"The French don't have a word for entrepreneur"

Hi All ! I'm interested in hearing peoples' opinions on why the French so often don't show much entrepreneurial flair..... I'm not really asking whether they do or not (I think we'd most agree that often they don't) or whether this is a good or bad thing (most of us enjoy France precisely because it offers a 'slower' lifestyle). My question is WHY are they like this... I have some theories, but I'd be interested in other peoples' views.

Examples are numerous: in the High Street in the town nearest my (holiday) home, Aubusson, there are about five perfectly good restaurants / bistros. On any given day of the week at lunchtime only 3 out of 5 will be open and if one dares to walk in at 1.45 and ask for an omelette one will be met with a brusque 'Non !'. Why doesn't one cunning restauranteur think to stay open all afternoon, offering perhaps a pared down menu ? It seems to be anathema to the French psyche to think outside the box and mop up some trade.

Why do shops all shut from 12 to 2pm, why not get in some staff to cover the lunch period ? Why are simple electrical goods three times the price they are in the UK - even though they could be obtained over the internet at a scratch of the cost ? Why do (some) supermarkets shut on Monday just because they were open on Saturday ? Has anyone ever tried to buy tobacco on a bank holiday in rural France ? Why don't French petrol stations utilise their space and double as an epicerie ? Why don't general stores sell fresh bread ? Why do shops and other small businesses simply shut up shop for 2 weeks in August - why not get temporary cover in whilst the patron is away ?

Fundamentally I suppose what I am asking is "Why do they put up with this and why doesn't somebody spot the potential for business and move in to fill the gap in supply ?"

My theory is that France is rather like the UK in the 70's and 80's - we used to shut on Wednesday afternoons, banks shut at 3 and restaurants shut at 9. Somewhere along the way we adopted American expectations and demanded more. Perhaps also immigrants saw gaps in the market and were prepared to work unsociable hours and plugged the gaps in the market - now we all do. I suspect that over time France will become more like the UK and America but for now it is simply culturally ingrained into the French that there is a certain timetable and a certain way of doing things - the customers do not expect or demand any different, so nobody supplies it....what is your theory ? Is there some tax / economic reason ?


Granted, but perhaps seen the other way round we are lucky!

Thanks Andrew, verrrrrry interesting. I know the Basque bit here is silly but then the exagerations are often so sincerely meant (and believed) one runs with them. We are in the dotted shady area, we have neighbours who insist this is an Occitan area (come va and all that) and others who say it is not and never has been. I jokingly suggested that if they don't agree soon they'll be overtaken by English or Dutch... Blank faced responses there, hahahaha!

.....feel awful for taking over this thread...so am retiring (hurrah I hear you shout!)...@ Jane...our estate agents told us they couldnt recommend a surveyor...but they did have a chap they used sometimes...would we like them to ring him for us? I guess as we were new to the area...it was the nearest to a recommendation we were going to get...we were just travelling around looking at areas and properties....

@Andrew...you think...??? having already got depressed by 5 months with no phone line and our ongoing nightmare with France Telecom in St Cyp....we had no idea the problems we were going to have with our house in the Dordogne! Re: house taxes...3k for a barn with one and a half acres and an old pigeon house in a poor state...I do wonder what I am paying 3k for.....cant seem to get a sensible answer from the Mairie...and if we are comparing...we paid considerably less council tax in Newbury for a good size 4 bed house with granny annexe, good size garden with a 30ft long swimming pool with mains drainage...weekly rubbish collection....made up road and street lights!......interestingly we didnt get the info on house taxes for our Dordogne property before we bought...they couldnt lay their hands on them at the time!!! we certainly fulfilled all the dozy requirements of housebuyer to be taken for a ride....! maybe thats why I feel so antagonistic....that never happens to me in the UK...I know the rules!

@ Brian,

There is a difference when you go to a garage of your choosing and having one appointed by your insurance company.

