How French

The Turkish Bath in Louvre, by French artist J.A.D. Ingre at the age of 82.

“Superchic, stylish, sexy, charming, arrogant, rude, bureaucratic, sexist, chauvinistic…” These are the words that Lonely Planet France used to characterize “The French”. On the matter of being rude, it is hard to fit my experience in Paris into the stereotypes described above.  To me, besides being the most beautiful city I have ever visited, Paris and Parisian are more  ethnically diverse and tourist-friendly than I had thought. Tourist information centers are easy to find. Receptionists generally speak English well, even though you would expect less smile than north american. Perhaps because I was forewarned by several friends to have low expectations on the French, I was pleasantly surprised.

On the subject of being “superchic, stylish, and sexy”, Parisians have certainly lived up to the expectation. Particularly having visited Berlin right after Paris, I realized how stylish Parisians are, from shops, to clothing, to the decoration of lights in the city. One thing that amazes me the most is the amount of nudity one would see in the city architectures, in Louvre Museum, and in street arts. Following from that is the excessive display of sensuality in advertisements in the city: the red-lip banner, the lingerie store in train station, the jewelry stores, the live-your-life ads in the hostel. By the time I left the city, I felt I have had my senses indulged.

But beneath all this ostentatious display of beauty, it is not hard to find vanity. As I read about the French and Paris, on its revolution, on Napoleon, and on its current politics and its president, it seems to me that for the French people, feeling great is as important as actually being great, and style is at least as important as substance if not more.

To the painting above, the commentator in the Louvre museum audio guide asked, if the nude is not about gods and goddesses, nor about religion or history, what is the purpose of displaying large number of nudes?

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Wendong Wang

A chemist who blogs

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