July 14, 2014

5 facts about the French


Ah, la France. The land of wine, cheese, romance and abundant vacation time… right? As France celebrates the national holiday of Bastille Day, we set the record straight. Here are five common stereotypes about the French, and the facts that prove them right or wrong.

1 The French don’t care about affairs. Extramarital affairs are widely viewed as morally unacceptable around the world, with one notable exception: France. Only 47% of the French said having an extramarital affair was morally unacceptable in our 2013 survey, while four-in-ten thought it was not a moral issue, and 12% said it was actually morally acceptable. France was the only country out of the 40 we surveyed where less than half of respondents described infidelity as unacceptable. This laissez-faire attitude also extends to premarital sex: only 6% of the French view it as morally unacceptable.

2 The French work less and vacation more than most others. People in France work 1,479 hours a year, much less than the OECD average of 1,765 hours and the U.S. average of 1,790 hours. France also has the most generous amount of paid vacation among 21 of the world’s wealthiest nations, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The French enjoy 30 paid days off each year, an amount 50% higher than the EU-mandated minimum of 20 days. The U.S. is the only country in the group that does not legally require employers to provide paid annual leave, though many U.S. employers do offer it to their employees.

3 Drinking is a part of life in France. Not for everyone. While the French public is the second-most likely to say that drinking alcohol is not a moral issue (after Canadians), about one-in-five (18%) of the French say consuming alcohol is morally unacceptable, twice the share in Canada and about the same as in the U.S., where 16% say this.

4 The French drink the most wine. Not anymore, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, which estimates the U.S. overtook France in 2013 as the leader in national wine consumption, quaffing 2.9 billion liters of wine (excluding vermouth and special wines), compared with France’s 2.8 billion. Of course, the U.S. also has a much larger population than France. Looking at a per capita basis, the French far outdrink Americans, consuming about 44 liters in 2013, just over a bottle a week, while Americans drank about 9 liters, or a bottle a month.

5 The French eat the most cheese. The French consumed 52.7 pounds of cheese per capita in 2009, well behind Greece’s whopping 68.3 pounds. And France produced 2.1 million tons of cheese in 2013, according to Eurostat, behind Germany’s 2.4 million tons. You thought Americans ate a lot of cheese? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they ate a mere 33.5 pounds of cheese in 2012.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Western Europe

  1. Photo of Andrea Caumont

    is the social media editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. Sabrina M Messenger3 years ago

    Of course the French weren’t took keen on their current president’s treatment of his livin-in girlfriend. Just sayin’

  2. Min Zee3 years ago

    I am glad our government doesn’t pay our vacation…our economy would really be in trouble, our taxes would even be more unnecessarily high, and I would venture to say, many people today take vacation while on the job anyway and get paid for it…as they use their cell phones, ipads, etc while they should be working…and government employees, well that goes without saying….and they actually might be getting a raise in California…and they want California voters to approve it….Everytime I have to deal with a government employee, whether it is at a social security office or court, which is very rare in my life, probably 4 times in my life if that etc…. we are the customer, we pay their salaries…and they all look as if they you are a bother….and they are the slowest people I’ve every met…all they do is sent you from department to department…and very rarely does any one know the answer to anything…. this is definitely a rant….my apologies

    1. Albert Payne3 years ago

      You do know that the french are one of the most productive workers in Europe ? Because they know when to work and when to chill.

    2. Justin Beck2 years ago

      The mandate states that employers must provide so many days of paid vacation. It’s not paid for by the government, it’s paid for by the employer.

  3. cecil worthington3 years ago

    They wouldn’t have so much time and money to spend if they paid for their own national defense.

    1. french3 years ago

      France has the best military force in Europe why do yo say that ?

    2. anthrogirl3 years ago

      I think she’s being sarcastic. She knows that the French Armed Forces is well developed & supported. The US wastes so much in military spending, it’s sickening. If America adopted the French vacation policy, our employees would be much more committed, happier and healthier.