Carol is not accident prone, she has been treated very badly, also it seems by her English surveyor. For some it goes against the grain to automatically distrust people, but seeking recommendations and seeing the work which has already been carried out before you award contracts, can be prudent, whether you are in France or UK.

Carol, I think you need to write a book! You really have had every conceivable problem happen to you! If it's any comfort our combined taxes d'habitation/foncière are 2300€ then there are the ordures menagères on top of that, we have no street lights either but council tax in the UK for what we have would be double that (farmhouse, barns, 18 acres...), oh and all that for the same price as a 1 bed flat in Hemel hempstead where I was teaching before coming back to France!

Brian, I can't stand cricket, never saw the point in standing around all day waiting for a ball to possibly arrive!

Reginal languages eh... have a look at this one, quite a good summary and map:



à +

We werent accident prone prior to coming to France...maybe its an allergy! the experience with the garage...not repeated as we would never go that far to a garage..our local mechanic had had an accident and was out of work for 6 months...

Carol - some people are accident prone and the like, I think you fit in that kind of category. Life has never been like that for us. We also had a car key lost by the garage before they opened the door! An electronic Renault card type. It was replaced, programmed in and in my hand with a big apology and some free work to boot in roughly 48 hours, which was in line with the work anyway. We have learned it pays to go to the same garage, have towed in by them and so on permanently and drop off a bottle of wine at Christmas and gossip when buying fuel, just as French folk do.

Aha Andrew - but up here in the Perigord Pourpre anything south of Le Buisson in the Noir is considered to be full of Ocs and Basques anyway, so easy to confuse. But it sure is a colony to compete with Eymet, even have cricket there! By the way, one of our friends is a sports teacher and has been part of the French national cricket eleven! His family moved to one of the Francophone West Indian islands in his youth and they play the game on those islands too, he loves the game. Since a ball hit my lower lip when I was at primary school I do not... He goes to Eymet or St Cyp to watch the game...

We gave up and paid to have the roof sorted...but left a very bad taste.... have to say this was the week my car broke down....we rang our insurance company who sent out mechanics, who said there was a part needing replacing and did it on the spot, charged us 120 euros..(cant remember which part).. the car broke down again the next day.....insurance company sent same mechanics despite our pleas not to...and they towed it....to their garage 40 kms away! when I went to collect it they lost the key....it took 4 months to get them to replace the key...then they argued over having the key automated on computer...it was useless till this was done...we were dealing with sopping wet walls which our English surveyor didnt see.....and were then told the quote for our septic tank had doubled as they didnt realise we were on a rocky outcrop and 100 charges of dynamite were needed so we paid well over 12k....the local council sent our demand for Tax d'habitation to our old house in the UK....for the second time despite being told we lived in the bloody town where our house is...and when we asked why our combined house taxes hit 3k for no rubbish collection, no street lights...no sewerage...in fact nothing...we were told we had the view.....I think this may in part explain why we have found France not to our liking!

Andrew: Never know, may go one day. We certainly have a friend visiting from there in July who will certainly try to persuade us, as she always does...

Meanwhile, OH is making focaccia, just to get your juces flowing... Italy, actually I suspect the buzz never actually wears off there, more like wears one out. Gentler here too.

Children stirring and a wet day, so time to think of indoor strategies. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


It is not nice to have to sue people, neither is it nice to be walked all over when you have worked hard and paid over your money in good faith for a job with a guarantee which is not upheld. This attitude is common amongst builders, we have a problem at the moment, not as bad as yours, but we will not be able to let out our Little House until it is fixed. I would investigate calling in a huissier because why should you pay twice for the same work. I don't think this is a sue everyone culture, it is a last resort for people who have been taken to the cleaners, and the finger shown at the same time!

Very interesting, Yes I would have loved portugal too but it would have been far too impractical for me and involved a good few years to master the language. Italy still gives me more of a buzz than France, there's something really special I feel there but I'm sure that would wear off in time and so France, as you say, is the most sensible, least demanding, best compromise, put it how you like, it ends up top of the list on points, and the others can always be visited, well some time in the future once we manage to get some free time ;-)

Bon dimanche !

