Since I’m away enjoying myself in Morbihan (southern Brittany) this week I though I’d share some thoughts on how Brits can be spotted a mile off when in France, even before we speak – which always gives it away immediately. You get double points if all the below apply to you!
1) Brits wear shorts, t-shirt and sunglasses regardless of the weather. Hey, we’re on holiday! This curious British trait has the advantage that when we look back at photos of the trip in years to come we think it was sunny. Disadvantage? By the third day of the holiday you will probably have caught flu and need to spend the rest of the holiday in bed.
2) When choosing where to eat, Brits like to study the menu outside the restaurant meticulously – even if we can’t make head or tail of most of the things listed. This carries on until a waiter approaches offering to find us a table at which stage we rush off down the street. French will have gone in, ordered, eaten and left before a Brit has decided even to cross the threshold.
Don’t believe me? I was sat near the front of a restaurant today at lunchtime and the exact same thing happened three times.
3) When we are so hungry that we have actually chosen a restaurant it is important to order something completely incomprehensible from the menu. This ensures a nice surprise when it arrives. Or perhaps an unpleasant surprise but you might be lucky. In south-west France it will almost certainly be part of a duck, in Brittany it will probably be a crepe of some description but be careful – it might just be andouilletes. In Burgundy you are probably OK if you avoid escargots but special care is needed in Alsace where it could be anything at all.
4) It is important to spend time at the beach or pool even when it is cloudy or wet if that was the goal of the holiday (happily I’m exempt from this one because I don’t like swimming). Don’t let sleet spoil a good day out!
5) We are all looking for ‘little tokens‘. Everywhere I go I hear people saying they must buy someone or other for someone at home – ‘just a little token’. Perhaps someone enterprising could open a ‘little token’ shop? In truth people at home might prefer a ‘big token‘, I’m sure my own girls would.
6) Brits have their own particular way of driving in France. On motorways they roar along at 150 kmh despite a speed limit of 130 kmh – something to do with finding a motorway that isn’t choc-a-bloc with traffic perhaps. But then as soon as a quiet country road turns up speed drops dramatically to about 40 kmh despite a speed limit of 90 kmh. Happily ignoring the angry gestures from drivers behind. “We like to enjoy the scenery, not race along the roads…”
…but no problem, because in no time at all a Dutch camper van driving even slower will turn up in front of you and your own angry gestures will begin. “We haven’t got all day you know!”
Note: on average the French drive at exactly the right speed on country roads. Unfortunately the average includes the 50% who roar along at 130 kmh and drive 50 centimetres behind you if they can’t get past, and the other 50% who drive at 7 kmh and veer across the road in a way that stops anyone overtaking them. Mrs B says this includes every French person who wears a hat but I can’t confirm this.