Five things the British do that the French find totally baffling

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 27 Dec, 2019 Updated Fri 27 Dec 2019 10:00 CEST
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While the French certainly have some eccentricities that can be baffling to foreigners, the British have plenty of odd quirks of their own. We asked French student Jean-Baptiste Andrieux - currently studying in London - to explain some of them.


There is nothing easier than traveling from Paris to London. You simply have to board the Eurostar in Gare du Nord and here you are in the centre of London after a two-and-a-half-hour ride.

However, you have not simply travelled from one city to another. You also have entered a different country with its own customs, some of which are a little bizarre to foreigners. Here are some of the things I don't quite get.

READ ALSO 17 things the French do that make Anglos uneasy

It must be a myth that cricket matches can go on for five days? Surely? Photo: AFP

1. Playing Cricket

Believe it or not, British people take cricket very seriously.

Many people have tried to explain the rules to me, unfortunately all those efforts have been in vain so far. I have been invited many times to attend cricket fixtures, but I am afraid that I might not live long enough to witness the outcome of the game (which I'm told can go on for five days. I'm not sure if that was a joke or not).

2. Being polite

Generally speaking, British people are unfailingly courteous.

Of course, you might come across a few obnoxious characters from time to time, but they are the exceptions proving the rule. It does not mean that people are necessarily genuine, but it is quite pleasant after having endured Parisian grumpiness your whole life.

READ ALSO 13 things foreigners do that make French people feel awkward

British pubs, it turns out, are not just for drinking in. Photo: AFP

3. Having quizzes in pubs

Prior to moving to the UK, I thought that pubs were places where you could enjoy a drink at slightly lesser expense than going out for dinner. 

I then found out that pubs can also be a suitable location to show off your knowledge and to potentially even earn some money (but of course, it never happens). 

4. Being obsessed with politics

French people are often considered to be political animals, but the Brits are certainly on a par with them.

Obviously, the current context in the UK is an unusual one, but you will find the islanders (on both sides of the Brexit divide) will be very eager to share their political beliefs with you.

5. Sending Christmas cards

I was quite surprised when my local friends handed me Christmas cards as the festive season approached. 

I learned shortly after that giving Christmas cards to your friends was a British tradition, one that we do not do in France. I was caught completely off-guard, because obviously I hadn’t prepared anything for them. 

The food is not as bad as I had been lead to believe, and anyway there are plenty of non-British options available. Photo: AFP

But there are plenty of upsides to life in the UK - there's a lot going on, newspapers are varied and interesting, street musicians are in a whole different league to the Parisian 'artiste' churning out La Vie en Rose for umpteenth time on his out-of-tune accordion and the food isn't as bad as Britain's international reputation suggests.

Although that said, I am yet to try Marmite.

Are you a Frenchman or Frenchwoman living in the USA or Australia? We'd love to know your impressions of your new country, so feel free to get in touch at [email protected]



The Local 2019/12/27 10:00

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[email protected] 2020/04/29 18:38
With regard to your observation that the British take their cricket so seriously, I can only offer as an explanation a comment made by Lord Mancroft: " It is game, which the English, not being a spiritual people, have invented to give themselves some conception of eternity.”<br />

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