jeudi 17 février 2011

The French are ethnocentric...

• The French are ethnocentric...
• Buying skincare and make-up in France...
• Shopping for your favourite products from home is almost impossible in France
(wasn't sure what to title this blog post)

ethnocentrism (ˌɛθnəʊˈsɛnˌtrɪzəm)
— n

belief in the intrinsic superiority of the nation, culture, or group to which one belongs, often accompanied by feelings of dislike for other groups

I loathe to use that word racist because as soon as you accuse someone of being racist, they deny it vehemently and then give you various eye-rolling examples of why they are not.

After 4.5 months of living in France I have definitely come to the conclusion that the French are very very VERY ethnocentric. That is, they truly believe that their culture is superior to that of others. Unlike many neighbouring countries which have become far more 'anglocised', the French are still very... well, French.

They also like sticking to the past. This is obvious by how well-preserved their cities are. Going to any French city is like taking a step back in time. I loathe all the cars I see because if it weren't for them I actually feel like I've gone back in time 100 or 200 or more years ago. Living in France also feels like living in Australia 30 years ago with their restricted shop opening hours. There are other examples I could give.. there are just so many. Not that I'm complaining that much. I actually dislike the fast-paced modern lifestyle.

When you ask an expat what sort of things they miss from home most people will mention some kind of food but I actually didn't miss anything much from home (as in supermarket type food), well, maybe Tim Tam biscuits. The things I missed were random things that I couldn't find here!

I am very particular about skincare and make-up brands and the things I used at home I could NOT for the life of me find here. For example, I used a Maybelline foundation called Mineral Power. I bought it one day in Target and I was onto my 3rd container (they are small). Could I find it here even though Maybelline is widely sold everywhere? Nope. Does not exist here. I was going crazy trying to find it, even online, then I gave up and bought something similar here by Loréal - Poudre Accord Parfait Minéral (which then of course does not exist in Australia or the US so I couldn't even read reviews about it!) It was a spur of the moment decision and I bought it at a supermarket without even testing the colour. Luckily for me, it was perfect.

The weirdest and most frustrating thing was... The make-up giant Sephora is a French company. Yet, the US Sephora sells far more brands and products! Figure that out. I like to read reviews before I buy stuff but it was useless because the stuff sold in the US was mostly not available here except the high end stuff like Chanel. As much as I'd like to, I don't really want to spend that much on make-up and prefer mid-range brands/prices.

Then I have another favourite product that I've been using forever and nothing else even comes close. It's Blistex lip balm. It's the only thing that works wonders on dry, chapped lips (the original in the round white container, not the lipstick-shaped ones). It does not exist in France. I ended up buying it from an online pharmacy in the UK.

Then, whilst travelling during the Toussaint holidays I lost my beloved Polaroid sunglasses. I like this brand because it's mid-range and mid-priced and I know the polarised lenses are really good. I know EXACTLY where to go to buy them in Australia. I was going out of my mind trying to find a replacement pair in France. They don't exist. I had a funny incident where I went into an optometrist and asked if they sold Polaroid sunglasses and he said, "No, but we have Polo Ralph Lauren!" Ha. Once again I contemplated buying them online from the UK, US or Australia but it would have been a dumb idea to buy something like that without trying them on first.

Eventually I realised that the brand is sold in Switzerland so I bought a pair when I went to Geneva. Later when I went to Germany I saw that brand sold widely there as well.

Then, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with buying a handbag that fitted all my requirements - size, style, colour, fabric, price, etc. No matter how many stores I went to, they only had the same brands. Almost all FRENCH BRANDS. Not saying French brands aren't good but for me the choice just isn't wide enough. There was either the expensive like Longchamp or the cheap and crappy. I eventually bought one by the brand Lancaster which is mid-priced and very good quality.

Do you see where I'm going with all this? Whereas Switzerland and Germany ('next door') are very open to Anglo brands.... The French are really obsessed with only selling French brands. This is apparent in almost every store and for almost every sort of product. Of course if you go to Paris and go to a big department store you can find other different brands but I'm talking about a general feeling.

Speaking of shopping, I hate to admit it but French fashion doesn't really float my boat. Only one of my favourite fashion shops/brands is French: Promod. The rest I like are: Zara (Spanish), H&M, Camaieu (Swedish), (Spanish) and Mango (Spanish). I've also bought stuff from UK online shops because their styles are much nicer. My favourites are: Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and New Look.

Not sure where I'm going with this post. It's just a feeling I get that the French are really resistant to change, and do not like other cultures infiltrating theirs. It's not all bad though. In some ways it's actually nice. I mean I lived in Shanghai, one of the fastest changing cities in the world. It was heartbreaking to see all the culture and history being destroyed in the name of progress and in the name of Westernising everything. Don't they realise that people go to China to see Chinese looking buildings from a time long ago, and not Western/Anglo looking modern buildings? That really saddened me. And it's because of that reason that Paris is so beautiful. All that gorgeous history preserved for generations to come...


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