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Samizdata quote of the day

“France is the best country in the world.”

— Claire Sepchat (who is French).

40 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Cut this LOL crap. France is clearly the greatest country on the planet. It has better food, better wine, better trains, and far, far more interesting corruption scandals.

    But the truly great thing about France is the French. None of this “have a nice day” drivel. None of this “right and wrong” simplicity. They look upon us Anglospherans with the disdain we deserve.

    One last word. This is the clincher:

    Johnny Halliday

  • France is a splendid place. I am sure that Princess Anne’s terrier would have been properly guillotined in the court of Louis XVI. None of that mamby pamby be nice to animals crap over there.

  • I’m actually quite torn about France. No way do I think it’s the greatest country in the world, but there is much about it that I love. It’s just a shame about…well, you know, all the other stuff.

  • Mark

    France was a nice place in which to fight the Germans during WWI and WWII. Other than that, it’s of less real importance than, say, Luxembourg.

  • Verity

    Patrick – None of this ‘Have a nice day’ crap? Try these parting wishes for your appreciation of your day, encountered as many times a day as you interact with another human being:

    Mornings: Bonne journée! (Merci. De meme!)

    11:30 – noon: Bon appetit! (Merci! De meme!)

    You don’t encounter anyone between noon and 2 p.m., so this is free time.

    2 – 5 pm – Bonne apres midi! (Merci! De meme!)

    5 p.m. onwards – Bonne soirée! (Merci! De meme!)

    And if you’ve been talking to someone for a while, morning or afternoon: Bon continuation! (Merci! De meme!)

    Last week in July: Bonnes vacances! (Merci! De meme!)

    Johnny Halliday is up on a rape charge. Probably the only 60 year old ever so charged in France.

    Michael – ‘None of this be nice to animals crap’. How true. Although, to be fair, they do allow their dogs to crap wherever the mood takes them.

    Not all their trains are great, but the TGV is. I certainly wouldn’t want to diminish this achievement. It’s comfortable, dependable to the split second and, being heavily subsidised as a showcase for French engineering, it’s cheap. Also, they tell you to the second how long a train will be stopping in a station, in case you want to nip off for supplies.

    Better food? I simply do not understand this myth. In my opinion, the general run of British food is slightly better (at least, in my region), and British frozen foods are light years ahead.

  • Jackie: Yes, I am actually with you on that. Much as I detest the French state and French government, I usually have a most enjoyable time when I visit France. (My trip to Provence six months ago was particularly splendid). Their wine and cheeses are things I consume a lot, too. (I have eaten good meals in France, although in terms of overall quality of food, I actually give my vote to Italy).

  • “You can keep it, Madame.”

    — Francis W. Porretto (who is not French).

  • Verity

    Michael Jennings – Ooops! I forgot to put French cheeses on the plus side! Yes, the variety and tastes and textures of their cheeses are wonderful.

  • sassamon

    I think this quote confuses, because it was taken out of context.
    The full quote is:

    “France is the best country in the world, except for all of the others”


  • France is (probably) the best country in the world.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Reasons to like the French:

    Catherine Deneuve (like you need to ask)
    Juliette Binoche (see previous entry)
    Laetitia Casta (ditto)
    Jean D’Arc

    the chaps:

    Charles de Gaulle (opinionated old fart who nonetheless was a great patriot, without a shadow of doubt)
    Georges Clemenceau (made the immortal comment that he liked Germany so much, that he wanted two of them)
    Frederick Bastiat (brilliant, witty economist who was the Milton Friedman of his time)
    Alexis de Tocqueville (he got the point of the USA)
    Victor Hugo (read his brilliant short novel, the Toilers of the Sea. Brilliant)

    Other French things I like:
    Its food
    Its wine
    Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
    Old Citroen cars
    French countryside
    Some of the best yachtsmen in the world

    And, just a reminder, some of the goddam sexiest women in the world.

    So folks, yes, France is currently led by a corrupt old jerk who stabbed Dubya in the back. The economy is sclerotic and over-taxed. But much the same was the case in Britain and the US in the 1970s. Well, a lot has happened since then. I trust the French will also turn the corner and we can retain all that is great in that fascinating, infuriating nation.

  • Brian Micklethwait


    Ici ici.

    Especially the French countryside.

    Juliette Binoche does make some terrible movies though, where all there is to do is just look at her. But I do agree that looking at her is nice.

