The French Way Of Life

I have expressed several times in my blog about my fascination regarding France and the French people. As a matter of fact, when I come across the Travel section in any bookstore I visit, I always scan the bookshelves for France’s travel guides. Sometimes however, I think I’m more fascinated with the French than France in general. Throughout my readings regarding the French, and watching the countless French movies, they are certain charms and habits that you cannot help but to notice. Not to be positively or negativity stereotypical, I condense my thoughts as follow:

  • The People of Paradoxes

Ask mostly anyone which country they consider the most “European,” and they’ll probably answer France. Thomas Jefferson knew France well, dubbing it “every man’s second fatherland.” Why, in view of these tributes, does one hear unflattering things about the French: that they’re rude, unfriendly, impatient, and even promiscuous? Every visitor shares this bewilderment, and I shall reserve my judgment until I go there and meet them myself.

  • L’esprit Critique

You’ll spot the characteristic shrug of the shoulders, which is the Frenchman’s reaction to all startling news. Some might call it cynicism, but a better phrase is the one the French use themselves: l’esprit critique. It’s not something negative; it’s simply the way the French use their common sense. A Frenchman can’t describe something without adding his own judgment of value, that is, he wants to know if it’s good or bad for him.

  • The Cold Treatment

French indifference and coldness to outsiders is really another virtue seen from the wrong end. If a Frenchman seems cold to outsiders, it’s because he reserves his affections for his family and close friends. Family life in France is one of the closest in Europe: it affords the French the small pleasures (like the evening meal), which they value above all else. Apparently, The French consider instant friendliness a sign of insincerity. Thus, a sign of banjour might be a rare expression (among the French and the outsiders) than you might think.

  • In Unity We Trust

For all their individualism and eccentricity, the French still have bonds, which keep them together as a nation. One is pride in their nation and its language. France is, after all, the oldest unified country in Europe of any size. For centuries, the French language dominated European diplomacy and royal courts. Another bond that unifies them is the Frenchman’s respect for intellectual distinction in general. The French probably read more than any other people. The leading intellectual figures of the day receive the same media coverage that movie stars, politicians, or sports heroes do in the U.S. However, this also means that sometimes the French lose sight of a problem in the endless analysis of its details, especially when the experts disagree.


If you were seeking a conclusive statement after reading all of that, then I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t have one. I cannot deduce something that I didn’t have the chance to essentially investigate and observe. However, I can firmly assert that I have at least scratched the surface of the French way of life. In the end, I invite you to watch this movie and experience a little taste of my all time favorite city, Paris. It might lighten up your weekend.

29 responses to this post.

  1. I really am annoyed with french people!! They are stuck up beyond belief!


  2. Posted by Sushi on May 10, 2008 at 4:31 am

    1. They “hate” outsiders.

    2. They “hate” muslims.

    3. They think “infidelity” is perfectly okay. 99% of all French men AND women have relationships outisde their marriage (ask any honest French).

    4. They advertise so much of their frenchness until it comes out of your nose just for the sake of their identity. I’d much rather be a hilbilly with no identity than a snobbish Frenchie.

    Apart from all of that I enjoy their shops, cafes and parks (when its not infested with Arabs).




  4. I prefer the Japanese over the French honestly!


  5. interesting blog…like the food though


  6. great post, you are spot on in certain points. Here’s my little input (based on Parisians)

    1) They talk with their hands, ALL the time… as well as their eyebrows and the shrug of the shoulders. I admit I snap into it when I’m here lol

    2) Regarding the coldness, I don’t really see that. Our neighbours say Bonjour to us, or if not just smile and nod. New people I meet always shake my hand, ask how I am and make the effort to talk to me if I’m introduced to them. They even attempt to talk in English, even if they aren’t so good in it. One thing I’ve come to realise, is that those you do not know seems to stick up ur nose if you talk any other language than french. I rarely talk English here, but if I’m stuck on certain things, I say sorry and explain in french that my french sucks then ask if they or anyone nearby speaks english lol

    3) 99% statistic on adultery is a little way off. Yes affairs are “common” in France, but this is more with the older/influential population rather than you’re average joe. No matter where you go in any country, adultery is around, it just so happens that its more publicized through writing/movies in France.

    4) France & Italy are probably the most european. They are the most proud, from what I’ve seen & both are wonderful countries.

