Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

La Vie Londonienne

by afew Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 04:09:34 AM EST

I remember a time when the UK was not yet in the "Common Market", as we used to say. From central London newsmerchants, you could get a copy of a French newspaper. If you were an antisocial polluter of other people's lungs, as I was then, you could buy French cigarettes. Then you could sit down for a coffee or a glass of wine and read your paper and smoke. You could hear French conversation around you, especially in South Kensington, where the Lycée français is. This was part of the cosmopolitan colour of London life.

Thirty-five years later, it seems it's a big deal:

Bloomberg.com: Exclusive - London's French Foreign Legion Shuns Sarkozy Plea to Come Home

On Bute Street in South Kensington, you can pick up the Paris newspaper Le Monde at the French Book Shop and read it across the street while sipping an espresso at a sidewalk table of La Grande Bouchee, a Parisian-style deli. Nearby stands Monceau Fleurs, the Parisian florist's first U.K. outlet.

Oh, good, and it seems the Lycée français is still turning candidates away, as it used to. Apart from that, this Bloomberg article Jerome linked to the other evening tells us top French restaurateurs have opened London branches, surprise surprise. That smaller luxury food suppliers find their niche, a French baker being shown as an example. That London being congested and expensive doesn't put off a Chelsea-dwelling bestselling French author, who doesn't mind if British public services are "a catastrophe". That an expat lady has written a book about her experience of the English. That there's a magazine (at least one) for French ex-pats. That a Frenchman who found high-school visits to London horrible is really quite taken with the place now he's an analyst for JPMorgan and lunches at a top (French) restaurant...

I'm not being fair, am I? Of course London is a wealthier and more cosmopolitan place than it was a few decades ago. Of course there are many more French there now then back then (so much the better). But this "local colour" round-up by the Bloomberg journalists is not so very convincing.

The ideological slant of the piece, on the other hand, doesn't miss its target.

Blinkers and Bias

First of all, what they don't mention:

  • the European Union and its citizens' residence rights, which are obviously part of the explanation for marginal migratory movements like this one (in other words, they are entirely to be expected);
  • the growth of "globalising" factors such as faster and better telecommunications and transport (Channel tunnel? Low-cost flights?) that also play an enabling role;
  • the corresponding movement of UK citizens to France, (where there's a string of magazines and newspapers for expats, and "Brits in France" books, starting with Peter Mayle's, are innumerable);
  • young French in London doing menial service work (exclusively glitzy stuff in this article);
  • not surprisingly, the Anglo Disease: London as a mushrooming financial services centre sucking in investment and skilled labour from the periphery.

This last point seems important, since it suggests the reason for the difference in type and outlook between the French and British migrations. The companion to the UK financial services boom is the housing bubble, that overflows to the high-gentrification-potential French property market. Meanwhile, London's labour market is tight and draws from a considerable distance the workers it requires (whether in menial or financial services, French candidates who are willing to make the jump are likely to be motivated and more than sufficiently skilled/qualified), and small entrepreneurs (from bakers to Michelin-starred restaurateurs) find niches for French specialities on a money-flooded local market (the competition is non-existent, says the baker).

But the article gives a simpler account, making use of quotes from the baker (the French are on strike, in France you work for others, you're dead before you start), and their own interspersed "expert" background. The economy, of course: the same old story of "lagging" French GDP growth, strong UK growth. Yes, London is a boom town. The problem for the UK is that everything is centred on London, and growth is based on financial services and the housing bubble. We may be seeing now what that is worth in the longer term (even if we know what will happen to us in the long term). The other element, of course, is jobs: Britain has created them, France hasn't. Quite untrue, as Jerome pointed out for the umpteenth time: over the last ten years, France and the UK have each created 2.5 million jobs. What's more, UK job creation has been more heavily skewed to the public sector (almost a million of those 2.5 million jobs). Authors Deen and Katz roll out the unemployment rate, 7.9% for France, 5.2% for the UK. The UK rate, unfortunately, is plain false: there's enough long-term unemployment hidden in Incapacity Benefit to take the UK level up to the French one. And, since the article refers to youth, the number of jobseekers among the 16-24 group in each country is substantially similar for a similar-sized population (around 600,000 for a population of around 7 million, OECD figures, or approximately 8.5%).

