Posted by: keepfishing | May 4, 2008

The French

When it comes to opinions about the French, it is not an option to be ambivalent or abstain. No matter who you talk to, virtually everyone has something to say about the noble country. Some may comment on their excellent wines and peerless food. Others might chose to focus on the beautiful range of terrain, from the beaches in the south to the valleys of the north, or the impressive mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees. The long history of art and culture may become the focus of the conversation, or maybe some will mention their general crapness at wars (Agincourt, Napoleon’s assault on Moscow, both World Wars…). Still others might pick up on the attitude (some might say arrogance) that they don’t care what anyone else thinks – Chirac insisting meetings be conducted in French, nuclear testing in the Pacific, port blockades to stop British meat being imported…


My Granny has decided to take matters into her own hands and placed a personal embargo on all things French (although when she buys wine by the case, somehow the Bordeaux often escapes her notice), and can often be heard justifying her decision by declaring ‘we hate the French!’


Wherever you go it seems, everyone has an opinion about the French. And it seems that this does not just cover the French, but anywhere the French used to have an influence, such as West Africa.


David, a Zanzibari guy who drove us to our boat the other day was asked if he spoke French. He shook his head and laughed for a bit, before launching into a tirade about how the French speakers refuse to speak anything else but French and ‘are so proud’. Indeed, as far as I can tell, in Stonetown, they are never found alone, but always in little clusters and greeting each other ‘Mademoiselle’ (although the guy I keep seeing with them wearing an England football cap may be an imposter). 


It seems that you can travel the world, dive headlong into totally alien cultures, and some things never change.


  1. France was on the winning side in World War One. Mind you, so was Italy, so what does that tell you? As it happens, I quite like France and the French, so maybe I’m an exception.

  2. Lol. Isn’t that the same with lots of countries – everyone has an opinion of the Scots, the irish, the english, the americans, the germans, the chinese, japanese…

  3. maybe there’s something inherent in the french language that forces people to think in arrogant terms… like the big brother attempt to weed out rebellion by removing words from the language that would allow people to think in those terms. Maybe there’s just no french equivalent for “i might be wrong”

    In the words of Charles de Gaulle: “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese”

    Having said all that, the British can hardly claim to be above such language derived mindsets either: How are you? not bad, can’t complain, musn’t grumble…

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