L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

02 October 2007 Blog Home : October 2007 : Permalink

That Anglo-French Rivalry

In the Torygraph today, Rowan Pelling writes about how good some bits of France are compared, in particular, to the unadulterated grunginess of Britain. The comment section below seems to have filled up with a mixture of rabid Francophiles and drooling Francophobes (or vice versa).

The article is absolutely spot on about how (some) French people can be amazingly helpful and when we moved in we had almost exactly this experience:

When my uncle bought his Provençal house he called on his neighbour, a farmer in his sixties, and jokingly apologised for the fact they now had "des anglais" next door. The farmer merely responded, "Heureusement, vous n'ĂȘtes pas Parisien."

However as some of the more Francophobic commenters point out France is a long way from perfect: bloated state bureaucracy, high taxes, high unemployment, widepsread racism, drunken drivers and so on. Still under ZANU Labour a lot of Britain's former advantages with respect to taxation, government etc. have disappeared. True it is still harder to officially hire and fire people, and so many people work on the black economy, but from what I read things are heading the same way int he UK. I would far rather fall ill in France than the UK - in France doctors will make house calls, hospitals are efficient and clean etc. I would also suggest that the French authorities seem to have fewer jobsworths in their ranks; not none of course, every expat has a tale or two about some idiotic bureaucratic hoop and unhelpful fonctionnaire, but most of us also have numerous tales about bureaucrats and others who are willing to bend the rules because of common sense (and/or a hint from the local mayor).

Yes the French do drink, yes in France customer service is often an oxymoron (but then it often is across the channel too), no French cuisine is not perfect and many French restaurants provide poor food at inflated prices, but again it is my experience that in general food is better and cheaper here than in blighty, and so on. More worryingly for the Francophiles once you look under the surface you realize that there is a lot of petty corruption (most local mayors appear to be on the take one way or another) and plenty of inefficient use of public funds. The TGV looks great but almost certainly it would be better to widen a few autoroutes and so on.

Oh and the French appear to be slightly more competant at sports. Still in most respects it seems to me that the saying about the grass being always greener on the other side applies.