I think I have yet to see in writing an example of a foreigner mentioning the French.
Read or listen to expat rants, however, and you will soon lose track of how often the judgement "that's so French"is made in relation to bad manners, bad customer service, bad administration and pretty much any other bad thing you can think of. Given that many of the ranters are people who have expressly chosen to live here, it makes you wonder why we don't all just head back home.
It's as if we all believe that oft-quoted saying about how France would be a lovely country if it wasn't for the French.
(I don't have an awful lot of experience to go on, but I suspect this is less true for foreigners in other countries. Italians are friendly and hospitable, Americans are endlessly positive and even the British get praised in a wry kind of way for their sense of humour.)
I've been pondering the reasons for this for quite a while now and the only explanation I can come to is that it's precisely because so many of us choose to live here, as opposed to being forced by circumstances, that we are so critical: we're continually asking ourselves if we've made the right choice.
Anyway, it seems to me that this situation is very sad, that we whiners are being very rude to our hosts in our endless criticisms, and that it's time to start giving the French credit where credit is due. So here's a challenge: what are the best things you can think of about living among the French, with no buts, althoughs or if only-s allowed? (I know that this will be highly over-generalised and potentially patronising, but at least it's in a positive way!)
Here are some of mine:
The French value intellect: in this country, reading, going to museums, speaking foreign languages and watching Arte instead of reality TV are activities to be admired and will not have you exiled from the society around you for being a snob.
The French know how to drink enough to lubricate the machinery of social interaction without binge-drinking. (And yes, the wine is pretty good too!)
The French love their language. Ask them to explain a grammatical point to you and this is one moment when you are very unlikely to witness a Gallic shrug. When you can understand their wordplay, it gets even better.
The French value peace and quiet. And if people are disturbing that, they won't hesitate to tell them so.
Those are a few to start with. What are yours?