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arghhh, my worst fears have been confirmed: I am french therefore I am dull!!!

(55 Posts)
FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 19:18:15

If you believe the Sunday Times of course.

well do you?

Couldn't do a link so here is the waste of paper they call an article at the ST:

So chic, so thin ... but oh-la-la, so dull
French women eclipse all as the epitome of female perfection, but they work so hard at it they’re no fun. For that you need British girls, says Helena Frith Powell

It’s tough being a Frenchwoman. I know because I’ve spent the past five years trying to become one. It’s not so bad in the countryside in the south where I live, but once the train pulls in to Paris I feel as though I am on another planet. The women are sleek, snooty and well-groomed.

But it is not only French-women’s famed chic that sets them apart from the rest of us mortals. An academic study published last week concluded that Frenchwomen were the best in Europe at everything: they live longest (on a par with the Spanish), are the most successful at work and make the best mothers, too.

How do they do it? Through hard work and determination. For example, weeks after the birth of my third baby in Béziers, a bustling city in the south of France, a physio prepared to give me a pelvic examination and asked me to squeeze his fingers using my pelvic muscles.

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s good for your health,” he replied. “But mainly it’s good for your husband.”

So there lies the secret: France is still a chauvinist society. To survive, women need to use all their charms. Even if you have just had a child, you have to make an effort. “The arrival of a child does not signify a change in identity,” the family sociologist François de Singly said recently. “The French mother understands the need to keep her professional life and preserve her qualities of seduction.”

To ensure that Frenchwomen can breed but still have the time and money for manicures, the state has created a support network.

In Britain it wouldn’t have been worth my while working once I’d paid for childcare. Here you can very easily work, should you want to. There are municipal crèches, subsidised childminders and every primary school has a maternelle section, free for any child over two.

The French system encourages women to have children. In fact, the more children you have in France the easier life gets, so no wonder Frenchwomen’s fertility rate is also the highest in Europe, on a par with the Irish at 1.9 children per woman (in Britain it is 1.7).

Once you’ve had three children you become what they call a famille nombreuse. This gives you all sorts of perks, such as half-price first-class rail travel. You also pay significantly less tax the more children you have. One of my French winemaking friends, who has had four children, is always in profit at the end of the year.

Giving birth in England and France are very different experiences. A couple of hours after giving birth to our daughter in Sussex I was starving. The nurse told me to go and make myself a piece of toast. I could hardly walk but managed to drag myself to a rather unpleasant kitchen where another starving mother was eating dry bread. Here in France a uniformed caterer came into my private room with a menu and asked what I would prefer to eat.

In keeping with their desire to stay sexy, Frenchwomen are not as keen on breastfeeding as British women. One mother who lives locally told me: “My breasts are for my husband.”

But they are obsessed with what they feed their children once they are weaned. Alexandra, a French friend, was horrified to see me cooking chicken nuggets and chips. “How can you feed them that rubbish?” she asked. “You wouldn’t eat it yourself, would you?” She had a point. I have now become a French mother in terms of feeding my children. No more easy options; they even get homemade ice cream.

Frenchwomen are disciplined. Coco Chanel once said “elegance is refusal”. This seems to me a mantra most of them live by. An extremely chic Parisian told me she hadn’t had a croissant for 12½ years (not that she was counting).

French discipline starts early. I was on the beach where my daughters were playing with some other girls. The ice-cream man came along and I offered to buy them all one. “No,” said their pencil-thin, scarily elegant mother, “it’s not tea-time.” It was actually half past three, so not a million miles away, but she preferred to let her children weep and stick to the rules.

So intransigence is bred at an early age. It is what makes Frenchwomen so dictatorial when it comes to their own beauty regime. For a Frenchwoman, looking good means having perfect nails, hair, make-up and underwear. A Frenchwoman will wear only matching underwear.

I have now been somehow brainwashed into doing the same. But when I first moved here I asked a friend why they are all obsessed with matching smalls. She looked at me rather condescendingly and asked: “Is there any other kind?” But French wonder-women do have one weak point. They don’t have much fun. It is odd that joie de vivre is a French phrase. Frenchwomen seem to be so busy living up to the brand — slim, perfect and cultivated — that they rarely let themselves go.

I arranged to meet a male friend in Paris and asked him if I could bring some other women along. “As long as they’re not French,” he told me. He said he was sick of watching them eat nothing, nurse one half glass of wine all night and never laugh.

