Complaining

While the French have gained a much deserved reputation for complaining a lot, Parisians take this art to a higher level. In Paris, enthusiasm is considered a mild form of retardation. If you are happy, you must be stupid. On the other hand, if you complain, you must be smart.

A beautiful Parisian syllogism is at hand here: the person who complains is the person who spotted the problem. The person who spotted the problem is the smart person. Therefore, the person who complains is the smart person.

This of course has been affecting deeply the Parisian mind. These days, complaining has become a by-default mode for most Parisians. Making the Parisian a constantly smart person. On top of being, obviously, a lucid one, gifted with the wisdom of not fooling himself with the idiotic perspective of simple happiness. In Paris, complaining is a great remedy to happiness, and therefore to retardation.

With much talent, Parisians manage to constantly tarnish their reality by always finding something to complain about: the food served, people, their jobs, their bosses, the metro, their neighbors, politicians…

The more systematically the Parisian complains, the higher up he ranks in the Parisians hierarchy of intelligent people.  The more creative the subject of the complaint is, the more liked and admired the Parisian will be by his Parisian peers (if there is such a thing).

Complaining about the weather or reality television will merely have you accepted by other Parisians. Complaining about much raved about, and broadly admired things in Paris like Woody Allen’s movies, Picnics on the Champ de Mars, or seating at a terrasse will immediately place you somewhere between irresistibly original and delightfully iconoclastic.

Needless to say, the idea of actually doing something about what he’s complaining about does not cross the Parisian’s mind (you’re so vulgar at times).

In the end, the rhetoric of complaining in Paris is fool proof:
You’re not happy but you’re smart.
You’re not happy because you’re smart.

Gosh, it is good to be a Parisian!

Useful tip: For increased levels of perceived intelligence, be creative in the things or people you complain about
Sound like a Parisian: « Il fait vraiment trop chaud, c’est insupportable »

28 replies
  1. Betty C.
    Betty C. says:

    Very funny, especially the part about not actually doing anything about the object of the complaints!

    I think it’s true “en province” too…

  2. Misplaced
    Misplaced says:

    “enthusiasm is considered a mild form of retardation”

    That is a funny line- I’ll be stealing it from you. The new blog looks great. Do you mind if I link to you?

  3. Claire
    Claire says:

    Je suis presque decue de voir que tu es francais… (ou presque)… En bonne (ex) parisienne, il fallait bien que je me plaigne, non??!!
    Ca m’evite au moins d’ecrire un commentaire en anglais plein de fautes :-)
    Anyway, love your style! Hilarious !!
    Je t’ai rajoute a mes links. A +

  4. severine
    severine says:

    I am French and used to live during the last 7 or 8 years in Paris. I live in New York since last year and it is true that French are always complaining. They have so many advantages to live in France (health insurance, retirement, holidays, costs of education, employement security …) but they are still complaining. In the streets, in the subway, New-yorkers are always friendly, helpful and not angry. But to be honest I am still complaining a lot here about all the things that are better in France :-). French are never happy !!

  5. nicole rose
    nicole rose says:

    I just moved here to Paris from North Carolina (USA) with my Frenchie hubby and let me say – that I think you have explained something that has effected even my own ability to be happy. But I think having read this very thought provoking entry – is that I simply must return to following my bliss – even if I look like a retard!

  6. FP NICOLAS
    FP NICOLAS says:

    A bit cliche in the cliche, it used to be a French art of living to complain but with our new President, I m sure he will forbid complaning as part of a negative way of seing things. :)

  7. Nenii
    Nenii says:

    What if one, as an American in Paris, complains about the unhappy, whiny Parisian friend? Would that give one points “in the Parisians hierarchy of intelligent people”? :)

    Btw, just found your blog, and I love it! I lived in Paris for a few months, and reading it brings back so many memories, and explaines many of my “confused outsider” questions… thanks!

  8. cyril
    cyril says:

    Hey! I am French and have lived in a few countries and now work in an international environment in Brussels.
    I was assaulted (yes, literally) this morning by my Italian colleague who spent her weekend with French people and she was upset that they spent the whole time complaining about everything and/or saying that France is so great and that this and that is so much better in France…
    I felt sorry for her… and had to admit that not only a lot of French people complain all the time (are people from Paris worse?) but “I” complain probably too much too… to which she agreed!!!
    So I tried to look for excuses (I’d say we’re good at complaining AND looking for excuses…) and found your blog! I printed the post and shared it with my Finish, Spanish and Italian colleague and we shared a good laugh! THANK YOU!

  9. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Séverine… and they need to change that ;-)
    Nicole Rose… Thank you for your very kind words. I would opt for bliss over looks too! Welcome to Paris though…
    FP Nicolas… that would not be my definition of l’art de vivre!
    Nenii… Thank you! It’s a noble initiative trying to chaneg the Parisians. But a difficult one. And I’m afraid the Parisians’ hierarchy of intelligent people only includes some Parisians and Nobel Prizes.
    Cyril… Thank you!! Im’ glad I managed to resolve an international conflict ;-). I’m afraid I totally agree with your Italian colleague though. We French people just need to change this. We just have a lot to learn from other countries for that matter! Working with foreigners helps. That’s one thing I hope Europe dissolves: la mauvaise humeur française!

  10. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Les Parisiens sont dérangés. Pardon my rusty French, but I meant to convey that the Parisian loves to be inconvenienced. One of my favourite encounters was with a Parisian woman who, after retrieving her lost pocketbook, complained to me that she had to make several train stops out of her way to recover her property.

    I love your blog. Thank you for posting!

    Lauren

  11. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Lauren… thank you very much. See, that sort of Parisian attitude drives me craaaaazy!! For the record, ‘les parisiens sont dérangés’ means ‘Parisians are crazy’!! ;-) Thx for your comment.

  12. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I just read your blog for the first time and you CRACK me up! I really like how you express yourself. You are so funny!

    By the way, how come your English is so impeccable?

  13. Olivier Magny
    Olivier Magny says:

    Emma… Sadly!
    Wendy… Well, merci. Glad you enjoy this little blog! Impeccable, I’m not sure but my English probably benefited from multiple stays in the US. That and listening to hip hop surely helped!

  14. cornichon
    cornichon says:

    This is all true! Thank you!!
    Paris SLEEEEEPS zzzzzZZZZzZzzZzzzz….
    Wake up Paris!!! Live a little!
    Go out to get the morning paper in your pajama pants for once! Yes, live a little on the risky side!
    Geez, it’s like there is a constant fashion police out on the street! Sure Paris is beautiful, but it’s inhabitants don’t have any spunk! ZZzzzZzzzzzz…
    Great, you know all the great phiosophers and can quote from them. But how about LIVING life instead of just analyzing it from a distance?
    Stop thinking and just DO ! With some few exceptions, Parisiens all look sad and zombie-like as if they are all on downers.
    And mon dieu, it’s as if smiling is a sin in Paris!
    Word to the wise for tourists: Take a detour to Italy. Now the Italians know how to enjoy and LIVE life. Most importantly they smile and laugh and don’t take themselves so seriously!!!

  15. Renee
    Renee says:

    I found this blog today and love it! I love France and Paris, too — I’m always dreaming of Paris. The few visits I have made, though, did leave me confused by Parisians’ tudes! On the one hand, I totally get it. It is a part of the culture. On the other hand, lighten up, people.! It’s just life, we, none of us, are getting out alive. Enjoy life!

    I, too, will be stealing that line: “enthusiasm is considered a mild form of retardation.”

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