    5) Family comes before ANYTHING

    6) Some white-french, hate anything other than whites due to the huge immigration from africa and morocco/algeria. Paris is over-running with immigrants, chinese, philipino, greek… you name it! Sushi stated that they (the french) hate muslims, but that’s false. It’s a minority that do and I think this statement stems from the banning of the 7ijab in schools, but they also banned other religious symbols…. but of course I’m against the banning. Muslims are everywhere in this city.

    7) They read more because of the communting to/from work and being stuck in traffic jams. In the metro/rer you see different varities of people reading books, newspapers, magazines…. so it wouldn’t suprise me that they appear intellectual

    8) Most Parisians haven’t been to most of the famous landmarks that tourists swarm too.

    Okay, I’ve ran out hehehe I for one adore Paris, I rarely go to touristy areas and maybe because my parents live in Paris, I know where and where not to go 😛


  7. Yeah they are rude, my family used to tell me about it but didn’t believe it when i started talking to the people there, i asked for a sandwich one time and the lady started shouting at me “What do you want!?” with her face all grumpy, it feels like everyone is pissed off, I’m not sure if they are like that of it’s because I’m Arab. The British people are friendlier, and the most friendly are the Germans, they are so friendly that it will begin to scare you, Germans are the best, i like them so much and like their country the most.


  8. the same passion u have for France/French ..
    i have for Italy/Italians 🙂

    so i totally understand how u feel.


  9. Posted by parallelsidewalk on May 10, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I’ve liked about 90% of the French people I’ve met. The racism that seems endemic to French culture puts me off though.


  10. I haven’t found them rude at all, I mean, not any more often than Americans are rude. They do seem “cold” in that you DO NOT smile at or greet people on the street or in the metro, which I didn’t realize I did so much until I came to Paris and realized I’d smile at people and they’d just stare through me. But really it’s a good thing, as it’s too big of a city to be friendly with everyone. And on the flip side, they’re big on greetings when you go into a shop or buy something from someone – it seems like more of a cultural thing than the way American employees are instructed to greet you when you walk into a store. I haven’t made friends as easily as I would in the US, but for one thing I’m shy about using my French, and for another, the few friends I have made have reached out to me more than people would in a similar position in the US.

    As for racism, I can’t speak from experience, but I feel like I see more of a mix of people and more interracial couples in France than in the US. But I have been told that France likes to pretend to be colorblind, which doesn’t help racism, and a Muslim woman told me she found the French racist.


  11. well anything would be better than the russians i’m sure.


  12. I spent a few months in France. I love french people. They are very polite and their mannerisms just appeal to me in general, but it is true that they are extremely prejudice against muslims and treat them pretty poorly.


  13. To be clear I don’t mean to imply the French hate all muslims, they hate the poor north african muslims who are constantly coming in.


  14. Posted by elysee on May 11, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Bascially, everything described in this blog (not the comments) about French people in general has been said about me. And I agree with it. I think I would get along well in France.


  15. chat
    i am of iran


  16. Posted by dg1978 on May 12, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I once dated a French guy. He was wonderful. The relationship went south after he had to move to a different country for his work assignment and I wasn’t ready to settle in with him. We still keep in touch.
    Oh how I miss him.
    I love everything about the French.


  17. I love the girl


  18. […] as I was exchanging flight to return back home. The fact that I spotted it after publishing “The French Way of Life” post a few days ago was a clear sign that I have to dive in its pages. And thank God I did. […]


  19. Posted by Léa on July 13, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Hello ! My name is Léa.
    I’m french, so I’m sorry for the mistakes in my message…
    I try to understand what you wrote but it’s a bit dificult for me, I’ve just 15 years old and I learn english for 1 year. I discovered this blog because I want to know what does the English/Britainien/English speaker (? Aïe aïe aïe) think about us. I’m smiling when I read your messages (but I didn’t read all of its, its so hard and so long for me)

    There are so much prejudice towards us… It is stupid to think that we hate outsider or muslim, or that we think that infidelity is perfectly okay, No !
    Yes, as in some countries, as in U.S.A, as in England there must be some people that think that kind of things, but it’s wrong to think that all the French hate outsider… Personnaly, I’ve got some friends that are not French at the origin, for me an outsider is an human and a muslim or a black can be a French ! There is no importance about the color of the skin, I’m the same personn with them, whoever (?) they are. And it’s the same thing with all the french who I know.
    I have enough friendships to say that we considered outsider like normal personns. About infidelity, you know, I’ve got a boyfriend and he is the only one =). My father and my mother are so happy together, and it’s the same thing in all my family. 99 % is so exagerate and it want to say that you’r a little gullible (? “Crédule” en français), non? I don’t know where you did see that, but… Yeah. Don’t considered French like disrespectful (?”Irrespectueux” en français) personn, it’s wrong. Like everywhere, there are some, but not all the french Oo. Yes, there are racismus, but there are or no-rascimus people.


