What is the most French thing ever?
Stephane Allard, works at Wisemetrics
THE Camembert. Period.
Raymond McAneny, Worked throughout Europe and a bit in Asia.
Early in the morning in every city and village people are on their way to the baker to buy baguettes for the day. Seeing them walking down the street with the baguettes sticking up out of a bag or wrapped in a bit of paper is very typically French for me.
Vive la France!
I would say that one of the most French thing is to "tell it like it is". My husband, who's American, finds it really amusing when I say bluntly that I don't like something. Americans tend to sugar coat their opinions to avoid confrontation. French people thrive in confrontational situations. It's in their DNA!
Serge Habourdin, French, living in Slovenia, proofreader-editor in French.
I am French, but the answer to your question might well have been given, years ago, by a very close American friend. Here we were, four of us, in Paris, sharing a great lunch in a (good, of course !) restaurant. By the end of it, he said : “You know what ? The French have a weird habit. During a meal, they have only three subjects to talk about : their last meal; this very meal; the next one they’ll have.
And, years after… I confirm !
Alejandro Jenkins, AB Physics & Mathematics, Harvard University (2001)
Jean Renoir’s La Règle du jeu (“The Rules of the Game”), released in 1939, which is also in my estimation the greatest film ever made.
As an undergraduate at Harvard, I took a course on Cinéma et culture française (“Cinema and French culture”), which seemed like a good way to practice my rusting French while fulfilling a “core curriculum” requirement.
I soon found, however, that I didn’t like the professor (he was an American who taught the course in French), as it seemed to me that he filled the lectures with pointless and pretentious jargon. I also recall trudging through campus on a dreary winter evening to watch some postmodern French-Canadian claptrap in which a guy sticks his fingers into an electrical outlet. I started to miss the screenings. (I was never a very conscientious student.)
Somehow, I did see La Règle du jeu when it was shown to the class. I knew nothing about it (if it had been introduced to us by the professor I must’ve missed it), but I could tell immediately that this was altogether something else.
I ended up writing my term paper on it, which was just as well as I’d missed most of the other assigned screenings. I recall the title of my essay: Le réalisme aristocratique (“Aristocratic realism”), which now strikes me as pretty good and makes me regret that I didn’t save a copy of my essay. I’ve re-watched the movie a few times over the years, and it has only grown in my estimation.
Renoir’s movie is quintessentially French both in its themes (adultery and sexual jealousy, class distinctions, transcendental pessimism) and in its stylistic touches. And it very deliberately places itself within the classical French literary tradition.
I find that Renoir’s movie is comparable to Flaubert in its very French artistic perfection: at once brilliantly humorous and ruthlessly pessimistic, a comedy of manners and love and death...
I leave you with the image of Octave (played by Jean Renoir himself) preparing to conduct an imaginary orchestra, an instant before his heart breaks over the contemplation of the failure of his life:
« Tu comprends, sur cette Terre, il y a quelque chose d'effroyable, c'est que tout le monde a ses raisons. » (“You see, there’s something truly frightful on this Earth: that everyone has their reasons.”)
Matt Huy, Young adult
It’s very funny that people imagine so many things about French people. As a guy living in Paris for so long, here are French interesting anecdotes:
French loves bakeries and bread: As I traveled a lot, I’ve seen bread in foreign countries, but they are very expensive. In France, bakery are so common, that it’s not that expensive. Actually, there are many people who used to chat with their bakers (“how is everything? what’s up?”). Plus, I’m addicted to bread, sorry!
French has to be on holidays for a long time: I know this sounds crazy, but some people really have 5 weeks a year of holidays. To French, it’s very normal. You have to have holidays. As I live in Paris, you can see traffic jam of people going to their holidays in July and August during summertime
French are rude: In Paris, you can meet rude people at every corner. No, that’s a joke. French are not so rude. They are cold, most of the time due to thieves and because for women, guys try to seduce them in an unpolite way. But I have to say that French are not so rude. So please be tolerant guys, we are not so crazy!
French are skinny: Actually obesity rate is increasing. But let’s say that: if you’re going to a big supermarket, the shelves for fruits, vegetables and water are just huge. We pay attention a lot of what we’re eating. The number of vegetarian people increased, and many people pay to go to the sports hall. It’s in our culture to be careful, and to take care of us
Antoine Pierret, lives in Paris
The most French thing ever? Well a typical Monday in France :
- We wake up, light a cigarette, feed our pet rooster (called Napoléon) and light him a cigarette too, put our striped jersey and beret and head out to the bakery to buy our morning baguette.
- Then we head out in the streets to protest (it’s Monday so it’s strike day). I think next Monday’s strike is to protest against the cold in winter. We are freezing our ass and this is very unacceptable.
- 12h: we head out to the bakery to buy our lunch baguette, then take our lunch break and eat till 5pm.
- 5pm: it’s time to show up at work a little bit (hey it at least has to look like we do those 35h/week).
