Avoid Asking These 5 Questions to French People

Salut !

“Tu vis où à Paris ?”, In English, “Is it true all French people are at 70% made of cheese?”

Foreigners don’t want to be rude, they’re just curious – it’s normal. But some questions just keep being asked, and to be honest, it makes us uncomfortable.

So what are these questions (or topics) that you should not ask? It’s rant time!




Liked this? More episodes on classic expat mistakes:
5 very Classic Mistakes in French
5 Embarrassing Mistakes in French
How to Scare the Hell Out a French Person

Et toi ?
Are there questions that are frequently asked about your country as well?
What’s your favorite, funniest one?
What is the question about French people you never dared to ask?

Share your experience (in French if you dare!) in the comments below. We can all learn from your story. The comment section is the best place to start discussions and ask questions!

Bonne journée,

Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • While in Paris on a bus, a woman was trying to give me her seat… i may have gotten out “ je suis une touriste”,,,, but she and everyone around understood and laughed when i unzipped my rain jacket and exposed my cameras instead of a pregnant belly

  • Bonjour Geraldine, For the life of me, at 2′ 14″, I can’t quite make out the third thing foreigners definitely shouldn’t ask about: “immigration, racism or ????”

    One funny memory I have is of a Londoner, after learning I was from Washington State (Seattle), saying “oh, I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska.” It’s 1,700 miles (~2,800 km) away! So I replied, “Me too!”

    Merci beaucoup!

    Denise

    • Haha that’s a funny anecdote 🙂

      At 2’14”, she says “no-go zones.” It was a talking point a few years ago. It’s a touchy topic that’s hard to adress.
      Thanks for the question, it was precise enough to be answered clearly, and I myself did have some trouble understanding the words too, to be honest!

      Have a great day,
      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • So you cannot express your opinion on the disasterous bureocracy and the ridiculous strikes when you live in this country and pay taxes because you are not French? talking of racism

    You forgot to put this question: Why don’t you shower in the morning and put some deodorant on? Why does people have to smell like garbage in the subway and make everyone puke?

    • Geraldine did not mean to be rude. She prepared this video to help guests in France avoid faux pas. I’d be holier-than-thou if I started to lecture you but please consider how someone new to the site like me might feel reading your comments as one of her first samplings. I found your off-color sarcasm very off-putting and your comment’s vulgar and insulting slant made me feel quite uncomfortable

  • You yourself are insulting, rude and arrogant to presume all foreigners are ignorant of French culture and norms. Who wants to hear this from you? I’ll stick with Francais avec pierre.

  • Do do we have kangaroos in the cities. Not really….there is one exception. In Canberra, our capital city, kangaroos are often seen in the suburbs

  • Je te remercie! Toutes ces questions sont grossières en anglais aussi! Même si je suis américaine, je n’ai pas de pistolet, je me fiche de ce que tu crois être Dieu, déesse ou autre, ce que tu fais pour le travail, c’est ton affaire (et pas pour moi de savoir sauf si tu veux me le dire. Je ne suis pas anorexique, même si je suis mince et mange beaucoup. Après de nombreuses discussions sur la vie en général, nous pourrions peut-être discuter de politique, avec un café ou mieux encore des verres de vin!
    (OU – “on pourrait discuter ….” – Je connais le sens mais pas les différences subtiles entre «on» et «nous») Encore – merci!

  • “Of course, I know the Queen, after all, she only lives 300 miles away. Only last week she popped around to join me for a Full English Breakfast, which I eat every day of my life… in fact, that’s all there is to eat in the UK.”

    As you mentioned Geraldine, the way culture is communicated through media channels, for example, is very unrealistic. To experience another culture, you need to live it.

    I live in France now (and no I didn’t have to learn to smoke 40 Gauloises cigarettes a day), but I have personally experienced many of the examples you have given, causing numerous Frenchmen/women to spit out their coffee over their 4th croissant of the morning.

    The important thing for me was to accept that culture here in France is very different to the UK – some things seem better, some things seem worse, but overall, I’m enjoying la vie Française. I do miss a good English Breakfast though… and The Queen’s visits, of course 🙂

    Great videos by the way – I have just subscribed.
    Merci beaucoup!

    Ken
    Natural French Soap

  • I love this! Being a baker, I get asked “how do you stay slim” A LOT! I bake, but I don’t eat sweets everyday. Thank you for reminding us to treat each person as a person, not as part of a culture/country. I can not wait to go back to Paris in a month. I hope to use everything I learn from your fantastic videos. Merci!

  • Merci pour repondez!

    Je suis tres heureux vous aimez mon lectures. Je connais, je suis special (comme votre lecon quand vous donnez l’usage de le mot special ha ha).

    Ah! Laicité — c’est tres bonne!! Vous m’excusez pour mon erreur. Je faisais a presumer comme des filmes quelle portrait l’eglises numereux avec trop des religieuses. Peut etre ca etais la realite plus ou moins en Quebec et dans m’ecole le prof ne faire pas un point des “ceci pour Quebec” et “cela pour France”. J’apprends lentement mais j’aime bien chaque moment! Encore, encore, merci beaucoup Géraldine. Tu es une meilleur amie!!

  • Salut Geraldine!

    Merci pour cette episode de Comme une Francaise. Celui topique et pratique et tres tres interessante.

    So, I live in Canada. Here are some things I have been asked which would be off-putting.

