(asked by Ravi from the UK)

I can’t understand why the French, especially those in Paris hate the British so much. Despite the historical wars of CENTURIES ago, we have been through so much together, especially during the World Wars. We have worked together since then, the Channel Tunnel being an example. Many French citizens work in Great Britain and many Brits visit or settle as expats in France. The attitude of the average Paris born person is ridiculous and just outright rude! As someone who was thinking of living in Paris for a year, I am very put-off by this superficial attitude of many Frenchies. Can you explain why the French or Parisians have this dreadful attitude towards the British?

Very interesting question and for once, we’re going to leave the US alone (who said “finally”?).
First I have to say that I’m a little sad you’re not going into specifics, because you seem to be alluding to some personal experiences, and I wish you had described them.
I’m going to start by pointing out the contradictions in your question.
You seem to feel that if not all, at least most of the French hate the British, but a few lines later you mention the fact that we work together well, many citizens from both countries work, live and settle in the other one.
See what I mean?
If we work so well, if there are so many people travelling and moving to the other country, maybe it’s because the French don’t hate the British, and the British don’t hate the French.
And because of that I can’t really answer the “why” in your question, because there is no “why” in the first place.

But don’t think that will stop me from answering anyway.
Let’s talk about history and geopolitics first.
You say the wars we had were centuries ago. Well, yes, the last one was 1815 if I’m not wrong (really 1815? I’d swear there has been at least another one? Any historian here?), and that’s technically two Centuries ago.
But as you’re not an American (whoops, sorry, I said I was gonna leave you alone tonight guys, sorry…) you know that two Centuries are not much when you’re talking about history, especially compared to roughly a thousand years of being almost constantly sworn enemies.
And you also know of the influence history has in shaping national identity and national rivalry. And yes, mostly because of what I would call “school propaganda”, the French are still pissed at England for the Hundred Years War and burning Joan of Arc, and if I’m not wrong, you guys are not big fans of Napoleon, are you?

So, yes, we haven’t been at war in about 200 years, we’ve even been allied for more than a Century, but not everything will go away that easily, and a rivalry has always been present between both countries, even after we stopped warring, whether it is with sports, or colonization before that.
And even today, while we’re trying to build some sort of decent Europe, there’s always that feeling (and not only from the French, but from many Europeans) that Britain doesn’t really know what it wants with Europe and keeps on being a pain in Europe’s ass on many issues.
I’m not even going into the fact that many Europeans and France resent strongly the fact that there are some tensions between Europe and the US, Britain tends to side on the US’s side (are you still trying to gain the 13 colonies back or what?), even in very shameful ways like the last time.

But seriously, apart from those criticisms and rivalries, I don’t see any hate from the French towards the UK.
I mean, sure you’ll find some backwards people that will hate the UK (and usually every single other foreign country with it), but one cannot say that France hates the UK.

And if I didn’t know better, I’d even be tempted to say that’s the other way around when one reads the British tabloid press. There hasn’t ever been a French newspaper insulting Tony Blair and calling him a worm or a weasel, even while he behaved like Bush’s bitch.
Can I say the same with the British press and Chirac and the French? No I can’t.

But before I finish, you seem to insist on the fact that more than the French in general, it’s the Parisians who hate the Brits, and that I really don’t know where that comes from, because Parisians maybe the French people that are the most enamoured with the Brits.
If you had asked about people from Périgord, yes, you may find quite a few that dislike the Brits more and more, but one cannot say they don’t have good reasons (when locals can’t afford to buy houses anymore and must leave villages where their family has lived for Centuries because British retirees have killed the housing market, there are good reasons to be mad).
So sure, apparently you have been mistreated by Parisians.
But where you’re way off here, it’s because this has nothing to do with the fact you’re a Brit, not even the fact that you’re a foreigner. It has everything to do with the fact that they’re Parisians, and they don’t know any other way to treat people, even between each other.
Simple as that.

But in the end, yes we have our differences, our rivalries, and our history, but no, the French don’t hate the British, although their popularity would be higher if they finally fully committed themselves to the EU and if their rugby team lost more often against France.

pixel Why do the French hate the British so much?

7 Responses to “Why do the French hate the British so much?”

  1. I agree. Beyond a bit of the usual fairly inoffensive rosbifs stereotyping (which has its equally unserious parallel in British ideas of the French as either Marcel Marceau or a guy cycling about in a beret with a string of onions) I don't see any French hatred of the British at all.

    Sure, you can still see the history of mutual suspicion in its traces in the languages, but in my experiences both nationalities find that more amusing than anything else. It's the kind of generally friendly rivalry you get between any neighbouring countries with a long and complicated history between them, and who've taken different positions on things like multiculturalism/secularism etc.

