Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Get 'em while they're young...

Conversation last night with my 6-year old little lady:

moi: I'll come back up after I walk the dogs to say goodnight.

elle: You promise?

moi
: Pinky swear. (Hook pinkies with her and move them back and forth.)

elle: Is that what you do in American? (We have alot of conversations chez nous about how mommy does things in America and daddy does things in England.)

moi: Yes, I guess so....

elle: And is it true that all Americans do is eat at McDo's?

moi: What? Where did you hear that?

elle: Noemie told me that is the only thing Americans do.

Noemie is a girl in her class. She's 6 too, probably never met another American besides me, but somehow she is au fait with what all Americans do? Must come from her parents; one of which works in education, God help us.

Part of me wanted to tell her to ask Noemie if it was true that French people never shower. But then that would just be childish. Instead I asked her if it were true that all French people eat frog's legs. Not all, she responded. Exactly, I said.

So I guess it begins here, my daughter's first taste of ugly American stereotypes. I'm sure it won't be the last, and I'm sure she'll hear even uglier ones by the time she leaves school, but I guess I'm just a bit shocked that it has started already.

Having lived outside the States for 16 years, I've heard my fair share of American stereotypes, believe me. My skin became pretty thick living in England, where not a day in 4 years went past without me having to deflect some sort of American joke. The Duke says I'm far too sensitive about it, which is probably true, but still, it does get a little old after awhile.

I'm usually able to laugh it off now and it doesn't seem to happen quite as often here in France. Occasionally I'm still put in a position where I have to either explain, deny, excuse or defend things about my native country. That's cool, I guess, part of my choice to live abroad.

Now I suppose the little ladies will have to learn to get used to the jokes too. But like a mama bear protecting her cubs, I can't help but growl a little.

I'm thinking about inviting Noemie and her family over next Saturday night, and while they watch us clean out our firearms and sit around the television watching Jerry Springer and eating Big Macs on tv trays, I can try to set them straight on a few things...

7 comments:

Marie said...

Your post made me laugh out loud...HILARIOUS!!! Isn't it sad how you get stereotyped...sometimes it hurts, I'm sure. I can only imagine what other things your elle will learn about Americans. Do you plan to take her to maman's hometown someday?
-marie

Melissaand3boys said...

It's funny the type of stereotypes people have about others. And of course it's because they really don't know how other people really live. What might sting more is if your own jeune filles really start to think that's what American's are like.

Do you find that there are many real differences between American and French people?

The Duchess said...

Marie and Melissa,
I would really like my girls to grow up with a good sense of American and Americans, but I almost feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle. They speak with British accents, have visited England loads of times, and the only notion they have of America is when American grandpa comes to stay.
I fully plan to take them to the States as much as possible, but it's hard to really pass on the culture to them as I feel like I've been slowly losing it over the years!
Melissa,
the differences between Americans and French people? That's a hard one. Whilst I think people are essentially similar universally (same worries, same joys and struggles raising a family, etc) French and Americans are different in so many small ways; it's so hard to explain just how....
But ideally my kids will grow up knowing three cultures, and hopefully they'll have some influence on their friends who are being fed stereotypes and ignorant ideas about other cultures!

Nadege said...

People use stereotypes out of ignorance or to insult people who are different. Your girls have a tremendous advantage because they know of 3 cultures and speak fluently another language. Being stereoptyped will make them stronger and tolerant of other cultures, religions and races. It really doesn't matter the stereotype, it is always a matter of education. If you can, it would be nice to take your girls to the US once in a while.

Jennie said...

Aww, that was funny and sad at the same time. I hope your kids learn that the stereotypes are ridiculous and not to believe them!! I can see how it feels like a losing battle though. They won't ever really understand the US or American culture unless they live there, unfortunately.

I'm getting really tired of defending Americans too. It's slightly better now that Bush is gone, but the comments about fat Americans and how everyone has a gun get old really quickly...

poppy fields said...

I know what you mean. Lots of times at an "apéro", I'll ask for a coke and right away everyone laughs and points out how much coke the "Américaine" likes to drink and they make fun of what they have decided is our national beverage. But no one seems to notice or say anything about the other half of the crowd (french people) all drinking coke, too.

Magic27 said...

I hear you! Except that I get all the stereotypes about "how I must miss all that rain in Britain" (this regularly from Parisians where the weather is famous for being tropical of course), how bad English (never British, always English) food is, etc. I've had many people tell me I should say I'm Scottish (my mother was Scottish, but I have never felt anything but English myself) because they "hate the English" - including the head of the clinic where my daughters were born as he gave me an emergency ultrasound. It really does get very old very quickly.
My daughters are resolutely French - their English is OK, but no more, and we visit Britain rarely (though they love it). But I have instilled some British traditions and am hoping they'll spend more time in Britain as they get older...