Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Brit vs.French

A houseboat in Amsterdam, a flat overlooking Monaco yachts an architect's loft in Cambridge, MA and a farmhouse in Andorra are just a few of the BnBs Rick and I have stayed in on our wanderings. 

We prefer them to the sterility of hotels chains. It gives us a chance to meet "real" people, check out different decorating styles in "real" homes, do our own cooking if we tire of restaurant. Each new BnB becomes an adventure and we are supporting the locals not some anonymous corporation. Privately owned hotels accomplish the same thing.

I also love two television programs which are almost identical in format but with subtle cultural differences.
  • Four in a Bed - English
  • Bienvenue Chez Nous -French

The premise is the same. Four BnB owners visit each other's BnBs and rate them according to:.
  • Hospitality
  • Facilities including cleanliness
  • Activities
  • Value for money (they pay what they think it is worth)
Nasty and nice

Some of the owners from either country were just warm, friendly people. 

Some were cutthroat. 

Some were weird or out of touch with general expectations.

The Scottish ex military man couldn't understand why women would want "toiletries" any more than an elderly French woman who thought wifi would ruin the ambiance of her place.

There was one British woman who could have won an Oscar for her performance of being disgusted at having to eat in an Indian restaurant. No meals pleased this woman. A French vegetarian acted as if being in a room with meat could cause everyone to drop dead.

One of my favorites was when a French woman whose room in château would have satisfied Marie Antoinette sniffed, "I don't care much for châteaus."

Expectations vs.reality

How someone could go to a BnB in the middle of a city and not understand that traffic was not under the control of the owner is beyond me. The same could be applied to not liking bird song in a country BnB as if a host would go into the garden and ask the birds to not sing before eight. And every now and then, a contestant, usually French, will complain there was too much food at a meal although no one force fed him or her.

The activities were as varied as the host's interest and imagination. A visit to an oyster farm, making sausage, story telling, walking a battlefield, paintball... No matter what was chosen, someone wasn't happy. A common complaint was that the contestants might have liked to see more of the region...except when they did.

The delight when either nationality found a hair on a sheet, dust on a high shelf for chandelier was limitless. 


Both French and English would say, "It's not my cup of tea" or "Ce n'est pas ma tasse thé" or call criticism strategy, sometimes justified sometimes not.

Major cultural difference


The English owners take their fellow contestants to a restaurant. The audience seldom learns what was eaten. They talk on myriad topics. The meal doesn't seem all that important.

The French host it responsible for preparing not just a meal, but a wonderful dinner. S/he gets kudos if it has some regional representation. 

Both the French and the English care about their breakfasts but differently. 

The French want regional and fresh. Better the host has made the pastries himself as well as the jams and jellies. A selection of cheeses and meats go a long way for people to be happy.

The Brits on the other hand expect a typical fry up and tend to ignore the set-out buffet. They don't expect the home made jams and pastries, but the definition of a perfect poached egg becomes paramount. 


As a literature major at university, we were taught to judge a work by its period. Beowolf and My Last Duchess could not be looked at with the same criteria. A play by Shakespeare and one by Oscar Wilde may have some things in common but each needs to be looked at from its own perspective.

The contestants seem to have a problem doing that. When two star and five star establishments are in the same contest one criteria can not be used across the spectrum. Cleanliness yes, hospitality yes, but the breakfast offerings need to be cost effective for room price.

Still, the programs are a wonderful study of character and allows me to go to a BnB without having to pack a suitcase. I only wish I could eat some of those French dinners and English breakfasts. I can get a good French breakfast around the corner.

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