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It's not been my experience of the French that they condescend to the British.

They are too polite to insult your compatriots to your face :-) This is from 1997 - and such things tend not to change very fast:

    International News     Electronic Telegraph
    Sunday 9 March 1997

    French pupils taught to denigrate Britain

By Susannah Herbert and Tim Reid

A NEW textbook used in French schools and universities paints Britain as an economically backward nation, full of chauvinist snobs and rapidly approaching social, political and moral disintegration.

La Grande Bretagne Contemporaine, or Contemporary Britain, is a recently published bilingual text portraying the British as a race that "in social matters has taken a gigantic step - towards the past". A flick through the book discloses that its author, Isabelle Ayasch, a fluent English speaker educated at Oxford University and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, left her English alma mater with a rather jaundiced view of British life.

The North of England is "a victim of . . . financial, intellectual and moral poverty . . . and has fallen into a state of almost chronic depression". The Londoner's quality of life is "probably among the worst in Europe". The British press - notwithstanding its reputation for "freedom and subversion" - is "nothing more than a tool of the Establishment".

Mlle Ayasch continues: "In 1997 Britain is, in social terms, back where it was at the peak of the Industrial Revolution . . . except that there is no industrial revolution taking place at the moment. There might not even be one [in the future], because Britain is so divided on the social front that it is prevented from moving forward economically."


Last week one of France's most popular chat shows, Ca se discute, joined the fray. The British, it was opined, are hypocritical, distant, excessively law-abiding and inclined to drink too much. Instead of wit, we have incomprehensible eccentric humour.

Instead of encouraging civilised male-female relations, the British glorify the "boys' night out" and "the pub crawl". Socially, gastronomically and even sexually, the British, implied the show's host, Jean-Luc Delarue, are still stuck in the Stone Age. Euro-sceptic Conservative MPs yesterday denounced the book.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 10:39:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds to me like the textbook got it right.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 11:06:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would never give the benefit of the doubt to the Telegraph to portray this story accurately, but this is strage stuff for a text book. It reads more like the typical no-evidence anti-French ravings one finds among Anglo right-wingers.

"excessively law abiding", if only, and what a bizarre insult.

The North, a victim of "moral" poverty. what does that mean?

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 11:44:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think you understand me. I'm saying that, in more than thirty years in France, I have not found the French to have condescending attitudes to the British. That is, smug attitudes that assume superiority.

I'm not talking about insults, or even mistaken views (though not everything cherry-picked from that book* is mistaken, imo). Nor complaints (which I have heard) about British attitudes to France and the French: often justified, in my view. I'm often ashamed of the strident anti-French noise kept up by the Eurosceptic conservative press in the UK. The newspaper you quote from, though it has pretentions to "quality", is part of the chorus. The article is no exception: after a series of out-of-context quotes from a book*, we read:

Last week one of France's most popular chat shows, Ca se discute, joined the fray.

What fray? The one the Telegraph is laboriously attempting to whip up? Are we supposed to imagine all France frothing at the mouth against Britain? What bollocks.

FWIW, Ca se discute is or was not a chat show, but a fake debate (hosted by, indeed, a rat fink). I've no idea what was said in that particular show, but there would have been different and opposing points of view. However, Delarue would have made sure to "pepper" his show with controversial and noisy participants. That's no excuse, but it's not the Telegraph's version, is it?

* The book: googling reveals this bilingual essay was meant for students of the classes prépa and university undergraduates, not for use in schools as the Telegraph wrongly states. It was not a work of "indoctrination" nor a textbook, but a work of reflection. And for all I know, possibly a good one!

And then, thanks to the Telegraph we read:

French pupils taught to denigrate Britain

Euro-sceptic Conservative MPs yesterday denounced the book. Teresa Gorman, the MP for Billericay, said: "This just reflects the true view that the French have of the British.

"They have always thought of the British as the coarse peasants waiting for the niceties of French civilisation. But it was us coarse British who ran the Industrial Revolution while the French were sitting around knitting doilies, before chopping up their aristocracy. That's how civilised they are."

Lovely. They can scrape around for anti-British sentiment in the French media if they like, but it's symptomatic that this (exaggerated) example is over ten years old. Examples are hard to find.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 11:48:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Afew doth protest too much, methinks :-)

I didn't offer it as the latest really sound sociological research - I was traeting this more at the level of banter - with a particularly critical example.

Yes, I KNOW it's from the Telegraph, and I know Eurosceptics seize on it, and OK they made an error about "schools".

That said, as redstar comments:

Sounds to me like the textbook got it right.


and as you say:

not everything cherry-picked from that book* is mistaken

Regrettable as it is.

Montserrat came away from a short course at Oxford with a somewhat jaundiced view of the English, their food and their increasing tendency to obesity (yes, the French are sadly putting on the poids too; but have a bit of catching up to do) - much as she came to like pubs :-)

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

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 12:38:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I didn't have my banter detector on High ;). Anyway, I was responding to the Telegraph's broadside, not to you personally, as I'm sure you understood. :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 01:00:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The British are excessively law-abiding?

So they're, what? German?

Il faut se dépêcher d'agir, on a le monde à reconstruire

by dconrad (drconrad {arobase} gmail {point} com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 02:23:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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