    1. Why are you all so nice?

    We aren’t! There are nice people and rude people everywhere. From the standpoint of Canadian identity, it is common to find political correctness simply because our country values equality and is against discrimination.

    2. How do you live in such cold winters?

    Honestly, I don’t think we even know. But we do. The reality is that Canadians experience Winter differently based on where they live. The west coast gets mild weather, the rest of us freeze. If it snows in Toronto, they call the army in to remove the snow (it did happen a few years back!)

    3. Questions about Politics and Religious Belief

    I agree with what you said about not bringing up politics, Geraldine. The reality is that most people aren’t too aware of what is going on politically. We respect our politicians (mostly) and we’re generally just interested in taxes, the unemployment rate, and the basics of our health care system and education. Part of the danger of talking about politics is that the people who actually know how our parliamentary system works (civics) tend to be the people who have strong opinions and will want to convince you why the political party they like is best. That said, there is resurgence of interest in politics with our new (as of 2015) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He’s made a lot of people excited to be Canadian and he has a bold liberal agenda that stirs the hearts of many.

    As for religion. The appropriate place to discuss religion would be at a church or some religious function / gathering. Our charter of rights and freedoms allows people to believe in what they want, but these rights only go so far as to not infringe the rights of others.

    4. Do you know Bob, who plays hockey, who lives in Toronto?

    This is the classic. It will get a laugh.

    No, we have about 31 million people in Canada. Toronto is huge city of several million. And to dislike hockey is a faux pas — one I am guilty of (shhh… don’t tell my neighbours).

    5. Stuff about the Queen

    So, the Queen of the United Kingdom is also the Queen of Canada and the rest of the commonwealth. She is the head of state. The reality is that she appoints a Governor General to fulfill her role in the country. He / She gives out awards and honours outstanding Canadians and signs the “acts” of parliament into law for the Queen.

    Many Canadians don’t understand the intricacy of our constitutional monarchy. Ignorance causes many to say disparaging things about ridding ourselves of the Queen. But, that is not the reality and I, for one, adore Queen Elizabeth II and consider my loyalty to Canada to mean I am her loyal subject.

    6. Gun control

    Not a popular subject. Canadians must be licensed and there are many regulations concerning gun ownership. We do not allow handguns or assault weapons except in the case of specific restricted licences that have a complex set of laws and regulations. Canadians do not carry guns unless they are in the forest hunting.

    7. Regardless if you are very particular about how you take your coffee, don’t bash Tim Hortons

    Tim Hortons is a chain of coffee shops. It was started by a former hockey player back in the 1970’s (IIRC). Sometimes, literally, there is a Tim Hortons restaurant every two stop lights. They are everywhere! They are the place where many Canadians get their first coffee of the morning. They are a place where friends go to sit and chat. Tim Hortons is a great place for everyone, but it’s not Starbucks. They have a diverse menu but it’s very affordable and without pretense. It is our sacred national restaurant.

    As a conclusion, I will wrap up with the rule of thumb that there are common topics that are touchy which aren’t uniquely Canadian — par exemple, immigration, the war in the middle east. Just using common sense and gauging the intimacy of the friendship will serve you well.

    Now… It’s my turn 😀 You said I could ask any one question!

    D’accord, mon questionne pour vous au les sujet des personnes Francais:

    Has the influence of the Catholic Church eased over the years? Would morality be more liberal and secular, or are things very traditional and not up for debate?

    A bientot!

    • Bonjour Ryan,

      What a fantastic answer!

      I’d say in France, everything is up for debate.
      As we are not officially religious (la “laïcité” is very important to us), and we love to argue, I don’t see any objection to it. 🙂

      To answer your question, I’d have to know which years do you use as reference when you think about “over the years”.

  • Bonjour Géraldine,
    Un écrivan français a écrit des bons mots sur l’art de la conversation. Peut-être il n’est pas bien connu par tous les français, donc je quote:

    “… Quand j’en rencontrais une (personne) qui me paraissait un peu lucide, je faisais l’expérience sur elle de mon dessin numéro1 que j’ai toujours conservé. Je voulais savoir si elle était vraiment compréhensive. Mais toujours elle me répondait: “C’est un chapeau”. Alors je ne lui parlais ni de serpents boas, ni de forêts vierges, ni d’étoiles. Je me mettais à sa portée. Je lui parlais de bridge, de golf, de politique et de cravates. Et la grande personne était bien contente de connaître un homme aussi raisonnable….”

    Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry

    Merci beaucoup pour le vidéo, toujours très intéressante.

  • Que tu nous prennes pour les americaines ou bien ? J’ai bien rigolé à cette episode ! Un ami m’a raconté que quelqu’un lui a demandé si c’était possible de regarder la télé en Écosse. ( Au fait je suis écossais ) Ben, oui, c’était un écossais qui l’a inventé…

  • Great common sense, as always. I must say I think it’s a pity that so many important topics are ruled out of polite conversation [not just in France]–that tends to make for a lot of triviality filling the air. I suppose the rule should be: wait till you know someone before you engage in talk about stuff that really matters.

  • Very interesting. At first I thought the question “Where do you live in Paris?” was not recommended because some people might think it was too personal. It didn’t occur to me that a foreigner would think all people lived in Paris.

    I have mixed feelings about the suggestion to avoid discussions on controversial topics such as politics, racism, and sexism. I’ve noticed that sometimes the French don’t want to entertain these topics at all. They often lead to arguments, but they’re important.

