Typical physical characteristics of French people include olive skin, darker features, definition in the nose and brow, and slightly larger eyes.
The French have a wide collection of stereotypes, including being hopeless romantics, very elegant, stuck up, and highly intelligent.
There are a number of rumors and myths about French people still floating around today, but remember that every individual has their own personality and freewill, so don’t judge a French person based on the cultural stereotypes of their country.
Physical Characteristics of French People
There area number of interesting traits about French people, but it’s important to draw a distinction in the ethnic makeup of France.Due to centuries of immigration, you’ll see a multiethnic nation with people from all over the world.
1. Olive Skin (Southern France)
The first characteristic native to the Francophone people of South France is that gorgeous sun-kissed skin that looks more like the tone you’d find in the Mediterranean.
This is a tribute to the blend of African, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern who settled in early France and were referred to as the Francophone people.
Related Article: 10 Basque People Physical Characteristics & Character Traits
2. Dark and Glossy Hair
Another common trait of South France people is darker, curlier hair. Again, this is a blend of the cultural influences that have made up France over the years.
In contrast, the French look you’ll see further north reflects European influence, with lighter blond and softer colored hair making up a significant portion of the population.
Related Article: 10 Russian People Physical Characteristics And Traits
3. Curly Hair
Not only is French hair typically darker in color if you’re referring to the culture of the Francophone people, but it tends to be more on the curly side.
French people from the north generally tend to have lighter colored hair that is straight and thin, while French women from the south generally have voluminous and curly hair.
4. Hazel Eyes
Of course, you can expect to see every eye color under the sun in any country, but France has a wider range of colors due to its ethnic diversity.
First, people with more Nordic facial features are likely to have shades of blue, green, and hazel eyes. 22% of French people have blue eyes, with the rest having either brown or a blend of colors.
Related Article: 10 Celtic People Physical Characteristics And Traits
5. Shorter Stature
While there are outliers in every case, the French people generally have a shorter stature than some of their European neighbors, although it’s important to note that Portugal, Italy, and Turkey all have shorter men than France does.
This stereotype, while not entirely inaccurate, probably stems from the depiction of one of France’s most famous figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, being described as short.
His height was incorrectly labeled on his death certificate, and he was actually 5’6”, an average height for a man of that time.
Stereotypical Character Traits of French People
1. Hopelessly Romantic
French has been described as the language of love, and that image of the romance of Paris carries over to the people as well.
French people are often seen as being hopelessly romantic, largely due to its reputation of being the country of writing and poetry. This cliché is also tied to the image of Paris and is exemplified in a number of movies that play into the stereotype.
A similar interpretation of French people, largely inspired by their bold fashions and emphasis on style.
French people are, according to the stereotype, polite, charming, and very stylish. They take pride in their appearance, and their interiors, manner of speech, and interpersonal communication all reflect a softer, civilized-sounded tone.
Some of this reputation has been compounded by the distinction of French being an elegant language and having an extremely strong association with fashion with la Parisienne.
3. Stuck Up
One negative interpretation of the French people is that they are somewhat stuck up and icy towards outsiders.
This interpretation likely stems from the prior perception of French people being elegant and stylish. As a result, people often worry that French people will be dismissive towards other cultures and outsiders.
French people value their space and privacy, as well as being very abrupt in speech, a trait which can often be mistaken for standoffishness or disinterest.
This gives them a reputation of being arrogant, but it’s important to note that sophistication in a culture and pride in one’s country does not make someone arrogant by nature.
4. Intelligent and Scholarly
Another common stereotype of French people that has been established for several centuries is that French people are all scholarly and intelligent.
This reputation comes from the period of time when Paris was a center of education in Europe.
Over the centuries, France would become the heart of the Enlightenment, a period with many great thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu.
This stereotype, as a whole, is not a bad one, and it’s no secret that France has some wonderfully intelligent and creative people, with the country holding the record for the greatest number of literature Nobel prizes.
At any rate, it’s certainly true that philosophy and literature are significant parts of French culture.
5. Very Proud
Whether it’s pride in their country or pride in personal achievements, French people generally have a reputation for being prideful—almost to the point of arrogance—about their country.
Historically, France has been through a long and bloody struggle for democracy, so it’s no wonder that the simple, yet elegant expression Vive La France exemplifies French patriotism.
It’s certainly no sin that the French value the interests, achievements, and pride of their own country over others, and that attitude often manifests as patriotic behavior.
France incorporates a very culturally diverse, rich group of people that are known for a lot of things.
Their physical traits vary greatly based on region, but it’s fair to say that the olive-skinned, dark-haired people of the south are a truer reflection of France’s historical origins. Whether you’re a student of history or just planning a vacation to France, it’s always good to recognize what drives and perpetuates the stereotypes surrounding French people.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.