement if it makes sense and are valid. (and they are valid here 🙂 )

      For stereotype 1: Actually it is not exactly the one you think. It is more how to interrupt people. For example when you talk to somebody we tend to interrupt people by asking questions or clarifications. Not talking about a different topic. We tend to react on the “spot”. I was not educated to interrupt the conversation to change the topic (on ne coupe pas la parole).

      French Lover: It was more ironic rather than the truth. Also the notion of romantism differs from people. Probably Latin American people are more passionate. Perhaps it is a different kind of romantism.

      Men are effeminate: We have some hand gestures and attitude which can be considered as a bit effeminate for foreigners (kissing on each others cheeks for example). Not all for sure and I agree that we need to make a distinction between Parisian and French. But in general French tend to care more about their look if you compare area by area (New York vs Paris / New Jersey vs Banlieue). Now talking about culture and arts is something more important in France than other countries. The number of exhibition in France is just insane. I used to live abroad and now I am delighted to see how much there is. Anyway it is not really my point here. The point is people talk about culture (movie, music, literature…) in a bigger proportion here. A lot of men in France enjoy to talk about culture between guys, and that’s completely fine and great. Apparently (I want to emphasize Apparently) this is not necessary the case abroad. Again it depends where and who. But talking about arts and culture for a men can be considered not as really “men”. Don’t forget it is an article about cliché. It is not necessary the absolute truth despite I try to back my information with datas. There is a lot of oversimplification.

    • I haven’t had that much experience with this. but it is my impression that conversations where the participants are talking over each other is definitely a French thing.

      However, it is not interruption. They seem to understand each other despite this. I guess they are able to do two things at the same time 😉 It is definitely not rude.

  • I loved your post!So much that I’ll comment on every topic even though no one is going to read it. Before I travelled to Paris a huge amount of people told me how rude the French were and all that. I tend not to believe what people say to me before I travel because I often find their opinions misconceived, and that was exactly the case – again. Other than the cultural differences that you pointed out, I also saw many people on vacation in Paris that could speak neither French nor English but still insisted on asking questions, directions, etc. Now, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for Parisians to live in a place packed with tourists and be asked questions in a language other than their own dozens of times a day. I’m Brazilian but I speak English and French (not brilliantly, though) so I witnessed some Frenchmen being rude to people but no one was ever rude to me (plus, I’m not people lol). Also, I noticed that la politesse is very important to the French, so people who just walk into a place without saying ‘bonjour’ (or whatever), get what they want and leave will come across some dirty looks. Tip: It doesn’t hurt to wish a stranger a good day! I don’t really care about topic number 2 because I’m a smoker, I hate being surrounded by non-smokers. I feel like I’m a criminal or something. Regarding the third topic, I’d say it’s partially true. And I don’t mean cigarette smoke or the terrible smell that exhales from fromageries, it’s a I-don’t-know-what-a-deodorant-is smell on top of a great Dior perfume. Saying the French don’t shower is a myth, but there’s a bunch of people that just don’t use deodorant. Number 4: Being a bon viveur is not a crime. People should learn how to slow down a bit, the French just know how to do it. Not getting out of bed all day is laziness, getting together with friends, drinking some wine or reading a book in a park is enjoying life. Number 5: agreed. I can’t comment further on that without compromising my integrity. About number 6, aren’t all men like that? I’ve lost faith. Numbers 7 and 8: I WISH! NUMBER 9: Thank God for that. Plus, that’s directly related to number 5. And at last, number 10. Americans think everyone hates them when truth is, no one cares about them. We don’t have to either love or hate a nation, we can also not give a damn. I know that hurts but, for all the Americans out there, the world is not watching you. You don’t have to be the best at everything you decide to do in your life. People are different from each other, some are nice and some are not, regardless of their nationality. You’re not the last cookie in the packet and the people outside the U.S have their own lives to take care of, we don’t spend our days trashing Americans. If you’re an arsehole, everyone will hate you, otherwise, relax. That’s all, sorry about this giant comment on your post. Cheers! 🙂

    • Thank you Clarissa for your comment. I used to live in Korea and China for several years so I am completely aware about cultural differences. Never hesitate to comment on this blog. I enjoy to read it 🙂

    • I am American and I’d like to say to CLARISSA that your perception of Americans is completely ‘wrong.’ We don’t care what anyone thinks about us, we don’t spend our days either wondering “who is trashing Americans.” (Lol). Nor do we think that we’re the ‘last cookie in the packet.’ We are nice to those who treat us nicely and that is it. Every American I know has a bit more intestinal fortitude than sweating over what every other country thinks about us.
      Maybe you should open up your mind a little bit as far as that goes, but it was interesting to read your take on French men.

