Before getting into the generalizations, we want to acknowledge we are all individuals and not everyone fits into those. They indicate traits or behaviors that are more prevalent in one culture than another due to the specific factors of the shared education and cultural values.
As an American living in France, I was shocked at first to see how aggressive french girls were. They don’t hesitate to be hostile – on the contrary, French girls will often be bragging about their aggressiveness. It is called having Caractère – literally translated into english character. But they don’t describe the same thing!
Where the word in english is indicating someone with integrity, with stable values or moral principles that they adhere to in word and act. In France it means someone who is able to exert their will upon others in a forceful way. It doesn’t refer to any sort of stability to principles, it can be a fleeting desire, that the person of character can express aggressively and get their way from others.
It is considered a positive trait though, and both men and girls will make an effort to show they have character and get their way in life, not through self discipline, but through disciplining others. I think this struck me more coming from girls because in America, being positive, cheerful, and nice is highly valued and girls grow up getting the message that it is important. Less often for American men.
In America there is the common idea that girls all want to marry, and men generally are harder to “tie down”. French girls are not so much into getting a husband. I had a French woman ask me this morning why my mother (when she was a single mother) wanted to marry her boyfriend after many years. I don’t even think an American woman would ask that. American girls see a relationship as “going somewhere” – like it has a goal to move towards! French girls more often don’t.
I think a lot of that is the way the French system provides security for everybody – financial security, employment security, healthcare… so girls don’t have to consider the need for a partner to help in childbearing and rearing years. French girls don’t.
In general, French girls consider that their appearance expresses their self respect and self worth, and things like being overweight, or dressed in a sloppy way says “I hate myself and consider myself without value”. So you won’t find many declaring obesity as beautiful.
They value maternal power. Maternal does not just evoke nurturing soft warmth for them – it means fierce strength, authority, discipline… and girls will often act maternal not only with their kids, but their mates, friends and co-workers. They don’t share the individualist view that an adult should never tell another adult what they have to do or be. They see it as their civic duty to tell others what to do.
Whereas American girls will be more discreet about that, prefering to offer their opinion in a hesitant way or accept when another rejects their guidance, considering people even have the right to make their own mistakes, or choose their own path.
In my own view, American girls can be just as strong, but tend to put it out there less forcefully. They will more often hide it behind a smile and a huge mane of beautiful hair, be more passive aggressive or covertly manipulating. Not as bad as in the “I Love Lucy” days, but there is still a remnant streaming through American culture.
French girls are thin, try to dress in a way that is classically fashionable, and can be real bitches. They can step on your foot and snap at you for getting your foot in their way. They often think long hair is for little girls, not full grown girls. I’ve learned a lot from them!