Why the French are so arrogant (and why Norwegians aren’t)


My home country, France, is internationally known for its great wine, food, kisses, seductors and philosophers. What a creative nation: as good in bed as in the kitchen. But there is a but, of course. Paris is not that romantic after all (it’s actually quite dirty and noisy), and French people are also internationally known for their rudeness and arrogance. We have been elected as the most unfriendly nation in the world for travellers, as well as the most arrogant nation in the European Union. That includes our own fellow Frenchmen qualifying themselves as the most arrogant… You have to give it that at least we are realistic about it.

These “prizes” mean that either we try very hard at treating people badly, even the tourists who are obviously quite intelligent as they come to visit our beautiful country, or we are born and raised arrogant for a reason.
In Norway, where I now live, arrogant is the worst qualification Norwegians wants to be called and perceived as by other nations. Obviously the French don’t mind it too much.

So let me tell you the simple reasons why French are so arrogant and why, on the opposite, Norwegians aren’t (or manage to hide it very well). Before anything what is arrogance? It is when someone believes they are superior to others and show it in an insulting way.

1- History: Longing for the past
We were once the kings of this world (if I remember my history books well, which were probably biasedly written by French megalomaniacs) and we miss it. On ideas, philosophy, colonial empires, language and so have you. So we still pretend like this is how it is supposed to be. Not that long ago French was the diplomatic language spoken by the European elites. But hellloo neither the 20th century nor the 21st are seeing the revival of French intellectual influence in this world. We aren’t the kings of the world anymore but French have this great ability not to give a shit. WE should learn English for the Americans? HAHA this country is 300 years old and eats fake meat and they want to teach us stuff. So even when learning English we make sure we have the thickest French accent so that no one can ever think “oh wow that guy made a real effort”.

Norwegians on the other hand. Well, they were also the kings of this world one day a long time ago, in a way: everyone remembers the merciless Vikings who conquered the world from their history books. But the recent history of Norway is that the country was always part of someone else’s empire: the Swedes or the Danes. It is only 200 years ago that Norway became independent and extremely recently that it became a wealthy nation. I read that after World War II Norway was the poorest country of Europe with Portugal.
While the French have had an nicely sized ego on the international scene, the Norwegians seemed to have suffered from some kind of inferiority complex. A French meeting a foreigner will expect him/her to speak French, and perfectly. A Norwegian meeting a foreigner will just be happy he/she knows Norway is its own country and not a city in Sweden.

2- Society: Arrogance as social recognition
Norwegian and French societies are very different and the ways for one to be acknowledged and respected are also completely different. In France those who are socially valued are those who 1- know a lot (or pretend they know a lot) about anything from art to philosophy or geopolitics, 2- who have a high social status (by being from an elite school) and 3- those who are arrogant. It doesn’t matter what you know, who you are, how much you earn, as long as you are able to make everyone else feel like you and only you knows. The winning combination is being arrogant + having entered an elite school. And being a man. And being white. Let’s not even go there.

Being humble will lead to your social death in France. There is a saying “Trop bon, trop con” which basically means being too nice makes you an fool. You might have walked alone to the North Pole, if you are not able to talk about it in a superior way the social value of your exploits will be reduced.

In Norway however it is the total opposite: it seems like being modest here is the one thing to be if you want to be respected and be socially acknowledged. Here the winning combination is to be humble + nice. Who cares if you studied, if you are competent in your work. As long as you are “snill”. It is written all over the Law of Jante ruling many aspects of Norwegian social life: “You’re not to think you are smarter than we are”.

And it is in fact one of the things that surprised me when I moved here: people seem so modest. Even the super rich don’t show off too much, and the highest professors still wear old shirts and dirty shoes. They will talk to a cashier with as much respect as to the Prime Minister. In any social setting: a party, work, a supermarket, treating someone else like they are inferior to you will not gain you any respect. Quite on the opposite people will look at the ceiling thinking how rude you are. It is refreshing when coming from France because we don’t have to fight so much here for every of our ideas. Then again, debates sometimes seem very politically correct in Norway, it lacks a bit of spice and confrontation for my taste.