The icing on the cake, though, is Sarkozy, whose campaign rhetoric :

You've brought so much intelligence, imagination, passion for work and desire for success with you to London that you have helped give it vitality that Paris needs so much

is adduced by the authors as a kind of evidence for their main point, as if what Sarko says ever proves anything.

How Many?

Numbers too are quoted without much sourcing. There are 190,000 French in London, says the article. Well, it's hard to know, just as it's hard to know how many Brits are in France. People are free to move and are not required to register. Census figures are probably short (INSEE gives 120,000 British citizens in France, [h/t to Melanchthon], with 45,000 arriving in 2004-5, but the total is probably higher).

The UK Office for National Statistics has migration stats compiled from other sources (International Passenger Survey) than the Census. This links to a recent .xls file giving immigration numbers from 1991 to 2006. The breakdown is not by country, but numbers are given for EU15. The positive balance, over those sixteen years, is 257,000 EU15 immigrants into the entire UK. Not much room there for the Gallic invasion of London. But the sources used for these numbers may be insufficient.

There are also consular data. A citizen of France in Britain (and vice versa) may register with their consulate, though it's not obligatory. The British Embassy in Paris gives the figure of 200,000 UK citizens living in France, though second-home owners/weekly commuters would probably make that higher.

Consular numbers for registered French citizens living in the UK give 111,000 in 2006 (pdf).

By way of comparison, the same consular tables indicate, for the other neighbouring countries of France, registered French citizens at these levels: Germany 109,000; Belgium 82,000; Italy 45,000; Spain 82,000; Switzerland 130,000 (champion because of the holes in the cheese, not because it's a tax haven). So one could say that there's nothing absolutely exceptional about the UK number. The French are not all leaving France to cross the Channel.

Then there's the question of how many non-registered migrants there are. A 2000 report from the French Senate quotes a consular document (La Communauté française dans la circonscription de Londres. Consulat Général de France à Londres, Mai 2000, not available online), as saying

Le chiffre souvent avancé d'un nombre de non-immatriculés égal au moins au double des immatriculés est vraisemblablement en deçà de la réalité. Les explications à une telle proportion de non-immatriculés ne peuvent résulter que de conjectures. Plusieurs facteurs sont à prendre en compte: ici, peut-être encore plus qu'ailleurs, l'immatriculation auprès du Consulat Général est perçue comme d'autant moins utile que la France est très proche et les liaisons nombreuses et faciles. L'environnement local renforce ces réactions: le pays, ne présente pas de risque particulier, les facilités d'intégration y sont grandes, les formalités administratives britanniques souvent réduites à un minimum font ressortir d'autant l'approche "paperassière" de la démarche d'immatriculation. The figure often suggested, that the number of non-registered nationals equals at least twice the registered number, is probably on the short side. Explanations for such a high number of non-registered nationals can only be derived from conjecture. Several factors need taking into account: here [London], perhaps more than elsewhere, registration with the consulate is not perceived as of any use since France is very close and there are plenty of easy connections. Local conditions strengthen this attitude: the country offers no particular risk, integration is easy, and British formalities, often minimal, contrast with the "red-tape" aspect of consular registration.

Applying that formula (at least tripling the number of non-registered to get the full number) to the year 2006 would indicate from 333,000 to upwards of perhaps 400,000 French citizens living in the UK. On that basis, 190,000 in London doesn't seem outrageous. Though, as they say, we're in conjecture-land here.