France’s It girl, Hermine de Clermont-Tonnerre, agrees. She says she prefers the company of Brits so much that she even married one. “I love the English,” she says. “You’re so crazy and funny. Everything in France is so heavy.”

As a place to bring up children if you’re a working mother, France is a great country. But for a fun date, don’t count on a Frenchwoman.

More France Please, We’re British by Helena Frith Powell is available at The Sunday Times Books First priced £8.49 plus 99p p&p (RRP £9.99) on 0870 165 8585 or visit

Caligula Sun 24-Jul-05 19:23:46


OK you're going to want to kill me. Yes most of the french girls I have met have been hideously dull when we're in the company of men, but very good fun when we're on our own.

(sorry Frenchgirl - I'm sure you're fascinating! But do you have matching underwear?)

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 19:30:30

I have many hidden depths I'll have you know. My underwear sometimes matches, it does today, but that's pure chance. It used to mach before I had dd though............... boring myself now

Twiglett Sun 24-Jul-05 19:32:43


FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 19:32:59

oi twigglet

Twiglett Sun 24-Jul-05 19:33:43

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 19:35:41

must go now and make three course gourmet meal for dh and dd, put dd to bed at exactly 8.30pm, then pleasure dh and finally do my nails and prepare my matching underwear for tomorrow
bet you've all left now

hunkermunker Sun 24-Jul-05 19:36:23


FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 19:38:44

you think I'm joking???

hunkermunker Sun 24-Jul-05 19:40:18

Nope, was an in awe of you

I must go and sort my smalls, paint my nails, tidy my lady garden and shave my feet now

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 19:50:34

not bad HM but we french woman do not have hairy feet.
i have hairy toes though

NotQuiteCockney Sun 24-Jul-05 19:58:57

I'm afraid that in Quebec, French women's style of makeup and attire is called ... poupee gonflable. Not very popular there.

Although I've known plenty of French girls who were great fun.

marthamoo Sun 24-Jul-05 20:04:15

Sorry....was someone saying something terribly dull in a funny accent? I must have dozed off for a second...

NotQuiteCockney Sun 24-Jul-05 20:12:02

The thing I do find funny about French women here is ... how English men react to them. I used to work with a woman who was half-Scottish and half-French. She had the loveliest accent, and was a really nice person to work with.

But when I mentioned her interesting blended accent to male colleagues, all they could talk about was the fact she was French. And then they'd swoon a bit. She wasn't really that French, she was pretty Scottish, but all they noticed was the French thing.

milward Sun 24-Jul-05 20:15:36

True about the bf & the french. A very low rate of bf. Once I was bf in france & an elderly lady came upto me. I was read for a talking to but she congratulated me on bf my nearly one year old as it was really rare to see.

NotQuiteCockney Sun 24-Jul-05 20:16:48

Some famous French actress was photographed breastfeeding recently (professional photos, I think?) and there was a great furore. I think only France and Ireland have lower rates of bf than the UK, in the EU.

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 21:07:53

well both my SIL (French) and I breastfed our babies, so we're not all 'bad' you know.....
I do know what you mean about some english men's reaction to french women, and it is strange (but flattering on occasion let's face it). I don't have the typical strong french accent though.

Caligula Sun 24-Jul-05 21:12:25

Frenchgirl - I used to know this Frenchwoman who had an Antoine de Caunes accent. She was practically incomprehensible some of the time, and I found myself coming over all Marjorie from Little England when talking to her. "Eh? What d'you say? Eh?" She was determined not to improve her accent because of it being sexy. In vain did I explain that a light accent was sexy, but Antoine de Caunes caricature accent is not! (Bet she wore matching underwear though!

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 21:13:15

Caligula can I be your best friend now? I love you!!!!

Blackduck Sun 24-Jul-05 21:15:44

If you just bought the same pants and bra all the time it would always be matching wouldn't it??

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 21:16:24

aha good point!

Blackduck Sun 24-Jul-05 21:17:10

maybe I should try it

moozoboozo Sun 24-Jul-05 21:19:14

Frenchgirls. I think you are fabuloso, and I widhsd I wrre as chic asnd eleganto as you

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 21:19:44

big french kiss to you

FrenchGirl Sun 24-Jul-05 21:22:02

that sobered you up moozo!!!

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