vendredi 18 décembre 2009

Some cultural differences between France and anglo countries

I was having this rather interesting conversation with a French friend the other day that started with driving speed limits, and ended up being about teenage binge drinking and the morning after pill.

A few months ago, a friend told me about this book Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life. I would've bought it or read it if it was about cities around the world and not just the US but I've read the blurb through Amazon, and seen it in a book shop. You can also check out the interesting "Who's your city?" website here.

The premise, according to Richard Florida, is that where you live should be one of the most important decisions of your life. Most people think that whom you marry or what kind of job you get is important, but Richard says that where you live actually affects what kind of person you will meet (and later marry) or what kind of job you will get/do...

But it's not only where you live, and your neighbours, but the kinds of people you hang around with too. I've read way too many books and articles about this psychological stuff and think it's very very true. Basically your friends are a true reflection of yourself. For example, if you live in an area where there are a lot of overweight people, or most of your friends are, you are more likely to become overweight than someone else who lives in a place with few overweight people. From my personal observations, the further into the city you go, the fewer overweight people there are because, obviously, they walk and use public transport more and they also would have (generally speaking) a higher education and higher income...

I know I am totally getting off the track here... but to get back to the topic, so I asked my friend what the speed limit was in France and he said 130 km/hr and then commented that there was no limit on some German roads (as everybody knows) yet they have fewer accidents... so we got talking about how putting restrictions and limitations on people's lives can actually make things worse... we were both in agreement about that...

When I started researching about what it's like to live in France, I discovered that it's got one of the highest life expectancy rates, and is ranked number 1 in the world for healthcare. Another thing I found interesting was that both Japanese and French food is healthy and delicious, and both have high life expectancy rates, and there were two books written called French Women Don't Get Fat and Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat and the best (IMHO) skincare and cosmetics brands are also French and Japanese. Suffice to say, they know how to look after themselves and the more I read about France, the happier I was with my decision to go there and try to make a go of things.

So, it seems that anglo countries are fact 'stricter' with teenagers, and as a consequence they go out of control more. The rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion are much higher in anglo countries than they are in European ones, Britain has been named sickest country in Europe with highest obesity rates and teen pregnancy rates, and the US has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the world.

The topic of the morning after pill came up totally by accident, and as a joke. I was shocked it was brought up as it wasn't related to anything we were talking about previously... but it got me curious, and I started asking questions and found out that you can buy it in France just over the counter (same as in Australia). In Australia and most other countries it's quite expensive and according to this article it is relatively cheap in France. So of course this brings up all these moral and ethical dilemmas.. if the contraceptive pill (which I haven't really talked about) and morning after pill (not to be confused with the abortion pill RU-486) are so readily available, does it mean that teens will start having sex younger, and more often? Does raising the legal drinking age make things better? From everything that I have read, I am inclined to believe the answer is 'No'.

According to this graph the age of first time sex in France is 18.5 and later than all the anglo countries, and most other European countries.

This is not really supposed to be an "us vs them" article or "anglos vs europeans" or anything like that... but having been brought up in an anglo country, yet not being of anglo origins, I have noticed things like this my whole life. And to be honest, these 'out of control' teens really disgust me... (especially this obsession with drinking and binge drinking antics - and it's not only teens who behave like this either) and if it's not the parents doing and the culture, what is it then?

I guess, the way French parents bring up their kids is far similar to my own culture than the anglo one, so I can relate to it more and the older I get, the more I prefer it. And despite the fact that I'm not a Christian and my family isn't that religious (but my parents were still strict), I turned out to be a 'good girl' without any problems and doing anything underage or illegal. I guess as a parent there is only so much you can do but I still think that being too strict on your kids can often have the opposite effort.. food for thought...

Interesting (related) articles:

From The Times
August 26, 2008
French curb on alcohol sales as teenagers discover le binge drinking

British teenagers worst behaved in Europe


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