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February 4, 2011

Neenuh, According to the French

"Hi! Nice to meet you! You're so pale!"

This was said to me by a French 20-something who I met in Nevers last Saturday night. The French seem to be extremely fond of telling me how pale, sick, and tired I look, none of which I appreciate that much. That, combined with the fact that I was un peu pété, led me to retort, "I'm always pale! I was born this way! Plus I'm from MINNESOTA!" Yeah, that shut her up pretty good.

"Hello America!"

One of the guys who works in my school's office loves practicing his English with me. I'm OK with embodying my home country, as in this greeting, but it's a bit annoying when I need to get something done and he insists on responding to me in his broken English. Last week, for example, I ran out of my allotment of photocopies and I went to talk to some of the secretaries about getting a new quota. As I was attempting to hold this conversation with her in French, my buddy kept piping up from the corner, "You done all your paper! No more for you! You need more but there is none! You wanting more!" in a strange, sing-song-y voice.

"Toi, tu est normale." (You, you are normal.)

I had a student stop by for some extra conversation practice... most of which ended up being in French. Oops.  The conversation turned to obesity in America.  He told me that he doesn't understand why Americans think it's so disgusting that the French smoke, because if the Americans are so worried about health, then why are they so fat?   He told me that he was "normal"-- not skinny, not fat, but normal. He lifted up his shirt and gave his belly a jiggle to show that he was starting a paunch. Then, staring at my chest, he told me I was normal too. Just to verify, he reached over and poked me in my tummy.  "Ne touche pas!" I yelped. "I'm from MINNESOTA!"


  1. At least you are 'normale,' Neenuh. I'm 'ronde' selon les Français. Ugh.

    I also get asked questions about obesity in the States, and I have to explain that fast food is not the sole cause of this epidemic. Still, the stereotype still stands that "all ze Americans heat Macdo all the day."

    -Barb the French Bean

  2. Fat Americans is a favorite topic of conversation here, isn't it? And they, being the experts, KNOW it's fast food and soda pop. I don't know, maybe they're right. They have the 8th highest longevity rate in the world compared to 49th for the U.S. And yes, us Minnesotans have enough trouble with les bisous...don't go poking us in the tummy!

  3. It's fascinating that people abroad are discussing America's obesity problem. Truth be told, I didn't even think about that until I read this. I mean, from the outside looking in, I can only imagine that the rest of the world is all...WTF?

  4. @Delana: Sing it sister! Personal space me manque.

    @Kat: As Barb and Delana said, the French think we Americans eat nothing but fast food and are grotesquely obese. But honestly, the people I've encountered here seem much more enamored with "MacDo" than the people I know in America.