Vive la difference?

March 26, 2008

eiffel1.jpgThe entente hasn’t been quite so cordiale for some time, judging by a ragbag of pointers in the newspapers over recent weeks.

Young French people are coming to live and work in London in record numbers, it seems, to the extent there’s now even an area named after them, in the manner of Little Italy or Kangaroo Valley. The fact that it’s rather rudely called Frog Alley should not diminish the importance of this significant milestone.

Going in the other direction, large numbers of Brits living in France have been standing in municipal elections — nay, encouraged to stand — in the areas where they have a significant presence. Welcomed with open arms, some of the reports said.

We’ve moved our Eurostar terminal from the unfortunately named Waterloo, so now French passengers don’t have to arrive to a smug display of British triumphalism, while President Sarkozy has been playing mood music about the importance of closer ties with the old enemy.

A recent poll even found that our national characters are converging. The French and the British were voted rudest and second-rudest people in Europe.

But how far can all this go? Have we been distant neighbours for too long or is it simply pie in the sky to think the British and the French will ever love each other?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Of course we should be close, did not William the Conqueror come from France? Most people who say they do not like the French, have never met a Frenchman or woman!
The press and media inflate any problems between us. Its about time with lived in harmony with our closest neighbours. Vive La France ! Long Live England (and Wales and Scotland and Ireland)

Posted by David Conner | Report as abusive

We can do great things with France and any other nation which chooses to do business with us. Any suggestion that we can’t is nonsense.

It would be a good start if some of the grubby little prats who write in the British press would stop making snide comments about President Sarkozy’s wife. It makes a nice change to see a politician with a real woman and says something good about the man that he has chosen to give two fingers to her critics.

Posted by Mike T | Report as abusive

I am a true lover of France and its people, and have enjoyed many holidays in France in my younger days and also with our family, and have many business relationships with French suppliers..

As people, we have far more in common and the differences are opportunities for us to learn from each other. We share a massive and common part of European history and are the older and hopefully wiser statesmen of Europe and in reality the World.

I look forward to the development of many common initiatives, be they about building on that rich European culture, or technical projects such as the recent European airbus. A flight in Concorde is still one of the great experiences of my life and I look forward to my first flight in the A380.

Who knows we may even see a new multilingualism spread across the UK with a stop to the monoglot English culture which seems to be more in keeping with the politics of the BNP than those of a modern confident member of the European community looking to share and cooperate. It is that ability to communicate in either language that has allowed me to have that strong and fruitful relationship with my French friends and business partners. Ironically preventing the spread of such Facist parties as the BNP must be the greatest common achievements we share, and long may that remain fresh in people’s memories.

Posted by brian thaomas | Report as abusive

Come now, after only a single millenium of acrimony its surely far too soon to talk about detente!

Posted by A Miller | Report as abusive

I love the French. I love their relaxed way of life, the food and wine, I have also loved a couple of the young language teaching assistants that have lodged at my home.

I still think we should have joined with Germany in WW1 and taken them in a pincer movement though. Together with Germany (and France – they would have joined us in the end) we could have pushed on through the rest of Europe, taken Russia and then Asia. We could still be a superpower if we had not sided with France at the start of the century. I am well up for strengthening ties with them now though.

Posted by Tom Morgan | Report as abusive

Europe is a major trading partner of Britain, more so than U.S. we should be doing all we can to build strong friendships with these countries inparticular France, our next door neighbour. Allez France et Grand Bretagne

Posted by Grahamfrancophile | Report as abusive

Vive the difference.
The only difference is the language. Our peoples have been linked for centuries. The French and the British are like siblings. Love to argue and fight but don’t let anyone else try mussle in.
I have been to France in excess of 25 times and travelled all over the country without any problems at all.
Perhaps the politicians should notice that we, the normal people, get on and its maybe them who do all of the arguing.

Posted by Rob Mason | Report as abusive

better late than never! but dose this mean that the french will start to sell more weapons to iran in return for the extra troops in afgan

Posted by mr summers | Report as abusive

So because France (it’s politicians) doesn’t have such a good relationship with Germany they want to be best buddies with the UK now to make them stronger, it really is playground stuff and Brown is going to fall for it.
The UK can’t mirror or be puppet the US anymore, they are going bankrupt fast and the dollar ship is all but sunk.
This is not about liking the French or not it’s about politics, I’m sure the average French person in the street wants the same as us, the friends that i have in France do that’s for sure.
UK out of Europe and the Bush war of fake Terror is what the majority want even though they won’t let us have the promised referendum to prove it, if not its New world order for the lot of us and we will have no say on anything (more or less that way all ready).

Posted by G Moore | Report as abusive

Tom Morgan…take it easy dude!! You mean you’d rather have Nazi Germany calling the shots??

