After 15 years of living in France, I realized that there are a few sights, quite common back in my home country (that would be the USA), that I’ve never seen here. Some old stereotypes die hard, but believe me when I tell you that there are obese French people (I’ve seen at least two), jeans and sneakers (even in the most fashionable districts of Paris), and even peanut butter at the French supermarket (Oreos, too). But these are three things I have yet to see on the streets of France:
1 Bumper Stickers
Aside from the occasional bébé à bord sticker on the back windshield, I’ve never seen a French car (owned by a French person, that is), covered in bumper stickers. The French obviously feel no need to broadcast their politics, their religion, or their children’s honor roll status on the back of their vehicle.
2 People Walking with Beverages
Not only do the French not carry around Big Gulps, last I checked they don’t even *have* them. The only place to get a carbonated drink “to go” is at McDonald’s (or Quick, the Belgian version) , and I’ve never seen anyone drinking one while walking down the street (ditto for canned softdrinks, which are also slightly smaller in France than the US). As for coffee, Starbucks has indeed come to Paris, but I still haven’t seen anyone (but a loud American tourist) drinking one on the go. For the French, the most important part of the phrase Pause Café (or “Coffee Break”) is the Pause. You’re supposed to sit down and relax with your coffee here.
3 A French Flag on the Porch
In France, and most European countries like Germany (for more obvious reasons), the national flag is only flown in front of government buildings, libraries, schools, museums, memorials and monuments. Sometimes sports fans can be seen running through the streets wearing their flag after a victory, but you’d never see a private home with a flagpole out front. Some would consider it nationalistic (and yes, there’s a fine line between nationalism and patriotism), and perhaps for anyone not raised like myself in a culture of flag-waving fervor, it would just seem odd. Maybe French expats in America fly their country’s flag on their home because it’s a “normal” thing to do in the US.
There may be a few I missed…anyone?