  • Super helpful. Merci! The most common question I’m getting right now (as an American) is “Donald Trump isn’t going to become the president, is he?” I say no, but I will be so embarrassed if he does.

  • The most bizarre and ignorant question I was asked by an American was ‘do you have nuts in England?’ (we were in Howard Johnson’s at the time and I was raving over an ice cream sundae….it was the 80’s) I politely pointed out that we were eating nuts here for centuries before America was discovered. Also, almost the first thing an old French boyfriend that I hadn’t seen for decades asked me was ‘why did you never have a baby?’… Quoi! Great vidéo Géraldine…I will steer clear of God, politics and money. x

  • Delightful and helpful! Thank you so much!! I’m going to be following this and sharing it on my work network of blogs 🙂 Looking forward to more!

  • Très bon travail, comme d’habitude, Géraldine. Vous avez abordé un sujet délicat avec beaucoup de sensabilité.

    Moi, je trouve que le problème de base est que très peu de gens apprennent l’art de la conversation, c’est à dire de parler à ceux qu’ils ne connaissent guère. (Il y a toujours des personnes qui s’en fichent, mais passons à la majorité qui veulent s’entretenir avec les étrangers sans savoir comment s’y prendre.)

    Ça peut se voir quand on est à un évènement chez soi, on vient de se faire présenter à des gens de son propre pays, et on ne sait pas très bien les questions convenables pour se faire mieux connaître.

    Vous avez souligné qu’on doit cibler l’individu en posant des questions qui n’anticipent pas les réponses et en faisant très attention aux réponses. Merci pour le rappel!

  • Totally agree.
    I come from Greece. I still remember the time when a British friend asked me if we all live in Acropolis-style houses back home… Terrrible, isn’t it? I think these questions signal ignorance and in the best case can be perceived as naive, in the worst as terribly annoying and rude. Best avoid.
    When I moved to France, the first I noticed was the canteen conversations were always around what you did on the weekend, a movie you watched or a TV series you’re getting hooked. No word about politics. Nothing. Not even the day after the Paris events. Coming from Greece, this is a big cultural difference. People here are discreet and mind their own business.

  • J’habite à Paris. Mes amis français pensent que beaucoup d’ américains portent des armes. Quelque fois ils me demandent si j’avais une pistolet Aux Etats Unis. C’est difficile pour moi de les explique que le sujet est très controversé.

  • L’année passé, ma femme et moi avons dîné à Bayonne avec un couple français. Ils nous ont dit que c’était leur première rencontre avec des américains, parce que ils ne parlent pas anglais et peu d’américains parlent français.
    A la fin d’une soirée très agréable, ils ont admis avoir été surpris au début parce que “vous n’êtes pas obèse.”

  • J’apprends le français depuis quelques annèes, et J’apprends quelque chose de vous à chaque fois, Geraldine. Vouss êtes une bouffée d’air frais, comme ils disent. Chaque poste est perspicace et léger. Un moyen d’inspiration pour apprendre votre belle langue et la culture.

  • salut a tous!
    i am from kazakhstan
    and what really makes me freak out
    when people ask questions about Borat
    Borat is a stupid film which doesnt has a shred of truth about Kz in it
    so please, when you come to Kz, dont mention it and make your own judgement 🙂
    another question about Kz which is really annoying : ‘so, what s there to do?’
    like should i tell you the whole history/culture/etc in 2 sentences? that sounds kinda abusive

    sorry for my informal language:) u told, it s rant time, Geraldine, so here it it, my little emotion bomb:)

  • I’m from Ukraine and the most widespread stereotype is that all Ukrainian girls are frivolous and that all of us dream to make an acquaintance with a foreigner and even marry him. No, we don’t! Most of us are shine and and have good manners. And we do not see a potential husband in every foreigner! And the most annoying question when you say “I’m from Ukraine” is “What? Ukraine? Is it somewhere in Russia?” or just “Where is it???” Guys, please, do not show us your bad education cause this moment we have a very strong wish to give you a map as a present!

  • In the part of the video where you discuss the mistress of one’s husband… did I understand correctly that in French culture it’s suppose to be acceptable for a husband to have other woman?
    Also, that a husband and his relations with other women is not suppose to be questioned by his wife? It’s considered only the business between the husband and his mistress? The wife is suppose to accept their relationship?

  • Such an interesting lesson Géraldine .. merci.
    The world is so cosmopolitan these days, and
    yet some of the stereotypes still exist .. old
    habits ..
    And Michael’s post on this subject about
    the difference betwen Heaven and Hell
    is very amusing .. yes, all those old ideas
    about us Europeans. Here in London
    the selection of excellent restaurants
    would please most people, but I think
    that the English have learnt a lot from
    the cuisine of other countries. And yet
    French people have quietly admitted to
    me that when they come to England they
    just love going for some fish and chips ..
    me too.
    Merci beaucoup Géraldine .. your posts
    are always interesting and a lot of fun, and
    this one especially seems to have prompted
    a big response 🙂

    salut

    John

  • Bonjour à tous!
    Je suis Finlandaise et la question plus fréquente est « Il fait froid chez vous, non ? Tu es bien habituée…» Oui, le climat est plus froid par rapport à beaucoup d’autres pays, mais nous ne vivons pas dans le froid mais nous nous gardons. Par exemple, les maisons sont très bien isolées. Personnellement, je ne supporte pas du tout le froid et parmi des amis étrangers je suis toujours la personne qui porte des vêtements les plus chauds. Voir comment s’habillent les Anglais en automne ou de petits garçons belges portants de pantalons courts en février me fait frémir…

  • Salut Geraldine – yes all French people I have spoken to think every British person is from London. They might have a vauge idea of the existence of les Paye de Galle (le rugby) or Ecosse (le whiskey). But they have no idea of the cultural identity of the North of England which many people from Yorkshire/Lancashire/Tyneside identify with – perhaps more than being British. Many northerners detest London and distrust Londoners. French people also seldom understand how much British people have accepted/embraced Asian/Chinese cultures. Curry is much more popular than le rosbif which we might eat just once a year.

