Table of Contents
The French are an ethnic group that is identified as a people with their origin in France. However, it would be difficult to identify a French person being purely French. The culture is in itself considered a melting pot owing to many cultures that came together historically to form the French customs and traditions as it is known today. The Celtics, Germanics, and Romans all of them have contributed to the French heritage genetically and culturally. Therefore, they have created a very diverse ethnic community whose main bond is the French language. More cross-cultural interactions took place in the 19th and 20th centuries with a good number of immigrants joining the French nation and thus adding on to the complexity of the French cultural heritage (Kidd & Reynolds, 2014). Currently, France has about 67 million citizens. Meanwhile, in the world, there are over 109 million French people in total. About 8.2 million of them live within the US (Kidd & Reynolds, 2014). In terms of cultural topography, the French are particularly famous for their wine and their love for bread. They eat wine with practically every meal; and they are considerably healthy eaters by their standards. It is because to an outsider, the French diet would be considered too creamy or fatty or with too much bread. The French generally love their bread, cheese, and creamy sauces. Their meals also begin and end with beverages that are considerably alcoholic. However, there are some non-alcoholic options. Aperitifs are considered as appetizers while digestives are meant to help with the digestion after a meal. It can also be noted that the French people are all over the world, from Canada and the US to Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, the UK, Chile, Brazil, Asia, as well as Africa. It means that there is always a potential of running into a French person in any part of the world.
According to Purnell (2014), the Purnell model for cultural competence considers communication to imply more than just the language spoken by the people analyzed. In this case, it is not just about understanding or speaking French. It is in fact an imperative to note that the French do not always speak the own language. Most of them are rather very fluent in other languages including English. It means that to understand communication from the French cultural context there is a need to focus on such subjects like non-verbal communication, contextual use of words, spatial distancing, facial expressions, tone and volume of voice, touch and time as well as greetings and temporality (Sellin & Winters, 2005). First, it is important to note that the French fall in a low context culture category alongside the countries like German, the US, and the UK among others. These states require clarity in communication; and people generally ask for the clarification when they do not understand what is being said (Sellin & Winters, 2005). It means that the French generally expect the one to explain their thoughts when in a conversation unless everything is clear.
In the article “Business Communication” (2014) it is stated that French people enjoy conversations and they expect full participation. People in France also like arguments and view these as some form of entertainment. It basically implies that being quiet during a conversation with a French person could appear rude or a sign of disinterest. The conversation in this case is likely to be characterized by many interruptions thus appearing to move towards a full argument with each party having something to say. Considering how intellectual most French people are, it can be expected that they enjoy arguing out the facts and making useful assertions. They rarely have meaningless conversations. Social banter is often considered unpleasant and even uncivilized. More so, the French are a relatively polite people based on their voice intonations (Business Communication, 2014). They are easily offended by raised voices and during a talk they are more likely to speak in a low tone unless required to speak louder either due to a noisy environment or large audience. It means that speaking to a French person would require limiting one’s voice to personal volumes rather than being loud and risking judgment as obnoxious or simply annoying. With regards to tone, the French are also very sensitive to emotional expressions in tone variations. They associate one’s feelings or thoughts with their tone of voice. It means that they are likely to pick up anger or frustration or even joy from the way one speaks. This sensitivity is probably due to the fact that the French belong to a low context culture where people express themselves in a lot of ways and not just through their words.
In the analysis, Meyer (2014) reiterates that French people generally believe in making eye contact. When they meet an individual, they shake hands briefly and make eye contact as a sign of acknowledging each other’s presence. It means that eye context in this culture is considered a mandatory part of socialization and not an intimidation tactic as applied within other cultures. It becomes clear how much the French enjoy eye contact when they keep looking at others in the eyes during a conversation. The eye communication in this case is seen as an affirmation of the contact experienced during the conversation. People who avoid it are seen as shifty. In some cases, they appear to be even rude depending on the circumstances. In addition, Meye (2014) maintains that when it comes to touch, the French are not as touchy as their Spanish or Italian counterparts. Rather, they only have the very brief handshakes; and that is about all the touching that occurs. It means that when communicating with a French person, it is often wise to limit contact to the handshakes when meeting and when one is about to depart. It is also important to note that these people use words in context especially if they are speaking English as a second language. It means that there is a need to understand their contexts while talking with them and also taking care to explain any confusing words that one may use. It is regardless of whether the communication is in French or English.