- 5h30 pm: end of work day. On our way back home we cross every road just 5 meter after each crosswalk just to annoy policemen and because it feels so much better that way, rules are boring anyways. If it’s a hot day, we lose the clothes and let our little bum take some fresh air, nudist beaches/restaurants are never really far anyways! We also pass by the bakery to buy our afternoon baguette, thanking the baker with a “die fucking asshole”. This is not rudeness, this is just French straightforwardness. The baker usually thank us back with a “It’s your wife that I fuck, you bastard”.
- Home sweet home now, finally some family time to complain about everything (fucking boss, fucking excessive and tiring working hours, fucking government, fucking country and fucking atmospheric pressure…). Little family bonding time, all laughing about those lost loud American tourists in flip-flops [sighs] we sent in the wrong direction earlier, probably lost next to the waste recycling center by now! Also time to ring our friends to catch up, but since half of French people are mimes, the phone conversations are usually not very interesting. And finally we start preparing dinner, those frog’s legs stuffed with Camembert are not gonna cook themselves on their own. We finish with the toddlers, filling their baby bottles with wine. Et voilà, bon appétit everybody! Then movie time, watching one of those apocalyptic films where a virus decimates all humanity= no more bakers= no more baguette
- If our boss told us to finish something for the next day, don’t forget to not do it. That will teach him a lesson, what’s that with giving orders and work, like if we have any interest in those. We go buy our evening baguette instead. Or head to our mini home snail farming to teach the snails how to play the accordion.
- End of the day with a steamy and torrid night with our wife and her best friend (ménage à trois/three-way partnership is the new era. Couples are so middle age). Be sure the snails from her mini home farming are not watching, we don’t want to traumatize anybody. Snail counseling costs an arm and a leg.
Gene Hunter, lives in South-West France (1999-present)
I lived in Luxembourg, Ireland, England and now I’m in France because …. well, yes, why did I come here?
There’s nothing particularly unique about the French, except that they are complainers, actually they can be quite a handful, moaning about everything but at the same time they have some wonderful qualities that set them apart from most.
The embryonic reason why I moved to France was that, upon our first experience crossing France ‘en voiture’, from the UK on our way to Italy, my wife became enchanted by this place.
Ignoring Paris and major cities, traffic in France is flowing freely unlike our daily nerve wrecking journeys in ubiquitous traffic jams and the inevitable road rage incidents in the UK.
Much more important though, French wine and cuisine are second to none! The weather in the southern half is fantastic. The National Health Service is brilliant. A visit to the GP, your local doc, costs pennies. Everyone, children as well as complete strangers crossing you in the street smile at you and say “Bonjour”. It’s a friendly place.
They are even gracious when talking about the Brits having voted to leave the EU or Americans having voted in a moron for president. Oops! I offer my apologies to all Americans who voted for that half-wit.
The French are also quite clever … and witty. I was impressed when I heard someone on the news this morning saying that the Brits leaving the EU after 40 odd years of “marriage” would have unthinkable problems to be sorted in the next two years. The person said “It’s like extracting an egg from an omelette”! Well, that’s a brilliant analogy to illustrate what lies ahead for UK and the EU.
Helena Petrzljan, former Amiens' Delegation Head
Ok, the most french thing is waking up in the morning and finding a baguette in front of your door because your local baker goes around the neighbourhood and put a baguette in front of the door of people who asked for it. Then eating the said baguette during a long sunday lunch. And then finishing that lunch with three kinds of cheese that you eat with the said baguette. And during that lunch you complain to your family about everything that the government does. That’s the most french thing.
Kevin Dolgin, Entrepreneur, writer, musician, humanist
France is the only country in the world in which it is entirely normal, legal and acceptable for women not to wear tops at the beach, but where the police can give a woman a fine for wearing too much clothing.
Elizabeth Burns, M.S Applied Mathematics (2018)
My boyfriend and I were walking the dog in the woods, next to our apartment.
We approached the woods and could hear a party taking place.
We were hesitant to continue our walk. It was late at night, the music was loud, alcohol was surely being consumed and we didn’t know if these people would become violent or aggressive.
We cautiously advanced towards the noise. The party was taking place at the entrance of the woods. It was impossible to avoid them…
It was only when we actually entered the woods that we realized that a group of young adults were playing a good old game of boules (pétanque).
Only in France do you encounter a midnight boule party.
Typical scene in a French family:
A friend of mine moved to Asia recently and one day he received a package from his mom. When he opened it he almost fainted! His mom mailed him all his favorite cheese including Roquefort. After being kept in room temperature for more than a week, I'm sure you can imagine the smell.
Baguette is everything!
Elise Wurth, lives in France
I would say the time we take to eat. When I was in America, my friends were always amazed at how long I could stay at the table, eating starter, dish, dessert at every meal.
They could not believe me when I told them that during family celebration we could easily start a meal with appetizer at 11 a.m. and still be at it eating dessert at 5 p.m. But believe me, you spend almost all day around the table eating during - for exemple - christmas. I never experienced so long meal time elsewhere.