Tuesday, February 26, 2008


As you may recall, a few weeks ago we began compiling questions that we could ask a real, live French woman. Cecile, a Parisian at ceciledequoide9.blogspot.com, has graciously agreed to answer any questions we had- and we had a lot. I hadn't realized that I sent so many over and so I want to thank Cecile for being such a good sport. I'm only publishing the first 12 today and I'll do the rest throughout the week. Thanks everyone for the questions. I think some expat magazine should pick this series up and pay Cecile many euros for her work. you can visit her site to read my answers to her questions.

1. What would be the one French music CD you would recommend?

It really depends if you’re familiar or not with the French culture and what kind of music you like. If I have only one choice, I guess it would be a compilation of songs of Serge Gainsbourg songs, one of our greatest songwriter (a poet actually) and melody makers. Most French people just love this guy.

This record should include titles like:
- Harley David son of a bitch
- Elisa
- Requiem pour un con (“Requiem for a jerk”)
- Qui est “in” qui est “out”
- Love on the beat (one of the hottest songs I know)
- Initials B.B. (he wrote this one for Brigitte Bardot)
- Je t’aime… moi non plus (this song was one of the rare French songs n°1 in the English charts… He wrote it for Brigitte Bardot but was married at that time and asked him not to broadcast it. So he sang it with his next girlfriend Jane Birkin. The title means something like “I love you… neither do I”)
- Bonnie and Clyde (my favorite, the female voice is Brigitte Bardot)
- Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais (I just came to say I leave)

I have plenty of other suggestions of brand new great French bands on my blog and you can listen to them on myspace… If you want, I can also make a compilation of “French standards”.

2. What is your favorite French book?

This book is not known at all, it’s called “Septentrion” and the author is Louis Calaferte. My second guess would be “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupéry which was first published in N.Y.C. during WW2 and was for many decades the most translated book in the world (except for the Bible)… and then came a guy named Potter, Harry Potter… “Le Petit Prince” is really really really (I insist) a beautiful little book, with beautiful drawings by the author and very easy to read in French.

3. What are the most prevalent American stereotypes? (Be honest)

I’m not sure to understand the question well. If it is “what do French people think about American people?” I’m afraid the “honest” answer required is not very pleasant. Don’t get it wrong: despite all that was written in the papers when the second war in Iraq started, French people just LOVE American people and kind of admire then. Really. But as we say: “qui aime bien châtie bien” which could be translated approximately translated by “The one who truly loves, really know how to punish” (I manage to write longer sentences in English than in French… strange…). So, I have to admit that the most common stereotypes are “American people are arrogant and want to rule the world” (this one is quite recent) and the other one is “American people are stupid”.

I have a video in my blog, a report for an American show actually, where a journalist asks questions like “how many angles does a triangle have” or “what’s the British currency?” and get all kinds of crazy answers… That’s the funny part of the video… What follows is kind of creepy. The journalist then asks “what country should we attack next?” and surprisingly everybody has a precise idea about this particular question… Scary.

In another one a woman is asked for the capital of Hungary in a T.V. game. The problem is not that she doesn’t know the answer… (Nobody has to know everything after all but still there is a minimum). The problem is that she has never heard about Hungary and says “hungry?” There is a country called “hungry”, really?”

Of course those example aren’t representative but they are funny. We have a lot of stupid persons here too but I just can’t imagine an adult walking down the street not able to give the correct answer to “combien y a-t-il d’angles à un triangles?” or not answering “Are you insane?” to a journalist asking, “quel pays devrions-nous attaquer?”

4. What do you think the most prevalent French stereotypes are?
One is about the same: “French People are arrogant” but not for the same reasons I guess. We don’t give a shit ruling the world but we think we’re smarter than anybody else on earth. Am I correct? Isn’t it our reputation most of the time?
There is a Belgian story about us which goes like this: “Do you know why French people choose the cock for national symbol?” and the answer is “Because even both feet stuck in the muck they keep on singing”.
- Savez-vous pourquoi les français ont choisi le coq comme emblème national?
- parce que meme les deux pieds dans le fumier, ils continuent de chanter.

The second stereotype is, I think: “French people always complain… They’re always on strike, they shout all the time”. Kind of right but as we say “Ca fait partie de notre charme” (it’s part of our charm). The positive aspect about this is that we have no traces of hypocrisy. We can just argue about almost anything for hours (we love to talk so much…) and then shake hands and have a drink together (we love to drink too).

5. Do all Germans dress badly or just the ones that visit Paris?
It’s worst in Spain!

6. Where did you learn to speak English?
At school and I spent some times in the States… All French kids have to learn at last 2 foreign languages. I started with German and then English. Do not forget that French people listen to English songs all the time; we see English/American movies, etc.

7. Do you miss the French franc?
Why would I? I don’t care about the currency as long as:
- It is the one chosen by my country
- I get enough money… ;o)

8. Who do you think would win in a nude, Lime Jell-O wrestling match Bush or Sarkozy?
Hum… difficult question. Bush is much taller and certainly stronger but I guess Sarkozy is sharper and more nervous. It would be strength against strategy, muscles against brain, calm against anger… I bet on my president but on the other hand Bush would be on his own field, as we’re not really used to Jell-O here…

9. If I stood outside Carla Bruni apartment singing “Love me tender, love me sweet” wearing nothing but a tee shirt and socks -would that be considered romantic or creepy?
I’m afraid you wouldn’t even get closer to her metro station dressed like that and it would be kind of inappropriate even under my windows…

10. Is it just me, or do the English seem to be drunk a lot?
It is not just you. It is just them.

11. The men in Paris seem to take a piss anywhere- is that something you become used to?
I’m not used to it after 15 years in Paris… and my building and the one next to it makes an angle in a small street if you see what I mean…

12. I was told that French women find American men speaking French incredibly sexy- I was later told that that whoever said that was lying to me- which is it?
I’ll tell you that after a drink or two to check your French level…


~Michelle~ said...

These are some great questions (and answers!).

Les said...

This is super. Thanks for sharing.

Jen said...

This is a very amusing project! Thanks to Matt and "the French woman."

Dyna Girl said...

I love this! It's too cool.

Cécile Qd9 said...


I'm the french woman ;o)

You can also enjoy the answer Mister Misplaced gave me when asked to draw a "chinese portrait" of Paris.

It's here :

Cécile Qd9 said...

another perfect french stereotype : "baguette" + "beret"

sarala said...

Great interview!