How the world views France and the French (through Google)

What does Google's autocomplete function tell us about what the world thinks of France?

How the world views France and the French (through Google)
Photo: Fdcomite/flickr

The French, perhaps more than most, are always eager to know what the world thinks of them and their country.

And all this can be revealed, at least somewhat, by Google's autocomplete function. For example, what do you think would come up if you type into the search engine: Why are the French so…… 

We've taken a look at some of the top results. Granted it may not be the most scientifically reliable but it does give us a good idea of foreigners' preconceptions of the French.

Why are the French ALWAYS ON STRIKE? 

As it happens, the French aren’t the most common strikers in the world, indeed far from it. Various statistical comparative websites regularly rank countries like South Africa, Canada, Spain and Denmark above France in terms of days lost due to strikes.

Although figures change each year. So their reputation appears unfair. Unless you have tried to get to the airport in Paris during a strike. You won't forget that.


Why do the French EAT SNAILS? 

They are considered a delicacy in France and have been since the Romans introduced them when Caesar invaded Gaul, 58 or so years before the birth of Christ.

But they don't have them for breakfast every morning. Most who come to France will never get sight of a snail at all. The French are known for having a few dishes that others might find hard to stomach. Rabbit, kidneys and tripe, cow brain are all common here.


Why are the French so MISERABLE? 

Of course they are not all miserable, but there may be something in this one. Lots of recent studies have confirmed the French, despite having a high standard of living and good healthcare, are “trapped in a general malaise”. 

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. 

The suicide rate is much higher than the European average. Claudia Senik, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, told The Local it may be tied to the French education system, which is too rigid and sets them up to fail.




No one can doubt this. Paris and London might be in dispute over which is the most visited but as a country, France is the undisputed most popular tourist destination in the world.

The annual visitor numbers usually top 80 million. Why? Just take a look around from Paris to the Pyrenees; Brittany to the Alps. Then there's the culture, the history, the prime location in Europe and of course, the food.


Why are the French so WEAK? 

Presumably this stems from the country’s World War II surrender to Nazi Germany, which even the French don’t consider as their finest hour. Then there was there sensible decision not to help invade Iraq.

France has one of the leading military powers in Europe, hence its intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic. France also has exercised a softer power by establishing hundreds of cultural institutes around the globe.

Why do the French HATE THE US? 

A strange one thrown up Google, that suggests Americans are confused why the French don't toe the line like the Brits. Or perhaps they are perplexed by their harsh treatment by locals on a trip to Paris.

The truth is, the French don’t hate Americans. They weren’t crazy about George W. Bush and his wars, but they seem to like Barack Obama well enough. And Parisians aren’t all bad, you just have to get through their outer, protective shell.


Why is Paris so ROMANTIC? 

There’s not been enough research done on this, but it’s a place that is mysterious, attractive, charming and luxurious. How could you not be seduced by a walk along the Seine, through the Marais or by Canal St Martin. That's why thousands come for Valentine's Day.

If Paris were a person most people would be swooning. The place also has a river of hormones running beneath it.


Why are the French so THIN? 

Firstly it's important to point out that some French people do get fat, especially outside Paris. However France does indeed have a low obesity rate compared to the rest of Europe.

And though France has all kinds of rich desserts, cheeses and other fat-filled food, the French consume with moderation. They generally eat smaller portions and save the rich, heavy stuff for special occasions.


Why do Frenchmen SMELL? 

This reputation has persisted for a long time and is bolstered by surveys such as one in 2012 found that 20 percent of the population showers every other day.

The poll also said 3.5 percent of the population, who may be ruining the country’s cleanliness reputation, only bathe once a week. And horror stories of sweaty Paris Metro carriages in the summer also don't help. Pooh la la.

Why is France so EXPENSIVE? 

Perhaps this is based on experiences of Paris and perhaps the wealthy Riviera. While it’s not as bad as New York, London or Oslo, the French capital is not cheap.

With costs of €2,500 a month for an 85 square metre apartment in Paris and €7 for a pack of Marlboros and up to €10 for a pint of beer you’ll need some means to get by here. Outside the capital, things do get cheaper, much cheaper.


Pourquoi les Francais… 

And what about French people's own perception of themselves? What does Google have to tell us about that? Well two of the most common searches are: “Why are the French rubbish at speaking English” and “Why are French people such pessimists”, suggesting there is a fair amount of soul searching going on.

And as for the poor English skills, we've had a go at answering that exact question here

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Google flags higher ad rates in France and Spain after digital tax

Google has told customers that it will raise the rates for advertisements on its French and Spanish platforms by two percent from May to help offset the impact of a digital tax on profits.

Google flags higher ad rates in France and Spain after digital tax

France has collected the levy since 2019, and Spain since this year, under
pressure from voters to make US tech giants pay a greater share of taxes in
countries where they operate.

The ad rate increase is to “cover a part of the cost of conforming to laws
concerning taxes on digital services in France and Spain,” the internet giant
said in an e-mail seen by AFP.

In France, internet companies with more than 750 million euros ($895
million) in worldwide sales, and 25 million in France, must pay a three
percent tax on their French operations, notably advertising sales and
marketplace operations.

Spain also charges a three-percent tax on some of their businesses.

Jean-Luc Chetrit, head of the Union des Marques, an alliance of major
brands, said Google’s decision would “amputate the investment capacity of
brands at a time when all companies are going through an unprecedented crisis.”

Google did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment, but Karan Bhatia, its head of government affairs, warned in February that “Taxes on digital services complicate efforts to reach a balanced agreement that works for all countries.”

“We urge these governments to reconsider what are essentially tariffs, or
at least suspend them while negotiations continue,” he said.

Google as well as Apple, Facebook and Amazon – grouped together as “GAFA” – are in the crosshairs of European governments that accuse them of exploiting common market rules to declare all profits in the bloc in low-tax
jurisdictions such as Ireland or Luxembourg.

Critics say they are depriving national tax authorities of millions of euros even as they profit from a surge in online activities because of home-working and social distancing rules during the Covid-19 crisis.

The companies counter that they are being unfairly targeted by discriminatory levies.

Google logo
Google logo. Photo: Eva HAMBACH / AFP

Global deal?

Amazon had already responded to the French tax last October by raising the rates it charges France-based marketplace sellers by three percent.

Apple followed suit by raising the commission it charges developers who
sell apps on its platform not only in France, but also in Italy and Britain.

The French tax move on global digital companies made it a pioneer in the
struggle to find a fair fiscal system for internet multinationals whose tax
bill is often tiny compared to their income.

Contacted by AFP, Facebook said it had no plans to raise prices for ads in
France or Spain for now as it waited for a global accord on fiscal rules.

The French tax brought in 400 million euros to government coffers in 2019,
and the government applied the levy again last year despite pressure from the Trump administration to drop it.

With President Joe Biden in the White House, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – which is overseeing negotiations on a digital tax – has said it hopes a G20 finance ministers’ meeting in July will hammer out an agreement on the issue.

Last month, the new US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, said Washington
would no longer insist on a “safe harbour” clause that would effectively make participation in a global tax scheme optional, removing a key sticking point with EU officials.