Why do the French hate the British so much?

 

(asked by Ravi from the UK)

Hello,
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?

 

Ask a FrenchmanVery interesting question and for once, we’re going to leave the US and Americans alone today (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, and that many citizens from both countries work, live and settle in the other one.
See where I’m going?
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 either.
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 nonetheless.

Frog

The Frenchman according to the Brits.
(source:Grand-Duc via Wikimedia Commons)

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 after that? Any historian among people reading these lines?), 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 almost constantly being sworn enemies.
You also know of the influence history has in shaping national identity and national rivalries. 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; colonization was a nasty race against each other for more power, influence and riches, on a lighter topic, there’s also a strong rivalry between France and the UK in many sports, etc.
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 other 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 European and French people strongly resent that when there are some tensions between Europe and the US, Britain pretty much always sides with the US (are you still trying to gain the 13 colonies back or what?), to the point that the UK is sometimes seen as the US’ lapdog as far as international politics is concerned.

But seriously, apart from those criticisms and rivalries, I don’t see any hate from the French towards the UK, and especially not towards British people.
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. For example, no French newspaper has ever insulted Tony Blair and called him a worm or a weasel, even when he behaved as such in the first half of the last decade. Can I say the same with the British press and Chirac and the French? No I can’t. But, as I said, I know better, and I know that tabloid press is a piece of crap and doesn’t represent the British people in any way.

Rosbif

Those Brits look funny, don’t they?
(source: Timo1974 via via Wikimedia Commons)

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 I personally have the feeling that Parisians may be the French that are the most enamored with Britain.

If you had asked about people from Périgord, yes, you may find quite a few that dislike British people more and more, but one cannot say they don’t have good reasons for that (when locals can’t afford to buy houses anymore and must leave villages where their family has lived for centuries because British retirees have made local real estate unaffordable for the local population, there are good reasons to be mad).

However, apparently you have been mistreated by Parisians. Well, that 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 most of them don’t know any other way to treat people, they even mistreat each other. This is how most Parisians see human interactions.
Simple as that.

So, 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.

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David Billa

David was born and raised in the French South West. After a few years in the US and a few more in Paris, he finally settled down in Japan. He blogs here about his various experiences and travels, with an emphasis on his home country, France.

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10 Responses

  1. ebatbuok says:

    Well said, sir…
    I don’t hate English people, nor despise them. Not the way I saw Scottish people despise English people :)

    • Bertrand Feuvray says:

      I wonder why the English want to remain united with Scotland and Wales ( I do not know much about Northern Ireland to say anything) because they seem to hate the English more than continental Europeans. England and the English are considered important partners in several European nations of the EU.

      • David Billa says:

        Er… Why would an English want to keep Wales or Scotland part of the UK?
        I don’t know, maybe for the same reasons a bunch of French wanted to keep Algeria part of France in the 50’s?
        You know, colonization and all that.
        Now, the Scots have voted, they decided to remain part of the UK, end of story for now, isn’t it?
        (maybe the Welsh should get their vote too though).

  2. james flower says:

    Well said. I’m English and my sister lives in the Dordogne area. I find all people there friendly an helpful.

  3. Linda Shay says:

    Nice response but I wonder why you don’t mention Mers el Kebir? True the French and English have been allied but let’s not forget Churchill sunk the French Fleet in Mers el Kebir after the French signed the Armistice with Hitler. Of course 1940 is still a ways back in time but I imagine there are some still alive today holding that grudge. Just a thought.

    • David Billa says:

      Believe it or not Linda, I wasn’t aware of the Mers el Kebir episode when I first wrote this post a couple of years ago (I only reposted it here last month).
      And even after knowing the facts (and by that, I mean reading the wikipedia page on it), it’s hard to call that a battle between France and the UK. I guess I’m one of those French people who have trouble considering the Vichy government as “France”. I think it’s a complicated issue that will be debated for a long time and that doesn’t have a right and wrong answer.

      Also, I don’t think many people hold a grudge against the British for that incident, but I’m under the impression that most people don’t know about that incident.

      Knowing more about the story, I think that sinking those ships made sense, killing the crew with them, not so much (could it be avoided?)

    • Bertrand Feuvray says:

      I do not understand why my people the French would be mad at Churchill for sinking the French Navy during WWII. It was logical. Hitler could have seized that navy at any time. Or if there was any doubt that Hitler could seize it, why wait and see if He was going to do it??? So as far as I am concerned, it was a strategic move and a good move. Why are the French always so upset then things happen to things French like that? They need to grow up and see what the point was. Churchill was a Francophile and he was also practical. De Gaulle made him attack somewhere in Africa. We can see from that that Churchill tried to please De Gaulle. Actually, he admired him. And De Gaulle gave him the best military decorations after WWII.

      Someone like Hitler could not be trusted. He had the best relationship with Poland in order to make sure that the Poles would not worry about the Germans. And yet what happened, He attacked them. He had an alliance with russia and when he planned to attack it, Churchill told the russians about it and they would not believe that the Germans would do that. And what happened? The GErmans attacked russia. French people need to stop picking fights with the English because of their quick impulsive reaction to what happens between the two countries. They need to see the practicality of actions and try to understand.

      • David Billa says:

        Well, as you may know, the Mers El Kebir battle is not exactly famous in France, so I doubt that many French people would be mad at Churchill or anybody else in the UK.
        Now, one reason why they could (should?) is that it’s not just the ships that were sunk, but 1300 French sailors with them, sailors who were quite unlikely to start wearing the Nazi uniform just because. I mean some may have, but we can easily imagine that most would have joined the Allies forces, like most of the French military that was in the colonies and overseas did.

  4. jeff powell says:

    Ridiculous question I have lived in France for ten years and have never felt any serious animosity in this wonderful country.

    • Bertrand Feuvray says:

      I lived in England for ten years and I feel that the English people are a wonderful people. I was told on several occasions in both England and France that “I was English now.” Long Live England and the English.

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