What's not conjecture is that the Bloomberg article presents the phenomenon as something colossal, and searches for no nuance in assigning causes. They are the usual (bogus) economic clichés, pointed up by the baker's rancorous comments. The impression given is that the UK is the land of freedom, while France is mired in tax-and-regulate socialistic bureaucracy. In fact, it feels to me like Iron Curtain propaganda Lite, especially as it's not an isolated occurrence -- this narrative has been communicated repeatedly in the business and mainstream media over well-nigh a decade now. And it produces results. It increases British smugness towards France (if that were possible), and it increases a sense of social pessimism in France by which younger, educated people in particular bitterly trash the country as a hopeless mess. They do have some reasons for frustration in the bitty obstacle race that constitutes their entry into working life, though they may also be assuming they have an automatic right to an immediate good job thanks to their diploma, and some of them may certainly be looking at London through rose-tinted glasses. But that, right now, looks set to change...

Oh, An Opinion Poll!

Just for fun, and to add to the 2006 ICM poll I cited here, here's news of another opinion poll:

1 out of 3 Britons would prefer to live in France - French embassy - Ambassade de France

Carried out during French Wines Week in London, a new ICM poll¹ reveals the impact of the French lifestyle on the British.

According to the survey, a third of British citizens say they would rather live in France than the United Kingdom. Italy and Spain come third.

Of those aged under 50, one in five British citizens would have preferred to have been born in France rather than the United Kingdom and two out of five would be prepared to cross the Channel and set up home in France..

In their quest for a better life, the British are attracted by the wealth and diversity of France's culture and of course her gastronomic tradition. Even when asked for their favourite breakfast, three fifths of those under 50 would opt for coffee and croissants rather than a full English.

Over the past decade, France has been captivating more and more people from across the Channel. Another reason for this fascination is the success some French celebrities have been having in Britain: the "Thierry" factor (Thierry Henry), films such as "Amélie Poulain" and "The Da Vinci Code" are contributing to this British passion for France.

¹Poll commissioned by French Wines involved interviews with 1,010 people aged 18 and over in the UK during August 2006.

(My bold.) They obviously got them sloshed before they asked the questions :-)

I know, I know, we've been here before, n'est-ce pas? But it just keeps on coming, as slanted and fake as this stuff.

The meltdown in the World of Finance™ may well cramp London's style for some time to come. Will that deeply change the media narrative? That's where I have my doubts...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 04:14:15 AM EST
It just never stops, and it's damn depressing. I was at a conference yesterday, and I was told that I should stop believe in Santa Claus (the guy actually said that, and expressed his pity and disappointment, as a "leftwing guy", that I'd utter such ideological nonsense) when I brought up some of the idea we discuss here about France and the Anglo Disease.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 05:21:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what comes of being a Pinko Subversive.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:26:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What nationality was this "leftwing guy"?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:58:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But he then proceeded to tell me how great the Swedish model was...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 08:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what's so leftwing about him.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 08:35:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd have thought you rather liked Swedish Models. There's one called Inga who's a cracker.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 11:31:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, no. The French are all about Italian models these days.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 11:51:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A "socialist" no doubt.

Y'know, you can always come over, away from the "dark side," to employ the metaphorical devices of your previous interlocutor. You just have to become accustomed to keeping quiet about things while participating in professional events and such...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 10:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migration is not only to be expected, it's a desired outcome of the EU. The headline should be "Europe works: isn't it great!" or possibly "Journalists are lazy beyond all belief".
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 04:15:11 AM EST
That was my take as well.  Shouldn't it be a good thing that people can have it either way, or have bits and pieces of both in the places they choose to live?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:22:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This was another thing Rifkin pointed out:  The EU has developed -- and I noticed this in London -- a sort of alternative to the Melting Pot story of America, in which you have many different cultures that are present together, but that maintain much of their respective identities (less melting, stronger diversity).  It has a lot of appeal.  There are aspects of both on each side of the Atlantic, but it did strike me as an interesting general difference.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:43:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
``Sure it's raining, but it would be the same in Paris and they're on strike over there,'' he says in his Belle Epoque bakery, where everything from the ovens and oak floors to the butter and flour comes from France. ``My savoir faire is very much appreciated here, and the competition is non-existent.''