According to Tomalin’s (2013) analysis, traditionally, France was a religious country with the family as a basic unit of society. Moreover, there were fewer divorces and fewer single parent families. However, it was in the past. Currently, the French have embraced the modern concept of a family, with a single parent and blended families being a norm. Moreover, childless couples or single men and women are no longer a social curiosity. Either way, a head of the house in a conventional French household is a man or a father. It means that in most matters, it is normal for a woman or a child to seek the counsel of the man of the house first. Furthermore, Tomalin (2013) argues that in terms of gender roles, French women had been stuck in the shadows of their men until later in the 20th century when they started working and taking care of their families without necessarily being housewives. The gender roles, however, remain a bit traditional ones, with women being presumed as the caregivers while men being the providers. It means that it is normal for the French women to expect their men to provide for them financially while they take care of home and kids. Females are thus considered as the delicate individuals, with their main role being to look pretty and be taken care of. These are, however, the traditional French views. Within a modern context, it is not unusual to find females who are bold, being daring and willing to take care of themselves. Modernization has affected the French culture by introducing and encouraging the notion of independence especially amongst young women.
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In his observation, Steel (2013) has affirmed that French are a very individualistic society. On Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, France has a score of 71 on individualism. It means that thi nationality is very individualistic people (Steel, 2013). From a young age, parents teach their children to be independent and take care of themselves rather than depend on their specific groups. It means that among other things, the French people grow up looking out for themselves and for the members of their immediate family. When it comes to priorities, the self always comes first. The French are thus brought up to focus on their personal needs and those of their immediate families more than those ones of the society. The elderly in the French community are mostly left to the shadows as everyone strives to focus on personal goals. With the society’s emphasis on intellectual accomplishment, it can be noted that the French barely have time to take care of the elderly. Culturally, their elders are respected and honored for their wisdom but they are often left in the sidelines. The youth is especially distant from their parents owing to a generational gap that comes with significant differences in perspectives and lifestyles. French parents are generally more conservative than their kids. Similarly, Steel (2013) emphasizes that most families in this culture are arranged as nuclear ones, with a little contact with the rest of relatives except in rural settings, in royal or noble families. It means that it is highly unlikely for the French people to know much about their cousins especially if they rarely go for family functions. The nuclear families thus often comprise of parents and their children, with the grandparents and immediate cousins only appearing occasionally in some home meetings and over the holidays from time to time. As a predominantly Catholic society, this community has a tendency to associate alternative lifestyles with controversy (Steel, 2013). Single parenting and homosexuality were at some point considered unacceptable in the mainstream society. With modernization, however, single parents and homosexuals have been embraced moderately in their societies. The French still see divorce as a major problem. However, they have warmed up to the fact that it is not always intentional. This is a sign that the French are slowly opening up to modern perspectives on family and life in general.
