What do the French really think of us Brits?

By the time you read this it will either be going ahead or not and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about! By now, the rest of Europe must be so fed up with the whole business of Brexit, and I’m sure that the French and other European nations must wish that Britain would fall off the White Cliffs of Dover and sink into the sea. That is, if they can be bothered to think about the sorry mess at all.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 10:26 am
Updated Thursday, 24th October 2019, 1:55 pm
John, a typical French onion seller, pictured in Sheffield after he started using an old car instead of a bike

By and large of recent times, I thought we had a pretty good relationship with the French. We are their principal visitors and we send our children there often on school trips hoping to inject a bit of culture into their lives. In fact, we’re frequent visitors to most European countries.

We’re very impressed by the cleanliness of the French people. They know how to use bidets and they always shower before they enter the swimming pool which is something Brits never do.

But what do they really think of British people? Of course, much of what is reported that they think is inaccurate, and I don’t necessarily agree with it. Well, not all of it!

One thing they criticise Brits for is their inability to speak any language except their own and expect arrogantly that every other nation should speak English, even though the Europeans say there are so many regional accents in Britain that it’s hard to know exactly what the English language is. They wonder where our French lessons at school went wrong when most of us can only say ‘Merci’ ‘or ‘Bonjour.’ Those of us who can remember how to ask for a window to be opened consider themselves to be practically bi-lingual. I must admit that my knowledge of people who do speak French is limited, but it can be done. My brother-in-law is fluent in the language after acquiring a French penfriend when he was at school, writing letters to him completely in French, to which his friend replied in English. It was the start of his considerable skills in other languages. Perhaps that could be the answer?

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Having a penfriend was all the rage when I was a young teenager. Should it be revived? Even though most young people today are hard pressed to ever put pen to paper!

The French have always been famous for their cuisine. Something which they have long been critical of in Brits. As a nation we can’t cook, food is tasteless, lacks variety, vegetables are a mushy mess, our interpretation of foreign dishes is abysmal, and we are obsessed with roast beef. Brits have actually had the nickname of ‘roast beefs’ in France. Oh, and they think we are also obsessed with drinking tea, that’s when we’re not drinking copious amount of beer! Our love of tomato ketchup is legendary, and we eat it on just about everything.

They say we don’t know how to pour wine correctly and in fact they think we don’t know very much about wine anyway and wouldn’t know a good bottle of wine from a bad one.

They feel that we often have double standards. They say that we criticise them for eating foie gras, but that we cull cute little animals like badgers, with many Brits being okay with the barbaric so-called sport of fox hunting!

Our children are generally quite unruly and undisciplined which is why they grow up into football hooligans. Come to think of it, the French think Brits are far too obsessed with football anyway, also the obsession with the Royal family and with the weather.

Where British fashion sense is concerned, the French think it non-existent. French women in particular are very critical about their British counterparts. They say that they feel at their skinniest and most attractive when they visit Britain where women are overweight, wear badly fitting clothes and pay no attention to personal grooming. The way to guess that a British woman is over fifty is to look at her steel grey, cropped head of hair. French women seem to approach ageing differently and spend vast amounts of money having their hair and nails done. They are critical of British undies which they say are either granny or sluttish. And we let our young women walk about half naked.

British men also come in for criticism by the French fashion gendarmes. They wear socks with sandals, jeans and trainers for almost any occasion, and have large beer bellies.

But there must be some things the French admire about us?

Well, they do admire our ability to keep calm no matter what. We are very good at ‘stiff upper lips’ and we have an innate sense of fair play. We have an enviable music scene. The French think Britain invented rock and roll.

Even though we think we are the best at everything, we are usually honest, can even be humble sometimes, and willing to admit that where sport is concerned, we may be slipping a bit at the moment. We can be quite modest when we do achieve something, and we are very polite. We say ‘sorry’ all the time, even when it’s not our fault, and we are generally very easy to please and don’t complain very much. In restaurants, if we are asked if the meal was okay, we always answer that it was very good even if we thought it was inedible! By and large we don’t tend to be as bad tempered or volatile as the French do.

However, if you asked anyone here to describe a typical Frenchman, it would be a short guy with a handlebar moustache, riding a bicycle, with a baguette under his arm and a string of onions round his neck! Oh, and he’d be going to meet his lover as everyone knows the French are obsessed by sex. Which just goes to show that everyone’s opinion of another nationality can be subject to stereotypes and not necessarily correct.