(asked by Frédéric H. from Paris)

Mmmm… A question asked by another Frenchman… Have I become such an authority in Frenchness? I’m flattered…

Before I answer this question, one needs to remember once again that Parisians must be distinguished from other French people on this topic.
Remember, if you learn only one thing from this blog, it is that Parisians and French people are two different things.

Remember that Parisians are superior beings…
Or so they think…
And because of that delusion of grandeur they’re all affected with, they think that everything and everyone have been put on Earth to serve them and to do whatever they’d want. Of course, reality is a bit different but they’re not exactly aware of that. So, every time something doesn’t go the way they want, especially if it puts them in their place of being normal human beings (having to wait in line, a traffic jam, having to move to let somebody in or out the metro, you name it), they’ll get pissed or annoyed (which are roughly the default state of minds for Parisians) and most likely complain or even shout and be rude.

Now, we have normal French people, and thing is that they tend to complain a lot too, and I gotta to admit I’m not really sure why.
What I’m quite sure about though is that it must be related to the fact that French people are used to have their problems solved by others (the government, their boss, their employees, their parents, their kids, etc) so when they face a problem, their first reaction is to complain to have the problem fixed.
This behavior pattern is the most telling when you watch the relationship between the French people and their government.

Remember the famous Kennedy quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Well, in France, it’s the other way around: people think that a country is something that’s there for you, and not the other way around. As a consequence (but I’m not sure it’s a consequence, we may be facing a chicken and egg problem here) when French people encounter a problem, their first reaction is not to try to fix it themselves, but to complain so that somebody fixes it.

This is also why we have so many protests in France and why they are a normal part of expression of disagreement with the government or other powers that be; I’m sure I’ll get the occasion to expand on that sooner or later.

Mmmm… I must admit that I’m not totally pleased with the answer as I didn’t tackle the origins of this trait of personality, but apart from over-reliance on government that makes people passive (as well as Parisian delusions and rudeness) I can’t think of any other origin. Maybe that’s all there is to it?

pixel Why do you think the French complain all the time?

6 Responses to “Why do you think the French complain all the time?”

  1. I think this is something where not only French people excel…:)))

  2. It was once explained to me that the problem dates back to the invention of chômage and all the other "aides" available to those with low-incomes. I was told that at first, nobody would apply for it because it was seen as shameful, so they government spent all kinds of time & money convincing people that they were there for them and that they had a right to be helped. But over time, it worked too well and now you have all these people under 50 who think they are entitled to anything and everything.

    PS. Did you know every time I click on a link on your blog, there's a spam window that pops up?

  3. Interesting… I wonder if you had seen my blog. It would be pretty funny if we independently came up with similar concept at the same time.

    I will be sending a question pretty soon. Nice to meet you.

  4. No, you’re right, that doesn’t explain the complaining - I was responding to your very last paragraph. I don’t know why the French complain so much either - it’s just what they do. It’s like a national sport. But then again, that’s why they say “When God made France, he decided it was too perfect, so then he made the French”!

  5. David,

    I grew up in L.A. and Lala natives (even transplants) have a very similar attitude to the “stereotypical” Parisian attitude! I had to live with the attitude for a good part of my life, until I moved south to beautiful San Diego, which was still developing into a full-grown city back in 1983 with the growth of “condo heaven and apts everywhere… I am very fortunate that over the 23 years I lived in San Diego, it never became the type of city L.A. is… it kept its simplicity and charm and it’s fondly called a “big city with a small town feel!”
    I think people in L.A. complain 3x as much as the Parisians… so I’m not quite convinced that it’s a French thing, at all… Plus, you should really here those Angelans whine!!! Surely, the Parisians could learn a thing or two from them!!!

  6. Interesting article…although I didn’t find my answer, at least you confirmed my thoughts. Such a shame frenchies are such whingers…and the worse is that i am one of them!!! I want to CHANGE!
    I have travelled in lots of countries across the world and every time i heard French people around me was to complain (yes, they do complain even on holidays on wonderful islands or amazing wild contries etc)…’I'm hot’, ‘I’m cold’, ‘I need the toilets’,'I’m hungry’,'I’m tired’etc…aarghhh

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