• France edition
 
Opinion
'Speaking English would make French less glum'
Photo: chariserin

'Speaking English would make French less glum'

Published: 25 Mar 2013 15:10 GMT+01:00
Updated: 25 Mar 2013 15:10 GMT+01:00

A BVA-Gallup International survey in 2011 found that despite their relatively high standard of living, the French were the most pessimistic people in the world. So, in a country where they have a 35-hour working week, lengthy summer holidays, wholesome cuisine, great wine and a fantastic countryside, why are the French people so down on themselves?

Next month, Professor Claudia Senik from the Paris School of Economics will present a study to the Royal Economic Society in London on the reasons why, based on her study of the European Social Survey.

For this week's opinion piece, Senik tells The Local why France's own culture and education system are partly to blame for the French being less cheery than their worse-off European neighbours, and how speaking better English would help them get back their joie de vivre.

School is to blame

Professor Claudia Senik: “I think the role of the primary school system in France is partly to blame. If unhappiness is partly due to someone's mentality, then people are forming that negative mentality at an early age in primary schools.

"One theory is that the grading system in French schools is responsible. In France, students are generally graded on a scale of 0 to 10 or 0 to 20 and it’s very difficult to get high grades. This means the majority of pupils are used to getting bad grades. When they think about their self-worth or their value, they think about these grades, which are usually low or intermediate.

"This view becomes ingrained since childhood, so they become dissatisfied with themselves.

“It is well documented that, in the United States for instance, children have a much more positive view of themselves, where school is more geared towards building self-confidence. This is not the case in France. In Nordic countries, too, pupils are not graded as much and the grades are much easier to achieve.

"To improve the happiness of French people the schooling system needs changing. It is too strict, and in primary school the children will do French, History and Maths but then only one hour of drawing and two of hours of gym a week. That’s ridiculous. It needs to be more multi-dimensional.

"I was amazed at the importance of sport in the American school system, but in France you really have to be a pure intellectual if you want to be happy at school.

“There are of course positive aspects to the French education system. They are very good academically, but not necessarily for making the kids happy."

Lost grandeur of the French empire

"In life you always compare your position in reference to some benchmark, and in France this is the grandeur of the old Francophone empire and the influence that France used to have in the world.

"Painters and writers used to come to France to make a career but that’s not the case anymore. People may not always be conscious of this, but they are feeling it. It’s a feeling of decline in terms of international influence. Many countries in Europe are experiencing this decline but the French feel it more than others.

"What makes it worse is that the French also don’t really appreciate the new world, either. There’s something deep in French ideology that makes them dislike market-based globalization (supply and demand, competition, and so on.)"

The French need to learn English to be happier

"To be happier the French could do with learning more foreign languages. Of course, Anglophone countries are worse, but that doesn’t matter because everyone speaks English. Being happy is not about speaking the foreign language itself, but about being able to fit more easily into this globalized world, which you can do if you speak English.

"Travel will also help the French, because if you always stay in one country then that becomes your benchmark. Many French people would benefit from seeing what the situation is like in other countries."

Professor Claudia Senik

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais police fire tear gas as migrants storm trucks
Police in Calais fired tear gas on Monday when hundreds of migrants tried to storm trucks. File Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Calais police fire tear gas as migrants storm trucks

French police on Monday fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants trying to force their way onto trucks in the northern port of Calais in a desperate bid to reach Britain. READ  

Clown panic in France: Fake joker given jail term
A fake clown was handed a suspended jail term on Friday after threatening people in northern France. Photo: Shutterstock

Clown panic in France: Fake joker given jail term

The party is over for a fake clown who received a six-month suspended jail term Monday for threatening passers-by while in full circus garb, a disturbing trend terrifying towns in northern France. READ  

France launches fresh strikes against IS in Iraq
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position at a frontline in Yangije in September. Photo: JM Lopez/AFP

France launches fresh strikes against IS in Iraq

French fighter jets have carried out a third round of air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in support of Iraqi ground forces, the defence ministry said on Monday. READ  

French GPs urged to strike over Christmas
Don't be ill over Christmas in France. Stethoscope photo: Shutterstock

French GPs urged to strike over Christmas

You might have more reason than ever not to fall sick over Christmas if you're in France this year. GPs are being urged by unions to shut up their surgeries over the Christmas period in protest against a new government health bill. READ  

IN IMAGES
'Glass ship' Vuitton museum opens in Paris
The Louis Vuitton art museum, which takes the form of a sailboat amongst the trees of the Bois de Boulogne, consists of twelve huge sails in glass. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

'Glass ship' Vuitton museum opens in Paris

Emerging from the woods at the edge of Paris like a glass ship, the hyper-modern Louis Vuitton art museum will be inaugurated on Monday, kicking off an art-filled week in the French capital. READ  

A Made in France 'Halal test' to check for pork
In a similar style to a pregnancy test, the test consists of a strip which the consumer must put into a glass of warm water containing a sample of food. Photo: halaltest.fr

A Made in France 'Halal test' to check for pork

A French company has developed a so-called “Halal test” which will allow Muslim consumers to detect, within a matter minutes, the presence of pork or alcohol in food. READ  

Paris traffic jams will become world's costliest
Traffic jams in Paris are set to become the costliest in the world, according to one survey. Photo: AFP

Paris traffic jams will become world's costliest

Anyone who has ever been for a drive through Paris will know exactly what it's like to get stuck in a traffic jam, but it's not just time they are wasting, it's money too, and lots of it. And things are about to get a lot worse. READ  

Franco-German talks
France steps up pleas for Germany to invest
Photo: Economy minister Emmanuel Macron, President François Hollande and finance minister Minchel Sapin will be hoping to persuade Germany to invest for in Europe. Photo: Philipe Wojazer/AFP

France steps up pleas for Germany to invest

French ministers were in Berlin on Monday for talks aimed at ways to boost growth the eurozone's two biggest economies. Paris has reiterated calls for Berlin to invest more to help spark life in both the French economy and that of the eurozone. READ  

Ask the Expert -Letting a flat
How to rent out a second home in France legally
Renting out a second home in France can be complicated. Here's how to do it. Photo: Shutterstock

How to rent out a second home in France legally

The French property market has changed significantly in recent years, leading to much confusion among foreigners. Andy Denison, director of an expat advice service, explains how to stay on the right side of the law when renting out a second home in France. READ  

Ligue 1 round-up
VIDEO: Mass brawl after Corsica flag unfurled
Bastia's French goalkeeper Jean Louis Leca holds the flag of Corsica before it sparked a mass brawl involving fans and players.

VIDEO: Mass brawl after Corsica flag unfurled

It was an eventful weekend in Ligue 1 with a mass brawl in Nice involving players and fans sparked by the unfurling of a Corsica flag, a record-equalling win for taple topping Marseille and a PSG - Lens match marred by red cards. Catch up on all the latest action here. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
National
'Paris is a sexy city, its beauty is inspiring'
Culture
Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
National
Top French chefs want banned bird on menu
National
VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

659
jobs available