Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

I am coming back from a few days in France and must admit that I was surprised to see that most people there looked grumpy, despite the fantastic weather and the dirt-cheap croissants (90 cents if you must know. It’s about £1.65 in the independent coffee shop around the corner of my house in London). What about the legendary ‘joie de vivre’? Where did it go?

I have no idea. During a business meeting, I made a cardinal mistake: I smiled at a client. For the record, it was a polite smile, nothing too fancy or informal, I promised. The guy didn’t seem impressed at all:

” Why are you smiling? Did I say something funny?” he asked

” No, not at all.” I tried hard to sound stern. I am not sure I sounded very convincing but I tried, I promise.

I kid you not, I almost had to apologise for smiling. I had to put on a grumpy look, which I thought was incredibly funny, except that I couldn’t show it. What a conundrum!


Back home, in London, everybody smiles. Right now I am writing this post from my local coffee shop, and the lady sitting at the next table is smiling at me. It feels nice and completely natural. For a change I can smile without being judged. I am waiting for a friend. He arrives a bit late and looks a bit grumpy. He barely smiles, despite being British.

” Are you OK? Why are you not smiling?” I ask.

Because over here, I am fairly sure that you can ask why somebody looks grumpy. I know, I know, life is complicated.

“It’s my teeth.” He says “I can’t show them.”


Ah…here we go…Come to think of it, life is really unfair, right? In France despite the fantastic healthcare system people are getting told off when they smile, and over here they don’t know where to go to get their teeth straightened out, and can’t smile. Life is unfair. Come on, there are discreet ways for adults and children to straighten their teeth, even this side of the Channel! Have a look here if you don’t believe me: Hampstead Orthodontic Practice.

Because imagine how unfair life would be if you couldn’t smile. Smile is one of the best medicines, right? I might be French, but I love smiling. I try to smile as much as I can, even if I don’t feel like it sometimes. I believe that smiling when you are not that happy will make you happier eventually.

Maybe I am not that French any more after all. French women are not supposed to smile. I told you, I am a bit of a misfit! What about you, how often do you smile?