France and the Art of Complaining

Have you ever vented to just get it off your chest? Have you ever gotten frustrated with customer service and gotten angry with them? Have things just not gone your way and you've complained about it? I have. I can be the queen of complaining. I can always find something to complain about, even though I am an optimist and believe in seeing the best of a situation. But my bright outlook on life has not stopped me from complaining. I used to think something is wrong with me. Why do I complain this much? But then I moved to France, and a little light bulb went off. I'm just like my people! And an article that I read recently by The Daily Mail (click here) proved my theory to be correct. The French, especially the Parisians, are great complainers.

Between the protests and the eye rolls, French people know just about every way to complain. Here, people are not afraid to tell you how unhappy they are. Does this make them unhappy people or do they just not settle for anything other than great? They can give you a roll of the eyes, a scoff, or they can use their words, tell you that they're not happy, and even throw a few insults your way. My personal favorite is that when multiple people are not happy with a situation, they stage a protest. And let me say that protests happen a lot here. A LOT! I guess my 4th grade protest against the playground rules was just me following the ways of my people.

So what do they complain about? I know what I complain about, which can be anything that rubs me the wrong way. But what do most people in France complain about?

politics: I get this one. We Americans do it too. We hate one candidate only to complain about the other. The French are no different. Does this mean that everywhere we feel let down by our politicians?

the economy: us Americans got this down too! But with the crises in Spain and Greece so close, what do the French have to complain about? Well the economy is starting to take a turn here and people are getting worried.

taxes: ok I am not complaining about paying taxes anymore in the US (we'll see how long that lasts) because taxes are soooo much higher in France. So don't get anyone started about how much money comes out of our paychecks every month. I'm with the French on this one. 

lack of social care: higher taxes should mean that more social services are offered. And they are! Health care is available to so many more people here in France than in the US. There are programs that help pay for your housing if you don't make enough money. In general, the people seem to be taken care of much better than in the US. So what are they complaining about? Well they think that the government should be providing more for them. Which I get, but I guess I'm still blinded by the rose-colored glasses of cheap healthcare. 

bureaucracy: I think they use snail mail still in the French bureaucratic system. And when I say snail mail, I mean attach the letters to some snails and wait for them to make their way to the other side. I too would have a lot to complain about if I spent my whole life under this confusing, slow system. And I have only spent four months here. I think that my complaints, and all the complaints of everyone dealing with the system are completely justified.

rent: in Paris, if you want to start up a conversation, complain about how hard it is to find an apartment. And once you find an apartment, complain about how expensive rent is. That will get a conversation going. I get that the prices are good enough to complain about, but I don't get is how the best way to communicate with others, is to complain to others about this specific problem. Oh well if it gets the conversation flowing, I have no problem complaining about the high rent that I am paying for a great location with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Sure no problem!

food: why they complain about the food is beyond me! The food here is amazing, and not processed like in the US. So what are they complaining about? This is not something that I will complain about, I can promise that much.

tourists: they stop in the middle of the street. They block the metro. But they generate the economy here in Paris. So yes they are frustrating, but I have to try really hard to not be frustrated by tourists because they are making the most out of their life and seeing the world. So there is me seeing the positive. But they need to stop stopping in the middle of the street. That is me being the French complainer. 

the weather: it's too cold. It's too hot. It's too cloudy. It seems like the weather is always a good thing to complain about. Like the expensive rent, this is a good thing to talk about at the bus stations. It seems like everyone is always willing to complain about the weather.

bad service: since customer service doesn't exist in France, we all have a lot to complain about when it comes to service. But it seems that French people know exactly how to handle it. They know the right way to complain, whereas me, the American, doesn't know the right way to complain. When things aren't going their way, the French throw it right back at the waiters or the bankers, and in their scoffs and insults, they eventually get what they want. Clearly my level of complaining is not up to par. I need to learn this art.
This statue looks like she is in the middle of
Arc de Triomphe
I know that people think of the French as rude, especially the Parisians. I've had some very interesting conversations with expats about how Parisians come across as being better than everyone. About how their constant complaining and condescending attitude makes this beautiful city seem so unfriendly. And I see it in how hard it is to make Parisian friends. I see it in the look of judgement that I get for speaking English to friends in the street. But I see a difference between the complaining and the rudeness. So I'm all for the complaining but against the rudeness.

But is this all such a bad thing? No repressed feelings. No back stabbing, or behind your back gossip. If French people are not happy, there is no guessing game, you know it. If they are not pleased with you, they will tell you. I've already done a post about their bluntness in No Sugar Coating, and as insulting as it may be to outsiders, at least you're not left in the dark. That is the bright side of always looking at the down side. But then again that is the bright side coming out of me. So I apologize for all the Debbie Downer posts in which I complain a lot, I guess I'm just getting (more) in touch with my people. Now excuse me while I go search for something new to complain about.

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