    I’ve not enough words to explain to you what I think, and I imagine that I did not certainly convince to you =/. It’s bad. I know that my arguments are not very effective, but if you’ve just taken the time to read me, I’m happy. The must, (the best, the better ?) to understand the french-way-of-life and to understand what is the reality in the France is to live in , no ? I think that you can’t see the reality of French life when you just come for a week, to visit Paris or Marseille. You see the France in the position of a touriste, so you don’t see the reality.
    It’s the same thing for me if one day I go to London. (It’s a dream, oui.)

    So, goodbye, and I hope that you understand my poor english Uu’



  20. I am French and also have some notions of the American culture since I used to live in the US a couple of years in the late 90’s.
    My experience is that there is a lot of misunderstandings, sterotypes and cultural distrotions between the Americans and the French although at the end of the day we are very close friends. We basically cherish the same core values, but sometimes the way of expressing them is different. Of course: our societies ARE different! by their size, history, language, political weight, traditions, way of living, etc..
    However, one thing is key to understand the French: they don’t fear paradox nor ambiguity. If you ask him if he thinks black or white, he will always answer something ranging from dark grey to light grey. For example, conversations with concepts like In/Out, With us/Against us, Winner/Looser, Dating/not dating (…) are preceived as useless, if not very childish.

    I really recomand this blog called “Understand France”
    It is full of tips and usefull information about the French thought “matrix” about society, religion, art, friends, dating, history, myths, etc…



  21. It seems best to base our views on individual people rather than groups of people. Like anywhere, we will all interact with the nicest and nastiest people of all sorts of cultures. My rule of thumb is: Manners are universal. If I know I am on good behavior and they are still nasty…well, that’s their problem. I have a good friend that has lived in Japan for many years and she sometimes experiences the same complaints over there.



  22. My thoughts as an English ex-pat living in France:

    The rudeness issue seems to be a stereotype created from the fact that the majority of tourists go to Paris, where it is true, people are rushed and busy and may therefore come across as unfriendly. You would have exactly the same experience in London, New York, Rome…

    In the region where we live (the Haute Savoie) the people are almost disarmingly friendly and welcoming. This despite the fact that the region is overrun with English, many of whom bring unpleasant, loutish behaviour with them.

    That said I like your interpretation of ‘the cold treatment’. Not that I have been on the receiving end, but the importance of family here is evident and reassuring to see, coming from a country where many of the basic bonds of society seem to breaking down.


  23. Well, seems that I’m a bit late considering the release time of this post… but I’m still going to comment, though 🙂

    I’m French, unfortunately Parisian since three years now, and if you dudes only experimented this city, I can only say YES, Parisian people are awfully rude. I come from Britanny, from Nantes more precisely : it’s kind of a big city, yet you can smile to people, start a conversation with anybody on the bus, in a café… in Paris, you can’t. I love wearing dresses and skirts, I can only wear them when I go home to see my family ! It’s a shame !

    That brings me to my second point : I don’t understand what you said about evening meals, don’t you eat with your family all the time ? I know plenty of French families in which television is bannished until they finish eating, so that they all can talk together. It does not seem weird to me, only pretty common. I did not know that sounded strange to other people, I would not know what to do without my parents. Yet I’m a grown-up, huh !


  24. Posted by Guillaume on February 19, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Rude people in France are waiters and people working in shops.
    Why are they rude? simply because they feel ashamed not to be able to speak any other language than theirs. They are asked to speak in a foreign language that they absolutely don’t speak or understand, that’s why they are rude
    But I can assure you that French people are actually extremely polite and friendly
    And the more educated people you’ll meet, the friendlier they will be
    (I’m parisian, I know what I’m talking about)


  25. THE French can be very cold.When I visit a country I expect friendliness as I am spending money in that country and helping their economy. The New Yorkers were much friendlier.They were however more racist as I barely saw any black people past 50 th st. Nothing has changed in America. What a shame.


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