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:
- 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.
- black cabs
- 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.