Like many French citizens, Rousseau says he left home to start his own business without being weighed down by high taxes and restrictive labor laws. Now he sells about 2,200 croissants each weekend, and he has just ordered 100,000 pounds ($197,650) of equipment to meet demand for his baguettes and quiches.

So M. Rousseau left France because of the "high taxes and restrictive labor laws". Or perhaps it was because in a French town he'd be competing against other bakers, while in Hackney "the competition is non-existent" and he shifts 2,200 croissants each weekend. Either way, it's thanks to the EU's single market that he can afford to import all his ingredients and equipment from France.

Perhaps M. Rousseau would like to try his luck in my part of south-west London. We have a branch of Paul and a branch of Maison Blanc (a British "French" patisserie) less than five minutes' walk from each other, along with at least one other French café/patisserie.

by Gag Halfrunt on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:29:06 AM EST
On competition, the same occurs to me re Pascal Aussignac of the Club Gascon (surely an excellent chef and an excellent restaurant). He came to London, they say, because he didn't get a loan to open a restaurant in Paris. Presumably because there are a great many top restaurants in Paris and competition is fierce.

It's an unintended side-effect of this article that it appears to be applauding a state of less competition rather than more...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 08:16:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am sure that while Brits moving to France disperse around the country the French moving the Britain are presumably concentrated in London.

When I was working as a barman in France I could have been interviewed for a companion piece: "Sure business people and the elite may prefer London but here I can afford to rent an apartment in central Paris, the transport is good and I can go to a concert without paying a tout double or triple the face value of the ticket."

You can see where my priorities are but this is another symptom of the Anglo disease (I don't know if anyone has mentioned it yet). It is virtually impossible to get tickets to some cultural events, concerts etc in London without paying touts. The concentration of wealth in London means that touts (often web-based) will buy-up a majority of tickets for an event and can be sure of selling them to the wealthy at massive mark-ups. The Economist of course has opined that this 'secondary market'is healthy while the rest of us curse "those tout bastards". The poor and middle class (as well as being pushed out of the centre of London)are even being prevented from experiencing what we are told is 'London's rich cultural mix'.

Maybe other cities are experiencing the same thing but that is not my experience (I was able to get a ticket in Brussells on the day to a show which would have been sold out months before in London -- The Flaming Lips if your interested).

Incidentally while I could live in central Paris as a barman I am now working as a lawyer in London and I cannot afford to live in the center.

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:57:47 AM EST
The touting industry hasn't been brought up here before, I don't think (may be wrong, though).

Yes, in a sense, it fits with the Anglo Disease, certainly with the Thatcherian markets-first doctrine. It falls short, though. What we need is derivatives here. A concert/theatre futures market. This is how to get some growth moving, show those fuddy-duddy continentals where to get off.

And, at last, efficient, deep, liquid markets will structure artistic and cultural life, which, we all agree, is as it should be.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 08:10:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 09:40:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Same thing in NYC, living in the center is for Wall Streeters and the ticket prices for shows and concerts (all over the country) are unaffordable for the average guy even at face value.. for example, a few years ago I wanted to take my best girlfriend to see the Simon and Garfunkle concert, but the cheapest tickets were $150 each (and none remained) so we had to pass.

With my husband being a German citizen, we figure to move somewhere along the French/German border when I retire, and he'll be a baker for a while longer.  I'm hoping this will be relatively red-tape-free since he's a citizen of the EU.  We love England but love the continent more.

My first thought upon reading the French baker's comment was "if you can't take the competition..."  

Karen in Austin

'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 Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 09:01:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if rdf can blow his own horn, I can at least mention my own diary London - Dying like a dinosaur where I talk aobut the way London has become an unsustainable economy.