In Norway, why be arrogant? Your boss listens to you, during an annual meeting you have with him or her to discuss all issues linked to your job. You can talk in meetings and be listened to without being shouted at, and people will politely disagree if anything. Arrogance is not a matter of social survival in Norway.

3- How to detect Norwegian pride, sometimes tainted of arrogance

That said, arrogance does exist at its own level in Norway. The thing is that for a French it will be undetectable: we are used to showing or seeing people treating others like they are the scum of this world, so a Norwegian even trying very hard to be patronising will be hard to detect for us. It’s the same with seduction. Norwegian men can try very hard, French women are so used to be heavily flirted with that the subtleties of Norwegian seduction will appear like a simple conversation.
However, I have seen it, more under pride than arrogance. Many people here have the intimate conviction that their system and their country are the best in the world. That the whole world wants to come here (believe me it doesn’t, my parents don’t even want to come on a holiday). Norway is definitely the welfare system with the least deficit, yet saying all the time that it has the best quality is, well, a bit arrogant.

All in all, there are 65 million inhabitants in France and obviously all of them can’t be arrogant. Some live in Norway and had to drop that because it is so badly viewed here. Some never were but know how to avoid the arrogant ones in parties and family dinners. There is another French saying: Knowledge is like jam, the less one has the more one spreads it. At the age of 18 I met a professor in university who had 2 PhDs and was incredibly passionate and at the same time very humble. I realised that arrogance is just a way to hide one’s ignorance and insecurity. When you know that you are right you don’t need to scream it to the world and step on two persons on the way telling them how idiotic they are.
Yet in France arrogance has become a state religion, so I advise you to get tuned in if you move there, so that you can get what you want from administrations for example. But remember, arrogance takes you so far (look where it led Nicolas Sarkozy!).

31 thoughts on “Why the French are so arrogant (and why Norwegians aren’t)

    1. As a Scots girl at the age of 18 I spent a whole summer with a dramatic and sometimes arrogant family near Paris. It was a summer of great adventures and I arrived back in Scotland rather insufferable and somewhat arrogant. French arrogance lodged itself inside me. Here I am at the ripe age of 53 realising that I was formed during that summer and some of that forming has not been to my benefit in the long term. I grew an appetite for dramatic events and wanting to be the centre of attention. Life went on and I loved France and any adventures there. Add the South of England drivenness and I was set up for a hard time in Sweden where humility is important. I was stuck between what I call Madame (or Milady) mode and a depressive schism where I felt powerless because I wasn’t used to this type of society. It all ended very sadly indeed and back in the SE of England I long for that more humble and nature dominated culture with greater social equality as opposed to the British class system. But this is all hindsight now! Alas.


  1. Hello. I’m sure that everyone is now convinced that French people are so arrogant since a French person said it. Being French myself and having travelled and lived in different foreign countries, I’m sure that this isn’t true and that our image isn’t as bad as the French love to think and say. I met tons of people who travelled in France and who thought that people there are nice and helpful. As many, I think that the French culture holds a love for disdain and hierarchy that I hate. But spending time in foreign countries always makes me think that every society has a dark side that is easily hidden by very charming day-to-day habits.
    I also think that even if the French are sometimes more rude and arrogant that some others, there’s something charming in the fact that they always criticize their own country. But as in every other countries they don’t always like being insulted as part of a group, especially because some of them are trying hard to change the image they’re supposed to carry… Voilà, quoi.
    Oh, and last thing : we may have been elected the most unfriendly nation in the world, but it was an online poll that gathers random answers… If you take a look a the top ten, anyone who traveled in the US or in Germany would be very surprised.


    1. “…there’s something charming in the fact that they always criticize their own country.”

