Tea and Dordogne: How do the French perceive the Brits?

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
Tea and Dordogne: How do the French perceive the Brits?
British citizens residing in the Dordogne village of Eymet celebrate the royal wedding in 2011. Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP

All countries have their stereotypes about their neighbours and goodness knows Brits have plenty when it comes to the French (arrogant, sexy and garlic-munching for example) - but how do the French see us?


It's not always easy to know how the French perceive Brits, so we resorted to asking Google. Or rather, we looked up the mostly commonly asked questions that start with pourquoi les anglais and pourquoi les britanniques . . .?

Google autocomplete uses a complex formula that is a bit of a secret, but one thing we know for sure is that it's at least partly based on how often a certain question is asked.

We searched both anglais (English) and britanniques (British) because the French do have a bit of a tendency to mix them up and refer to all inhabitants of the UK (and sometimes even the Irish) with the sweeping les anglais

Here's what Google suggested;

And we think these reveal some pretty interesting things about French priorities.

1 Why do the English drive on the left?

Yes, the UK is the anomaly within Europe when it comes to driving.

There is a historical explanation - it has to do with keeping your sword hand free while riding - but when it comes to the reason for the divergence between the UK and the rest of Europe, things get a bit more complicated.


It's generally accepted that driving on the left was once the norm everywhere, until France and the rest of Europe gradually switched. Reasons for the switch may have been to do with the size of wagons, or Napoleon (he's always a good bet when it comes to European history) or simply following neighbours for practical reasons. Either way, the UK is now the exception and it's often see as a sign of the country's status within Europe - part of it, but always slightly apart.

(We have no idea who the poor misinformed souls are who are Googling 'why do the English drive on the right?' but we really hope the internet put them straight before they got behind the wheel in the UK).

2 Why are the English leaving France?

Fascinating question - and possibly Brexit related. But there's no evidence that Brits are leaving in France in any significant numbers. The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement gave a generous deal to Brits who were already living here and allowed them to remain, with a fast-track process to gain a residency card - at the last count 162,000 people had been issued with the special post-Brexit residency card.

And new EU data suggests that Brits are continuing to move to France; 7,927 UK nationals were granted a first-time residency permit in France in 2022 and by far the biggest single group - 3,182 - came here to work. 

Unless the question refers to the English monarchs finally abandoning their claim to rule France after centuries of warfare in the Middle Ages? Well, that was because we lost. But we don't like to talk about it. 

3 Why do the English drink tea?

It's a stereotype, but it's pretty close to the truth. Brits do indeed drink quite a lot of tea and common chat among the British community in France is swapping tips on where to get 'proper' tea.

The history of why tea took off in such a big way in the UK has to do with its colonial history in the tea-producing country of India and at one point there were even tax breaks to encourage the Brits to drink tea. 

France does have plenty of salons du thé, but the tea served there is more likely to be a tisane (herbal or fruit tea) rather than English-style black tea with milk.

4 Why do the English play in blue?

Weird question, since it's actually the French who usually play in blue. In fact the nickname for French international teams is les bleus (men), les bleues (women) and les bleuets (juniors) - in reference to their traditional kit.

England more normally play in white, but maybe this is a specific question in reference to an away kit. 

5 Why did the English colonise India?

When you search pourquoi les britanniques . . . the results are broadly similar but with more reference to Britain's colonial past.

We're not in any way trying to minimise the horrors perpetrated in the name of the British Empire, but France has a blood-soaked colonial past too.


In fact France still has 'overseas territories' that are part of its former empire. These days they are officially part of France - despite being on the other side of the globe to Europe - and give rise to some of the more bizarre France facts such as why France shares a border with Brazil and why France has 12 different time zones.

READ ALSO 'Confetti of an empire' - a look at France's overseas colonies

6 Why do the British like Dordogne?

There's no doubt that the south-west France département of Dordogne is popular with Brits - there are so many of them living there that the préfecture had to take on extra staff to process all the applications for post-Brexit residency cards.

The area has also earned the nickname 'Dordogneshire' and is particularly popular with retirees. It's not only Dordogne though, the neighbouring départements of Charente, Charente-Maritime, Gironde and Lot are also popular with Brits.

And it's easy to see why - beautiful countryside, far enough south for warm weather, reasonably inexpensive (certainly compared with Paris or the Riviera) and a relaxed pace of life. 


However, the largest British population can be found in Paris - which is unsurprising since jobs tend to be concentrated in the capital and visa data shows that the largest group of Brits in France are of working age. 

7 Why don't the English have shutters?

Once you've lived for a few seasons in France you realise that shutters are brilliant - they keep your place warm in the winter and cool in the summer and are far more energy efficient than curtains.

So it's a great questions, Frenchies - why don't the English have shutters?

If you have information on shutters (or any of the other questions asked) feel free to share it in the comments section below


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Eli Chad 2023/10/27 20:20
I was told that Brits don't like shutters, as they don't like not being able to see outside, e.g., during the night. Hence, Brits have curtains, which they can 'twitch' at will.
Nicholas Greenwood 2023/10/27 16:57
English homes usually have windows that open outwards so shutters would be difficult unless electric which are horrid.
Wendy 2023/10/27 16:21
The Brits do not have shutters on the outside of their windows because their windows open outwards and we like to put ornaments on the window sills. However, older houses do have shutters on the inside of the windows and we also favour the decoration of curtains.

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