A recent article on the website of the UK’s The Telegraph entitled ‘How France became trapped in a spiral of chaos and decline’ argues that the “once most civilised country on earth” has now “lost control of its borders.”
It continues by claiming France’s cities are blighted by “lawless anarchy” and that the country is led by a “humiliated” president presiding over an economic “malaise”, “decaying infrastructure” and declining competitiveness.
We asked Connexion readers who live in France for their views on this. Here is a selection of your feedback.
‘A recent trip to the UK evidenced much more chaos’
Sue, a former solicitor who has lived in France for 30 years, said: “A recent UK trip to our former home town of Bath – yes, the genteel setting beloved of Georgian authors and modern filmmakers – certainly evidenced much more “chaos, graffiti, vandalism and filth” than we have ever seen here in Saumur (Pays de la Loire).
“Not to mention the broken pavements, dangerously pot-holed roads and over-expensive public transport.”
Nigel Heggie, also from Bath, said that he was in Orléans in October, and that the city “positively glowed with prosperity and cleanliness. What a contrast to our own city: seagull poo everywhere and rubbish blowing in the wind.”
‘Nice is clean and you feel safe’
Dermot Grimson said: “Having lived in London for 15 years and Nice for five, the difference is considerable.
“Nice is clean and you feel safe walking the streets at night. Public services such as transport are outstanding compared to London and you can afford excellent food and wine at reasonable prices…in the sunshine.
“London was and is a great city but I return there regularly and it has declined noticeably since I moved to France.
“The French should not take offence, they should just feel sorry for the Telegraph readers and journalists that have such difficulty in getting over their inferiority complex. France is a great place and so is the UK.”
‘Smoke screens and lies’
Damian Mellor, a retiree who lives in Quillan (Aude), said that he viewed the Telegraph article as “smoke screens and lies.
“Every time I go back to the UK I notice a decline. The roads are worse, the people are more miserable and the whole place is grey, in every conceivable way.”
Victim of mugging in Toulouse
Another 78-year-old reader, who requested not to be named, said that he met problems recently as he returned from a four-week trip to Ukraine to help farmers.
He flew into Toulouse-Blagnac and got the navette to the Matabiau train station. In this, he was “helped by the great staff to get my ticket and onto the platform.
“The evidence of decline came when getting on to the train with my two cases, when I was surrounded by what I can only describe as criminal youths.
“They robbed my wallet, containing money, titre de séjour, carte Vitale, passport and a number of personal items.
“They faded away as quickly as they attacked and I was left to reflect on this horrific moment, but very much helped by the people on the train and later by the support of the gendarmerie.”
‘Modern and effective healthcare system’
Terry Knott has lived in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur for the past 12 years.
He commented that in France he sees: “a president doing his best to keep France safe and prosperous (we live in Marine le Pen countryside, but have never experienced any hostility, far from it), effective and courteous police (who take pride in speaking English), spotlessly clean shops with reasonable prices and excellent service….people are happy.
“A separate word about the health service here. Having worked in the NHS, at the sharp end, with 742,000 patients, I can say that the UK doctors and nurses are superb, as are the French ones. There the comparison stops.
“The French system is modern and effective, with response times immediate, across the board, here in the south, with access to Fréjus, Cannes, Antibes and Nice (I accept it may be different in the French hinterland). Excellent equipment, good health protocols, impeccable information technology, compassionate service and probably stretching the French national budget, but Macron is aware of this.”
Also on the subject of healthcare, Susan Harland, who has lived in France for 20 years, said: “We had to use accident and emergency last year in Saint-Lô, and they were apologetic that it took an hour before being treated.
“And I am at the moment receiving chemotherapy: again, very efficient. The nurses don’t appear to be stressed and everyone is really supportive; they take the time to talk."
She added: “prices to me seem to have risen a bit but my electricity bill hasn't gone up excessively, nothing like the price rises I have heard about in the UK.”
Christopher Larmer, who lives in Charente, said that he “totally disagree[s]” with the Telegraph article adding: “Here, I live in a clean, law-abiding society free of graffiti and vandalism.”
‘Always felt much safer in any French town’
Trish Wickstead and Gill Palmes, who live in Pyrénées-Orientales and are retired, said that they found the Telegraph piece “amazing”.
“Over 30 years of holidaying in [France] before moving here permanently in 2015, we have always felt much safer in any French town or city we have visited than our experiences in the UK.
“Young people mostly meet in bars to socialise, eat and drink small beers; contrast this with the ‘go out and get smashed’ culture sadly all too present in the UK.
“We watch the catastrophic decline of our former country with great sadness.”
‘Peace and tranquillity’
Dennis Richards, who lives in Aude, said that the author of the Telegraph article “has obviously not been to the north or north east of England,” where “towns [are] in a desperate state,” with “appalling” train services and an NHS which is “falling apart”.
“My little house in Aude gives me peace and tranquillity.”
‘Have to lock car doors at traffic lights’
Anne Wreglesworth, who lives in Eure, said: “Clearly readers who tell you how beautiful France is haven’t seen the outskirts of Evreux, Dreux, Marseille, Saint-Denis, or had to lock their cars at traffic lights on the outskirts of Paris whilst people bang on them, begging for money.
“We’ve lived in France for 18 years and seen the general decline. It's disingenuous to continually knock the UK and ignore what's happening here too. They need to get out more.
“Much of the world is going downhill in terms of social responsibility and civic pride. Cuts to public services and demands on the state to provide from the cradle to the grave are major issues for all of us.
“France is no better or worse than anywhere else these days. We live in a pretty rural village with friendly French neighbours but are not blinkered to what's happening in the rest of Normandy.”
France is not ‘bankrupt’
Richard Best, who lives in Normandy said: “What bothers me about the news from the UK is that they seem to believe that France is ‘bankrupt’.
“If that were so how is it that even during the Covid pandemic, I was able, along with many others, to get my ongoing treatment for two types of cancer – now declared to have been cleared – my prescriptions continue to be filled as required and doctors’ appointments are always available with only a few days notice, and, sometimes can be made for the following day! This was NOT true in the UK.
“Finally, inflation in the UK is much higher than in France – food prices in particular. The fuel subsidy in France has been better too.”
Better public transport in France
Ruth Bird, an Australian who has been in France for the last four years, told The Connexion: “Anyone who doesn’t live here won’t understand that the French are always going to criticise their government all the time because they are brought up to believe in the overarching responsibility of The State to look out for them and so expect so much more than can be delivered.
“I live in a village in Tarn. I lived in villages in Oxfordshire. I had to have a car to get anywhere as local bus services were cancelled. Here I have a bus and a train to get to big towns and even Paris.”
Finally, a reader wanting to be known by the initials FL, who lives in Marseille, said that the city is “poor”, “ravaged by decades of abandonment”.
“However, it is a city that is reclaiming its right to be dynamic and forceful. It is the opposite of decline.”
What’s your view? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, including reference to where you live in France. Please note that we may use your comment and name you in a future article unless you specify otherwise.
The full Telegraph article can be found here (for subscribers only).