      I suppose. I’ve seen this self-deprecation many times, and thank goodness there is a smidge of it that pops up occasionally, because I find that it’s vastly overwhelmed by their unsolicited monologues about the superiority of the French language vs. English, the superiority of French food vs. “American food (which they don’t know well or at all),” and the endless bragging about the wine and cheese, which is often followed by a brilliant question like “Do you have good wine and cheese in __(not France)___?” I finally told my French husband (I’m American) after another evening of this with his family and friends, “France is a GIANT FARM. You SHOULD have good food and wine. Congrats, you do, but can a person get an ear break? What’s this need to constantly mention it?”

      France is a beautiful country with lots of great qualities, but humility is not a strong suit here.


  2. I really like the way you write and described the comparison between French and Norwegian society. It’s very important to highlight well the subjects. I lived in France 17 years of my life, France gave me so much, many people call me “cocky” because of my arrogance. Some of my myriad of international friends consider me more French then French. I’ve grown up in a famile where education started on religious private school and if you were not adapting to it you’ve been put in the French School. That was my case!

    I’ve learn in France : have pride of my difference – ( porter ta différence avec fierté! ) thing here in Norway we cannot do ! When you listen to Rossi de Palma, actrice et model, made her speech in Cannes at the last day of festival , two years ago, she was proud to be different ( peculiar, extravagant, flamboyant, what else we can give other synonyms).
    Here in Norway everybody must look the same or not show that difference ! When in this tiny society appears have lack of symbols and heroes! Lufthansa in Germany made jokes about Norwegian Airlines because the company couldn’t find enough Norwegian celebrities to name their airplanes and started to add Danish or Swedish celebrities.


  3. Haha🙂 love your self irony..and I love the French. After living there for four years, I do miss the french mentality up here in Norway sometimes.
    Just discovered your blog today…it is awesome!! Looking forward to read more of it! Greetings from Majorstuen, Ulrike🙂


  4. I can only confirm the arrogance of French people, probably more those from Paris than from the rest of the country.

    I had a very bad experience lately traveling with them in an organized trip in an African country. Being myself from North Africa, I could not believe the extent of the arrogance of my French companions in the trip. Both their behavior with me (not accepting that I have a higher educational status, even though I tried to hide it to prevent problems, having previous experiences), and with the locals reflected how much they think they are the best.

    They could speak only French (while I spoke 5 languages), yet they missed no occasion to “correct” my French…

    I thought part of their problem is they keep carrying the “colon” attitude toward people from countries that France colonized (both my own country and the visited country). But from reading your blog, I think it’s not only that (even though it is also that).

    It was so funny (and sad) to hear them say how proud they were of French cuisine, French cheeses… when they could not trade their “butter and jam” breakfast for the local options of taster and healthier local breakfasts. When we travel, we better be open to try local food, discover local customs, not dragging our own customs… in that case, better stay home.

    Conclusion: I decided never again to travel with French people… bad for the French travel agencies…


  5. Nice one! I am Bulgarian and I have lived in Iceland for many years. And speaking broadly, if you substitute French for Bulgarians and Norwegians for Icelanders you might get quite the same picture. I think arrogance (the way you describe it for the French is a kind of southern European thing) while being humble is typical Scandinavian. At the same time there are of course the differences, as you mentioned, between the countries who have been “the rulers” and “the ruled”. Both Bulgarians and Icelanders have an inferiority complex and in both countries you will hear a lot how it is the best place in the world to live in (in Bulgaria you also hear a lot about how it is the worst place in the world to live in, but that is another story). On the other hand, Danes, who are culturally very close to Norwegians, but were on the ruling side, are certainly more French-style arrogant in some ways than Norwegians are.
    A lot of generalizations here, but you probably know what I am talking about.


  6. The french are great in bed? I want a beautiful french woman to prove this to me the sooner the better. You are right in what you say that arrogance is just a facade for ignorance and stupidity. But I think this is universal. I respect people who has achieved greatness, possess intelligence and integrity whether they are arrogant or humble.
    People who blame Janteloven if they don’t get the respect they deserve, are always nobheads full of sh*t in my experience. Like Aune Sand and similar “geniuses”.
    I work with a man from Normandie and he is a great guy. Must be the Norman in him.


