July 14, 2014

5 facts about the French

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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.