Thursday, 7 June 2012

So British!

Contrary to the popular myth that is often peddled in the low-class corners of the British media, the French attitude towards the British is not summed up entirely in an arrogant stare and a Gallic shrug.

Not at all. In fact, apart from a persistent inability to understand our national addiction to jelly* (despite being perfectly capable of appreciating much stranger specialities, such as haggis and marmite), in this year of Jubilee and Olympics, the French actually have something of an obsession with all things British going on.

The magazine section of last weekend's Journal du Dimanche was "un numéro so British" and contained two interesting spreads, one reporting on the things that French people living in the UK appreciate chez les Anglais and the other listing things that those stuck on the other side of the channel would like to steal from their neighbours. Here is a selection of the most interesting:

They like:
- the way every negotiation begins with small-talk ("une façon moins brutale de dialoguer")
- vinegar crisps and 24 hour Tesco
- the teachers ("j'y apprends avec plaisir")
- respect for animals
- clean streets
- tolerance and reluctance to judge by appearances.

They want:
- black cabs
- punctuality
- bridesmaids (Pippa Middleton has made her mark here too!)
- tax deducted at source
- public services with simple procedures, quick replies and clear explanations.

I can do without Pippa Middleton, but if I could have packed the last two in my suitcase, I'd definitely have slipped them across on the Eurostar too!

* and the fact that this addiction to jelly is 99% a figment of their imagination - I personally had not eaten it for about 20 years until Tuesday lunchtime when our well-meaning catering staff at work served it up in celebration of Her Majesty's big day, and neither had anyone else I asked. We did, however, have a long debate about the merits or otherwise of sherry trifle.


  1. Ha, I'd never heard of the French jelly complex until an English friend of mine brought up the story of how her French boyfriend used to always tease her about eating jelly and she denied having eaten it since the age of about 12. Lo and behold, they visit her family for the first time, and what do you think gets served up for dessert???

    That's a big YES to the tax thing as well!

  2. Hello, I have just stumbled upon this blog via the 'assistants in France' site. I'm not currently an assistant in France but I was one a couple of years ago and I might be one again this year if my applications to be a recruté locale are successful.

    I second the jelly thing. None of my French friends believe me when I say that we Brits don't eat it that often and you only really see it at children's birthday parties or student events (vodka jelly shots). They also seem to find the concept of baked beans revolting.

    Even two years ago there seemed to be a fad for all things "so British" (incidentally can anyone explain the origin of this phrase? I have never heard it being used outside France). I had no end of compliments about my clothes, which were, apparently, "so British". I blame Dr Who...

    Unfortunately, many of our so-called 'broadsheets' perpetuate that myth too. The British press is one thing that I would gladly leave behind should I move back to France later this year.

  3. Hi Lindsay, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    I must admit I forgot about vodka jelly when I wrote this, but we can count that as a student lapse into childhood, right?

    Hope you make it back to France!