Posted by: kathandroger | June 26, 2013

Pessimistic French

I’ve read a few articles lately in the press about how the French are the most pessimistic nation in the world – remarkably even more so than countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Other articles suggest a state of deep depression among our Gallic friends verging on despair. Given the natural beauty of the country, the fabulous food and wine, the 35-hour working week (yes, it still exists!), the decent climate (usually) and let’s face it, greater stability than a war zone, it is difficult to understand why the french are quite so down.

We have definitely noticed ‘miserableness’ to be a bit of a character trait in our 4 years in France; most people like nothing better than a good old moan! But why? Well at the moment there are a few things that accentuate the feeling of gloom. The weather’s been rubbish for weeks; record levels of rain combined with low temperatures. Whilst the Brits are capable of shrugging their shoulders, it really had got everyone here down. Next, the President. He is uninspiring and a bit of a laughing-stock on the world stage. Doesn’t help national pride. Then there is the economy; everyone knows the situation is dire and tough action needs to be taken, but so far it hasn’t happened – difficult times lie ahead. There is also something about the French education system which knocks confidence in many; marking is tough and most people emerge with low-ish grades, compared to the UK system where you get a gold star for turning up and A star for trying hard. I think, though, there is something more fundamental about the French losing their place in the world order. Their language is less important and they struggle to find their place in an anglophone, globalised economy that they don’t particularly like. In his/her heart the average french person is very averse to change and so adapting to the new order is pretty daunting. The danger is that the nation responds by seeking political solace in a party that claims to offer traditional  French values …Marine Le Pen’s Front National. Last week a by-election almost went their way, with the FN candidate heavily outscoring the socialist party in the first round and missing out in the second round by just a few minor percentage points. History suggests that when a nation feels threatened the nationalists come to the fore. I fear that may well happen  in France…


  1. Very interesting!
    I hadn’t particularly noticed the grumpiness, although thinking about it, our neighbour Mme André seems to enjoy a good grumble! We usually cheer her up with the silly antics we Brits get up to, and our ludicrous attempts at conversation in French!
    Maybe we spend so much time with other Brits that we don’t notice it. I will pay more attention to the bits of conversation around me that I can understand next time we are chez nous.

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