  • Il y a 25 ans je voyageais à Paris une fois par semaine. Tous les matins je prenais un café dans un bistro du coin. Chaque matin je trouvais le proprietaire en préparant un pile énorme de tartines beurrés pour ses clients, qui les trempaient dans leur bols de café.

  • Thank you for this Geraldine! I am from Texas and always get asked if we all ride horses to get around. No, we actually drive cars. Also, as I was raised you should not discuss politics or religion as both are private and personal.

  • Oui ! La question concernant le nombre d’habitants de ma ville natale – il faut être au courant avec les statistiques 😉

  • Great video, the one about Paris was the funniest, but I think it was related to many ignorants, that’s hard to avoid, I suppose you shoudn’t take them seriously. I’m Polish and while being abroud, I simply smile listening the story about Poland, eastern European country, where most of the people are religious, drink vodka to worm up, and all the Polish girls suppose to be blond and pretty. Well, I learned not to comment on that. About French, I’m wondering if there is such a big difference in relationships, if, for example dating someone exclusively is obvious if you are acting like a couple, well I guess it really depends on a person, but aren’t you less strict about that matters ? Best regards, Geraldine

    • Hi, Martyna! I’m your neighbor from Ukraine and you make me smile telling about wodka!) Yes, this stereotype works in Ukraine too! Foreigners think than we drink it instead of water????????????

  • My French neighbour in rural France once asked me if we had cheese in England. On our next visit we took some nice strong cheddar, she wasn’t impressed. The chaps were not impressed by English beer either but to be fair they did’nt drink French beer.

  • For a Australian from Melbourne: assuming you live in Sydney, and that Sydney is the capital of Australia (it’s Canberra, and Melbourne was the temporary capital for the first decade or so of Federation).

    I always find it amusing when I have to point out that the Australian head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, not our prime minister.

  • Bonjour,
    Je trouve qu’on a fait trop les manifesations en France, puis il y a trop les voleurs également, parfois, je ne m’y sens pas sécurisée, même si c’est un pays libre et développé. où va-on vivre pour avoir une vie tranquille et saine dans le monde?

  • Salut, Geraldine! Cette vidéo m’a fait rappeler mes voyages en France, spécialement l’année que j’ai passé à Paris. Je suis brésilienne (j’habite aujourd’hui une petite ville de 220.000 habitants à l’intérieur de l’État de São Paulo) et les questions les plus fréquentes quand je vivait à Paris étaient: “Mais tu ne sais pas danser la samba?” ou “Mais tu as de soleil tout le temps (comme si tout le monde vivait dans la plage” ou “Mais tu as la forêt tout prêt (comme si tous les brésiliens vivraient dans l’Amazonie – et même ces qui vivent au Nord du pays, ils on des grosses villes, urbanisés) ou “Mais tu ne semble pas brésilienne (parce que je suis blanche et mes cheveux sont lisses). E le pire: tu ne veux pas aller chez moi pour prendre un café? Comme si toutes les brésiliennes étaient disponibles et répondaient facilement “oui” au question “Voulez vous couchez avec moi?”. Ce sont des stéréotypes, mais c’est vraiment ennuyant quand on écoute ses questions au moins une fois par jour ou toutes les fois que quelqu’un décide de parler avec toi – ce qui est rare à Paris :)

  • I grew up in Oklahoma (Boomer!) and often got questions about frequent Indian attacks (um, no) — kid you not — and whether there was water there (yes, quite a lot actually — used to be a fair water skier). When I lived in Kentucky, people from up north always commented on accent (like they didn’t have one, too). Now that I live in Arkansas, Europeans always want to talk about Bill Clinton and Monica (eeww). Now when I travel abroad, I just say I’m from Oklahoma.

  • Je te remercie de ta vidéo. Je suis mexicaine. Je crois que la question que je déteste le plus c’est “pour quoi vous mangez toujours des haricots/des tortilllas/tacos?” Agghhh!, je crois que c’est type de questions sont très ennuyants et la seule chose qui démontrent c’est que la personne ne connaît que les clichés d’une nationalité :/.

    • P. S. Et “parce qu’ils sont délicieux” (bon, les haricots je ne les aime pas beaucoup, mais c’est une question personnelle…)

  • do you know the difference between Heaven & Hell Geraldine?
    In Heaven the Police are English – the Cooks are French – the Mechanics are German – the Lovers are Italian – and Everything is organised by the Swiss! However in Hell it’s a bit different the Cooks are English – the Police are German – the Mechanics are French – the lovers are Swiss & Everything is organised by the Italians!

