Us and Them

4:50 AM

Stereotypes are funny things. Originally, they come from somewhere, right? At some point in time Idiot A acted like, well, an idiot and Idiot B took it for granted that all people from Idiot A's country all act like that. Or more or less.
   Living abroad I see people live out their stereotypes all the time, and usually it is pretty funny. Take one of the first few times I was watching television here in France I saw a commercial that had me rolling on the floor. It was of a man running through the streets with flowers in his hands to get a taxi. He had to avoid dogs getting in his way and something else ruining his flowers, but he gets into the taxi and the ad for his 96 hour deodorant pops up while the guy says, "Cool ici (pointing to his head), Cool ici (pointing to his arm pits)." OMG! The French really don't take showers! LOL!

    Now, I know that most French people DO in fact take showers. All of our friend smell clean are way more hip in their fashion than us, but it still makes for a great story! Four days, no showers and only one application of deodorant! How innovative!
    Of course that just gives right into the whole French Shower stereotype, the French are so dirty, etc. I wonder sometimes if the French know that we American's have this view of them? Apparently the British have their own stereotype: the French are jealous. The Spaniards think that too as all the French sports channels ever do is try to accuse Spanish players of doping when it has already been proved that they aren't doping.....
    But it isn't just the French who have some stereotypes. One of my favorite experiences with the American stereotype was just lat summer. I walked into a small shop to look at some pottery. It was an eclectic sort with clothes, pottery, wooden statues, etc. There was one worker and three other people in the store. My ears perked up when I heard American accents. There was a girl around 20 years old and two younger boys I took to be her brothers. She was trying on a dress that was made for a little girl, but as she was tiny she thought she could fit into it. The store worker had no problem giving it to her and was speaking a little bit of English to them as needed while the girl asked her brothers for their opinion. At first I, as a people watcher, was more interested in the way the siblings interacted as it seemed obvious to me that they don't normally spend much time together, but that the older sister was really trying to make sure they had a good time laughing and joking. She was making fun of herself and teasing her brothers until she proclaimed that she really needed to use the bathroom. I was about to step in when I heard her say, "Tiene un baño? Baño? Um, bathroom?"
    Remember people, I live in FRANCE. NOT Spain. And although they are neighbors they speak as much Spanish as we Americans in Wisconsin do.
    The worker looked at her, trying to control her facial muscles and only understood the girl when she squatted a bit and said "toilet". I was laughing almost out loud in the corner. Hilarious! I am sure the store worker went home thinking Americans are so ignorant that we speak Spanish while in France but I had to give her coodos as she was at least trying to speak something other than English and then had no problem continuing to try and get her message across. Maybe the worker thought it was rude, but as a linguist I thought it was great and wish more people would at least TRY to speak in something other than English in foreign countries and not get embarrassed when they aren't understood at first.
    Of course it is always wise to brush up on the language spoken in the country that you are visiting.....
    But this whole thought process started two days ago at the gate of Jardin des Plantes.

     It snowed 10 (TEN!) days ago and instead of clearing the paths in the park they CLOSED it! Being a Wisconsin girl this made me laugh! Gee, can't get your lazy butts out there to shovel, huh government workers? Wink. But as an adult I know that for the two times a year that it snows in Toulouse, it certainly isn't worth spending money on snow clearing equipment, but that won't top me from declaring another stereotype: The French in Toulouse don't know how to shovel!
   By the way, I may have been laughing and Queenie might have been having fun taking pictures, but Firecracker was NOT amused:

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