  • j’ai beaucoup aimé votre article. Quelques points à éclaircir cependant. Avec 70 millions de touristes l’an dernier principalement à Paris, on peut comprendre que parfois nous soyons un peu “énervé”. Les touristes sont en vacances, ont le temps, mais nous, nous travaillons et lorsque les touristes nous font perdre notre temps si précieux, on devient un peu “rude” parfois ! Par contre vous ne parlez pas de l’attitude des américains qui ne parlent jamais notre langue, s’attendent à ce que tout le monde parle la leur, sont bruyants dans les bus, les monuments, mangent et boivent continuellement dans les rues et dans les magasins etc…. Ils cherchent rarement à comprendre la culture des autres, arrivent souvent en pays conquis ! j’ai vécu dans de nombreux pays étrangers et partout j’ai rencontré des gens comme ça. Dieu merci on ne peut généraliser …. Les français aussi sont très désagréables à l’étranger mais pour d’autres raisons… on devrait apprendre à être touriste et savoir se comporter.

    • Bonjour Michele. Je ne souhaite pas commenter sur les touristes américains. L’article parle des Français. Mais je comprends votre frustration. 🙂

  • When I came to Paris I did not find the French rude at all. I did however try to use my very limited French when I could.At no time did I expect or presume people could speak English though most seemed to speak some. You cannot go to someone else’s country and expect they should speak your language.
    As for French men being effeminate , it is the very issues you have described that I like about them. I think Australian men (and a couple of others as well) could learn a lot about how to treat a woman. I personally like a man with a bit of culture . It is better then always watching sport and drinking beer.. Well it is just my opinion. I was in McDonald’s here once when an Asian man came in and couldn’t speak English. One girl tried to help him . The other said he shouldn’t be here if he can’t speak English which I thought was pretty rude. So it isn’t fair to point the finger at the French people. I must confess even though I always tried to use my limited French, it was always nice to hear French men speak English because the accent is very beautiful.

  • Hi Frederic
    You are right these people are not very smart actually the are quite stupid. The point I was trying to make and did a bad job of is this. People say that French people are rude because some of them may not want to speak English to them. But there are also cases in English speaking countries where people don’t want to speak anything but English . I just think it is a bit arrogant for tourists to presume that everyone should or can speak English . I always found people very helpful. Not everyone could speak English but when they couldn’t they assisted me as best they could by using what I called “creative communication” . ie pointing or hand signals or writing down what I wanted as my pronunciation of French was not good. I would be interested to know how often people in English speaking countries speak another language to people visiting their countries.

  • Intéressant 😀

    J’habite en France maintenant et j’ai rencontré les trucs que vous avez parlés, mais c’est plus drôle parce que cela est le parole d’un français. Oui, partiellement d’accord, partiellement non, mais ‘who cares?’ Chacun est obligé à parler de son opinion.

    étant chinoise, j’étais surprise d’abord par la culture différente, par exemple, plupart d’asiatiques pensent que la france et les français sont romantiques, mais ce qui est définitivement faux.

    Mais généralement, je trouve les francais ne sont pas rudes mais plutôt polis. En contraire, je trouve les français fument bcp, personnellement.

    Pourtant, oui pour efféminés 🙂 et, les français paresseux- umm je préfère à dire, les français tendent de travailler moins

    de toute facon, c’est une plaisir à lire la différence culturelle

    (je m’excuse pour mon français pour les fautes 🙂

    • Ayant vécu en Chine pendant presque deux ans, je sais que les Chinois ne pensent pas que les Français soient malpolis. Je me souviens souvent d’une professeur de français (mais Chinoise) qui trouvait qu’on avait un peu trop de formules de politesse.

  • Bonjour!!!!

    Loooooooooooved the article!!!! Dated a Frenchman. Not a good experience, but I shouldn’t judge all Frenchmen by him. He was not a great kisser, a terrible lover, BUT a great chef!! Never met a better smelling man. Always impeccably dressed and wearing some of the most delicious fragrances ever!!! Bit of true and myth in every Frenchman… I happen to adore France, visited several times, and never have encountered a rude waiter, hotel person, or store, pharmacies clerk. Would move there in a heartbeat!
    Now, help me find your blog on slang, Sil vous plais….. 🙂

  • My fiance is a frenchman, and I absolutely adore him! I love that he enjoys art and culture (we met thru an art related site online)-that he has a great eye for composition, color, etc. He also happens to be a great cook. He never smells bad, he is always polite unless pushed to extremes by other rude people. A good lover and kisser…and does not desire extra lovers (as long as he is happy, he says why bother with that?) But, having said all this, I’ve met several of his friends and I know others as well, and french men are a unique variety 😉 Beautiful country, beautiful language and culuture.

