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Danone, L’Oréal and revolutionary French

Hi guys, it’s me again!

Remember? Valentine, this girl from France. Ah la France… Just hearing this makes you daydream about Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, Versailles, the Normandie, the Provence, the smelly cheese, the overwhelming amount of wines coming from every single part of the country –Champagne, Bordeaux, Bourgogne,… Or maybe just about Paris (and that’s a lot already!).

But what about French people? Let’s take a look at what is so particular about this legendarily annoying (and yet fascinating!) people.

In general, the French are very resourceful and can complain pretty easily (surprising, isn’t it?). They are attached to their five-week yearly holidays paid by their employers, to their thirty-five hours of work per week, their social coverage and their maximum retirement age of sixty years old. And on top of that they are revolutionary. Once upon a time, they would not have hesitated to behead their kings for having taken advantage of their privileges (e.g. the French Revolution, just sayin’). But nowadays, there’s absolutely no way that someone would deprive them from their own privileges and their modern secret defense is… going on strike…!

(“General Strike”)

So, it is logical for us to ask the following question: “With a society as messy as that, how come France can still be regarded as one of the most powerful countries in the world? Come on, Valentine, you must be joking!” Well, no, I’m not.

Actually, the economy, the society and the sustainable development in France all represent a real paradox which is hardly understandable by foreigners – and even sometimes by French people! As an expert in French people for the past 22 years (oui, oui, oui), I strongly believe that the actual situation in France is linked to our homogeneous behavior as one community from the same country. It was almost meant to be. Indeed, we are not all as I describe in this article but basically our “French flaws” are our main strength.

French (almost) qualities – yes, we have some, I promise!

First of all, France is well-known for its quality of life, also called “douceur de vivre” (literally, “sweet lifestyle”). This is most true outside of the big cities – which can be, as we know, really stressful. But maybe it is because of this quality of life that we came to forget about sustainable development. Indeed, if life had been less “sweet” to us, perhaps we would have been more aware of the protection needed by our own environment (air quality, water quality, noise, etc.)

Moreover, this “douceur de vivre” is also the result of our beloved paid holidays (since 1936), our social security and its free benefits (since 1945), our retirement pensions (since 1945), and our thirty-five hours of work per week (since 1997) which may not be innocent when it comes to the national deficit… However, the positive effect of all these measures is that we became even more productive! Indeed, with over 65 million French people, the labor force is above 30 million people, including 3 million unemployed and 6 million civil servants. And since it seems to take only those 30 million people to provide money for the French population of 65 million, we can almost show off saying that France is one of the most productive countries in the world!

The country can also count on its worldwide first-place ranking concerning electricity of nuclear origin. But it is not as prestigious as it sounds. It is quite possible that this nuclear advantage has prevented us from developing environmentally-friendly methods like our European neighbors (Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden…).

And last but not least, peace is an important component of our French “douceur de vivre.” We have relatively efficient public forces that have been improved with more than 60 years of colonial wars and the continuous fight against terrorism.

False French flaws (too many « F » here)

You are totally right to think that France seems to be ungovernable. Actually, we French people have the same impression. Our own politicians consider the idea of having reforms in France almost impossible! Each social category gets different kinds of privileges (taxi drivers, civil servants, lawyers, journalists, firemen, professors, football players, judges, ministers, doctors, etc.) and nobody is ready to give this privilege up, making France a very stable country where no revolutionary government or even elected government could easily start again with a clean slate.

A few weeks ago, for example, the Ministry of Environment tried to put a tax on trucks to limit pollution. As you may have guessed, it failed after the truck drivers threatened to boycott the whole country!

However, our situation is not all “roses,” and because of this constant risk of strike, a lot of French enterprises decided to develop not only in France but on an international scale. They are of different types: agriculture, food, drinks, arms, banks, insurances… Do these names ring a bell?

I forgot to mention two more things that can explain why France is considered a powerful nation. One of these things is the demography; France has one of the most important demographic rates in Europe. And the second thing is that France attracts people. The country is among the most touristic destinations (in certain cities, there are almost more tourists than French inhabitants!). France also seduces many immigrants who want to settle down there even if it is hard due to the complicated bureaucracy.

To conclude, I would say that France does not have the best trumps in its cards but thanks to its lucky star and to its wily, sometimes stubborn population, France seems to remain a powerful country.

Wait! I want to thank my mom for having given her genes to me (yeah my hair comes from her, lucky!), my dad without whom I would have only talked about Danone in this article and the Bistro for their awesome cookies that gave me the strength to write all this. Blitz bless Willamette University!

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  1. 1 Comment(s)

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