Incidentally, a Friend of mine who now lives in Carcasonne came over this Xmas and was shocked by the prices of hotels, meals and booze. Didn't know how we could afford it and swore never to return. Which I thought was ironic cos he retired at the age of 46 cos he was already a millionaire.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 02:51:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey...we decided to spend a few days in London before Christmas and the cheapest hotel accommodation we could get with lift facilities (and not much else!!!) was the Travelodge in Covent Garden at £95 per night (€135 at the time?) whereas we could get a room in a small hotel in Paris off Rue Tronchet (beside the Madeleine) for €95 per night.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde
by Sam on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 04:23:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was last in London last month just before Christmas I ran into Harrod's to get a house present for a friend and most (seemingly all) of the employees in the very crowded Wine Department were French and very young, obviously temporary hires. I also ran into French folk in other miscellaneous retail shops, it's probably just fun for French kids to spend a few months or a year working in London. And London is fun.
by Edouard (edouard@salebetedeletethis.net) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 08:52:22 AM EST
I've been searching, but haven't found an article I read where someone from the jobs help centre at the French Consulate in London (le Centre Charles Péguy), which mostly farms out small jobs to youngsters, explained that a lot of kids came over bright-eyed, but went back after a few weeks because they could only get low-paid work at first and the cost of living, especially accommodation, was too high for them. Some, like those you saw, may get decent jobs and have fun for a time, others less. But London certainly can be fun.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 03:30:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually met Peter Mayle, he was thoroughly piss- drunk, in Sanary S/Mer where my wife had a shop, I was going to buy my cigarettes (was a smoker, like you, too back then, though Belgian at the time, not French).

Proof positive that mediocre prose, coupled with nostalgia and a little light exotism mixed in, can be milked for all it is worth.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 10:56:55 AM EST
Oddly, I've met 2 or 3 other people who claim to have run into Peter Mayle. All noted he was pretty drunk at the time.

Proof positive that mediocre prose, coupled with nostalgia and a little light exotism mixed in, can be milked for all it is worth.

I can do mediocre prose, but the trouble is everybody's at it these days. He had the virtue of being first.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 02:54:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My first introduction to the ad world (from whence Mayle came), way back when, convinced me admen and adwomen were all alcoholics. The favoured drink was brandy in milk. It was all about appearances.

Later they moved on to Peruvian cocoa, but I guess Mayle was old school.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 03:11:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What surprises me is how popular he is with French readers, who don't seem to perceive that his humour is condescending towards them. Perhaps it's the translation.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 03:34:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beats me too but then the other person I've met down there (Johnny Hallyday) is massively popular as well, again for reasons which utterly escape me, likely due to my age.

I really find Mayle's stuff exceedingly boring, in any event that's not really the south I know, but then one writes for a given audience which means in Mayle's case English and American women of a certain age and a nostalgiac and not particularly accurate conception of southern France, which means I'm not the target audience. I'm sure people from certain parts of Italy (like Tuscans, for instance) probably find Anglo-American glorification pieces of their region equally boring and incomprehensible.

I'm sure the same elements which make it attractive to English and American women also might make it attractive to a certain set of parigo-tete-de-veau as well, who may think of themselves as excepted from Mayle's humor. It wouldn't be the first time.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 03:54:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't looked at all that much Mayle, but it seems to me he's writing kind of French jokes that Brits will get nudge-nudge wink-wink. I think his readership includes men too. And the French people I've heard speak approvingly of him are down this way, not Parigots (though not Provençots either!).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 04:23:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]

But then they're condescending to read a book by a mere Brit., and I suspect a lot of the French readers are also pretty condescending about the natives of Provence :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 05:57:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not been my experience of the French that they condescend to the British. (Perhaps I missed the condescending ones?) There may be truth in your second point, though, as I point out to redstar, people I've heard speak of their liking for the Mayle books are ordinary folk from the South-West: admittedly non-Provençal, but not Parisian snobs either.