Posted by Dick Nixon | Report as abusive

I love France, always have! I have many fond memories of being there and have built up quite a couple of friendships over the years. In my experience the French are quite similar to the Brits, in that they will welcome you with open arms as long as you make the effort to speak their language and are pleasant. It’s not even the French and the Brits that are like that, it’s human nature!

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

In my opinion it’s mainly the politicians, the press and a very small percentage of Brits that are keeping the idea alive that the two nations don’t and can’t get along. Most of the general public get along just fine!

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

It is extraordinary how, whenever France and its relationship with Britain is brought up, the the “pro-France” British camp is made up of two groups: the dewy-eyed holidaymaker brigade who’ve been to France once or twice and “had a nice time and drunk some wine in the sun” but who have no in-depth knowledge of France or the French, its politics or its society, and the villa-in-France brigade who love to claim greater knowledge, justify their investment and encourage envy on the part of their neighbours by propagating the tired old myths about the wonderful French health service, cuisine, good roads and lack of yobs. Neither group really knows what it’s talking about. The truth is that France is a society now largely in disarray, with endemic race and integration problems that make pre-Brixton riot Britain look positively progressive, with a crushingly expensive social security system, with (largely as a result of the foregoing) mass unemployment among the highest in the G7, with a stultifying and stultified education system, with (save at the top end) wines that are largely irrelevant and overpriced on the world market, and with a declining cuisine whose reputation is not keeping pace with its rivals (not least because a lot of the best chefs are in England). Sarkozy represents an attempt to reverse the general decline, but his instincts are protectionist, nationalistic and xenophobic (despite being the grandson of an immigrant himself). The first of these instincts is inimical to the British, while the second and the third are distasteful, to say the least. Of course we should do business with the French, and of course we should be on friendly terms with them, but no more so than with anybody else in the EU. We should also be acutely aware of the differences between our societies and our policies that keep us from having the problems that they have got, and which prevent us from gaining any advantages they may have (although I must say I can’t at the moment think of any – and I include their mythical health service).

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Nick Dixon…. I said we should have joined the bosch and taken the French in a pincer movement in WW1. Hitler and the NAZI party only rose to power after the heroic victory and subsequent crushing of the German economy with our reparations (and the Wall Street crash of course).

Posted by Tom Morgan | Report as abusive

I don’t understand this eternal discussion, actually we don’t talk about that between each other, but we can read a lot of supposed tension “ate and ate“between us and for that I’d like to thank the Press which is doing a great and intense job…So far I can remember especially on holidays in south of France or winter ski, English tourist are just part of our holidays and never ever recognised we could potentially be not friends!

Actually in France we have not only one thing we like from the English are not only one thing but let me list a few:
-The British accent when you speak French is wonderful, we really love it.
-The English music….for me the best, it is like an evidence to me and not only me, I think
-The English actresses leaving in France or not like Jane Birkin, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emma Thompson, Charlotte Rampling, and I forgot a lot, these are wonderful actresses and people.
-All your butter cookies …and after eights
-The English “phlegm” I actually find it somehow “elegant”, “shy” and a kind of “carelessness” a paradox that I find unable to resist
-British humour…très très bon ! Please give us some more
-And of course my preferred English friend Martin with whom we try to have discussion , especially around Rugby or sometimes football but we finally give up quickly, I believe we like very much each other and as well we together love our respective country and respect it :-)

Posted by Severine Dunker | Report as abusive

madame carla bruni-has great knees

Posted by donald hobbs | Report as abusive

Do the French and the English like each other? Who knows. Why are Fire engines all called Dennis? Who will win the 4.30 at Kempton? Whatever happened to Aunty Liz’s cat? When was 1066? Why did the quartermaster at the Battle of Omdurman refuse to give out the bullets? These are the IMPORTANT questions. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz………… . . . . .

Posted by David Baskerville Rance | Report as abusive

Unfortunately, the new president of France is no recommendation for his country .. a racist -just remember the way he talked to the young Algerian protesters — even LePen has never used the word “racaille”- who is pompous, irascible, self-satisfied and so lost in self-admiration that he is willing to say anything to attract attention. But that is hardly a trait of reliability. His bed-hopping antics with their veneer of respectability (similar to the serial monogamy of Elizabeth Taylor) may endear him to the millionaires on whose yachts he disports himself, but can hardly be taken as a guarantee of fidelity to his new wife or to his new “best friend” Long spoons and bargepoles come immediately to mind. the French, whom I admire and France where I lived for several years and where I obtained my eduaction, deserve far better than this.

Posted by Geoffrey | Report as abusive

The French President, The French and France are only interested in one thing and one thing only, and that is to bleed money from it’s European cousins and member states. Mr.Sarkozy is only here to take more money from us as he is aware taht we are willing to spend billions on Nuclear Power and some planes, this inturn will help the French goverment and it’s workers enjoy a state funded out dated work regime which all European Tax payers are paying for.

Posted by P Field | Report as abusive