People around the world are obsessed with French culture and often glamorize French women.
Americans especially idealize almost everything about French women, from their alleged inability to age to their universally flawless style, so it can be hard to know which stereotypes are actually true.
INSIDER spoke with Piu Marie Eatwell, the author of the myth-busting books, "They Eat Horses, Don't They? The Truth About The French" and "F Is for France: A Curious Cabinet of French Wonders," to separate the facts from the fiction.
Turns out, we are getting all of these things wrong.
French women don’t get fat.
This sweeping generalization is false, according to Eatwell. Even though obesity rates in France are lower than those in America, these statistics mask regional differences in terms of weight, she said.
She added that Americans' perceptions of French women are skewed by the places we visit.
“Foreigners tend to visit places like Paris — and hang out in the most upscale and fashionable parts of the city — and therefore come back with the impression that all French women are slim,” Eatwell told INSIDER.
However, this is a misleading representation of France as a whole.
"Women in Paris are much more likely to be slim than in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais," she said. According to the Institut Pasteur de Lille, 20.5% of the population in Nord-Pas-de-Calais is overweight and obese, which is 6% higher than the national average.
They don't diet.
"While it is true that French women are less likely to follow the latest faddish diet regimes than American women, they are constantly aware of the need to 'pay attention' to their figures, and to keep slim," the author said. "A very common saying amongst French women is 'il faut souffrir pour être belle,' which means 'you have to suffer to be beautiful.'"
This typically involves following a balanced diet and indulging in moderation, according to Eatwell.
French women are rude.
Eatwell attributes this false stereotype to the Parisian women that foreign travelers meet when they visit the city.
The author compared Parisian women to New York City women, as they are both busy city-dwellers who are not representative of a whole country.
"Out in the provinces, people are often charming. However, the impression of rudeness is also due to the fact that the French generally are quite reserved and aloof," Eatwell said.
Eatwell also referenced psychologist Kurt Lewin's theory that cultures can be divided into "coconuts" and "peaches."
"The French, along with the Russians and Germans, are 'coconut' cultures. They are 'hard' on the outside. They rarely smile at strangers, do not easily engage in conversations, and may look nor friendly or even aggressive first," she said. "However, if you manage to break through their hard outer shell, they tend to become close loyal friends who will accept you as family."
"The USA and Japan, on the other hand, are examples of ‘peach’ cultures," she said. "Americans and Japanese are ‘soft’ on the outside. They are very friendly to people they just met. However, once you get past the initial friendliness, you see the real private self is protected by a hard shell of the pit."
They are always stylish.
"Foreigners who tend to visit the most fashionable parts of cities like Paris come back with the impression that all French women are elegant, whereas this is not necessarily the case," Eatwell said.
However, she added that the French do take style seriously.
"It is true that the French do place a great deal of importance on women being elegant, well-dressed, and stylish with certain well-received rules about dress," she said. For example, she said French women try to wear three colors or less in one outfit.
They only wear ballet flats or high heels.
Eatwell dismissed this claim with common sense. "French women will wear footwear appropriate to the occasion," she said.
They will also wear loafers with a more casual look and heels with a dressier outfit, the author said. Though she said that sneakers are almost entirely out of the question.
"Trainers may be worn but only of very good quality and discreet elegance, not multicolored or loudly branded versions — except for the gym," she said.
French women are not career-focused and prefer to be stay-at-home moms.
This stereotype is simply outdated.
"Many French women return to work only three months after having children, and indeed the French government encourages this," Eatwell said. "French women are encouraged to return to work and get back their figures as soon as possible after giving birth."
They are obsessed with beauty.
While French women may be obsessed with beauty, it's not in the way that American women might expect, Eatwell said.
Many French women focus on enhancing their individual features with subtle makeup rather than trying to conform to a uniform, societal standard, she said.
“This comes from the French idea of 'jolie-laide,' which literally translates to 'beautiful-ugly' or 'unconventionally beautiful.’ A snaggletooth, a bump in the nose, and closely set eyes are just a few examples of unconventional physical traits that are embraced under the notion of 'jolie-laide,’” the author said.
French women don't shave.
"This is an old cliché which is certainly not true today," Eatwell said. "It stems from the fact that the habit of shaving spread to Europe generally much later than America."
There is one caveat, though. "Nowadays, there is a trend amongst younger women of all nationalities to reject obsessive shaving of body hair," the author said.
French women don't work out.
French women obsessively follow trends — even if it means hitting the gym or a boutique spin class.
"This was true in the past but working out at the gym is a trend that is now catching on with French women," she said. "However, the French body ideal is still essentially feminine and you will not see excessively toned and muscle-bound, bicep-sporting women in France like the women you will often see in America."