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French vs English childhood

September 21, 2010

I brought a daughter, who was 9 at the time, to France with me from the UK. I am married to a french man. His attitude to discipline and respect for adults is very strict. This has been difficult at times for me to accept, but I can’t deny that my daughter is better for it. I hope that my husband has also learned something from the relationship I have with my daughter, though mostly it’s I that have adapted to his way of doing things (we are in France, after all!)

In France children are adored, maybe mollycoddled, until the age of about 6 or 7, then they are suddenly expected to be super-organized, disciplined, and efficient. Gone are the ladybird wellies and matching red hairclips, in with the standard issue grey and black clothes and conservative haircuts…. OK, I exaggerate a little….

In some ways, French people do need to lighten up, but the good news is that, with a little tolerance on either side, they appreciate and warm to the British lighter way of doing things, provided that we Brits accept their higher standards and absolute point blank criticism of anything that’s wrong…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Justaguy permalink
    September 21, 2010 9:21 pm

    I would be interested to know if there is the same chav element in France as in the UK. What you describe here may be a better way of doing things if the end result is good.

    Far better to be severe on the children than allow a snowball effect of endless mollycoddling followed by selfish spoiled bitchness and whingeing about how unfair life is and how “I just wish…” Is there going to be a pattern? I dunno.

    Or maybe I am wrong.

    Massive grat big hug if you can guess who!!!!! x

    • September 23, 2010 10:04 am

      Hi (and yes, I know who you are, thanks for posting!)

      Yes, there are French “chavs”, but because travel is more expensive (relative to income levels) from France I think you’d be less likely to see them in the UK!

      I think, on balance, that the French way of bringing up children seems to give a better result. While there are always badly-behaved people, the average standard is better, in both education and general behaviour and appearance.

      I think that no-one can moan quite like the Brits! Some French kids still hope for a miracle, like winning “La France à un Grand Talent” (yes, it really exists!), but that school of thought is less prevalent than in the UK, I’d say.

      As I may have said elsewhere, because school, careers and qualifications are all more rigid, people are forced to make choices about what they want to do at an earlier stage in life. While this is bad in some ways (how on earth can every 16 yr old know what they want to do for a living?), it’s good in that it encourages them to focus. And they only have to choose the broad area they want to go into, at this age… whereas in the UK you can get through school and university and still have no idea what you want to do, but still have a reasonable career, in the UK.

      All that said, because life in France is so regimented, if you don’t fit anywhere in the system, you are thoroughly lost. You’re either sorted, or you’re a misfit, if my early impressions are correct (maybe let’s hope not!) So those who don’t fit would form the “chavs” never seen outside France except on news reports, and the rest, well they all conform like mad to make sure they stay in the “in” group!….

      Those who know more about this, please correct me. I set up this blog to learn!

  2. Jane Welch permalink
    October 6, 2010 1:53 pm

    I am all for the rigid aproach disapline in this country(england) is all lost along with authority. Lack of respect and simply manners.
    I have a 11 yrs 8yrs and a 1Yr old. I did have concerns of moving to France,( moving them out of Uk school and into a French one) after reading all your comments I am relieved am absolutely contain we are doing the right thing. I would like some advise on jobs in France somebody please.

    Many Thanks Jane X

    • October 6, 2010 4:00 pm


      Thanks for your post. Will you be moving to France soon?

      I wholeheartedly agree that you’ll be doing the right thing. Although it’s a shame they don’t do more art at school, my daughter (10), goes to an art club, and other clubs, to compensate.

      Her application to her schoolwork, her attitude to school and to authority, are 100% improved, along with her handwriting, her personal presentation (need I go on)?!!!! She will turn out so much better.

      At this stage I hope she goes to the UK to work though – but after getting a degree here – they’re nothing like as expensive, I suspect standards are higher, and they’d be just as valid in the UK. The same’s not always true for UK degrees in France.

      I have a little more positive news on the job front (my future career), and I hope to post that shortly. For now, I have to get ready to give an english lesson to a 12 yr old boy who in theory is behind in english – but he’s a lot better than a UK 12 yr old would be at French!

      If you live in France, are you in Brittany? Anyway, I hope things are going well, or will go well when you get here


  3. Julie permalink
    March 5, 2011 2:31 pm

    I drive a bus around a major town in Brittany and have found that French children are generally more polite than their English counterparts. I drive through some of the big ‘estates’ and most say hello or at least make eye contact and smile when they get on the bus, in fact it’s the adults from the nicer parts of town that think they don’t need to say hello!

    But the biggest difference I think is their ability to speak proper French, whereas the state of speech for English youngsters seems to have taken a dive. We are back in the UK for a holiday at the moment and they just don’t seem to be able to string a sentence together, it’s all ‘dude, wanna, init, like, cool’ They appear to have a very limited vocab. Maybe because our children mainly talk English to other adults and not kids that their speech appears to be way above the level of kids of their age in the UK.

    We were at Centerparcs last week, and most of the younger staff there sounded awful, it was almost embarrassing to listen to them. Whereas anyone over 30 appeared to be able to speak English, it makes you wonder whether the English can actually hold a proper conversation or not? Did they talk like that in their interview? God knows!

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