  • Salut Géraldine,
    Je vous remercie pour votre video. Je suis Sud Africaine et j’habite à Cape Town. Le plus drôle questions de gens demandent -‘il y a des lions marchant dans la rue? Ou ‘vous connait mon cousin qui habite à Nairobi?
    Mais des lions vivent dans les réserves et Nairobi est au Kenya au milieu du continent Africain.
    J’apprécie vraiment vos leçons sur la culture Français.

  • A cabbie in Paris once asked me what I thought about Obama so I asked him what he thought about François Hollande. Then he asked me what I thought about Marine Le Pen. I didn’t expect a cabbie to talk politics. I didn’t mind.

  • Coucou !
    I love your videos Geraldine . I’m from India and most of the people have a really wrong idea about us . People have asked me all sorts of stereotypical questions and some people think all Indians dance in public places just like they see in Bollywood movies . But no we obviously don’t ! 😛

  • Thanks for the video. I have french people asking me offensive or stupid questions all the time ” tu és femme de ménage?”, “ton mari é maçon?”

  • Being Irish and an english speaker ( also Irish language and French too), it is really annoying when other nationalities ( French included) make the mistake of thinking or asking if we are British or live in the british isles :(. If asked this by a French person I find a good response is to say ” You Germans always think this!!!!!! It usually has the required effect! So very important to never mix up where others come from and to understand that National pride is very important to us all.

  • “French people don’t really care much about God”. Wow! Very sad especially because there are so many Catholic holidays in France. It is a little bit fake, I think.
    Apart from that, I would just say that every country has its stereotypes. Even as a New Yorker in the United States, I have other Americans asking me offensive or stupid questions all the time. I am also Jamaican/Cuban so that opens up another avenue for people to ask me ridiculous questions.
    We just have to see it as an opportunity to educate the person and to tell them not to ask that question again. I will sometimes give an example that they can relate to so that they can see how their question sounds.
    When I was in France, I did not get that many stupid questions but I did have people express surprise that I am thin. I had one French guy yell at me because he didn’t like the questions on the US immigration form. I explained to him gently that I did not create that form. He went on to say that he was happy about the 9/11 attacks because of the government’s foreign policy. I pointed out that babies and toddlers died in the World Trade Center and he said “they were probably azzholes!” After that I did not speak with him further….

  • Salut, Geraldine, je vous remercie beaucoup pour votre vidéo. Vous pouvez toujours le faire drôle et pratique, – alliance étonnante pour l’apprentissage et l’enseignement des langues étrangères.
    Je suis russe et je vis au Canada. Donc, je reçois toujours des questions sur la vodka, balalaïka, matreshka et même sur les ours dans les rues. Mon camarade chinois en classe de français m’a même demandé à propos de Dostoïevski, Tolstoï et si j’aime danser la mazurka. Franchement, je ne bois pas la vodka, même jamais goûté, et je n’aime pas matreshka, mais toutes ces questions me semblent mignon et drôle, je l’aime. Pour moi, c’est une belle façon de communiquer avec les gens.
    Toutes les cultures ont son propre cliché, et je pense que ce la façon normale de découvrir une autre culture. Ce qui est important est de savoir comment poser ces questions. Cela dépend de votre niveau d’intelligence. Parfois, les gens russes peuvent me poser des questions qui me font sentir mal à l’aise. Cela dépend de la personnalité.

  • Ce qui m’amuse, c’est l’idée que tous les lieux aux États Unis sont séparé par une journée en voiture au maximum!

  • Invariably, when a French person learns I’m from the US, they ask, “Where are you from? New York?” (No!) Sometimes there’s a brief pause after the first question, and I think they’re actually going to just wait and let me answer, but then 99% of the time, they go on to ask if it’s New York. Given that I actually come from the nation’s capital (Washington, DC), this is particularly annoying. 😉 The assumptions that we all eat McDonalds, are obsessed with our politicians’ sex lives, and like Donald Trump are equally irritating.

  • I am from Texas, so, naturally, many people ask me if I wear a cowboy hat and if I have a gun. Sooo many people talk to me about gun control. (I have never shot a gun in my life, for a variety of reasons including I am scared of the loud noise! And no, I have never worn a cowboy hat. I’m from the suburbs.) Even though this gets annoying, I have been able to develop the skill of politely steering the conversation elsewhere. For example, I will say of Texas that I miss Tex-Mex and that I make guacamole here and then I will ask them some question about themselves and/or guacamole. 🙂 “Have you had guacamole?” Then you are in a safe conversation place.

    Thanks for your videos. They are so helpful!

  • People have their stereotypes, don’t they? Some people – not all – in the USA like to talk about these things which I also find inappropriate. 🙂 I have to say, though, that I have had les cuisses de grenouille two times at my belle mère’s house! They are also on the menu at a restaurant in the next village. Maybe because it is more in the countryside (near Lyon)?

  • This topic confuses me because that has not been my experience with French people. I practice my French with 20 people on a language exchange website. The first topic they want to talk about is politics! I don’t really enjoy politics, but everyone wants to talk about Donald Trump! My French friends ask me about all the questions that you tell us not to ask. I don’t get offended because I am usually the first American they have talked with. The TV is not always a good source of information, so I take the opportunity to be a good ambassador of my country and give them truthful answers to their questions. At the same time, since they are asking me those questions , then I get to ask them the same things. Some stereotypes are true and some are not. Yes, we have an obesity epidemic. Yes, the French smoke a lot. But those statements are not true about everyone. As long as the question is asked in a respectful manner, and it isn’t super personal, we should give the foreigner the benefit of the doubt that they do not mean to offend us.

