Monthly Archives: August 2010

Comparing France and the UK: Discourse on Method

When comparing France and the UK, the biggest mistake is to compare things and not relations between things. For instance, anyone can see that beer is cheaper in England than in France. But what conclusion can be drawn from this statement? “Oh, what a wonderful country this is, where you drink a pint for £3!” Such a comment seems to me a little shallow… It would be more interesting to complete the description, for example, by adding that wine in England is more expensive than in France. It highlights the cultural differences between a brewing country and a wine-growing one. But we could even go further and recall some figures about alcohol consumption: in 1961, 4.5 litres of pure alcohol was consumed per inhabitant in the UK, while 17.7 in France; in 2001, the numbers are respectively 8.5 and 10.7. These data show that the alcohol drinking practices tend to converge on both sides of the Channel – not only in quantity but also in quality: indeed, British people are steadily drinking less beer and more wine, while in France the share of beer in total alcohol consumption is slowly rising. Conclusion? Despite strong idiosyncratic traditions and some real differences, cultural practices in the two countries have gradually become closer. Continue reading