  7. I feel the need to comment this post because de historical reasons are a bit messed up.
    French arrogance (for the ones who believe in it) must be explain by other arguments than the colonial empires and the supremacy of France across Europe many years ago. Portugal also had an impressive extension of colonies and currently portuguese language is spoken all across the world (Brasil, Angola, Moçambique, some parts of India, Macau) and portuguese people (in general) don’t behave arrogantly…
    Those times when France had colonial empires go far back…of course they are more recent that the Viking Era or the Portuguese sailors overseas finding India, but still they are far away from having and important impact in they way those three nations behave and see themselves currently.

    Regarding this comment “I read that after World War II Norway was the poorest country of Europe with Portugal.” It might be true but that is a random coincidence – Norway was occupied during world war two; Portugal was not involved in the war, we had a dictatorship. And now Norway is quite rich and Portugal is poor. So how does this impact arrogance or lack of arrogance?!

    From my point of view logging on historical reasons to explain the arrogance of a nation is missing the point – the real reason hiding on the back of historical arguments is the policy of national education programs chosen for the nation. An another much more complex factor is the structure of society itself…
    One thing is for sure Norway and Portugal have a tradition of acceptance and being open minded about learning other languages and cultures. In Portugal emigration was always very common an that contributed to develop a national conscience on the importance of learning and respecting foreign languages and cultures.


    1. I think Margarida pointed something: all the courses given to the french kids concerning the History of the world converge to the history of France (Palaeolithic illustrated with the Lascaux caves, Roman empire through the Gallo-roman culture with Gaul pictured as the direct ancestor of France, Middle-age explained mostly across the architectures and battles on the pre-France territory, the Early modern period across the French Renaissance, adding to this the Age of Enlightenment with the estimated French philosophers etc.).
      I do not know how it is done in the foreign schools but it seems like the French program is very megalomaniac and very rarely teaches what is happening in the other countries. And the examples I am quoting below are only from the primary school program (, page7).

      Another thing is the way how people are/were educated in France. Since the first step in school, kids are rewarded or punished with marks: your “goodness” or “badness” is quantified and compared to the rest of the class. If your number is lower than the one of your neighbour, you just worth less than him. Since the very beginning you are subject to a constant evaluation of your abilities and performances. I guess it rubs off on the daily life: if you do not say and show to everybody how brilliant you are, you have no chance to be recognized as such.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. haha that’s true but it’s also true that most frenchmen will say what they mean to your face, while most norwegian will be passive and not express themselves. Finding a balance is probably the key🙂


  9. I am french and have been living in Norway since 5 years.
    I think i am spending 80% of my social interactions trying to repair this terrible reputation we have😛.
    When i came here, i decided at once i would absolutely avoid trying to meet any french and instead, just dive into the Norwegian culture to try to blend in and understand their perspectives. I learned Norwegian as fast as i could, bought some of these funny and beautiful typically norsk genser og alt som mulig.
    To be honest, there are still many aspects that i don’t get. Trying to read what they are thinking is impossible to me. “Bra” can mean anything from “it’s ok” to “this is the idea of the century”, which is a bit unsettling when you are used to the blunt way of the french.
    Though, i feel here at peace. Such a huge priceless peace. You can have a conversation without it turning into a battle of egos in 2 seconds, political debates are friendly. Friendly. I just cannot imagine in France a person from the right speaking with a person from the left in a peaceful manner and an argumentation that is not full of shitty rhetoric or lame under-the-belt attacks.
    The workplace is just the same. You are expected to work hard all the same of course, but you are not feeling like you are a slave that should feel happy to have gotten the job and thank the one that gave it to you 17 times a day.
    French people like fencing whenever possible. They are bragging. And funnily enough i miss it sometimes because this arrogance is also often just for a theatrical purpose (especially in Provence where i grew up).
    I guess we just have some weird ways to display our passion and identity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cher Gynko, tu m’enlèves les mots de la bouche, c’est exactement pourquoi je vis ici aussi. Car bien que j’adore les debats et autres discussions enflammees, ici c’est très paisible. Ca me manque un peu des fois, comme à toi, mais on ne peut pas tout avoir paraît-il! Tu viens d’où en Provence? Je suis marseillaise


