In a country of 66-million nothing is totally black or totally white ! However certain aspects of the French are hard to adjust to, at least by American standards. Here are some of them... For many foreign visitors, the
most unpleasant aspects of France and French life are often related
to some form of lack of civic sense. Among them:
- Selfishness ? Taking people hostage with constant strikes
in public transport
or in museums or blocking the roads to force the State to intervene
in a labor dispute instead of negotiating (in 2003 : after several
weeks of strikes, teachers threatening to cancel the high-school
final exam or actors and musicians causing the cancellation of
most Summer festivals). Read how the French football team ridiculed its country in the 2010 World Cup.
- Dirtiness ? Dog poop
all over the sidewalks (in Paris : 16 tons/day, 650 injured/year)
and dogs in shops, restaurants,... graffiti on the walls.
Body odors and Turkish
- Jealousy : the French hate the idea that someone else has more than they have ; they are not impressed by differences in talent or work. As someone said "the dream of Americans is equality at the starting point, the dream of the French is equality at arrival...".
- Lack of civic
sense ? Growing
: people smoking everywhere, even in non-smoking areas
(but comparative figures
show that most European countries are even worse !), people incapable
of queueing, etc...
- Illusions ? Many ridiculous aspects of the national political life, as if
France was the center of the world. A typical example being François Hollande, then candidate for the French presidency, declaring in January 2012 that, if elected, he would immediately re-negotiate the European Agreement on Budgetary Discipline which had just been painfully reached. Although used to dealing with her French partner, the German Chancellor Merkel could not believe it... In Germany, when you sign a treaty, your country is committed.
- Extremism ? Olivier Besancenot
and all these absurd trotskyist
organizations, the French passion for violent moves and revolutions
- Conservatism ? The inability to change
anything without making a big drama out of it : for instance the suppression of the "baccalaureat", which costs a fortune to organize and does not mean anything. Another example of fear and conservatism is the "precautionary principle" (see an example about shale gas).
- Grumpiness ? Grumping constantly is a national trait (in French : "râler") and being positive is often considered a sign of weakness and naivety. Why is customer service so mediocre?.
- Franco-centrism ? The French are much more interested in themselves and their rivalries than in anything happening outside France (maybe, in this regard, they are very similar to Americans….). Frequently the French, unable to agree and compromise among themselves, prefer to have their Franco-French quarrels arbitrated by foreigners. This has happened many times in history and it is very common in everyday political life.
- Read my column "A quintessential Frenchman"
- See a few quotes about the French by various writers....
- More to come (much more...)!
An example of Franco-centrism : in 1976 two French skippers, Eric Tabarly and Alain Colas, were among the best in the world. Reporting on a transatlantic race in which they were first and second, French newspapers did not headline "Two Frenchmen among the best", or "France wins", they headlined "Tabarly bat Colas" ("Tabarly beats Colas" : the other skippers did not count!).
A few examples :
- "Garde à vue" : there is no habeas corpus in France and police can keep you, without any request by a judge, for 24 hours, extendable to 48 (or 96 hours in case of suspicion of terrorism). It is called "garde a vue" (literally "kept under sight"). More about it and about French police.
- Ugly tourists : all comparative surveys show that the French are the worst tourists in the world : demanding, intolerant, cheap, etc...
- More to come ....
The French are said to be chauvinist but, in fact, they are the worst ambassadors of their country when they are abroad. Why ?
- they think they are funny : the French are so sure of their superiority that they believe they can proclaim stereotypes against themselves as a form of humor. They are surprised when foreigners take them literally.
I wrote to a magazine :"what damage can a monkey make in a space shuttle ? Not much, but Baudry can do a lot of harm : we should have sent a monkey."
|A good example is when French astronaut Patrick Baudry flew on the US shuttle in 1985, wearing a "beret basque" : it was an excellent way to proclaim to the world "France = beret + red wine" instead of "France = technology". Too bad for French exporters...
- They export their own quarrels : they often fight among themselves regardless of the impact on the opinion of foreign countries. A well-known case is when people escaped France after the invasion in 1940. Some of them went to London, following General de Gaulle. Many others went to New-York (Claude Levi-Strauss, André Breton, Saint-John Perse, etc…) where they worked very hard to destroy the image of De Gaulle for their American counterparts, chiefly Franklin Roosevelt. For him and for most Americans, De Gaulle was certainly a very dangerous person since, in a situation of war, even his own compatriots advised their allies to distrust him...
- they do not care about the opinion of other people : if they behave in a ridiculous or provocative way, never say to them "you are hurting the image of your country" because, for most French people, it is natural for other countries to love France… More about French attitudes.
- more to come...
TIP..... If you want to understand us, the French, remember
that : we are very much like YOU, the Americans : we think
that we are generally right, we too believe that everybody is watching
us, we too are sure that what we do and what we think can be useful
for the rest of the world, etc ... Read my column "No
more lectures, please!" : it could also apply to us.
Some facts & figures
- Vandalism and violence : the first year of Velib (the fantastic short-term rental bikes system in Paris), out of 20,000 bikes, 8,000 were stolen and 8,000 were so badly damaged that they had to be replaced.
|The City of Paris launched in 2009 a campaign saying "it's no fun to tear apart a Velib : it can't defend itself" (very naive, in my opinion...).
- more to come..
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