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The Ratso attitude - French spatial aggression

by Ted Welch Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 05:09:21 PM EST

"Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman): 'I'm walking here! I'm walking here!' " Midnight Cowboy

ratso-hoffman2

So often Ratso's shout seems to be the French attitude - talk about individualism ! We Brits, like Americans tend to avoid touching, so on the tram in Nice I'm often moving around while the French happily rub against each other.

Applying Carroll's theories to Britons, you understand why foreigners think we are repressed. Americans won't touch strangers, the French won't talk to them, but Brits will neither touch nor talk to them.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/db51a45e-4472-11e0-931d-00144feab49a.html

When walking and we're on a collision course with others we take evasive action, the French just keep going. Today I witnessed a classic example,a middle-aged French couple stepped into the road against a red light, a car stopped about a metre from them and beeped them. The woman scurried across, but the guy, far from apologising for nearly causing an accident, faced the car, spread his arms and yelled: "Oh ! Oh !" - how dare the driver beep him: "I'm walking here !"  I had my camera ready but was so stunned by his arrogance that I didn't take a photo.

Of course not all the French are like this, and in this case a young French guy, who was waiting for the light to change on the other side, politely pointed out to the guy that the light was red. I couldn't hear what the guy said, but the body language suggested: "So what? The driver could see me."

As I turned back from watching them and continued on my way, I had to accelerate to avoid being run down by a baby-buggy (not for the first time) pushed by a young woman who also seemed to have the Ratso attitude.

Last night on the M6 TV channel there was a report on various problems on French roads; one was what seems to be an increasing practice, an after-wedding convoy which stops, blocking main roads. This is not just selfish but dangerous, some other drivers taking risks to get round the blockage - "I'm driving here!". Some of the police turned this against the stoppers by getting ahead of them and then, while they were stopped, taking photos of them and their licence plates.


La vidéo pour revoir Enquête exclusive du dimanche 28 octobre 2012. Le magazine présenté par Bernard de la Villardière et diffusé sur M6 était titré Chauffards, voleurs et trafiquants : autoroutes à haut risque. Nous avons retrouvé un reportage sur les autoroutes où la criminalité n'a de cesse d'augmenter sous diverses formes : rodéos, passage de clandestins, trafics de drogues, attaques des stations-services, ...

http://infos-tele.fr/revoir-enquete-exclusive-sur-les-autoroutes-28-octobre-2012/

There was also a more extreme individual, who knocked over a motorcyclist who was stopped at motorway payment area, then attacked a member of staff and, when the police arrived, reversed out, smashing a barrier. But it was all recorded on video and the member of staff had recorded the sound of the incident. The police later arrested the culprit, who tried to deny it, but the evidence was too strong and he got a deserved four months in prison (not his first time inside).

Meanwhile, when in France, don't do as the French do - nor as I do, as I find myself increasingly putting my head down, ignoring those on a collision course with me. Watch out for those baby-buggies, with little kids getting an education in the Ratso attitude - "I'm being walked here !".


Display:
An interesting problem of etiquette at work, with people from several countries: do you shake hands with your colleagues every day - as the French do - or only when introduced for the first time - as was the custom when I worked in the US? I guess, it's one of the puzzling things for my colleagues who are visiting from Britain. One person has recently relocated from England to our Paris office and is now practicing the daily handshake.

And we French are only casual touchers: there are some cultures where you cannot greet someone properly without kneading their flesh for several minutes, as if checking them for cancer or something :)

Back when I was a lad, elder people were showing how to abide by the rules and were grumbling after these spoiled youngsters who didn't respect anything. The spoiled brats have gotten older, I guess...

by Bernard on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 05:27:02 PM EST
Shaking hands?

Netherlands: On New Years Eve only.
UK: You're kidding:

  • "This is X, he'll be working in this office from now on."
  • "Hey". [Nod. Fine. Whatever.]

Ah. Ratso Rizzo. Many fine things came out of that one line. The Flight of the Conchords. Various muppets.

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sapere aude
by Number 6 on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:05:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was my understanding that, unlike the "walk wherever you please" UK, in France you do need to keep off the road if not in a vehicle.

Different in cities?

Read something year ago about how Parisians don't trust a car that slows down to let them across.


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sapere aude

by Number 6 on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:57:15 PM EST
It' difficult to know. I developed a very aggressive attitude to crossing roads because here, in the south east, cars won't stop for pedestrians at designated crossings unless you make them. After a time that mutated into a cross where I like, when I like attitude.

I don't make the traffic stop except at zebra crossings, but I'm not interested in their freakouts if they can't cope with me walking in front of them.

That said, when I went to university in Manchester, I was quite put out when I discovered a much politer breed of driver who did stop without being forced to. It spoilt all my fun.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 01:48:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Drivers don't stop for you on no-lights pedestrian crossings in France either. You usually have to face them down.

