By Henry Samuel in Paris
Language, history, cooking and support for rival football teams still divide Europe. But when everything else fails, one glue binds the continent together: hatred of the French.
Typically, the French refuse to accept what arrogant, overbearing monsters they are.
But now after the publication of a survey of their neighbours' opinions of them at least they no longer have any excuse for not knowing how unpopular they are.
Why the French are the worst company on the planet, a wry take on France by two of its citizens, dredges up all the usual evidence against them. They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour.
But it doesn't stop there, boasting a breakdown, nation by nation, of what in the French irritates them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless". However, the French may be more shocked by the views of other nations.
For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".
Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".
But the knockout punch to French pride came in the way the poll was conducted. People were not asked what they hated in the French, just what they thought of them.
"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."
According to Mr Clodong, the old adage that France is wonderful, it's just the French who are the problem, is shared across Europe.
"We are admired for our trains, the Airbus and Michelin tyres. But the buck stops there," he said.
Another section of the study deals with how the French see the rest of Europe.
"Believe it or not, the English and the French use almost exactly the same adjectives to describe each other - bar the word 'insular'," Mr Coldong said. "So the feelings are mutual."
This is a TRUE story. Not satire. Here's the Telegraph's webpage of this story -
Tue May 17, 2005 6:58 pm
Edited by Blackleaf, 17 May 2005 - 09:05 AM.