Whittaker (2008) says that previously it would be unbelievable to associate this nationality with any sort of high risk behavior. However, within a medical context, it can be noted that the French culture is not without its fair share of potential problems. First, the people of France are known to indulge in alcohol before and after their meals. It means that in average they consume a lot of alcohol. Regardless of associated benefits of alcohol to the human body, the habit of having a glass of wine before a meal and something stronger afterwards on a daily basis can be considered as a high risk behavior especially seeing as it is a habit that is deeply embedded in the French culture. With aperitifs and digestives, along with the habit of soccial drinking where the host is always expected to offer good wine to guests, it is imperative to appreciate that alcohol is a part of being French. It is rather unusual to find a person from France who does not consume it on a regular basis. It also makes them rather tolerant to alcohol. It means that when they are out drinking they are likely to drink a lot of it before they can exceed their limit and feel sick. Smoking is banned in public areas within France but tobacco consumption has always been a part of the French history (Whittaker, 2008). While the culture does not encourage this process before or during a meal, most French people are exposed to cigarettes at an early age with some even starting to smoke as early as on their tenth birthday. Most people from France below the age of 20 have experienced smoking at least once (Whittaker, 2008). Other than being a social activity when in private gatherings, this process is also considered as a social habit that spreads amongst peers when they hang out together. It is thus not uncommon to find the French youth who does not smoke unless being in the company of their smoking friends. Smoking is thus not exactly avoided by the French but it is also not always an addiction. There are some chain smokers in the French population. However, most of them only do this because it is a social activity for their specific peer groups.
According to the article by The Guardian, the French engage in drugs as a recreational activity. A rather common narcotic for entertainment amongst the French is the Moroccan hashish. It is an illegal and highly addictive stuff that is known to cause euphoric feelings and hallucinations with a chance of dependence for frequent users (Sedghi & Burn-Murdoch, 2012). Even in the US, weed is considered illegal but it is easily accessible for those who know the right channels. There is some related history on marihuana and being French. It can be expected that a lot of French youth indulges in the Moroccan hashish at least once in their lives. The thrill of trying out new things seems to get the better of them. Other drugs are also not uncommon amongst the people of this nationality. The youth is especially well integrated into a mainstream society. Therefore, they have the exposure to all kinds of recreational drugs including cocaine and heroin among others.
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Plantier, Isaac-Goize, and Keeve (2015) have established that the French generally perceive food as a luxury that everyone deserves to enjoy. It explains why these people have some of the most impressive cuisine, with impeccably sweet desserts, in particular. There is an American phrase that is widely refuted in the circles of France. It is sinfully delicious. To the French, food has to be delicious; and there is nothing sinful about having a meal that one can enjoy so much. While people from other cultures may consume food for sustenance, the French consider nutrition as an important part of their culture. Therefore, they endeavor to experience and enjoy it as much as they can. According to the French culture, people should only eat that they feel or enjoy. It means that the French are likely to indulge only in the kind of food that they appreciate. Common products amongst the people of France include sweet breads, organ meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables together with a lot of wine (Plantier, Isaac-Goize, & Keeve, 2015). The French are also known for their love for cheese and creamy soups. They are often considered as those ones eating so much butter as well. In terms of rituals or practices that could be associated with nutrition, it can be appreciated that a typical French family has two meals together at home or in a restaurant or at a friend’s home. It means that the people often eat together. Therefore, they have the same options when it comes to their eating. The culture of taking food together in this case means that when it is related to the nutrition of the family, one can expect uniformity. The families eat together more often than many other cultures. In addition, Plantier, Isaac-Goize, and Keeve (2015) argue that the French youth has also increasingly been taken into the fast food culture. It is considered as a part of their modernization. French food is often fresh and healthy, eaten for its quality rather than its quantity. It means that among other things, the French are conscious eaters. They are often focused on the quality of their products. Other cultures are attracted to quantity. When they buy food, they want something that they can get the most out of. The French are also very conversant with the fact that good food is expensive. They do not mind paying high prices for the right kind of meals. These are the traditional French values, however. Modern French people have also subscribed to the fast food culture. They are increasingly subjecting themselves to more junk products. There are a number of supposed urban legends about lean French girls who gained so much weight after spending a few weeks in the United States. The reality in this case is that the traditional French culture is well balanced in terms of food and beverages. People in France mainly eat organ meats and fresh farm products. In the United States, such farm food is often considered expensive. In some cases, it takes too much work to find and prepare. The fast food habit thus compromises the individuals’ health and puts them at risk for a number of lifestyle diseases including obesity and hypertension among others.