10 things North Americans assume to be French - but are they?

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Alexandre Desoutter updated on 26 August 2022

Even if Hellosafe.ca has its roots on the Quebec ground, the Safe group was born in Paris, France, more than 6 years ago. Our writers found out 10 things that North Americans assume to be "French". But are they ? We've gone through a funny fact-checking process. Enjoy!

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1. The French Open of Tennis

  • Let's start with an easy one. Yes, the French Open is French! Indeed, every American or Canadian tennis fan has its eyes turned towards France at the end of every May. This is the moment when the French Open traditionally takes place, a so-French tennis tournament that the locals lovingly call "Roland-Garros" - an aviator, hero of WW1, who gave his name to this legendary stadium back in the 30's.

2. The French Bulldog

  • The French bulldog is a dog breed very popular in North America. Small, muscular and short on legs, the French bulldog can be recognized with his protruding eyes and his powerful jaw. But is that "bouledogue" so French as its name tends to suppose?
  • The French Bulldog is, in fact, the result of a cross between Toy Bulldogs imported from England and local ratters of Paris, more than 2 centuries ago. You'll be warned next time you'll look for French Bulldog puppies!
bulldog 1

3. French Toast and French Bread

  • The use of the expression "French toast" to describe those slices of bread of which many North Americans are found of is maybe the biggest misuse of the "French" adjective! Nobody ignores that France is the temple of bread - the real French bread - that is often associated with the "Baguette".
  • Indeed, the French toast that is consumed across the US and Canada was a creation of the food industry in the 1930's, and is very far from the French bread bakery artisanal tradition. So if you are looking a French toast recipe, don't ask a Frenchman!

4. The French Onion Soup

  • In North America, every onion soup tends to be considered as a "French onion soup". However, the onion soup is far from belonging to the only France. Indeed, this dish was popular since the Roman Empire across the Mediterranean. However, it is true that a French onion soup specialty started to spread in France at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
  • Some even say that is was King Lewis XV who invented the famous French onion soup recipe. Since then, the onion soup was exported all around the world as the "French onion soup".
coffee beans

5. The French Press

  • The French Press is traditionally know in the US and Canada as this coffee brewing device of which you have to push down the coffee beans with a sort of plunger. In case you wonder, French people do not claim the patent of the so-called French press coffee device.
  • Indeed, most of them believe it is... Italian! And they are right: the inventor of the French Press, the Italian Ugo Paolini, lodged patent documents in 1923. His first intention was to use the device as a tomato juice separator. Now you know that you can use your French press to prepare a tomato juice!

6. The French Dispatch

  • Movies lovers have heard about the French Dispatch, an upcoming American film written and directed by Wes Anderson. It is a comedy-drama featuring a collection of French life stories reported by the French bureau of an imaginary Kansas newspaper, in the fictional 20th-century French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé.
  • Only French watchers will be able to tell if they identify themselves to the tales narrated in this movie. Response in May 2021, with the official release of the French Dispatch.

7. French Montana

  • Even if he is not the most wide-known singer in North America, French Montana has become very famous in rap music over the years. Karim Kharbouch - that's his real name - was born in Marrakech, Morocco, in 1984. He moved with his parents to the South Bronx, New York, when he was 13. At the time, he was only speaking French and Arabic.
  • He had to learn English by himself in the streets of New York, a period that inspired a lot of his songs. So, although he does speak French, French Montana is actually not a French citizen.

8. The French Drain

  • French people will surely be very surprised if you try to explain them that the drain is French. A French drain is defined as "a trench filled with gravel or rock or containing a perforated pipe that redirects surface water and groundwater away from an area". Was that specific technic invented by brilliant French engineers? Not at all!
  • In fact, it was Henry Flagg French, a lawyer from Massachusetts, that made those drains popular in 1859, in his Farm Drainage book. Which explains why it now usually referred to as "French drain".
waste water

9. The French Doors

  • In North America, many houses and villas are equipped with so-called "French doors", which refers to a door with glass panes, serving as a window and a door at the same time. They are very appreciated in the US and Canada for the fact that they bring a lot of natural light into a room.
  • But are they really French? Originally, we can answer yes. The French doors were made popular in France during the Renaissance period, and then became trendy in England and the US. Nowadays, French doors are more often seen in America than in the Old Europe.

10. French Polynesia

  • For rich Canadians and Americans, French Polynesia is a paradisiac holidays destination. But do people assume they go to France when they travel to Polynesia? Officially, they should. Indeed, beautiful French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic, which means this territory as vast as Europe is part of France, although having a large autonomy on a wide array of internal affairs.
  • But of course, there is no need to say that you will feel different in Papeete than in Paris, Lyon or Marseille!

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Alexandre Desoutter Redactor in chief

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a contributor to several publications. In this sense, his role leads him to carry out steering and support work with all HelloSafe editors and contributors so that the editorial line defined by the company is fully respected and declined through the texts published daily on our platforms. As such, Alexandre is responsible for implementing and maintaining the strictest journalistic standards within the HelloSafe editorial staff, in order to guarantee the most accurate, up-to-date information on our platforms and expert as possible. Alexandre has in particular undertaken for two years now the implementation of a system of systematic double-checking of all the articles published within the HelloSafe ecosystem, able to guarantee the highest quality of information.