Why we pretend to hate French people
- They refuse to learn our language
One of the great assurances about travelling abroad, as an English speaker, is the knowledge that we can say "Do-oo yo-oo spee-ee-eek Eeen-gleee-sh?" and suddenly surmount the language barrier. Only in third world countries does this rule not apply.
The French are the only exception. Perhaps it's the fact that they were at war for so long with England. Perhaps it's just pride. But the French steadfastly resist attempts to Anglicize their entire nation, and will speak French wherever possible. Not because they can't speak English - continental Europe has the best language teaching methods in the world. Just because they want to.
Incidentally, next time you're in a restaurant, try interrupting the waiter when he's reciting the specials and ask "parlez vous francais?" See what reaction you get.
- They still love art
I read once in a newspaper that French people are more likely to ask "what are you reading?" than "have you seen any good films recently?". The person who wrote the article seemed to think that this was a bad thing.
Art is dying. I was recently at a production in a 150-year old theatre. The play was free, but there were large collection buckets at the front asking for cash so that the theatre could be refurbished and the leaks in the roof be repaired. Later I learned that the leaks would never be repaired. The money was going directly into the till of the bar next door, which was a far more stable profit source for the owner.
The arts scene in France is equally chaotic, but it has one essential difference - most French people believe in it as a noble and worthy cause. In English-speaking society, this is by and large seen as ponciness. Then I watch Gladiator, and feel sad.
- They understand love a bit better. No honestly, they do.
I remember sitting with a French girl in sunshine once, lying amongst the grass and flowers and talking about nothing. I picked a daisy and taught her a rhyme from my childhood as I picked the leaves, "she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me..." until the leaves ran out.
She smiled at me and taught me the French version:
"He loves me."
"Not at all."
She smiled as she picked the last leaf. It was "pas du tout" - not at all. I haven't been quite the same since.
Note to future noders: some writeups have already been nuked from this node for relying on the words "garlic", "frog", "armpit hair", "smelly" and "Camembert". Please don't debase yourself by repeating their mistakes.