"France is a deeply nostalgic and narcissistic country
which is also, precisely for those reasons, very charming. The
country would like to be part of Europe's north, but its heart
belongs in the south. It will take more than navel-gazing to get
the nation through the euro crisis unscathed.
A few weeks ago, French President François Hollande spoke in the
garden of the French Embassy in Rome. He had met that afternoon
with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, German Chancellor
Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and, once
again, had opposed German demands for reforms. And then, in the
evening, he gave a speech in which he bemoaned, at length, the
demise of French as an international language. It sounded oddly
nostalgic, as if he somehow hoped to stop the global triumph of
Both appearances in Rome had more in common than it would seem at
first glance. One of the reasons France is currently such a
difficult partner in Europe is that the country Hollande
represents is old-fashioned -- and hopelessly in love with the
idea of being old-fashioned. It lives in the past, and even when
it knows that it's in trouble, it refuses to change. ...
France's problem is that it can't decide whether it wants to be
part of the north or the south.
On the one hand, when it comes to economic power and political
clout, the country compares itself almost obsessively with
neighboring Germany. Its politicians leave little doubt as to
their conviction that they represent the most important country in
Europe. But at the same time, what France cherishes about itself
is its southern side. It sees itself as a Mediterranean country
and is proud of its way of life, an area in which it feels
superior to the Germans -- and the rest of the world.
Both sides of the French psyche are in full evidence in Paris,
where long lunches seem to be an essential part of doing
business. Some French employees are entitled to more than 40
vacation days a year. Conversely, many work longer days than their
German counterparts. And there is also an elite consciousness
among those at the top of society, which they have worked hard to
earn in management schools and top universities.
But in rural France, for example in villages in the Corrèze
department, the former constituency of President Hollande, there
is a world in which time seems to have stood still for
decades. France's old-fashionedness is both fascinating and
grounds for despair. This country sees no reason to conform to the
rest of the world, and it becomes stubborn when the rest of the
world wants it to do precisely that."
A 36 year old Norwegian tourist at Rome's Fiumicino airport tried to
check in for a flight to Oslo, and found no one on duty. So he lay
down on the baggage belt and fell asleep. When the belt finally
started up, he didn't wake up, and reportedly traveled on the belt for
15 minutes before he was spotted on the X-ray monitors. Telegraph (London)