      1. oh, j’avais pas vu ta réponse.
        Ma famille est vers Hyères, dans le Var donc vraiment pas loin de “Mareuseilleu”.. On peut évidemment pas tout avoir, mais je crois que le niveau de verdeur de l’herbe est suffisamment bon pour me donner envie de rester un bon et long moment ici… Je vais d’ailleurs acheter mon Bunad dés que possible, j’économise pour les boutons en argent :p


  10. I don’t have any experience with French people, but I have for sure heard of their arrogance. However, my fist experience with a French person was the complete opposite. When I was a student in Bergen, I met one French exchange student who could put the ‘Norwegian humbleness’ to shame. This guy was so humble and unassuming, it’s not even real. Again, this goes ahead to show that just when you are about to think one label (stereotype) fits all people, you find this one person who defies it. The same thing happens to me (though very rarely) when I meet Norwegians who can actually make very funny jokes…


  11. I discovered your blog quite recently, that is why I am commenting on almost all posts. This is a great blog and I enjoy reading it.

    Regarding this post. I completely agree with the below:

    “Then again, debates sometimes seem very politically correct in Norway, it lacks a bit of spice and confrontation for my taste.”

    This is so true for Norway, it is so difficult to get Norwegians to say anything that is politically incorrect (at least when they are sober), and discussions about politics, immigration, social problems are very dry and predictable. When I open up a topic to discuss, I almost always know beforehand what a Norwegian is going to say. It is not that they are boring or do not have opinions of their own, they are just to scared to express them, too worried to be perceived as a racist, sexist. However, if you really want to know what Norwegians think, just go and read the comment section in Dagbladet or VG.


  12. I am an Indian and my girl friend is from France. I never seen such a kind hearted person in my life before. She visited India many times. Here everybody likes her for her kindness. So I will not agree with this statement that FRENCH PEOPLE ARE ARROGANT . may be some people are arrogant but we can’t generalize.


  13. I concur with Aliya. They seem to dwell in their past. And see themselves above the rest…younger people sometimes cooler but often unwillingly carry this attitude.


  14. Obviously, you haven’t lived long enough in Norway to be subjected to the real nastiness of Norwegian arrogance. It might not be as obvious as the French style arrogance, but I can assure you it is as poisonous as the French kind. When I think about it, it is probably worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. To me, the French are alright, there is nothing bad about them. I have met some decently friendly French people during vacation. They are maybe not as friendly as British/Americans, but they are definitely not really the worst either.

    But the only problem that I have with the French is that I sometimes cannot understand what they are saying because they don’t want to speak other language besides French. That is why when I talked to the French people that I met at vacation, I have to open up google translator to help me speaking French with them.


  16. My mum:

    My daughter sent me this blog entry, I suppose primarily because it is well written and funny, but maybe also because I keep telling her exactly the same.

    Obviously, and as some blogger mentioned in their answer, not ALL Froggies are arrogant. And sometimes their arrogance is only their way to be funny.

    Having said that, I have lived in different countries and I have often felt the same way as Foginthefjord and find it sometimes difficult when going back to France.

    True, I am spoiled. I live now in Australia, near the beach and people here are more concerned about finding the right wave to surf or the best coffee to take away before going for a walk along the beach than about showing off.

    I still regularly listen to French podcasts though and often think from what I hear that

    1) people ARE arrogant about their knowledge and easily make fun of others, if they don’t share their knowledge

    2) the required knowledge in France is very narrow channeled and mostly based on French culture. In short, not know where Hervé Bazin was born might provoke taunts, but not knowing who is Jane Austen will not be seen as a lack of erudition.

    Also, there is a ranking when it comes to evaluate knowledge:

    1) literature

    2) history

    3) politics

    4) famous people

    5) science

    6) foreign culture

    Number one being obviously the more valued.

    Having said that, I still love hearing French people being arrogant, because it mostly comes with wit and fun and pep. I just choose not to be arrogant myself. That’s all

    (ahah, that WAS something arrogant to say)


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