Explaining the French

Cultural Insights — By on July 3, 2006 at 11:49 am

There is a fun little story in the Sunday NY Times about the recent re-publication of a World War II-era manual called “Instructions for British Servicemen in France 1944.”  This attempt to explain French culture to the British has gained a new following in both the U.K. and France.  Even today, it provides an entertaining window into France.  Some excerpts:

– (The French) are outwardly politer than most of us, and they enjoy an intellectual argument more than we do. You will often think that two Frenchmen are having a violent quarrel when they are simply arguing some abstract point. The excitement is all on the surface; fundamentally, they are at least as tolerant as ourselves.

– … common sense and good cooking probably made the average French clerk’s or workman’s home more comfortable than that of many Englishmen of the same status. If it sometimes had fewer or smaller rooms, this did not matter much, since the Frenchman entertained his acquaintances in cafes or restaurants.

– The French are more polite than most of us. Remember to call them “Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle,” not just “Oy!”

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