    And there’s a lot more to Berlioz than the Symphony Fantastique, fantastic though that is. I particularly like the Funeral Music he wrote for Hamlet, and that lovely tune sung by the shepherds in his oratorio The Childhood of Christ.

    Plus: Jeanne Moreau and The Dissident Frogman.

  • Tony H

    Verity, the Brits also allow (or encourage) their dogs to crap everywhere, and woe betide anyone who complains. And especially since you live in France, I’m baffled by your suggestion that Brit food is better: we might have some of the best natural ingredients (like lamb) but we can’t cook them properly, and charge exorbitant sums in restaurants. In France one can eat better, more reliably (I mean you can usually visit a restaurant without that sinking feeling of taking pot luck) and normally for less money than in England. At least, in my experience. As for being the “best country in the world” I dunno, but I’d rather live there than in any other Continental European country.
    BTW surprised this post hasn’t been deluged with floods of (mostly US origin) anti-French bile.

  • Verity

    I’ll give the chaps their Juliet Binoche. She certainly is beautiful. But wooden, stilted, toweringly bad actress Catherine Deneuve? Gosh.

    Wish I could come up with a list of neat male French stars, but I can’t think of one. They all look weak (Alain Delon) or thick (Gerald Depardieu). Or self-centred (all the rest). The French host of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, Jean-Pierre Something isn’t bad. His facelift over the hiatus turned out OK.

    I’ll vote for the Dissident Frogman, though!

  • Verity

    Tony H – I’m sorry, but I really don’t think French food is that wonderful. I find it bland, in most instances. Although I don’t think their cuisine is all it’s cracked up to be, if you said it is hard to get a disappointing poor meal in France, I would agree with you. I find their frozen food not very good expensive, though.

    Tony, you say you’d rather live in France than anywhere else on the continent, but everyone’s moving to Spain!! Barcelona is the most happening city in all of Europe. And there isn’t a universal two hour closing for lunch. It’s a 24 hour a day city. I know three or four people/couples here who have either packed up and moved to Spain or are contemplating it. (I’m talking about the ancient, sophisticated cities, here, not the playas.)

  • Unless, of course, you are Jewish. Then the prospect of living in a state of war in Israel is preferable.

    I think French women are nothing special, ditto their food and you can get decent wine from other places. Paris seems like pee most of the year and it is less friendly than New York or LA.

    The only useful thing the French do is make champers.

  • Brian

    The Americans don’t need to comment with anti-French invective. The facts speak for themselves. I hope Claire is being fitted for a properly fitting burqa; after all, France is heading in one (Islamist) direction.

  • Verity

    Oh, c’mon Andrew Ian Castle Dodge – Surely at least *some* of their cheeses meet with your approval? Ever had cheese from the Pyrenées? With so much competition, no one ever mentions it, but it is absolutely wonderful.

    As I live here, I should also, in all fairness (sound effects of teeth gnashing here; I am not a fan of France) mention the medical system. A doctor’s visit is 20 euros. No appointment. You just go to the surgery and wait, as of old, in Britain. There are seldom more than two or three people ahead of you. If there are, you go away and come back. An emergency home visit at midnight costs 58.50. You get a computerised receipt, fill in your name and Assurance Maladie number (if you’re a citizen of an EU country). Same with dental. Same with your prescriptions. You don’t even have to mail them in. Once you’ve got a few stacked up, you just drop them at the pharmacy.

    Within a couple of weeks, you’ll get an itemised advice that 70% has been deposited back into your bank account.

    It gets better. For a small monthly fee you can insure yourself with a “mutuelle” against the other 30%.

    I don’t know about other European countries, but for intelligence, organisation and standard of medical care, France deserves its position as tied at No. 1 with the US. To be fair.

  • Tony H

    I would guess that Mr Dodge has visited France, but it would be hard to divine this from his comments: French “champers” actually has a lot of stiff competition from all over, not least its immediate neighbours, but although I’d agree they’ve been too complacent at the lower end and in the middle market of red wine production, I suggest there is little competition for the better wines of Bordeaux & Burgundy.
    As for food, few nations take it as seriously as the French, which is why you can eat so well there – Verity, their frozen food might not be up to much, but that’s because they regard with pitying contempt those who make a habit of using frozen instead of fresh… And I agree with you about the popularity of Spain – I know several who’ve moved there, but still not so many as those who’ve bought places in France. Barcelona is a great place I have yet to visit…

  • madne0

    Also, splendid elderly care. Why, this year alone 15000 people got to enjoy very long holidays!

