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New poll finds the French “world champs” of pessimism

I enjoy living in France, but it is true that even the French make fun of their complaining as the national pastime. This article comes from Expatica (Anne – Laure Mondesert / AFP / Expatica) and speaks in depth about the poll. Excerpts below. I do have friends who are optimistic, driven and talented, but in my experience here, there is definitely a collective malaise. Cheer up, you have it very good compared to many others!

French are world champs in pessimism
A poll completed early this month shows the French even more pessimistic than violent-ridden countries around the globe, but what’s their reasoning?

Paris –The French live in one of the richest and safest countries in the world, yet they are global champions of pessimism, fearful of the future and longing for the past, according to a survey published early January.

“The French are afraid. They feel the present is less good than the past and that the future will be worse than the present, and that their children’s lives will be harder than their own,” said commentator Dominique Moisi.

“There is a morosity, a real phenomenon of clinical depression,” said Moisi, the author of the 2009 book “Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World.” Moisi was sceptical about the BVA-Gallup poll published that suggested that the French were more pessimistic than people in Afghanistan or Iraqi who daily face high levels of violence.

But he conceded that it had some substance. He and other commentators said several factors were to blame. France’s comparatively generous welfare state is no longer perceived as sufficiently protective in the face of the ongoing economic crisis here, they said.

“The French behave towards the state like teenagers with their parents. On the one hand they rebel, but on the other they want ever more protection,” said Moisi. French pessimism is nothing new. The French are Europe’s biggest consumer of anti-depressants. But their gloomy tendencies have been made worse by rising unemployment and a tense social context that in recent months has seen millions take to the streets to protest raising the retirement age from 60 to 62…

He said that it was above all the middle classes who were being affected by pessimism. They see their jobs as becoming less and less secure and fear their quality of life will be reduced. “The French are sensualists, epicureans… and we are seeing a discrepancy between the little individual joys and the collective malaise,” said Delevoye….

…The BVA-Gallup poll described the French as the “world champions of pessimism.” It found that 61 percent of French thought that 2011 would bring economic difficulties, compared to an average of 28 percent in the 53 countries surveyed. Sixty-seven percent believed unemployment would rise again this year, a more pessimistic view than than in every country except Britian — 74 percent — and Pakistan — 72 per cent. Thirty-seven percent of French people polled said this year would be worse than 2010, making them considerably less optimistic than Afghans — 14 percent or Iraqis — 12 percent. Anne – Laure Mondesert / AFP / Expatica

  1. January 19th, 2011 at 16:59 | #1

    Oh, so tired of these French bashers! Why do they not just leave France? In my 3+ years in France (9/05-12/08) most French I met were up and happy individuals!!

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    • January 19th, 2011 at 17:02 | #2

      I don’t think people are purposely “bashing” the French, just coming to certain conclusions after polling people from several different countries. It turns out that as a nation, it is the overall most pessismistic. I’ve lived in France for a total of 5+ years and I know that there is a collective malaise, even though you make friends who can be very open and joyous. The macro attitude here is one of pessimism, which is unfortunate. Thanks for reading.

  2. Jean
    February 14th, 2011 at 22:23 | #3

    After nearly ten years of living in France I DID leave, along with my French husband and bi-cultural children. We moved to Montreal, in French Canada, and I have never been happier. It’s all here: the baguette, the raclette cheese, the French language press, public schools in French–but no overriding pessimism. I had finally started to call France the half-empty nation, and am far more content here in the half-full nation. But even so, I still have great love and esteem for the dear French friends and family that I left behind.

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