How do you react to the begging on French streets?

The issue of travellers produced some widely differing opinions. Street beggars in France, often from Eastern Europe, and often apparently well organised in their methods, cut right through to the heart of our true stance on generosity, compassion, and racism. How do you justify your position?


A beggar is a beggar no matter where he or she comes from, if they are begging in the streets of a "civilized" country I would suggest they are part of a "gang", organised and crafty, if on the other hand they are begging on the streets of a "less civilised" country then I would suggest they are doing it basically to live -- but the cynic in me says they are crafty people who rely upon the stupidity of tourists generosity.

As far as reacting to Beggars is concerned, well to be honest, I hold them in contempt, the lowest kind of life form is that which lives and thrives by "blood sucking" from its own kind and beggars are the humananiod "blood sucker". And please don't tell me these poor people can't get a job, don't have money for food etc etc because my answer would be --- In that case why aren't there more beggars on the streets because there are , I would suggest, a lot more people in dire need than those street scroungers but they have diginity.

What's worse - to be occasionally conned out of a few euros by getting it wrong and giving to someone who is on the make, or to walk on by with a cold heart (someone talked about this earlier) when someone is really in need? Saying no is easiest thing in the world and saying yes is fraught with problems. There are a certain amount of freeloaders out there and nobody likes feeling you've been taken for a sucker. But the idea of being homeless horrifies me and I always think that there, but for the grace of God, (or god) ..... And I've got lots of resources - education, skills, family and friends. There aren't actually many safety nets in place these days and they are getting fewer. Once you're out of the system jobless and homeless, I don't think it's easy to get back in again, and what if you've never been in it? One thing is for sure, someone who sits on a filthy pavement all day in the permanently humiliated and despised state of the beggar hasn't got many other options in life. I was in the Opera metro station in Paris the other day, miles of underground passages with crippled, dark-skinned (gypsy/ North African?) women lying on the floor begging at the main exits. How would it be to spend your life like that? I can't even begin to imagine it. If you haven't got any legs you can't run away. I didn't give them anything and, of course, after about 5 minutes I'd completely forgotten about them. My own background is slightly precarious and I've worked really hard all my life - I still practically kill myself now sometimes - and at least fifty per cent of the time I don't give. I'm too worried about my tax bill or I'm broke or I don't have any change. And when I do, I'm often a bit ashamed by the arbitrariness of it all - that young man with the dog will probably buy drugs/drink/fags with my two euros, the ancient gypsy woman is probably going to give it to her gang leader who collects all their money at the end of the day, but each is another human being, like me, and I would not, not for all the tea in China, like to find myself in the place where they are.

Thank you Richard, for such an interesting post, as it really got me thinking about how I address this. I haven't read all the replies, but I'm sure many of the issues have been covered off. There is no doubt that my wife and daughters are more philanthropic than I am, but I do always give to people who I think are genuinely down on their luck, however hard that is to judge on occasion.

I put this down to having worked in London for years, where you really are subjected to the full spectrum of begging, from the drunkard on the park bench, to the ones that get right in your face and hurl abuse if you don't give them anything.

I'll be honest, I would not want to swap places with someone begging, and does it really matter if they have a vehicle or a dwelling, should that influence whether you give or not. I'm sure in 99% of cases the dwelling they have , is a place I would not want to live.

I have also worked hard at certain times in my life, but I can afford a few euro's here and there, it's not going to kill me, and if it makes another human beings life a little bit easier on that particular day, then I'm happy enough with that as an outcome.

I do agree though, that time and place are critical, and the old chap who use to beg outside the Salisbury near Covent Garden knew his trade, as he always seem to catch us in a semi drunken happy state, and his coffers would swell appropriately.

Except they were probably from Dordogneshire and hardly ever hear a French voice there either !

Some do need help others are just trying it on, it depends on the mood I am in and if I think the person is genuine enough to hand a euro, its not much but every penny counts and charity starts at home as they say!

In Pezenas there is a chap who sits outside a pharmacy every Saturday when the market is on with a sign saying he has cancer and can someone please give him a few pieces of money. This chap has been doing this since 2004 & aside from looking a bit older he doesn't appear to be ill.