  • Salut Géraldine,

    Je me demande pourquoi les français n’aiment pas discuter des politiques françaises avec les étrangers mais on n’hésite pas à poser des questions au sujet des élections américaines quand je suis en France? Merci bien de tes idées!

  • Not a question, but rather a comment– while living in Paris, people would be so surprised my husband and I were American, because we didn’t wear “sports shirts” haha. Neither of us own any sports shirts, nor do many of our friends! We just thought it was funny, not offensive. I think people don’t realize that the US is huge, and there are so many different types of people here with their own styles, morals, habits, etc.
    Parisians we spent time with were open to talk about many things, which I really loved. If we had something negative to say about our home country, they’d say something like “well, maybe, but, you went to the moon!” 🙂

  • Although questions from foreigners may be ignorant, rude, or amusing, to me one should not be offended, be see it as an opportunity to educate. Geraldine, j’aime bien cet article et ces postes.

  • Lol, funny, I married a french about 8 months ago and he loves talking about politics, god, and money! He loooooooooooooooooooooooooooves it all french ive met do!bAnd my kid is more on vacation then in school, she comes home for 2 hours for lunch everyday! and every month or two there are days off or vacations☺???????????? Stores, restaurants, pharmacies and more things close at all hours of the day ! For lunch, for rest, because whatever. FRENCH almost NEVER work! And there are strikes every month at least! I’m living near Paris now and i cant wait to go back to USA ???????????? beautiful places and country but EVERY THINGS you have heard about it, the good and the bad ARE true!

  • Great video as always! I love the topics you choose to talk about, and I always find them so interesting. I had an idea for a video you could do (completely unrelated to today’s’ topic!) because I was thinking about how you always mention things that are relevant and intriguing. The topic I want to suggest is……French lingerie and the women’s (very different!) attitude towards it in France. Many years ago I worked in a French lingerie store on the Blvd des Capucines in Paris, and I learned that the French have a very different approach to buying and wearing undergarments!! For example, most French women would come into the shop and would expect to be show what was in stock and available (also because most of the merchandise was in boxes and not on display) by a salesperson. As well, the customers (usually) were so much more comfortable with the salesperson going in to the change room to adjust their bra straps and check the fit than they would be here in Canada. Another big difference is the amount of money that women would spend on expensive brands like La Perla or Chantelle. Also- it seemed that women bought beautiful lingerie for their own enjoyment of wearing something beautiful under their clothes and NOT expressly for their romantic partner’s benefit. Anyway, just an idea….your videos are great- thanks for being so creative and genuine!????

  • Bonjour!
    I’m Russian and when I lived in the UK, I was always asked about drinking vodka! It was inevitable! I have to say it that young women don’t like vodka in Russia, we consider it a man’s drink. Vodka-based coktails were actually very popular in England and I had never had them before I came there. Though, generaly, once we got past the vodka question, I used to have interesting discussions about Russian literature among other things. Still miss it sometimes…

  • Living in New York, the French tourists I have come across are very much interested in asking me anything about American politics, which I also find very uncomfortable to discuss. Questions like: why do Americans love George W Bush so much (just because he was elected twice)? Why do you always want to go to war with other countries? Why did it take you so long to elect a President that wasn’t white? And why haven’t you voted for a woman president? Do you really love Trump? Also, why do you care so much about politicians’ love life? …as if I personally decided who was president or can be!
    Then there are the typical questions: how many guns do you own? Why are Americans so fat or why do you eat so much food? Why are New Yorkers always in a hurry or so rude? Do you know Sarah Jessica Parker? How many times have you seen her or Mr. Big or any other New York celebrity?

  • Salut Geraldine et merci bcp pour cette video super intéressent.
    Moi je suis Iranienne et les gens me demande des question assez bizarre aussi!
    Ah tu es Iranienne, tu es Arabe et tu parles Arabe non? (No!!! I am Persian & I speak Persian as well!)
    C’est dure la guerre ha? ( Which one??? There is no war in Iran!!)
    Tu avais deja vu des vrais ville??!!!! (What?? Yes! I am from a modern city with 12 Million Population!!!!) etc…
    And as I am married to a french man there is always this stereotype that most of french people think and ask me some how that you r married so you can have the French nationality, right???!!!
    Et bien NON et NON!!! I am married for several years and I don’t even know how the nationality thing works! And NON it dosn’t happen automatically by marrying to a french person!
    Celle la ca me tue!

    Thanks again, I’m a big fan of your videos from long time ago 🙂

  • Comme toujour, merci pour le video, Geraldine ! When friends of ours came from Verdun to visit us here in Kentucky, USA, several years ago, they were insisting that they buy chaps ! I suppose that the connection of Kentucky to horses had them thinking they would see cowboys here, wearing chaps. When they left us, they were heading to Chicago, and were hoping to see ‘gangsters’. It is hard not to be influenced by movies. I appreciate your lesson, as it is hitting on 3 very common subjects of conversation in the states… God, money, and politics.

  • I find that the best question to ask when traveling in La France profonde is “What is the speciality of your region?” Everyone will have an answer to that, in my experience!

  • Bonjour Géraldine,
    je suis Ecossaise et toujours les français me demandent si le monstre de loch ness existe ou pas! aussi le truc du kilt et le paysage magnifique. les bonnes choses d’un peuple chalereux.
    Excellente vidéo comme toujours!