Next time I see a Mayle book in French, I really must browse through it to see if there hasn't been edulcoration in the course of translation...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 01:32:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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 ]
This is an important topic. It must be seen and discussed quickly from a future- perspective, because of these planetary aspects; Sarko, Blair, et. all. We have no remaining time to judge the pastry by it's shell.

In France they make beautiful love. Here, they call it 'reality TV.'
by Max Resolution (maxresolution@redlineav.com) on Fri Jan 25th, 2008 at 08:29:42 AM EST
I know exactly what you are coming up to afew.
I am a French student at Imperial College London in South Kensington, graduating in June of this year.
My education prior to University had all been done in France, and if it were not for family pressure, I would have never accepted to come to study in London/U.K!
Almost 4 years later, I realise how big an opportunity I  was given and how foolish it would have been for me not to seize it back then. I have become very used to this city, not to the point of overshadowing Paris nonetheless, it's just so much more dynamic than our French capital. I feel like staying here for another 10-20 years (yeah that's a big range!), before returning to Paris for a hopefully more peaceful life.
This country also has many problems but it feels like British politicians resolve to tackle them with a more practical approach, while most of their French counterparts are still undecided. It is a pity that the practical approach leads to further inequalities though, enabling the rich to increase his earnings (he has to work hard for it though!), while constraining the needy to fight for every penny earned.
by Eddie on Sun Jan 27th, 2008 at 08:19:57 AM EST
Hello Eddie and welcome!

First of all, as I think you'll have seen, my motive in writing this piece was annoyance at a certain media portrayal of London as an escape hatch from an unlivable socialistic France. In my opinion, this narrative, echoed repeatedly in the media English- and French-language) for practically a decade now, has permeated conventional wisdom to a considerable degree.

But note I did not deny London's "dynamism". I said it was the powerhouse of British economic growth (too much so, imo, for the good of the entire country). I also know from experience that it's an exciting and fascinating place to live (I don't live in a city, but if I did London would be high on my wish list). I'm absolutely certain that the opportunity to study in London, and at one of its best colleges, is a fantastic one. What's more, I agree entirely with Colman's comment above, where he says that people (young people in particular) moving around from country to country is a desired outcome of the EU.

Where I'm likely to differ from you is in the "practical approach" of UK politicians. It's always been the case, I think, that there's a more "practical" feel to British political discourse than French. The Brits get down to brass tacks while the French make speeches, to draw a caricature of it. But that's on the surface. When it comes to what's behind the style, what we have in Britain is a laissez-faire, economic-liberal policy that owes more to ideology than pragmatism. Its practical consequences are, as you say, more wealth for the rich (work hard or not work hard, it's enough to own assets), more difficulty for the lower end of the income distribution. And, in particular, with such a focus on London and South-East England that entire regions, especially former industrial regions, are abandoned. The price of an entrance ticket to London is so high that essential infrastructure workers like teachers, nurses, police and firemen, can't buy housing. Meanwhile, health and social services are responding with less and less efficiency to the needs of the poorer half of the population.

This is due, not to "hands-on", practical governance, but to free-market ideology often blindly applied. London, meanwhile, is the centre of where it's at. It's the place that makes the most out of the system. No doubt it feels lively and offers opportunity. Though it may be, that in its reliance on financial services and bubbly asset prices, it will have little to fall back on as these weaken. Fuddy-duddy other places may look quite good in times to come... :-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 27th, 2008 at 09:46:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a big part of the attraction of living abroad is to be able to break free from "the way things are done around here". When you grow up in one culture or place it is really easy to not even think that certain barriers can be crossed. Moving abroad allows you to act more freely because some things may "not be done" but you don't know what "isn't done" and moreover people cut you slack because you're foreign, whereas a local would suffer status death if they did certain things.

I know when I go back to Madrid I slip back into the mindset I had when I lived with my parents - I can't help it, it has something to do with familiar surroundings = familiar behaviours. If I moved back to Spain I would probably want to avoid Madrid for that very reason.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 04:53:48 AM EST

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