There are a couple of girls/women who beg outside the church too but they are usually polite and say Bonjour Madame, they don't ask and I just say Bonjour back but I don't give them money. I don't want to encourage begging.

The ones I dislike the most are when you are in a situation where you have to get your purse out, like near a cash machine, train ticket machine etc I feel very uncomfortable then. Also the supermarket beggers, its hard enough shopping with your toddler & baby without being hassled by someone who judging by how they are dressed is not so short of cash they need to beg.

I do buy the Big Issue occassionally in London for one reason, these people have shown they are prepared to sell to earn money & there have been some good success stories of people getting their lives back on track after being a successful seller, I support this but I don't support general begging.

I remember my mum telling me a story of a guy who used to beg outside our local shopping centre (my mum used to work for the Benefits Office/Job Centre in the UK), he said he was homeless. Mum knew he had a council flat, job seekers allowance etc. everyone at the job centre knew he was begging but there was nothing they could do as long as he turned up to the Job centre once every 2 weeks. I imagine he earned a reasonable top up to his dole money!

Thanks and oh don't worry they still fight all the time ;)

Nothing to do with this thread Beckie - but I just wanted to say I hope your husband is better and back to work soon! xx

And ps. I think 4 kids is a great number - much better than three who fight all the time! :)

My husband, who is French, is off work due to professional illness, hopefully the SECU will soon, allow him back to work. He has worked from the age of 14 and this is the second time he has been injured due to working.
We have 4 kids, which may seem like a lot to most, but we weren't doing too badly until my husband was put on sick leave. The SECU happily pays us when they think about it & we can never guess the amount before hand so needless to say, times are now quite difficult!
When I see beggars, especially young healthy ones it really makes my blood boil as there is work out there if someone wants it & there is no way I'm going to give the bit of money we have away when my husband has been injured due to working and doing things the right way.
My husband didn't have the best childhood and his Dad died when he was 6 but instead of asking for hand outs and saying poor me he has chosen to do things how we believe things should be done. It might sound a bit harsh and sorry for going off on one but everyone has a choice at some point and it's up to them to make their choices!

Anti Apartheid Dutch Reformed Ministers??? Now THAT is a contraction of terms :-) I agree that they tend to SEEMINGLY avoid all pleasures of the flesh

"LIKE LIKE LIKE" button! Should go under Anne's comment!!!!!!

...something that's often overlooked when looking on the brighter side of life!

There again I'm sure she just shouts a little louder so they can understand her :-O

Reminds me of a lady from Manchester that was staying in the hotel a few weks ago, who felt the need to (loudly) declare to me that, "although I've lived in France for 5 years now, I still can't get the hang of their bloody language"

I answered "well, surely you know how to order your meals, or call a taxi"..

"Oh nooo", she crowed, "my husband is French, so he does all that for me."

Right, what if her husband's lying on the ground unconcious, and she needs to call an ambulance. Does she have a small slave for that in her handbag?

There use to be a lovely beggar who parked himself out side of Lezignan's Champion, he had some sort of mental health problems but he was always smiling and helping locals, who clearly knew him, with their shopping. The cashier told me not to give him much, a few centimes would make him happy as they made sure he was fed and he had a place in an assisted home- he just liked to get out and about and meet people.

When Champion got merged into Carrefour on a new site he disappeared, I asked the same cashier what had happened to him and she said the new, improved management had called the police on him when he tried to move with them. The old Champion crew still visited him with food.

That's one of the things I love about Les Corbieres there is still a vast amount of what they call 'social capital' about, communities still care for the less well off rather than bundle people out of sight.

James - you have just made my day. Although I laughed so much I nearly snorted my coffee over my keyboard.

Can't remember any Cloggies Susan, apart from a couple of Anti- Apartheid Dutch Reformer Ministers who were too sever to engage in any leisure activities

Can I lay a bet that the Sailing Clubs were mainly frequented by Hollanders, Peter?

Yes it probably is but I'm sure they don't mind and are proud of their group - I don't mind them pointing the finger and putting me in the 'gone native' group! ... all a question of integration rather than colonisation :-O