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French and charity - why don't they go together?

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French and charity - why don't they go together?
Why don't the French do charity? Photo: Shutterstock
16:30 CEST+02:00
In the latest of our Reader Rants series, in which we give you a chance to get something off your chest, Paris-based banker and serial fun-runner Gavin Doughty from the UK, laments the problems he has persuading the French to dip into the pockets for a good cause.
Do the French do charity?  I've recently signed up to run a half marathon for charity and was given the target of raising €400 in order to compete.  
 
I thought that as I work for a large international bank and have access to thousands of people via e-mail that this could be done in the click of a button, one mail a few hundred colleagues, easy.
 
Not so it seems, of all of those that I asked, three of my African colleagues (the funds I am raising are for Plan International's Fresh Water Project in Ethiopia) and only 2 French ones (both of whom have connections to the UK through having lived there or having relatives there) stumped up some cash.
 
I managed to raise my target in a matter of days after contacting my friends and family back in the UK, after having had very little response from my numerous colleagues here in France.
 
 
So why was this, do the French just not do charity?
 
I have noticed that there are a lot less requests to sponsor people since I've been living here. There was always someone's kid's or brother or sister's or pet's sponsored event back in the UK and there was a ready supply of £5 and £10 notes at the ready to hand out on request.
 
However since I've been here I've had to find another use for this emergency sponsorship fund as I can't remember even once being asked to sponsor someone in France.

When you mention the idea of running a marathon for charity in France and ask for sponsorship, at best you are greeted with utter bemusement and at worse outright suspicion. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I was raising money for a charity outside of France and that they are faithful followers of the 'charity begins at home' mantra.

The reality is that when you line up to do a marathon in Paris, all the people wearing charity vests or dressed like a chicken or Scooby-doo tend to be foreigners running for good causes. And the ones in the running vests and the latest lycra ensembles aiming for personal bests tend to be the French.

Reader Rants: 'The French can't take a gentle bashing'

Maybe the French are just as adverse to putting their hand in their pockets for charity as they are for getting their round in in the pub! Or perhaps the French don't do charity because they already contribute a lot through their taxes that they feel the government should take care of those less fortunate. 

Although it feels like you are paying off a large chunk of the world's debt when the taxes leave our accounts here surely they should realise that there are limits to what these can pay for. They just have to look at the lines of people queuing up at the soup kitchens or food distribution centres in Paris to see how important the work of charities are.

Whilst it’s not ideal that in Britain the state is often forced to rely on charities in order to provide vital services that they can't afford, that’s the reality of the times we live in. The great thing about charities is that you can choose who to give your money to rather than leaving that choice to the government.

Since I have lived here I have met some of the kindest, most generous and most hospitable people that I have ever met but I have definitely come across some of the stingiest and tightest too.

The French should open up more to the idea of charity, and more to the point if they, or any of their friends, family or colleagues are going to put their bodies through the sort of pain that comes with running for 26 miles or 42 kilometres then why not do it for a good cause!

(Gavid Doughty, centre pictured after running the Amsterdam marathon with friends Rudy Blankert, left, and Kwame Amaning)

Do you agree with Gavin Doughty that the French don't do charity? Continue the debate in the comments section below.

If you have something to get off your chest about life in France, either positive or negative, then send us your ideas to news@thelocal.fr 

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