“So are all French as pretentious and snotty as they seem?” My friend asks me this question as we walk down the street, heading to lunch. I have returned to the U.S. for a weeklong visit while MB is in the Philippines once again.
“No, its just a different culture,” I reply. “They are more reserved than we are, and I think, we tend to perceive that as snobbery.” During my visit home, I am peppered with questions on this topic. “Are they all rude?” “Has everyone been mean to you?” “Do they hate Americans?” (“Do they really love Jerry Lewis?”)*
While I am not so sure about my answer, my friend seems completely satisfied. Of course she was; she is a dog. A cat would never have asked the question in the first place.
In the film “Up”, there is a scene where the travelers meet a dog who can talk. One of the first things that he says is, “I’ve just met you and I love you already” while he jumps up and down excitedly.
The dog is clearly an American.
The French, on the other hand, are more nonchalant, more aloof, more likely to have the cat-like attitude. “Ah, you feed me and what, I am supposed to be grateful? Pfff…I will piss on your shoes.”
The stereotypes about French rudeness and snobbery abound. There have been countless books written by English-speaking travelers that approach the subject (A Year in the Merde, A Year in Provence, Almost French, etc). The reality, however, is just that we are different. While an American waiter will needlessly check on you, “are you okay? Is everything just so great? Can I get you anything, anything at all? Perhaps a spare kidney, a goose that lays golden eggs?” A French waiter will take your order and bring you your food and then leave you to enjoy it…maybe he will do this nicely, maybe with contempt. Both methods have their values; its nice not to have to flag a waiter down and then have him roll his eyes at you just to get a water refill. On the other hand, what is more annoying than an overly cheerful waiter interrupting your conversation every ten minutes? “Hi, I’m Tammy, and we are going to have a great lunch today!”
When you walk into a party in France; it is not unlikely that no one will speak to you. I went to one, in which, even the host didn’t bother to welcome me or offer me a drink. But you can’t take it personally; these are cats, people! Do you expect a cat to immediately jump in your lap and cuddle you…not often. When a stranger walks into an American party; they are practically assaulted with friendliness, drinks and food shoved in their face, questions asked abundantly, speedy and informal introductions given immediately. “Come on, play with us! We are having so much fun!” Dogs.
So really, I don’t think its necessarily that the French are snobs; they are just cats. They are more reserved and less likely to maul you with affability. And while I will always be a dog person, cats are starting to grow on me.
*Contrary to popular American belief, I have seen no evidence of an abiding love for Jerry Lewis in France (though I have noticed some links in the sense of humor)
20 thoughts on “The Truth about Cats and Dogs”
Another great post! Being around people who are more sincere, calm and practical is definitely refreshing. It’s not better or worse; just a change. Growing up around drama with people “acting” all the time; I’m liking the feline ways. Besides, I’ve always been a cat person! D
Agree – wonderful post; especially for such a young blog!
I think I’d be rather ill if I were served by someone who said.. “Hi, I’m Tammy, and we are going to have a great lunch today!”
Then again, I’ve been to restaurants where the serving staff have been a bit snotty (mainly in the more touristy areas) the first time round but, upon a second visit, have been treated like a regular who has been eating there for the last ten years?
All the best
P.S. In one small bistro where I’d been treated as a silly Englishman the first two or three times I ate there I made the (glorious) mistake of asking how a certain disk was cooked and then spent the next hour in the kitchen with the chef, sampling Calvados (it was part of the recipe) and learning how to cook the dish of the day!
P.P.S. The dish of the day was stuffed pigs trotters – does that make me a terrible person?
True about returning to the same restaurant! I finally have a few restaurants here where the staff knows me and is perfectly charming…but not overly charming as with American restaurants. In my most recent visit back, some of the servers really drove me nuts – one conversation interuppted 3 times – ARGH! There is a perfect median somewhere, I’m sure of it!
Pig trotters frighten me from a consistency aspect but the actual ingredient is no problem – waste not, want not! What a cool experience to get to go back to the kitchen; way to pull that off!!!
p.s. Thanks for the positive feedback – greatly appreciated!
Haha, great post nk. Can you be a cat & a dog?
Ha – I don’t see why not! …though I must say, I definitely think Australians are more dog than cat 😉
p.s. I know I owe you a massive email!!!
Yet again, another amazing post. When are you going to write your own book about Americans vs. French, hmmm?
I just shared this with my German boyfriend in an email entitled “I’m a dog.” I hope he doesn’t take that to mean I’m saying I’m a b*tch. 😉
Haha – love it!
Yeah, it was funny, I wrote this whole post on American perceptions of French snobbery that was all serious and took a break because it wasn’t working and then it hit me…cats and dogs. SO true. I constantly compare Americans to the talking dog in “Up”. Hope all is well – when is a Europe trip coming on the radar?
Gosh, I’d love to go to Europe (two Kiwi girlfriends are begging me to go with them to — wait for it — France), but the penniless life I shall be leading soon doesn’t lend itself well to expensive plane tickets. I’m gonna send you a longer email now!
oh man! Would be so great if you could come for a visit – maybe something magical will pop up and fund a journey!
Hello NK! Excellent post and …So true!!
Go on with this blog, it’s just really good!
Hope to see you soon with Olivia.
Toto the cat.
Yes, I hope we can have a visit in the next month or so. So sad that the Paris trip didn’t work out! 😦
so, um, I’m addicted to your blog. Brilliant post/analogy/writing!
Thanks so much! I can’t wait to check yours out – I am loving discovering all these expat blogs. It makes me feel less crazy knowing that we are all going through the same stuff!
How did I miss this excellent post of yours?! I always get so angry when people spread the cliché: “The French are rude”. It’s so easy to misunderstand a cultural difference for snottiness. I’ve wanted to write a post about it for quite a while but couldn’t find a way to organise my thoughts. The cats and dogs analogy is just PERFECT and so true. I will share this post with my foreigner friends and hopefully some of them can see the French in a new light 🙂
Oh yay – I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!! This was one of my earliest and favorite posts – I’ve ended up referencing it a few times over the course of the blog. It is now the analogy I always go back to – it’s just that our cultures are so different, neither one is bad or better! 🙂
I think the situation is much the same in other European countries in the sense that the citizens are more reserved than Americans. I’m thinking particularly of the Swiss and the Germans (and the British to an extent) who are usually polite to outsiders but will keep a distance until they know someone better.
Yeah, I think you are quite right! It can really be applied to Europe and US as a whole…just like in US there are places that are more or less chattier…same in Europe. Thanks for reading! 🙂
My mom just passed on this YouTube video that I think sums up Americans (dogs) and French (cats) nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbycvPwr1Wg
It made me LOL a couple of times. And yes, I just wrote out ‘LOL’.
I love this video! Too funny!