    These days I almost know more Parisians living in London (very happily) than I do living in Paris, and I also know a lot of English people living longterm in Paris without feeling persecuted.

    It sounds to me as though Ravi has just met some rude Parisian service culture or queue-jumping or something, maybe, and taken it as directed at him as a Brit…? It would be interesting to know what, though.

  2. Maybe a third part opinion would be of some help here… I am European, proud to be at least partially French and professionally working as an English teacher so , although I might be guilty of having various “prides” I am definitely having no prejudice against any of the 2 countries. I have met British citizens all over Europe, in Italy, in Greece, in France, Turkey, Poland and in my own country, Romania, Eastern Europe. They do have a strange inner feeling everybody is persecuting them for being British , which is both funny and 100% not true. Nobody hates the fact that they are Brits but they go on thinking that and being sure that lots of the many inconvenient things one might experience when travelling abroad happen to them precisely because everybody has something against them being from UK and not because countries, cultures and customs may vary extremely. I think it is related to people feeling unsecure in a non-English language environment because they never complain about USA, Australia or Canada no matter what they experience there…. If one checks reviews they give over internet sites about places they visited one would immediately notice repeated assertions like “ It is obvious this hotel was meant to the Germans/Russians/etc and not at all to us, Brits…’ ,or : “ The staff speaks German and French but do not care at all for us, the English speaking clients” or “ It is full of Germans/Turks/bla bla bla so,they are not very friendly to UK people “ “ The clerk helped only the Italian tourists, while us, the Brits had to wait un-noticed until everybody else get their luggage bla bla bla a.s.o … If they meet someone rude they consider the rudeness is connected to them being British … Another thing I have noticed when interacting with British people is that they always concentrate on what is different . They keep complaining about this being like that, and that being the other way round while in Uk things are, on the contrary,like this and like that … Sometimes they miss a lot when they try to do business abroad because being very rigid in their approach they don’t get the “vibe” of the place/market/deal .

  3. At the risk of sounding even more incendiary, I wonder if perhaps Ravi was on the receiving end of a rather worse sort of ethnic stereotyping (or maybe I'm guilty of it too, since I'm guessing by his name that he may of South Asian ancestry)? But even that is not necessarily characteristic even of Parisians.

    Parisians can be famously abrupt, even as Londoners can be impatient of anyone and everyone. But, as a generalisation, they seem to me to be much more relaxed and open nowadays than they were when I first went to Paris 40-odd years ago. Hard-pressed service personnel in tourist-oriented businesses are a different case though: if I were in that sort of life I'd be more than a bit misanthropic.

  4. British/French rivaly was officially put to rest in the 1904 Entente Cordiale, which pretty much ended any colonial competition between the two empires.

    The only issue I've heard a French person respond to with Brittanophobia is the destruction of the French fleet at Oran by the British, which is the French Pearl Harbor. Those French people with relatives who died in that raid are, understanbly, not necessarily pro-British.

    I live in Santa MOnica, a place that is crawling with Brits. Recently they declared (through all the usual media) a holiday celebrating their contributions to Los Angeles. Basically, to say how great they are. And to ask all of us natives to acknowledge that fact.

    Given that attitude, I don't think it would take much to make the Brits feel unappreciated abroad.

    PS - I think anti-French feeling is much higher in the UK than it is in the US, and certainly higher than any anti-British feeling in France.

  5. Don't know about Parisians…but out here in the great southwest (Dordogne), that segment of brits who came here to get over on the great real estate prices, have been here for years and never bothered to even attempt the language … and use only other brit provided services, basically rejecting even the most superficial appearance of integrating into local life…well that might have SOME influence on their dwindling popularity.

  6. I dodn't know (or had forgotten) you lived in Dordogne. Yeah, as mentioned, I'm sure the Brits are not that popular anymore over there, but I really can't blame the locals on that one.

  7. Another big reason : the anti-French propaganda and historical revisionism. They’re actually bigger perpetrators of anti-French one-liners and “you guys lost all wars, don’t wash, are dirty socialists, are rude etc…” trying to impose them as “the sky is blue” type of truths than the Americans in my experience.
    I think it’s part of the tabloid ‘culture’. Anything measured, long and explained, or too “human” is seen as “corny”…and any form of over-simplifying, stereotyping is seen as ok… That’s a generalisation, but that’s something that many French (me included) have experienced and can’t stand. It’s deep-rooted in ethnocentrism, insularity and acceptation of prejudices IMHO, and if you don’t “laugh”, you have no sense of humour…Give me a break.

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