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making a face

Ne vous prenez pas trop au sérieux, Français!

By Joffre Agnes

A Few days ago a British friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go with her to Sandpit8. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what this was. So, she explained to me it was a festival of “urban games”.  Ok she's a bit odd, thought I. Or, more precisely, Londoners are. Never the less, intrigued, I decided to look it up on the Internet, .  It turns out the dubious sounding "urban game" is actually a massive project of Hide and Seek in London. As I said, slightly odd. Then, I remembered that a few weeks ago my boss told me she had spent the weekend with friends taking part in a treasure hunt… Most odd! This made me wonder: what exactly is going on with British people? This seemed to be a reversal of the typical French/British stereotypes: Surely the French are the bon-viveurs, the relaxed fun-loving people whilst the Brits are the ever so slightly constipated nation; but could you imagine just for one second French grown-ups playing Hide and Seek in Paris? I can’t…

Do the Brits never grow up? I was eight when my parents organized my last treasure hunt in Montmartre for my birthday party. The last time I went to a masked ball with a beautiful princess dress, I couldn't have been more than six; but since I've been in London I haven't been able to escape the numerous fancy-dress and themed-party invitations. Now, it could be that I just happen to socialise with a group of rather childish people (this was indeed my first reaction), but then, I realised that even bars and clubs are organizing such events: Since I've been here I have attended an Irish dancing party, an African ball, a quiz bar, a billiard competition and received an invitation to an Amy Winehouse party, which I wisely decided against… Too much is too much!

What a surprise! I was absolutely convinced that British people were much more uptight than the French. I thought that, moving to London, I was going to learn how to drink my cup of tea whilst lifting my little finger. How could I imagine I would become an expert in table-football and dressing-up? And yet, playing seems to be, as the French would say, their "raison de vivre". I read in an amusing guide about London that it was really a national passion. One girl stated she was hooked on table-football, her mother on bingo, her uncle on quizzes, her father on darts and her aunt on casino. In comparison I know my sister enjoys playing tarot and my brother chess. But I would definitely not call these passions. This is not the case for British people. They are such players that the National Lottery handles big money everyday. And, when I say big money I mean about £40 millions a day. The British national lottery is the second one in the world in terms of benefits and yet it is a very recent creation (only since 1994).

Well, most of the time being addicted to games doesn’t have that type of reward. Most of the time, it is just about fun. Brits don’t take themselves seriously. That's all. And, well, this unfortunately is not one of the French's many qualities… French grown-ups drink wine whilst debating world issues, philosophise, have a slight tendency to put on airs and are occasionally self-absorbed. British people on the other hand still drink like teenagers, role-play, play board games… So where would you prefer to have a party? For me, the choice is clear. Believe me, if the first time you have to put a costume on is hard because you feel so self-conscious, you will quickly get used to it and, even get to like it. Join me: reconcile yourself with your inner-child!

Don’t be offended French people. The Brits are generally better than you at partying but they still have their confusing "sense of humour" and their weddings are well-known for being extremely boring whereas ours are much more fun. Besides, it seems the trend might be catching on on the other side of the channel: French people are increasingly inclined to dress-up and are less and less ashamed to do so. Well, I'm not sure I know a lot of French people who would dare to go to college costumed before going to a fancy-dress party but Paris may have changed since I left…only a few months ago.
Eventually, once again, it may be that British people simply can't do it like others: they have to find their own way to party... and they certainly have. Bloody Brits!


11/12/2011 - payettemuseum a dit :

Stellar work there everyone. I'll keep on reading.

23/05/2010 - anythingbutmadam a dit :

Interesting article. I don't think French weddings are better than english ones, I went to two French weddings in France and they were very long, very boring and they made the congregation sing in church as well as passed around a tray for money for the church!

I do agree with you about the sense of humour thing though. I lived in Paris for three years and what I missed most, apart from personal body space, was the British sense of humour. There was no banter in day to day life and no micky taking at dinner parties or any type of parties.

I went to a french party in london a couple of months ago, and I was the only Brit there out of about 25 people and the only one without kids. It would be natural for all the people there to talk about their kids, and they did and food and immigration and people they know. They did laugh, but at stuff that wasn't funny, it was more a polite laugh thing. When i tried to lower the tone with some shallow topics these were embarressedly pushed aside. For me the highlight/lowlight was getting cornered by some earnest French father who lectured me for half an hour about over population of the planet and how irresponsible it was to have children. I said to the guy, 'why are you telling me all this, I am the only one here without children, don't you think this speech is wasted on me?' and he then lectured me again about the importance of everyone knowing and not breeding, and this from a guy with kids already! I could not think of an excuse to leave the conversation because I was cornered by a table and the guy thought he was very interesting. In the end I said 'excuse me I need to burn down a forest'. That irony of that comment was completely lost on this French guy, who said, 'that won't help the planet'.

The French are great at cooking, entertaining and appreciating many things in life that us Brits are not. You are all more 'cultured' than us too, albeit in a very classical way. I would challenge the whole culture thing because culture is not just limited to art, theatre, music and books. The French are very hospitable, socially aware and much more health conscious. A lot of people think the French dress better too. However their sense of humour is limited and revolves around laughing at others and sex jokes. Whereas the Brits laugh at themselves and I will take a good laugh over a perfect patisserie any day of the week.

05/03/2009 - sylvie a dit :

I just love generalisation!

25/02/2009 - deanejennings a dit :

Ah yes - so so true. That British sense if humour is probably the best in the world, and the Brits don't take themselves seriously. French people - par contre - spend (evidently) a lot more time looking, dressing and acting classy and chic, and do take themselves rather too seriously sometimes.


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