Some of our readers may be heading to France soon to watch the European Championship. In which case, bon chance. Although the event promises to be a great footballing occasion, with an extra 1.5 million descending on the country’s transport network, it won’t be without its challenges.
Your travel provider is best placed to advise you on the current travel situation and the Foreign Office is best placed to advise you on the security situation, so we thought we’d advise you on how to deal with your hosts, the French.
We were struck by a recent article written by Simon Kuper, a columnist the for the ‘Financial Times’ newspaper based in Paris. We thought his observations were…interesting, to say the least.
Firstly, in France, Simon warns, the producer is king and not the customer. This may seem counter-intuitive to those of us that have been heavily influenced by American companies, but it certainly explains the French people’s seemingly sympathetic attitude to the small groups of people that regularly hold the country to ransom.
The common belief among producers is that their production system is perfect and it’s the customer who messes it up. This attitude extends to taxi drivers and café owners who are serving you at their pleasure, not yours, he says.
Secondly, the FT’s resident writer thinks that France is a ‘no-fault’ culture. He believes that ‘most French people will deny they have done anything wrong’. This will make for some interesting conversations during the Championship and should be borne in mind when trying to locate lost luggage or access overbooked hotels.
Thirdly, and on a more positive note, Simon argues that ‘the French are trained from about the age of three in aesthetic criticism’. This skill is most definitely missing from the UK’s education curriculum, and it does highlight one of the most important differences between our two countries and why travelling – or living – in France makes for such an enjoyable contrast to the UK.
The French people’s aesthetic appreciation extends not just to eating good food, but how it looks on the plate, how it’s served and the surroundings where it’s eaten. The upside is that the French appreciate and applaud all manner of beautiful things.
The downside is that they may feel aghast at some of the clothes that the visiting football fans choose to wear. Simon sounds a note of alarm here when he says, “a football fan walking into a bakery in a tracksuit should expect to be shamed”.
You have been warned!