  • Gary B

    French wine sucks.

  • mezzrow


    What you said. And Julie Delpy.

  • French wine doesn’t have the consistent quality control of, say, Australian wine. While it is difficult to find a really abominable bottle of Australian wine, with French wine it is not especially difficult. However, France produces an extremely high percentage of the world’s best wines. It the top end of the market, France really does remain the world leader. Which is not to say there are not many very fine wines from other places, because there are. But the greatest percentage of them remain French.

    And I agree about Julie Delpy. (Richard Linklater has just made a sequel to Before Sunrise, too).

  • Jacob

    As Mark Twain said, the French are wonderful people, they know how to eat, love, sing. The only trouble with them is that they speak French.

  • Millie Woods

    What is this myth of the beauty of the French countryside? Except for parts of the midi, it’s all hideous. I spent the summer two years ago in Burgundy and the Dordogne. Isn’t it beautiful my hosts kept saying to me. I quickly changed the subject. It was like the nastier parts of Quebec. Needless to say no-one dares burble on about the north-west of France and with good reason. Admittedly many of the towns in this over-rated countryside are lovely but as for natural beauty, forget it. If you want beautiful countryside stay in the UK or visit most of Canada and the USA as well as New Zealand and Australia and if you really want to have your socks knocked off go to South and Central America.

  • Gary B

    French wine still sucks.

  • I’ll give props to the Dissident Frogman.

    But you are all forgetting the best thing about France:

    Sabine Herold!!!

  • Verity

    Tony H – No, they don’t regard the use of frozen foods “with pitying contempt”. You’re repeating something you’ve read. They simply don’t get it. Frozen = easier life. Duh. The French are deeply, deeply conservative people. Their mothers and their grandmothers went out to the bakery for bread for breakfast and lunch – usually having to queue.

    Mid-morning, they went to the butcher’s or the fishmonger’s and queued. Then they went to the greengrocers and queued for fresh vegetables. After a morning’s hard queuing, it was time to start washing, drying and chopping the vegetables and preparing the meat/fish and setting the table.

    And, don’t forget, this is all done under pressure of time, because most shops shut at twelve on the dot – and I do mean on the dot – as in, at the first stroke of twelve, as though directed by a single invisible hand, every electric shutter in shopping areas starts its glide down to the pavement. The bakery closes at 12:30 sharp. So if you’ve forgotten something, or been delayed, too bad. It’s a graveyard.

    Then hubby comes home from work and the children come home from school and everyone has a long lunch. Then there’s the washing up, and getting the children (two hour lunch) back to school. (We shouldn’t forget that one advantage of the two hour lunch is, it enables us to endure four traffic jams and four school runs a day instead of two.)

    The routine is, for the most part, unchanged today. Outside, I’m assuming, Paris (I could be wrong about this, though) there is not a French man who does not expect lunch on the table when he gets in, be he labourer or doctor or lawyer. If he is not married, he expects his mother to have his lunch ready for him. If he is married, his wife has that pleasure. If he is widowed, he is expected at his daughter’s for lunch. If he doesn’t have a daughter, he goes to his son and daughter-in-law’s. Even after he is retired and has all day to fart around!

    In the afternoon, much of this is repeated for dinner. They cannot understand that you do not have to do this. This is backward, as is so much in France, and wastes your life. It sincerely isn’t that they hold frozen food in contempt. They’re not high-minded aesthetes; they just can’t get their heads round the advantages.

  • Yes I have spent time in France and I was less than impressed the various times I went there from being a child to an adult. French wine does seem to suffer from quality problems. I prefer drinking South American, Italian and Spanish wines. Champagne I tend to go for French. Cheeses…some of the are alright but I prefer Stilton, Gorgonzola and Parmesean. There is nothing the French do now that is not done as well or better somewhere else.

  • Matthew O'Keeffe

    My father just told me that there is – already – a school of 9:11 revisionism in France: indeed, that books denying the atrocity ever happened are very popular in France. Can this be true? Still, on the subject of great things French what about the skiing? None of you have mentioned the wonderful alps.