  • Let’s not start about The Netherlands; tulips, windmills, wooden shoes, Gouda cheese, and one topic that always makes me uncomfortable.. my point of view about *auch* drugs. ^^

    En parlant du fromage.. Funny fact: I’ve heard quite a few French people speak about « La Mimolette » as a Dutch cheese, but apart from it being orange (our national colour)… there is nothing Dutch about this cheese. It comes from the Lille region 😉

  • Salut Géraldine
    Merçi beaucoup pour la vidéo. It was very interesting and informative. I had thought that the majority of French people were more informed politically than we Americans! I was studying in Dijon during the Watergate scandal and was beseiged by questions. But perhaps that is the student mentality!!

  • I’m from Los Angeles. Years ago French people used to ask me about Cowboys and the Wild West. I thought it was quite charming. But even Americans who have never been to the west coast ask things about L.A. Such as wanting to know what movie stars we know or where they live, is it really sunny and beautiful every day, everyone has swimming pools, shopping in Rodeo drive, asking about traffic (unfortunately what they have heard about traffic is true), does everyone have tans and plastic surgery, did I mention movie stars? LOL

  • Great information. But actually, I never would have thought to ask any of those questions. Perhaps I am by nature more interested in the people? But I do know that the “Where do you live in Paris” must be very common because when I say I am going to France to visit my daughter, people say, “Oh! She lives in Paris?” I reply,”No, she lives in Lille.” Then they ask, “Where is that?” “North, near the border of Belgium.” Then a dazed look, like they’re afraid to ask “Where is Belgium?”

  • C’était génial, comme toujours! Pourriez-vous me dire ce qu’est le mot qui suit ‘immigration’ et ‘racism’ (2.13)? Il n’est pas tout à fait distinct dans le vidéo.

    Quand j’étais petite fille, on me demandait toujours en France ‘As-tu toujours tes parents?’ C’était dans les années cinquante et soixante – est-ce que ça se fait toujours? On ne pose jamais cette question aux enfants en Angleterre ou en Ecosse. J’avais peut-être un petit air d’orphelin puisque j’étais très mince, même maigre (je ne le suis plus, malheureusement …)

  • C´est pas interdit d`apprendre des faits de le pays ou on se trouve. D´avance! Ça pouvait empêcher les questions bête.
    Et comme tu dit, Géraldine, on peut se concentrer sur sujets de conversation universelles.

  • I was raised in the US Army and lived all over the world as a kid. (nos 3 ans en France, à Orléans, étaient splendides!) When Dad was stationed in LA after three glorious years in Izmir, Turkey, the California civilian kids in our neighborhood asked me if I had ridden a camel to school! Sans blague. I felt more a foreigner in my own country than I ever did overseas.

  • “Ah tu est italienne, j’adore l’Italie. Mais alors, cette Mafia, n’avez vous pas peur tout le temps de sortir pour une promenade et finir tués”. Et bonjours tout le monde, nous avons aussi de l’art, de la cuisine, des gens sympa… Ah, à propos, non, la Mafia ne tue pas par hasard. Typiquement ils ne me considèrent pas du tout. 😉

  • I am a Indian and have lived across 5 continents. People think that we are all pro’s in yoga and must have been practicing it since childhood

    • Ceci était censé être un commentaire au post de Sue. Je ne sais pas comment ça a abouti ici…

  • The question we get in asked by French people all the time is, “What is the population of your town?” Really, does anyone actually know this…or care?

  • I’m Canadian too, from Toronto, and I agree with all the questions Carolyn mentioned. I also have to point out I am not from Quebec, even though I speak French, and that Ontario is one of 10 provinces and 3 territories that make up the country!

  • I’ve just noticed a typing error in my recent post. I should have typed ‘My French was not good enough’ (and NOT ‘could enough.’
    I hope the sentence makes sense now!

  • My niece has a French husband. At her wedding, some years ago one of the French male guests kept asking me. “Why is it that the English are practical and the French are philosophical?” He was asking in French and at the time my French was not could enough for me to reply properly. I wanted to say that there are many philosophical people in England and also many practical people, with all shades in between. With my very limited French I just had to keep repeating “Je ne sais pas!”.

  • J’abit en Australie. sorry My French is only beginning. But when foreigners come to my part of the country they always ask if the kangaroos are around the streets. No. Maybe if you live in the countryside but not in the city. And they always ask if the warning signs written in German and other languages that have a big Achtung On them are really warning you about crocodiles or are the signs there to just scare tourists. I can assure all travellers to the far north of Australia that if you go near the water where one of those signs are posted there is a very good chance that you Will be eaten by a crocodile! ????

  • Je suis australienne et je rigole toujours à l’étranger quand on me demande si on a des requins partout! Et aussi comme l’autre australien , la question qu’on pose sur les kangaroos!! c’est fou quand on pense qu’on les trouve chez nous! Bravo pour le video et merci

  • Questions not to ask a Canadian: Canada, United States, same thing, right? (no) Do you live in an igloo?(no) My cousin is from Toronto, his name is…do you know him? (no) You all speak French there, right? (no) How’s it going, eh? (yes, we all love to say “eh”)

  • Often when i meet french person they begin to question me about in which arrondissement and street i live, where i work exactly, things like this. I find it very uncomfortable also.

  • Merci pour la belle vidéo, comme d’habitude.
    Je suis en Afrique du Sud. Il est amusant, mais les gens dans les pays étrangers nous demandent encore si on voit des lions dans la rue à Johannesburg.

