You wouldn’t think that the French and the English could be very different, after all we’re only separated by 21 miles of water but we are. Chalk and cheese or cats and dogs, the French are nothing like the English…
- Staring: The French were never taught as children that it’s rude to stare. They are openly curious about you – what you are eating, what you are doing, what you are wearing and they won’t look away until they’ve figured you out. We’re in a ground floor apartment and some days it feels like open season at the zoo.
- Queueing: Bit of an obvious one this but it’s true, the French do not like to queue. In cars, in shops for anything really. The art of not queueing is a mystery to me but they seem to manage it – I think it’s chaotic but then I’m English.
- Pushing: The French do not understand or appreciate the body buffer zone – the space around you that is yours. They see nothing wrong with joining you on a park bench or even half sitting on you and your belongings so that they and their friends can sit where you’re sitting.
- Out in front: They love to stay in front of you – even when they don’t know where they’re going – on foot and in the car, I think it must be seen as a personal insult if you get past them. Frequently when we’re wandering around Chamonix we’ll see tourists trying to stay in front of you without any idea where they’re going.
- Speaking: They don’t like you to talk to them in English but they’ll talk to the Italians,Germans and Japanese in English – it’s the international emergency language.
This makes the French seem like a rude bunch but really they’re not. The look that I take for disdain when I try to speak French to them is the look of them trying to understand me. Every time they see you eating they wish you ‘Bon Appetit’. They are a proud nation, where flying the flag is reserved for Government buildings and has nothing to do with football. Chavs do not exist, they do not litter (except for cigarette ends). They drive French cars fast – we got overtaken by a Twingo up an alpine pass last week!
I love their way of life. Shutting shops at lunch time for 2-3 hours so they have a decent lunch break. You hardly ever see a French person eating on the go. Cheap, plastic sandwiches are replaced with fresh baguettes made while you wait. You can get a croque monsieur just about anywhere at lunchtime in France – even up a mountain. The French do not do ‘going to the pub to get plastered’, instead they go out for a meal and drink wine. Consequently the high streets are not littered with pubs but rather bars and restaurants where you can eat in peace, bring your children and not have to wrap your handbag strap around an immovable object! They do great coffee – believe me the Nescafe we have in England is nothing like the stuff they have here. They have tonnes of bank holidays and the whole of August off. It’s a great work/life balance.