  • Bonjour Frederic.Wow,that is just about every misconception i have ever heard.I have spent a bit of time in Paris (and other areas of France) and was told all this (and more) by people before i left.Whilst yes,i did find some men (and women) a little less friendly than i was,i think that is everywhere..not just France (i will add,i am an Australian,NOT American.After a 26 hour flight,landing in the UK,on my own for the first time ever,i was greeted with rudeness from a Brit that i still remember and was gobsmacked by.Only once,in all my time in France did i encounter anything even close).The “lazy” thing,well Europe in general have VERY,VERY different working lives to what i am used to,but an example of how well it all works was when i was over in Athens.I was getting a little frustrated by the whole “everything happens on Greek time” thing,and was desperate for a little German efficiency whilst i was shipping stuff back home to Oz.It took 2 hrs to get my stuff sent…..but only 1 week to get to Australia. Items i had sent from Amsterdam however took 4 MONTHS (so i never say anything about Greek time now).Besides,i think we Aussies need to look at France (and a few other European country’s work setup) and take notes.French men being great flirts,lovers and effeminate…YES,they DO dress well (Aussie men really SHOULD take note from you guys and the Italian boys)and be a little more open in PDA and not dressing like you are washing the car ALL the time.As for being great lovers….if i wasn’t married i would have loved to have found out (wink wink).Hating Americans ? Well,i dont know about that…BUT,if you refuse to even utter a little French,expect English from everyone…..IN FRANCE,and are rude,boisterous,elitist and demanding then no matter where you are from,you aren’t going to be liked by any country (not just France).Now you have to do one on French women (i’ll start you off:All French women dress like it’s Paris fashion week all the time ? Yes and no:French women are (it seems)born knowing how to wear a scarf and wear all black without looking like someone has died.It is the effortlessness with which they dress that makes them look amazing…but i didn’t see haute couture walking down the Champs every day.They dress for practicality and have a confidence that screams “gorgeous” that isn’t “try hard”….and that makes them look as refined as they do.(i must add that i have a very special fondness for your name,as it is my Dad’s name and ,if we have one, our son’s middle name…so i always light up when i see your name,as two of the most loved men in my life share your name)

  • Bonjour Frederic,

    The first time I visited Paris every person I met was rude and mean; that was 1962. I revisited Paris in 2009 and was surprised that every person I met was polite, friendly, and helpful. I don’t know if I changed or the French have changed, but I now revisit France for several weeks at least twice a year. For me, Paris is the cultural center of the Universe and is a constant joy to explore. However, I am still shocked that so many French women smoke cigarettes. It’s a shame that millions of beautiful well-dressed French women have bad breath, will age and wrinkle prematurely, and will die of cancer. Malheureusement, c’est la vie. Personne est parfait – pas même les nouveaux français que je l’aime !

    • Completely true! I lived in NYC the last 15 years and NY-ers also have a reputation for being, rude, mean, (…). But I always help people out who need directions, whatever! It’s the other Americans who think they “need to act like NYers” to fit in. Everyone is nice, people are largely nice! Especially when you treat them with kindness, dignity and patience!

  • Great article. I personally think that rude, unfaithful, chain smoking and stinky people exist everywhere in the world. Having said that I must chuckle at the fact that I am madly in love with A Frenchman who smokes a lot, has a girlfriend and showered a bit late in the day a few times. He is also extremely intelligent, sexy, cultured and perhaps a good lover ( Not had the pleasure… yet) Never thought I would fall for one as I’m more fascinated by the Brits, but I’m glad I did 🙂 Thanks again for the article!

  • Thanks for this. I’m writing a book at the moment and one of the guys is French so it was a useful check list. I have made him a smoker as a close friend (female) is French and one of the few smokers I know, also the French actor (whose image helps focus) is a smoker, although that probably the only personal habit I’ve used about him. I will probably be adding to myth that French are good lovers though.

  • My husband and I just came back from a three week trip in France. We found the French men and women to be very kind and helpful and generous. We didn’t meet one rude French person. But we came prepared with knowing the culture and language, thanks to this blog! None of the ones I personally met smoked, but I thought I was going to get lung cancer before I finished our vacation. Smoke was everywhere! My French friends that I met seemed to be faithful to their current partner. I will say that the French men flirt a lot! And they all have this sexiness about them. They stare at women too. I am sure that it is harmless enough. Just a man ladmiring a beautiful woman. I don’t think the French are lazy. They value their way of life, enjoying their families, savouring their meals, being present in the moment. Money doesn’t seem to be the priority there like it is in the states. They don’t seem to work overtime all the time. I think Americans are slowly killing themselves with their fast paced stressful lifestyle. Our trip was wonderful. We had taxi drivers stop at a pharmacy to buy me medicine, and wouldn’t take money for it. We had 2 French families invite us to stay in their homes. Store owners gave us free stuff. People in the metro helped us when we got lost. I got a lot of compliments on my French! I say if you show yourself friendly, others will be friendly back.

  • I enjoy reading your research, but I think all people in all countries including the US has their own flaws. No countries or people are perfect. Perfection is a very small percent…

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