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What does Europe think of French?

They are elegant, anorexic and gruff (yet nicer than they seem)

EUROPEANS have very different views of the French; seeing them as keen on tight clothes, snobbish about food, nationalistic, open-minded and even "a bit gruff".

Newspaper France Soir did a survey of people from each European nationality to mark the EU population exceeding the half a billion mark and to get a feel for France’s image among our "big European family".

Elegance and good looks came to mind for several. The Briton thought of the stylish Parisiennes in their "classic" clothes and the German saw them as good-looking, "sometimes a bit anorexic, but always well-turned out". The Latvian said French men wore tight clothes and many might be gay.

The Belgian was one of many who liked the rich gastronomy, and the Slovenian said the French took time to savour their "delicious" meals. An Irishwoman thought the food "fantastic," but added the French were snobbish about it.

Several nationalities found the French conservative and inward-looking and a Luxembourgeois said they were nationalistic and not very interested in other countries.

However, a Dane thought them "very open-minded" and "individualistic". They were "proud of their education and culture," and "ahead of the rest in the arts," she added.

A Maltese respondent said the French could be "a bit gruff," but on the whole were "very nice," while a Briton said they were friendlier if you spoke French and not English to them.

A Pole said "the French are often nicer than they seem to be at first. The serious, even angry, expression they put on, it’s just a pose."

A Cypriot entrepreneur said France was a country where "you can succeed, starting from scratch".

Another much-loved aspect of France was its diverse scenery and charming towns and villages. The Romanian said: "France for me is dreamy little spots like a certain street in the Paris Latin Quarter, a church spire or lavender-coloured shutters on a house in Provence." She also enjoyed the charm of the language, whether in a novel or a song by Jacques Brel.

A Swede liked the village atmosphere in his Paris quartier. "I have my baker, my butcher, my bar for the morning coffee and one for the afternoon half of beer; it’s very pleasant," he said.

The Pole said France had a "warm and lively atmosphere, with bistrots, cafes and markets".

The good social security and health system were praised by a Greek, who thought France "politically and economically efficient."

On the less positive side, the German thought the French suffered from "an enormous obligation to succeed", and a Spaniard said they saved money too much and did not live life to the full.
A Dutchman found the way politicians accumulate jobs surprising. "You can be a town mayor and at the same time an MP, or the President," he said.

Other less popular aspects were, for the Latvian, the cost of living and expensive motorways and, for the Belgian, "explosive" situations in the suburbs and a government on a "crusade against immigration".

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