The French stereotype

What do Americans look like? Well, apart from the Hispanics and blacks and Asians who make up 50% or more of our population, we look like – well, we’re all over the map. Look at me: I’m Italian / Polish / Dutch / English, with graying hair and blue eyes; some days I look like a Calvinist cleric, and other days I look like a doughy Polack.

And what do the French look like?

This should be easier. Most of them are descended from two thousand years of local stock. They’re –

Well, they’re all over the map too.

The classical authors, including Julius Caesar, couldn’t agree on what the Gauls looked like. Some said they were tall and fair; others said they were short and dark. Everyone agreed that the later invaders, like the Normans, were big and blond. The Germanic tribes were blond, almost certainly (maybe they were the ones Caesar was describing).

Mostly the people I saw in France were short and dark, and very lean. Young people were mostly very skinny; older people seem to get (at most) a little stocky, but not grossly so (nowhere near American obesity). We ran into a few tall/fair individuals, but mostly in Normandy, where the Vikings came ashore a thousand years ago.

When I was living in North Africa, I got used to being the tallest person in the room (I’m a gigantic five-foot-ten). It was pretty much the same in France, with very few exceptions.

What are we supposed to look like? And where did any of us come from in the first place?

Beginnings are mysterious; origins are obscure.

Who can say?

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

3 Responses to The French stereotype

  1. starproms says:

    I think it is fascinating to wonder where we get our looks from. Of course nowadays we can, for a small fee, well – not so small actually! – find out our dna origins. I would love to do that. I have mysteries in my past!
    When I was in France, I found the French tall, dark and as you say, very lean with very narrow feet! An interesting race for sure – very different to the English.
    In my opinion….the Americans are big, very wide shouldered with large mouths and lots and lots of teeth! They have big smiles (when happy) and lots of attitude. I put it down to the amount of meat that gets eaten over there! I have been known to be caught staring at some examples when I’ve been in cracker barrel or some such place.
    I know I look different because people seem to know I’m foreign even before I open my mouth. I admit you are not typically American to look at. I do see Eastern European in your looks. Must be the Polish side.

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