Posts Tagged ‘France’

“If only all of Rome had just one neck.”


“Order my army to attack and destroy that papyrus!”


“Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”



The international lightning rod of negative stereotypes, the French would smugly like to remind the world that they are not exclusively homosexual cowards.  France’s history of kicking and/or getting ass may well begin 30,000 years ago, when the newly nationalized Frenchmen, Homo sapiens, either engaged in a genocidal rampage or simply outsexed the resident Neanderthal population, eventually leading to the complete eradication of Homo neanderthalensis.  Whether it was bloodlust or regularlust is a moot point; both possibilities remain distinctly French.  Advancing to 15,000 years B.C.E., a shamanistic tribe in Lascaux (southwestern France) spearheaded the French artistic tradition with a series of cave paintings chronicling all the megafauna they were killing.  These warrior-shamans appear to have crawled into the darkest, most inacessible corners of the caves, where their minds likely dipped into the reverie of a sensory-deprived trance state.



How a battle between megafauna and a Frenchman in trance might have looked.


Within a few thousand years, all of the Meganimals were extinct.  Like the Neanderthals who fell before them, these beasts could have been either hunted or inbred into an increasingly sexually deviant French gene pool.  No one knows for sure, but the hypothesis that modern France descended from an erotic ménage à trois between Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and giant cave bears is oddly compelling.  And speaking of modern France, in 1915, Rudyard Kipling wrote that “their business is war, and they do their business.”  Today they boast the third-largest military budget in the entire world, and that’s not even including the 300 nuclear missiles reserved for after they get around to cloning some wooly mammoths.  Since 367 B.C.E., France has dabbled in 169 major wars and battles.  They outright won 110, were left to wallow in existential self-pity 49 times, and fought to a bitter stalemate on 10 occasions.  On the other hand, throughout his entire boxing career, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali only managed a win-by-KO percentage of 60.66%.  France was so testosterone-fueled that it overran England in 1066, and the English came so close to the fate of the cave bears that everybody there spoke French for 300 years.  Just because everyone eventually forgot about that, one of their diminutive generals later decided to conquer Europe, and for good measure, they established colonies on all seven continents.  Overcompensating much?  In summary, France is like that insecure jock at the frat party who, when called gay, responds “fuck you, bro!” and is later seen dragging his girlfriend out by the arm, demanding to have sex immediately. 


This is not French culture.

This is not a pipe.


Local Name: Republique francaise (French Republic)

Language: French

Capital: Paris

Population: 62,814,223 (when viewed up close, they’re actually made out of small dots)

Area: 551,500 km2

Government: Constitutional republic; President elected for a 5-year-term; President appoints a Prime Minister

Currency: Euro; symbol EUR; €1 = US$1.31 (Feb. 2012)

Economy: World’s 5th largest; post-industrial; services; nuclear power; tourism; aircraft; wine; finances

Notable International Enemies: THEY TAKE NO QUARTER


The Tricouleur flag.  Blue and Red were long colors of Paris, with White added after the Napoleonic Revolution.


Famous For: The Eiffel Tower; the Tour de France; Notre Dame; food; wine; berets; croissants; the Lourve; mimes

Not Famous For: Owning the planet repeatedly; being the most popular tourist destination in the world; having more sex than any other nationality per year; nicotine is named after native Jean Nicot, who introduced tobacco to France in 1559

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Paris; the Eiffel Tower; Versailles; Notre Dame; the Lourve; the Catacombs

What US$20 Can Get You: A fantastic meal served with wine or, alternatively, ~five royales with cheese

Quick History Recap: The Louis dynasty.  Descartes.  Voltaire.  The Seven Years War.  The French Revolution.  Napoleon.  Impressionism.  Existentialism.  The World Wars.  These should all sound familiar, because your exposure to French history is probably second only to that of your own country.  That’s the extent of France’s overwhelming influence in global affairs, fueled by their hybrid Neanderthal/cave bear genome. 



The stereotype that the French cannot speak English is only as true as the anglophones’ inability to speak passable French.  Offended for a millennium by butchered accents and the bewildering pronunciation of silent letters [protip: every letter in the French alphabet is silent], it’s no surprise that the most common lingua franca of France and England for the past 1000 years has been war.  France is the first country on my trip around the world with a relatively low proportion of English-speakers, and from this point on, I’ll be needing to rely on the local lingo to communicate effectively.   Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in France, the fifth country on my trip around the world.


1. Hello/Hi.     “Bonjour/Salut.”     [bon-zhoor/sa-lew.]

Be sure to greet a sales clerk upon entering a store (see Notable Customs).

2. Yes/No.     “Oui/Non.”     [wee/non.]

The subject of countless jokes during my more younger and more vulnerable years, an enthusiastic “oui oui” is still good for a laugh.

3. Do you speak English?     “Parlez-vous anglais?”     [par-ley-voo ong-gley?]

Try it.  Don’t be ashamed.  At least begin the conversation with this softball to lessen the blow on the Frenchman’s ears.

4. Where is…?     “Où est…?”     [oo es…?]

Ever-useful for directing oneself on the streets.

5. How much?    “C’est combien?”     [sey com-byun?]

Ask for the prices of food before ordering food, if possible.

6. Delcious!    Délicieux!”     [day-lee-shee-uh!]

If you’re eating French food, you might be pulling this one out a lot.

7. Thank you.    “Merci.”     [mair-see.]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, offer one to your new friend.


Notable customs:

  • When entering a store in France, it’s customary to greet the owner or attendant.  Many stores are considered a private space, so think of it as entering into someone’s home–a casual “Bonjour” to the sales clerk will likely score you a Good Citizenship Award, redeemable for one free Sizzling Entree at all participating Applebee’s restaurants. 


You are a paragon of compassion and stand as a beacon of humanity.  Enjoy your skillet fajitas.


Honorable mentions:

Where can I find gay nightclubs?      “Où son les boîtes gaies?”     [oo son ley bwat gey?]

Could you prepare a meal without cheese?     “Pouvez-vous préparer un repas sans fromage?”     [poo-vey-voo prey-pa-rey un re-pa son froh-mahzh?]