  • Tony H

    Verity, I hesitate to correct you since you actually live there and are clearly perceptive & intelligent, but there is a teeny hint of patronising insider-knowledge about your suggestion that I’m just “repeating something I’ve read” re frozen food in France. I’ve been there a lot. I visit (especially) the Montpellier area at least alternate years, and we’re planning our next trip for late May. I have (French) friends in the UK and in France, a reasonable selection from M. Petit the retired baker downstairs, to our old friend Michele who lectures at the University of Aix en Provence. I think my observations on French culture are reasonably well grounded. I could go into detail, but I’ll just say that France is too sophisticated, richly cultured and competent a nation to just “not get it” about frozen food…
    It’s somewhat yawn-inducing that whenever France comes up here we’re faced with the collective prejudices of trans-Atlantic observers for whom it’s another foreign country (like Bangladesh) they don’t know much about except it doesn’t always agree with US foreign policy. Such as Gary B, the cultivated oenologist.

  • Verity

    Tony H – some of your comments are fair. On the other hand, you have absolutely no idea what nationality I am.

    However, I accept your criticism that I assumed you weren’t really familiar with France.

    Your observations accepted, I still maintain that the French do not “get it” re frozen meals. And that’s why their frozen meals are not very nice.

    On the other hand, they’ve taken to ready-made salad in a bag like ducks to water, so they are learning the joys of convenience. Also, I’m puzzled to see them buying things from the traiteur (ready-made, insanely expensive take-away food) in the supermarket. But they can’t get their heads around frozen food, which is why it is so poor. Regardless of your familiarity with France, which I respect, the frozen food in the supermarkets is light years behind British, American or Aussie.

  • Tony H

    Thanks Verity – and I hope the puzzling reference to your nationality doesn’t mean you think I was including you in my criticism of N.American commentators who are less than objective. In fact I gather from other posts that you’re a Brit long resident in the US and elsewhere.
    I don’t actually think a great deal about frozen food. It’s an occasional convenience. One might postulate an inverse relationship between the quality of a nation’s frozen food (and Brit stuff is very professional) and its dedication to cuisine. Plus of course Australia and the USA are vast countries where frozen provisions can be more than useful given such great distances. This doesn’t apply to France, which has such a flourishing diversity of regional agriculture & gastronomy. But I don’t know what this says about Britain and its addiction to convenience food… I took some relatives to lunch today at a (new) local restaurant, and I was depressed by a level of amateurism, both in cooking & service, that I cannot imagine encountering in France. Paying nearly 14 quid for some unexceptional vin de pays from Languedoc takes the shine off things, too.

  • Sean O'Callaghan

    “France is the best country in the world.”
    Should have read:
    “France is the best country in the world – apart from all the others.”
    Mind you, the Germans seem taken with it…

  • Richard Cook

    Darn – Brian took my post. Claire better express herself while she can. Sharia and all that.

  • Dave

    I’m with Michael Jennings on the wine issue. I ordered a case of Loire wines for Christmas and they are pretty spectacular. But I’ve had some unmitigated disasters on my own in French shops.

    I like the food, a lot, and look forward to my regular visits – the largest GSM trade show happens in Cannes at the end of Feb and its really nice to be in the SOuth of France, looking at the med eating excellent food. It almost makes up for the horror that is a large tech trade show.

    OTOH – I’ve worked in Paris and it sucked.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Andrew Dodge: “nothing done in France isn’t done better somewhere else”. Ha!
    Coming from a bloke that wears a black leather kilt that’s very rich!
    You Jean-Paul Gaultier and Antoine de Caulnes clone!
    And whilst I’ll be the first to admit that there is camenbert in the US, like hell it’s better than the real thing. besides you’re forgetting that the best half of the USA was developed by France before Napoleon sold it (they’re the bits that vote Republican). 😉

  • Any American or Brit would say the same thing about their country. France is exceptional as their food is better than the Brits “les rosbif”.
    At least its not a ticking timebomb, let the French have their fun.

  • Cobden Bright

    Let’s not confuse politics with life. If France did not have such sh*tty authoritarian insider-clique bullsh*t politics, it would be one of the best countries in the entire world to live in.

    Instead, it is *potentially* one of the best countries in the world, but the chance of being slammed in a cell because some magistrate or machine-gun-totiing policeman doesn’t like your face makes it a bit of a paradise spoiled by fascist-nazi-cunt hell.

    How tragic that France now resembles Hitler’s Germany more than almost any western country. You can screw some gorgeous French babe only for her to espouse Le Pen-inspired Jew-bashing the next morning. Quelle horreur!