@Carol - You came across a very bad notaire but you should have been given the conformity/non conformity report from the spanc or other body, it is part of the act authentique document which you go through when signing, if he skipped it he's most certainly in the wrong. the rest is cultural as Brian and I have pointed out regarding all the far greater differences with other eu countries.

@Brian, just a little correction, St Cyp near you is lovely, spent a weekend with the club cycling around the dordogne + we cycled there from the aveyron, just a little 165km ride, and everyone took the p1ss out of me for being the local because there are more brits than french there! anyway we're talking about st cyprien just outside Perpignan - hence my comments about it being the deep deep south and part of catalonia not France... ;-)

Bon dimanche à vous deux - mine's going to be rather dull, an afternoon couped up with OH's family, all her aunts and uncles etc, big family get together which means at least 13h00 to 17h00 eating!!!

Do not be bossed around by manic depressives ever (bipolarity sufferers as one calls oneself nowadays). I have the same problem myself and have been up on a whizzy thing for the last couple of weeks. The difference is that I do not use medication and have had to teach myself selfcontrol and take advantage of ups and downs during each day. Early is always good after a couple of hours 'meditation' (not always real but as close as damn it). France is a bit like a manic depressive though, sometime unpredictable with periods of total reliability most of the time. It may be why people do not always thrive here, they are never sure how France is and what new law, regulation and so on has been thrust on them without anybody being told, let alone warned. Sometimes it is a bit like a mirror for me, so I cope easier than some.

ooh but I had terrible builders in UK who were highly recomended but perminatly

high...gave me hell and almost drove me to the decision not to open.

My friend who was on one of her ups ...A BI POLA sutherer added to the misery by

lectureing me about the till and I found that I feared using it.She spent weeks

setting up a system of ordering which would have been good for Tesco UK

but not for my tiny foodie shop in West London.Tills are fine for some

people but for people who are unable to link sequenses like me....type of dexlesia

it is mighty awful when a woman comes at you with her might omniscience.

The shop was mad. Had to get there early in the morning...WE ended up cooking

everything ouselves...EVEN the cakes. We introduced cup cakes to the shops...YOU KNOW THE ONES WHICH have been all the rage.

Our assitant was a lovely polish girl but sadly she had an eating disorder and went

from doctors surgery to doctors surgery telling each doctor that she had a stomach


Operating a deli in London was an experience...

We got flooded and thames water were useless and unhelpful in spite of their

huge bills...LOCAL council equally hopeless in spite of the 12.000 POUNDS

A YEAR which I paid them. Very posh area....very dirty.

More of this adventure another time.

Some of our reasons for not going to Italy in there... Spain, no way, too many ghettos that one might start by moving to a place and others follow (as has usually happened) or go straight in... Ugh. In reality, we would have loved Portugal but unless one is more or less within half an hour of Lisbon travel and communications can be bad. We both speak French, my OH was higher educated in the language in Fribourg and feel comfortable here. It is the latter that counts, comfort with the people. The point is that professionally in the EU alone I have either lived some amount of time or spent a lot of time in France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, UK, Belgium and ex-EU Switzerland and Norway, worldwide I am not going down that road, too many. I tend to compare and know that for ease of life I would probably have settled for Portugal (Algarve, no less, where we were based) and Berlin comes second because I have a large number of friends and colleagues there and nearby but France is the happiest medium and actually LEAST DEMANDING, if people only knew and stopped, as you say, comparing with the UK. Comparing with a place where things are taken for granted so that you scarce notice them and the contrast do not work, which is what I suspect many people do. OOOoooooof, good Sunday anyway.

I am a bit over 40 minutes from St Cyp. In fact my OH was there whilst we had the question of 'slagging' the place the other day. Nice area, but then the SW has many so favouritism is not on the cards. Aquitaine is not the rest of France either but stubbornly remains behind, which is why I suspect many people who are fed up with contemporary things come here. Scratch under the surface and in reality it is like most other places in Europe. Have a relaxing Sunday!