I’m Ugly in France

**Disclaimer: I can’t speak on behalf of the French because, as you may have noticed, I am not actually French (malheuresement). I am only attempting to point out what I have noticed after living here for a couple years, either from natural observation or conversations I’ve had with my friends/coworkers/acquaintances. I am also speaking on my experience as a woman in France versus a woman in America. While beauty standards for both men and women are quite different in both countries, this post will most likely reflect the female perspective.**

You read that right.

Come on, K, that’s a bit dramatic. No, it’s really not. Because beauty standards seem to be rather dependent on centuries and cultures and current trends. So it’s not unreasonable to say that I am, most likely, more unattractive in France than America.

Is attractiveness objective? To a certain degree, one could argue absolutely. There are some things that are more pleasing to the gaze of the human eye than others. But at what point does it become subjective? And how do cultures draw those varying lines to define what is and is not “beautiful?”

French vs American beauty standards

The French tend to view Americans as very… into their looks, for lack of a better term. And in many ways, it’s true. It is the country of Hollywood, hot yoga studios, specialty vegan restaurants, and overpriced juice bars.

And Americans tend to think the French (especially the cliché Frenchwoman) are effortlessly skinny and perfect, all while eating bread and cheese to their heart’s desire. Without gaining a single pound.

Are either of these cultures wrong about the other?

No, not necessarily, but it’s definitely more complex than that.

Yes, the French tend to have that thin, picturesque body we see stereotyped in movies. Honestly, though, I imagine most of that can be attributed to genetics. They also tend to place a much heavier pressure on the individual to faire du sport (do sports, literally translated) or start une regime (a diet). It’s fairly common to have your physical appearance critiqued to your face in France, especially if you’ve recently undergone a physical change (ie weight gain).

And yes, Americans are definitely all about looking flawlessly perfect all the time. It’s no secret that Botox is extremely common in America (the Kardashian family… need I say more?). The irony, however, is that Americans tend to be more accepting of imperfections than the French, at least in my experience. While the French do not place as heavy of an emphasis on their appearance, they are far more quick to criticize someone’s looks. Americans tend to constantly upkeep themselves to Hollywood standards while being lenient in their expectation of others.

Let me explain what I mean. I once had a French person tell me, “You may think you’re skinny in the United States because compared to those women you are, but you’re not thin at all here.” I don’t find it necessary to add my weight/height or BMI to prove my point. But that sentence was so shocking to my poor little American ears that I probably turned bright red from embarrassment.

The best show ever…

Maybe it just stung to admit that I wasn’t considered “pretty” here. As Elaine Benes said, “Is it possible I’m not as attractive as I think I am?”

But honestly, who cares?

If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out the links below!

How the French Perceive American Beauty
One Woman Gets Honest About What It’s Like to Be “Fat” in France
9 major differences between French and American beauty
Gabrielle Deydier: what it’s like to be fat in France

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