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France beyond the stereotypes
Like any country, France is "different"; it's a
special place, with its
ways, its quirks, its wonderful variety, its joie-de-vivre and its
bureaucracy. Depending on circumstances, life in France can be anything
from incredibly relaxed to frustratingly rigid; and almost without
exception, French people are nothing like the hackneyed stereotypes
that are so often relayed in cartoons and in the media.
Stereotypes die hard;
there is still a comic-book stereotype image of the Frenchman dressed
in a striped tee-shirt and beret, smoking a Gauloise, and carrying a
string of onions round his neck; or else driving a Citroën 2CV
market, with two chickens and a rabbit on the back seat.
Baguettes - the emblematic bread of France
But it is
doubtful if this stereotype still exists anywhere; perhaps just here
and there, but without the onions, and certainly not in modern urban
France. And the iconic 2CV or "Deux-chevaux" is today a rare site on
French roads.... though less so than 20 years ago, as so many of them
have been lovingly rescued from scrap and renovated to their former
Even so, rural France is still home to a
dwindling generation of
traditional country folk, living life as it used to be; and the
heritage and traditions of the past are being carefully preserved and
even reactivated by younger generations, often fugitives from
city-life. The old France is still alive and well, in its own way, and
still to be found in its villages
traditions and regional specialities, such as the vast and very varied
choice of French cheeses
And of course, it is true that the French eat snails - and very good
they are too, as long as they have been properly prepared by the chef,
in a delicious sauce of garlic, parsley and butter.... But
certainly don't eat snails every day.... They may have been a peasant
dish in bygone days, but they're a luxury today, served in the best
As for frogs' legs, even the French are turning away from them. Frogs
are now protected species in the wild in France, and most frogs' legs
served in restaurants, except in the best restaurants, are imported. In
2017 a report by the French Natural History Museum highlighted
the environmental disaster caused by the culling of
Asia and Africa, for export to France and other countries; so we're
passing on the message. Don't eat frogs' legs in France, or anywhere
else for that matter. Some traditions are very worth maintaining;
others need to stop, and eating frogs' legs is one of these.
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