A Canadian visitor to our gîte asked me, "Why don't the French people ever smile?" I hadn't noticed this before, so I started to observe the local population more closely. And yes, he was right… Smiles are a rare sight.
A Canadian visitor to our gîte asked me, "Why don't the French people ever smile?"
I hadn't noticed this before, so I started to observe the local population more closely.
And yes, he was right… Smiles are a rare sight.
And so I started to wonder why this could be.
I do know that if you smile in public, everybody thinks, "he must be up to something", because life here seems to be a competition to gain as much as possible out of the 'system', without letting on to anybody else what you are doing.
So really, what is there to smile about in France?
Could it be that the rail system is fantastic, and that you can travel from Paris to the South for just a few euros at 300 kilometres per hour, if you plan your trip carefully?
Could it be that the medical facilities are extraordinarily good, with doctors taking up to an hour with a patient, if necessary, to diagnose and treat a problem? And then, when an operation is required, that it takes place within a couple of days?
Could it be that there is some of the best wine in the world available for just a few euros? Like a Bordeaux Superior for €1.69, or a Haut Côte de Beaune for €3.49, or a Pommard Premier Cru for €15.00, which is fantastic for the price and the care that is taken in its preparation.
I know because I have picked it myself.
Could it be that the highways are the best you will find anywhere in the world, but if you choose to use the National Roads, you will still be amazed at the standard, cleanliness and the wayside free parking at picnic spots with views of rolling countryside?
Perhaps it might be the contrast of the four seasons, from Christmas snow, to butterflies and bees in February, Daffodils in April, Colsa in June, Sunflowers in August and Canadian Autumn colours in the forests in the Fall?
Perhaps it might be the provision of non-stop electricity at such a competitive price that it is exported to all the surrounding countries? I particularly value this after my experiences in Africa.
It may be the State provision for children, so that a mother of three can get over four hundred euros a month to help her raise her children to advantage, and that she also gets a payment of €150 each time the children go back to school, for books and clothes?
Could it be that there are "tax reliefs" and "aid" for students up the age of twenty six, after which they work thirty five hours a week and then can retire at fifty five?
Are the fisherman upset that they have to pay for a license of a few euros to then have the right to fish thousands of kilometres of canals and rivers of France?
Perhaps they are upset by the obligatory two-hour stoppage for lunch during which they have to endure three or four course meals and leisurely conversations with friends?
Could it be that they don't smile because the State only pays for seventy per cent of cost of prescription drugs, when some people with certain ailments get them free?
Perhaps they are not happy with the range in the supermarkets, which stock everything from lamb from New Zealand, beef from Argentina to crabs still blowing bubbles in ice?
Perhaps it is the little country markets, which have a tradition of centuries, where the stalls block the village streets as colourful characters compete with each other for sales?
I could go on with all the things that could be reasons not to smile, but I decided to ask my daughter if she thought that the French 'don't smile'. She told me that people always smile at her, especially when the weather is good and the sun is shining.
However, she is twenty five, blonde and turns heads when she walks.
Perhaps that is why she collects smiles.
There are obviously no smiles left over for a grumpy sixty five year old, like me!