On lights, otoh, it generally works out OK (and by far the majority of pedestrians respect the lights too).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:09:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm reading some forum post by an American perplexed by the supposed French convention to walk away from traffic and not into traffic when walking on the edge of a road with no separate hard shoulder or sidewalk.

Any comments on that? I though walking on the edge facing traffic was standard.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seeing people walking on country roads often, I don't think there's a rule. My impression is people don't think about it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:42:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It's another aspect of the Ratso attitude - they don't give a rat's arse where the cars are, or where they're coming from. They'll also stop suddenly in front of you, or walk up behind you talking in your ear, or a group will stop to talk, completely blocking the pavement, oblivious to the people forced into the gutter or into the path of cars. I often defend the French against criticisms by Brits, but this does get on my nerves and as it tends to be automatic body movements it's difficult to adjust. I'm not too keen on all the kissing either - when there's a group of women and they arrive one after another and each has to do the round of kissing ... well - why can't people just nod all round and get into a nice argument :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When no sidewalk or hard shoulders, you're indeed supposed to walk on the left side of the road, i.e. facing traffic (that you can see coming).

That's what I've been taught in primary school back in 1970. Walking with your back on traffic is no convention at all: that's choosing the most dangerous option as well as ignoring the law (not an unknown occurrence in France). You can point this American gentleman to the horse's mouth:

Code de la route. | Legifrance

Hors agglomération et sauf si cela est de nature à compromettre leur sécurité ou sauf circonstances particulières, ils doivent se tenir près du bord gauche de la chaussée dans le sens de leur marche.

by Bernard on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:18:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Walking on the left side is the natural choice, you want your swordarm ready to face the opposing traffic.

Swedish wikipedia claims (without source) that driving on the right is a 18th century phenomenon, as heavy wagons without a drivers seats became standard in France and the US. The driver sat on the leftside horse on the last pair of horses for easy use of the whip. Driving on the right meant being able to see that your horses did not collide with opposing traffic. Napoleon is blamed for spreading it to the rest of Europe.

Wait a minute, does this mean that the Brittish walk on the right of the road?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 06:19:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My understanding of the law is that this applies only to a pair of walkers ; for any group beyond a half dozen, you have to walk on the right side of the walk.

And of course, which is the less dangerous, walking a couple hundred of meters away from traffic, or crossing a busy road twice ? (My little sister got hit by a car having chosen the "cross twice" option)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 06:10:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They don't stop for you in Naples at pedestrian crossings, lights or no lights. On the other hand, the locals seem to just cross anywhere, and the cars slow down just enough to let you cross without appearing to be upset about it at all. I would watch someone crossing and cross alongside him, not really believing that it would work (a Neapolitan once told me that he was terrified crossing the road in Germany, as he never really believed that cars going as fast as they were would really stop at the traffic lights....)
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh god, I hate crossing roads in germany. All that stupid waiting for the lights, so conformist, so bowing your head to petty authority. If there's nothing coming, why can't I cross ?

It gets like the US, where the traffic are so conditioned to their automatic supremacy that they're actually dangerous when confronted with a pedestrian.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:12:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If there's nothing coming, why can't I cross ?

You can. I do, and so do lots of other people. On the other hand, you might want to wait, in case you were looking in the wrong direction.....

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:18:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As driving does not involve the weak nuclear force, I always look both ways before crossing.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:19:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're distinctly more jaywalkerish than the French...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:31:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I prefer to think of it as appropriately bold

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:41:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"Than MANY of the French - outside of Nice" :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:46:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you seen Helen cross major Paris thoroughfares?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:48:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Sober ? Er, no :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:56:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I may drink but I haven't reached my age by being stupid with traffic. I am aggressive when I'm sober, far more cautious when drunk

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:14:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Of course I meant - had I seen you in Paris when I was sober ? Don't remember such a state during an ET meet :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:59:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
:-)))

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 03:56:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, she's given us quite a fright on several occasions.
by Bernard on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:20:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the misapprehension that Nice is in France?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Copé seems to think so - he was here tonight - the little toad.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 07:36:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course not. It should be part of Italy, shouldn't it?
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 02:04:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
Oh god, I hate crossing roads in germany.

LOL. Helen's face when I told her that pedestrians can be fined when caught crossing at "red" was a sight. It was a traumatising event for her, obviously.

by Katrin on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 07:12:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. Last time I was in Frankfurt, people ignored red lights in droves (in spite of nice warning signs telling adults to be models for children), and there was no one around to handle out fines.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 07:47:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was, it was

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 03:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the Netherlands I actually had a policeman say to the people about to cross (including me), "stay there or you'll get a fine". He seemed annoyed at having to enforce this particular law.


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sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 05:27:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland also has such a rule, Sweden does not. Or actually I think there is a rule in Sweden against crossing but it carries no punishment, something odd like that.

