Article by James Stout originally published in the November-April 2019-2020 edition of the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
Do all French wear berets? Are all Italians romantic? What’s real, what’s fiction? Our myth detective investigates some of the most popular cultural clichés.
Are Italians really romantic?
Let’s look at the facts, shall we? Italy is home to world‐famous lothario Casanova. It’s where Romeo fell in love with Juliet. It’s even the country that gave us the spaghetti that brought the Lady and the Tramp together.
Let’s not forget that the term “romance” comes from the Latin “romanice,” meaning “in the Roman way.” Add to that that Italian is always hailed as among the world’s most romantic languages (what’s more romantic than “amore”? Or “bellissima”? Or “pizza”?), and I’d say this stereotype is pretty spot-on.
Do the French really wear berets?
What’s more French than a beret? Monet, perhaps? Well, he famously sported the stereotypical headgear, as do aspiring artists the world over. But B.M. (before Monet), felted wool hats had kept shepherds warm since the Bronze Age. And they didn’t really become “French” until the 19th century, when the peasant headgear was adopted by France’s elite mountain troops.
But these days, urban French culture is very fashion-forward, and if you come to Paris expecting bikes, baguettes and berets, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Apart from the baguettes- those are very real and very delicious.
Do Canadians really live in igloos?
Canada, eh? Just a bunch of people in lumberjack shirts saying sorry and eating poutine in their igloos. While Canadians don’t all live in igloos (sorry), the Inuit did once build traditional snow houses to survive the harsh Arctic weather.
And to complicate matters even more, the Inuit word iglu traditionally means any building, from snow houses to skyscrapers. So, although in that sense you could say all Canadians live in iglus, most couldn’t carve a house out of ice blocks if their maple syrup depended on it.
Do all Irish have red hair?
Ireland, where the hills are green, the beer is black, and the people are ginger. Or so the stereotype would have us believe. But a 2013 study on the red hair gene conducted in the UK and Ireland by BritainsDNA reveals that Edinburgh, Scotland, not Ireland, has the highest proportion of gingers.
While leprechaun jokes are probably not uncommon for redheads, things aren’t all bad: January 12 is Kiss a Ginger Day. And if you can’t find a leprechaun, a real-life human will do.
Check for yourself if those myths are real or not, fly directly with Air Transat to your chosen destination.