Last week I spend a few days away from my son and wife working abroad (in Cannes at the film festival to be exact… which sounds an awful lot more glamorous than it actually is!). Whilst there between meetings, along with missing my little man far more than I thought possible, I spent a bit of time observing the habits of children and their parents in the south of France… and I noticed a few startling differences compared to British parenting habits. Whether these are a result of the warm Mediterranean Sea air, the red wine and rose based diet, or just the laissez faire gallic attitude, I thought it would be interesting to note these down to see whether anyone else had ever noticed these cultural differences. So, here we go with my first attempt at some serious anthropological analysis…
1) Anarchy: Judging from my admittedly small sample size, French children are significantly more “free spirited” (aka badly behaved) than their British counterparts. Charging up and down the pavements, throwing apocalyptic tantrums dans le supermarche for no apparent reason, hurling mini baguettes across restaurants and generally not giving a merde about rules, regulations and the restrictions of polite society. Viva la revolution!
2) Style: Despite the bad behaviour, the toddlers of the Cote D’Azure are a stylish bunch. It’s all pastel dresses, blue sailor jackets and elegant caps. The pavements and playgrounds of Cannes are a world away from the Primark clad streets of the U.K.
3) Wine: It is a stereotype that the French allow their children to drink wine at a young age, but in the 5 days I spent on the continent I observed at least 6 different children in restaurants and bars enjoying a sip of rose wine. I wonder if it helps them sleep better!?
4) Nudity: There is a public beach in the middle of Cannes, and on one of the days I was there it was very sunny and a lot of locals took to la plage. The dominant thing to regards was naked olive skinned flesh, with a seeming disregard for the potential risks of sunburn to their tiny toddler’s bottoms.
5) Accessories: One thing I noticed in France that I have not really seen in the UK was accessories for babies. Not just hats, but jewellery, little bags etc. Is this something that is going to catch on here… Or perhaps the south of France is behind us and a few years ago, before I had a baby and so noticed these things, baby accessories were all the rage over here?
So, there you have it. I have no idea whether this is a true representation of the difference between British and French children, and to be honest I am sure there is no real difference at all, after all they are all children and we are all just parents trying to do our best, but I would love to hear from anyone else who has noticed cultural differences between parenting styles around the world.