The Good, The Bad, (but not The Ugly…) – The Bad (2)

About a month ago, I shared with you what I really like about both the United States and France (‘The Good’).

In this last instalment of the series, I continue with The Bad. I recently told you about the things I do not particularly like about the US (‘The Bad (1)’). Now it’s France’s turn…

The Bad (2): France - My French Life - Ma Vie Française

Ten things that annoy me and that I don’t miss a bit about France:

1. People are initially very reserved, even downright cold.
It’s not considered proper to smile at strangers and greet them when you walk by them on the street.

2. Life can be toughly inconvenient at times.
Shops close at night, everything is pretty much dead on Sundays.

3. The bureaucracy is beyond belief, and government employees are usually rather unfriendly and unhelpful.
But I can’t generalize, I am sure that some are very nice and helpful.

4. There is a general slowness about the way most transactions are run in places like post offices and banks.
Which is a bit annoying when you have been used for years to the efficiency with which the same transactions are conducted in the US.

5. They don’t bag your groceries in France.
And it’s a maddening circus to try to deal with the bagging, which you have to do yourself at a pretty good clip.

6. The school system may be better, but I think that it sucks.
It is elitist, does not encourage students’ creativity one bit, and teachers take a sadistic pleasure in publicly demeaning and insulting their students.

The Bad (2): France - My French Life - Ma Vie Française

6. Everything is so damn small.
Have you ever done one week’s worth of laundry in a French washer? You have to do something like seven loads, because washing machines are so tiny.

7. The way most French people drive.
‘Defensive driving’ is a concept with which they are utterly unfamiliar.

8. A lack of sense of entrepreneurship.
Actually, there is no lack of sense of entrepreneurship, but the government taxes small business so heavily, and makes it so tough to start a business that most people never even try.

9. No real chance of upward social mobility.
If you are not born into a wealthy, bourgeois family, it is quasi impossible to rise to the social elite. (Although, is it true or just a plain myth that you can rise from nowhere to the top in the US?)

10. The French don’t know how to take turn in a conversation.
They interrupt you constantly, raise their voice – which makes you wonder if they are getting angry (they’re not, they are just ‘making a point’) – and they are not satisfied until they have won an argument. They can be defiant to the point of utter annoyance.

In the end, there are good and bad things on both sides of the ocean. These are my personal pet peeves, with which you may disagree, and they may ‘stereotype’ things and people on occasion.

Frankly, if I were sufficiently wealthy, I’d live half of the year in the US and the other half in France. And I am sure that there’s a part of one country that I would definitely miss while being in the other.

Image credits:
Paris traffic – Elisabeth Donato
French classroom – Francois Bouchon/Le Figaro
By Published On: May 17, 2012Comments Off on The Good, The Bad, (but not The Ugly…) – The Bad (2)

About the Contributor

Elisabeth Sauvage-Callaghan

I am a native of France, and a retired French university professor living in the USA. I return to France every year and love discovering new places I have not yet visited. I am interested in issues of bilingualism and expatriate identity. I enjoy good food, great books, and all kinds of music.

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