In France you can’t escape judgement. Everywhere you go you feel people’s eyes on you and you feel like you have to be careful with anything you do. Unfortunately, it’s a part of the culture. Everyone knows that they judge others and everyone I’ve talked to thinks that it’s bad that they do it but they still do it.
In my first 3 months of being in France I was so bombarded by the judgement that I started dressing differently in order to fit in and I most of the time, chose not to speak rather than to try to speak and make tons of mistakes in order to hide from possible judgement. I was scared that if I didn’t fit in I wouldn’t make any friends and I’d be a lonely loser that everyone looked down on. It’s odd because I’ve never been that scared of what other people think. I tend to speak my mind and dress the way I want disregarding what others might be thinking. I hadn’t realized that I had changed who I was when I first got to France, but when I went back home for a bit I became my old self again and I began to realize what had happened.
Before leaving the US to come back in March I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t change who I was and how I dress (unless it’s particularly offensive in France). It was easier than before because I already had friends and such but I noticed that when I got back I became much closer with people that I actually really like because I was finally being myself. I made a lot of cool friends from Ireland, England and the US that were in France on exchange and we discussed the judgement that I felt and they confirmed that they had felt the same thing. Especially when going out. One of my Irish friends that I got close to told me about how when going out in Ireland, girls dress pretty exposed just like in the US. High wasted pants and a bralette (lace bra) would suffice. Here if you where that, all the girls and even some of the guys give you mean looks and then whisper to their friends about you. You’d think that they might be able to just mind their own business but, nope! Granted, when her and I would go out we would dress pretty much however we wanted (perhaps slightly more modest) because at least we didn’t feel like we were being judged alone.
Another thing you get mad judged about here is hook ups! In the US I could hook up with 3 guys in a night and get high fives from everyone but here if you even hook up with 2 in a night or even 2 in the same week, everyone just talks shit behind your back and call you a slut or even a whore. Again, I don’t understand why people can’t just mind their own business. The worst thing is that people can’t keep the judgement to themselves either. The judgement spreads like wildfire and soon enough everyone will know that you were wearing an off the shoulder crop top and you hooked up with two guys in a night. Awesome right? People just love talking about “potins” here or gossip.
Anyways, those are just the things that happen on nights out. Sometimes when you’re just minding your own business you’ll get looks that just make you uneasy. The other day I was in the bus and I was wearing jeans and a shirt that occasionally showed a sliver of my stomach if I lifted my arms and I got some crazy bad looks from the girl across from me. Granted this was not too long ago so I just shot back a look of, “mind your own business, bitch”, lifted my arms off to show my stomach again and then got off at my stop. God it’s infuriating!
Another thing I noticed, is that all the cafes have outdoor tables and chairs which a lot of the time are facing the street. My mom made a comment one time when we first got to France in September saying, “The tables are all turned towards the street so you can literally enjoy a coffee and lunch while watching people walk by and judging them.” Of course she was joking because she is French and all but it just made me laugh because it’s true that I find myself doing that when I’m sitting at those tables and it’s horrible! Granted I keep it in my head but I mean wow…
I don’t mean for this article to be mean. I’m just explaining my experience. And granted I can’t speak for everyone, I’m sure you can find some of the most open-minded and least judge-mental people in France. In fact for a lot of bigger things such as being in the LGBT community, French people are some of the most-openminded people that I’ve met. But in general I have found that there is a lot of judgement in the culture and it’s shocking when moving from Los Angeles.