Before I understood that it was unlawful to crosss agaisnt the red light in Finland I was trying to understand if they were hearing a car approaching or something. I crossed and felt like a German (Germans in Sweden appear to be impervious to the Swedish way of upholding social conventions with an angry stare at the back of the offender).

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 05:56:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A friend from Sweden got his first and only ticket for "jaywalking" in Seattle, in approximately 1982. He thought it was a joke and didn't pay it. The end result was that a $10 ticket ended up costing him $55.
by sgr2 on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 04:26:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

That still leaves quite a large minority down here in Nice who've been Ratsos in their buggies before they could even walk :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:31:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, Nice...

Next thing you'll be saying Marseille...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:45:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]

A lot of the M6 prog about wedding parties blocking traffic and the guy who hit the motor cyclist and motorway staff guy was shot in Marseille :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:53:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
I was quite put out when I discovered a much politer breed of driver who did stop without being forced to. It spoilt all my fun.

i'm the guy in the car who likes to do that... watching peoples' expressions of shock is ample payback for the few minutes later i make it home.

it's hilarious how some are grateful, and give me a cheery smile, some resolutely look ahead and pretend everything's normal (!), and some snarl with rage. now i understand the last group, i stole their fun, lol!

germany and switzerland win the prize for dirty looks when i walk across a pedestrian crossing on a red light, even when there isn't a car in sight. frosty disapproval all the way to 'this is how proper society crumbles looks-that-could-kill.

having hitched in many euro countries in my salad daze, i remember one day near fontainebleue where a driver slowed down, i ran up to enter, and he rolled down the window just to spit at me before roaring off in a cloud of uncatalysed charbon.

i did my gallic shrug impression, but at that speed i doubt if he looked in his rear view mirror...

god know what he would have done if he had heard my french!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 09:41:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometimes you really need a bit of agressivity to cross the road, like me two years ago... :

Maybe the French influence ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 06:30:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's very regional. (stand by for some stereotypes...)

Ted's Ratso friend is a southerner, and the body language is very different down there. What with the climate and all, they tend to live outside, and to feel much more at home in the street than northerners. Then there are sub-cultures -- perhaps Monsieur Ratso was a Mia.

But yeah, pedestrian crossings are no help, you remain a target. I try to shame people into stopping, but sometimes I just don't have the guts.

But in the west, drivers are less disrespectful. Probably in the east too, and conceivably in the north.

And in small towns, you'll be generally OK. (In the country, watch out for drunks.)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 02:30:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

" I try to shame people into stopping, but sometimes I just don't have the guts."

You have to be a bit of a matador; tilt your head down and stare at them, keep the shoulders back, the hips forward while you take a couple of steps into the road slightly towards them "Ho ! Chauffard ! (roadhog - related animal term) - I'm strutting here !" :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:39:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Which reminds me that during my first trip to Spain, in San Sebastion, on the back of my friend's scooter, an old guy in a cape and with a cane did walk out in front of us in this kind of way - I was struck by his dignity and presence - might have been a retired flamenco dancer :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Definite regional differences, with Paris being the worst. When I was in Western France a few years back, not only were drivers mindful of pedestrians, but once when another car recklessly overtook the car I hitch-hiked, my driver cursed "Parisien!"

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 07:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read that it's impolite in France to scoot along the row in the cinema, to reach a seat more in the middle, with one's derriere (sp?) away from the screen, and that one should ease down the row FACING those who are seated.

Is that true?

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 02:08:46 PM EST
I don't think I've ever heard complaints about the other way round, but actually that seems natural to me. Unless you're going to ignore the people you're sidling past.

(Oh, I must have become French, it must be catching... Aaaargh)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hadn't noticed that, but then I don't go to cinema very often as there are so often irritating people there, eating noisily, talking, pushing the seats in front of them, etc. "relous" as talented young Norman calls them.

He's a bit of a phenomenon on the net, with about 800,000 followers for his short, funny videos, shot simply in his small apartment. He's been offered jobs, but likes to keep his independence to comment (and swear) as he wants. However he has accepted some sponsorship by Orange which enables him to shoot in a cinema, etc.

Your comment reminded me of this video in which, indeed, this kind of annoying person, who needs to go pee four or five times "turning moments of suspense into an aerobics session", does turn toward the person they're passing.

The first bit is about those "relous" who spend about two hours noisily unwrapping sweets.  After the aerobics bit he wishes he could order someone talking about a sandwich to be quiet and go and get him a sandwich - with salad and mayonaise - and the guy does it. But there are other types - who spread their arms like the guy confronting the car, and he says "I'v nothing special to say to you - merci". Usually he resorts to "ruminage", coughing to signal irritation. He ends by saying that he's worried that some day he may lose control - "I've done judo".  

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjfp4o_norman-fait-son-cinema-ep2-les-relous_fun

There are more at:

http://www.youtube.com/user/NormanFaitDesVideos

with the one introducing them about internet comments - "When Americans come across a French video, it's: 'French suxxx!' " :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 03:24:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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