Prejudices

The French are badly involved in traffic;
Is generally correct. Especially in the countryside is ridden too hard (and also very dangerous: too slow), changing direction is almost not indicated, inside turns are ‘skipped’. But pedestrians who want to cross are often treated excessively courteously. Fact remains, within Europe France scores highest in the ranking of traffic accidents, although in 2004 it has become much better thanks to an almost frenzied performance of traffic controls and the distribution of higher fines.

The French only speak French;
Right. With the exception of staff at airports and at the larger tourist offices, the French only speak French. Although foreign languages are taught in education (English, Spanish and if one is very clever also German), reading and speaking in other languages is hardly practiced after leaving school. For the Dutch, 888 of teletext from a few TV channels is a godsend. Subtitles in French, intended for the French deaf, are good for the Dutch to follow a film and learn some French.

The French almost exclusively talk about food;
That’s right. The first fifteen minutes of an enjoyable and especially non-committal gathering between the French and the Dutch during the apéritif or apéro is talked about the weather, the last holiday and intimates is also talked about politics. Then the Dutch are asked if they are already getting used to their new country and then they speak with the villagers just back in the old tempo and the difficult to say patois about the quality of foie gras this year, that beautiful wine, the lack of cèpes (mushrooms from the forest) and the sweetness of the harvested figs.

The French are arrogant;
Is not too bad. In the countryside, where most Dutch people will live (yet), there is not much that arrogance – if it existed at all. There is, however, a certain formality in dealing with it. If you make the effort to learn some French – if you live there you will definitely have to learn (some) French – the French are very helpful. In Paris and some other big cities people are obviously more distant, which does not necessarily mean the same as arrogant.

There is a lot of bureaucracy in France;
Is generally true. Especially as a foreigner who does not speak French, the paper shop is almost insurmountable and sometimes pleasant to speak during Dutch meetings. If you understand something of the language, it is not so bad. It is quite clear which forms have to be completed, included, stamped. Sometimes they also make some apologetic gestures. “La bureaucracy, c’est terrible, hein?” If one then succeeds to report that it is not much better in the Netherlands – a lie – then the locks of benevolence open up profusely.

In France, they strike a lot;
That is what the Dutch think and also the most French. The participants in a strike (grève) or a demonstration (‘manif’) are not of the opinion that they just take to the streets. The victims of the strikes – the public – murmur, however, accept these expressions of social discontent from the most diverse groups: nurses, firefighters, judges, surgeons, postmen, pensioners.

The French do not meet their agreements;
In the private sphere that is not so bad, but in business traffic it is sometimes very difficult. For larger companies (contractors, plumbers, electricians) the agreements to appear at the agreed time are usually fulfilled. But certainly not always. Angry telephone or sending faxes sometimes helps. Some smaller companies can indeed make a jar of it. French friends about this must acknowledge that it is a reprehensible method, they themselves suffer from it. A small consolation.