- French driving. Here's a tip if you're ever driving round these parts: don't stop at the lights unless they are red. Do not stop at orange. Or, if you do, check your mirrors first. If there's a car behind you, keep going, because if you stop you'll be rear-ended. I think part of the problem is that the lights stay on orange for too long, instead of passing almost immediately to red. Many other gripes about French driving include: lane discipline (an unknown concept), indicators (too confusing), headlights (not required in town because there are street lights so you can see where you're going), and don't get me started on roundabouts...
- French TV. It is quite awful. The TV licence costs about £80, admittedly cheaper than in the UK. But in France, public service channels have commercial advertising. Lots of it. And all the programming is bought, either from the US or Germany. I suppose that's why it's cheaper than the BBC, no expensive programme-making here! And the "private" channels are like ITV on a particularly bad day.
- strikes. Especially by railway workers. They are possibly the most molly-coddled public sector workers in the world. They work for three years then retire on full salary (paid for by me!), but like to go on strike often and inconvenience lots of the people who pay for their pensions in order to claim the right to retire after just two and half years working.
- taxes. I am especially intrigued by the fact that, the salary I must declare on my tax return is actually about €720 greater than what I actually got paid. How does that work? That's a clever system, though, getting people to pay tax on money they never had. Cunning.
- diesel cars. In France, nearly everyone has a diesel. They are all driving around in their diesel cars, pumping out sulphur and black soot particles, giving us all brain cancer and asthma. Diesel cars sound like tractors, smell like something very smelly and foul, and are just generally bad. Yes yes, modern diesel cars emit less carbon than modern petrol cars. OK. But the French don't have modern diesel cars. They have ancient Peugeot 405s that have never been serviced and pump out huge clouds of black smoke at all times. I also love the myth peddled in these parts that diesel cars are cheaper. No they are not. They cost more to buy and more to service. Apparently it takes ten years (at average mileage of 12 000km a year) for the initial extra investment of buying a diesel car to start paying off in cheaper running costs. Think I'll stick to petrol.
- the Académie Française. This is a sort of old farts club that holds sway over the French language, deciding whether a word is "French" or not. Whenever a new word comes on the scene (like start-up, or e-mail, or web [as in, the interweb]), the academy sets about finding a suitably French equivalent. So we have contrived words like "courriel" or "mél" for e-mail, and the "ouaib" (I kid you not) for the interweb. Most people, naturally, speak of sending a "mail" and surfing the "web". If a language is allowed to evolve and grow, it will stay alive. If some stuffy group of academics try to keep out any "new" or (worse) "foreign" words, the language will die. Think on, academiciens.
- nuclear power. The French think they have the answer to meeting Kyoto targets and beyond in generating their electricity from nuclear power. It is hailed as a "clean" energy of the "future". Personally, I find nuclear power is a bit like crapping in a shoebox and leaving it to your grandchildren. It generates highly toxic waste, and we have no idea what to do with this. So we bury it far underground and hope it will go away. I'm sure our children's children will thank us very much for this gift to them.
- people speaking about "England" and the "English" when in fact they mean "Britain" and the "British". That really, *really* winds me up.
Saturday 14 July 2007
What I could happily live without
Continuing in the same vein, and still in the interests of fairness, let's have a look at what I wouldn't miss in France if one day we escaped from here...