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Why Stereotype?

by Amsley Senkbeil

Stereotype:

a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.


What comes to mind when I say The French? Snobby, dark clothing, closed-off, etc.

And when you hear, Français? Chic, skinny, wine, etc.

Right? These few examples have been “stereotypes” of France since I can remember. Especially the snobby part. But why?

It’s not fair to judge an entire country, especially when I’d never been before. I’m not going to lie though, I came to France with those ideas in my mind. I was prepared for the constant cold shoulder and so much greyness that I’d stick out like a sore thumb in my pink spirit jersey.

This past month though, I have encountered the opposite. (Not so much the color of everyone’s wardrobe, but I can get over all the grey, black and brown.) What I’ve seen and been a part of so far while studying in Grenoble is kindness and laughter and openness from some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I’ve had hour-long conversations with sweet old grandpas who just what to know what I’ve been reading lately. Or I’ll be out to eat with a friend, the waiter realizes we’re American but continues to speak in French, remaining patient while we spit out our order. Yes, I accidentally said I needed ice cream instead of wanting one scoop. But the lady laughed it off, and gave me a big smile in exchange.

And has anyone jumped back, astonished, getting ready to take your order while saying “Ah mademoiselle, ton sourire est magnifique!”? Which literally means, “Oh miss, your smile is magnificent!” Who says that?! The French do, and it’s fantastic.

The many people I’ve engaged with are astounding and continuously make my days better. They start conversations and laugh with me and even laugh at me. It’s so much more than I could have ever asked for. So why stereotype? There’s no use in generalizing, it’s never completely true. Being in France, I know this now. It’s been an eye-opening experience to meet these people and fall in love with them. Each person has something unique, and I appreciate that.

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