  • Salut Géraldine, merci pour cette vidéo – elle est, comme d’habitude, très marrante et utile. Et bien sûr, tu as raison – je dois toujours m’arrêter quand je rencontre un Français et je voudrais lui demander: “Tu as lu tous les livres de Proust?” 🙂 Moi, je m’intéresse beaucoup à la littérature française – c’est pourquoi je voulais apprendre la langue. Mais je suis consciente qu’il y a peu de personnes adorant ce type “haut” d’écriture – même en France… Chez nous, en Pologne, aujourd’hui c’est la Fête de la Constitution – alors on parle beaucoup de la politique à la télé. Mais pour les citoyens ordinaires, c’est une parfaite occasion de se reposer. Et NON – les Polonais ne sont pas toujours les catholiques ! Il y a beaucoup de gens (surtout âgés) qui vont à l’église chaque dimanche, mais ce n’est pas la règle.

    • Bien sur, nous ne sommes pas tous le catholiques, aussi comme nous ne connaissons pas Lech Walensa- il ne se promene pas tous les jours au parcs a Gdańsk. Et bien sur les questions sur notre pape Jean-Paul II .

  • Yup, totally agree with you! I taught in a few elementary schools and the kids always had questions for me like that. But after leaving that job, I have to say no adults have asked me anything remotely similar. Maybe they’re curious but they just don’t vocalize that curiosity. The kids had no filter and had no problem with it but I could see how people may take it the wrong way. They liked hearing about me seeing Robert Pattinson in NYC when he was filming one of the Twilight movies. 🙂

  • Is it OK to ask about someone’s health, their relatives, if their business is going OK during the recession (if you know them quite well and things have been tough) ?
    I wonder if these subjects are inappropriate or intrusive.

  • Your tip is perfect!… look at people as they are, what they like, what they do? And don’t be rude stereotyping others as well! Find the opportunity to speak when they ask forgive them if they are rude…. like when ppl tell me “mexican-mariachi-tequila-tacos” … have fun! Try asking …… salut

    • Hahahaha I cut my own comment…
      Meant to say “try asking”… qui est votre plat préféré? quel sport pratiques-tu? ou quelle musique écoutez-vous?
      Salut

  • :[ ggggrrr …..
    est comme dire que tous les Français manger jusque baguettes!
    autre chose que je trouve est que le français sont très curieux !! ils demandent beaucoup de questions sur d’autres pays et aussi trouve q aime bien Mexique
    Le meme fasson quand je dis à mes amis (que sont pas francais) “Je habite en France par le moment”, ils demandent toujours…. près de Paris ?, post photos de la tour Eiffel!!…. comme si je passe à côté de la tour toujour. :[

  • J’habite en Australie et une question qu’on me demande c’est ‘T’as un kangourou chez toi?’ Non, il faut aller à la campagne ou au zoo pour voir des kangaourous !!

  • Pour ceux d’entre nous qui habitent en Ecosse, c’est tres embetant quand quelqu’un droit que l’Angleterre, c’est la meme chose. Et en plus, s’ils ont entendu parler de l’ Ecosse, ils pendent qu’on boit du whisky tous les hours , on habitent a vote d’un chateau hante

    • Sue – vous êtes également avares et vous avez élevé un monstre de Loch Ness ! (Ne m’en veux pas – je rêve de visiter l’Écosse 🙂 ).

  • Bonjour Géraldine,
    Comment allez-vous? Perfois les personne me poser une question que est-ce que tu veux marier avec une fille français? C’est tres bizzer question pour moi.

  • It’s really the same anywhere foreigners go, they will always ask questions that the natives find tiring or awkward. I’ve been teaching English in a lycée in France, and I’m American. My students repeatedly ask me if I have a gun (no, not all Americans own guns and you don’t just see them everywhere), have I been to New York or Los Angeles (no, America is a HUGE country, way bigger than France, and there are many many other cities and states I could live in!), why are Americans so fat (I don’t know, why do French people smoke?), do I eat fast food all the time (no, I rarely eat it). These are just a few stereotypes about Americans I’ve encountered. I think the only solution is to travel and meet people from other cultures so you can understand that the stereotypes are just that, and it may not be appropriate or polite to ask those questions.

  • I just noticed the typo’s in my text. Stupid spell check. It Should have read that people read the media to get information on other cultures.

  • Hi, I get the inverse of this from my french friends and the kids in the school I work in. The usual ones are – do you know the queen? What’s Buckingham palace like? You all eat Roast beef dont you? Or the comment that English people know nothing about food. The 2 cultures are just different that’s all. We don’t know everything about each others culture and people read te mefiav5o in ideas sometimes. Mind you some of my french friend love to talk about politics, one neighbour even had a heated argument with another neighbour (our my or as well) in our house during a apero.

    • Donna is right, Geraldine, and the questions are similar to the ones you mentioned! There can be a lot of “Do you know the Queen?/Did you know Princess Diana?”, “Do you know my friend _?” (who lives in a town 100 miles from me!). I think the point here is that both France and the UK have populations of over 60 million!!
      I was once asked “Have you ever seen a James Bond movie? Do you drink tea?” (I’ve never seen one the whole way through, and yes.)
      Others I have heard of include “Have you been in a Harry Potter movie? Do you have credit cards in England?”

      Others I have heard of include –

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