Sunday, June 08, 2008

How I regret saying these...

We were in a house warming party and from time to time I managed to clip into the conversations. At some point I made a comment of the French people and I immediately regretted it, but the damage was done. For whatever reasons my friends here have never reproached me on my criticism towards this country. They have been extremely patient and tolerable with me.

I said something like that:"The French just like to wait for things dropping from the sky."

I have an impression that in France, when a person or a group is having problems, they expect the government to do something. Isn't it too familiar with certain society in Malaysia? I remember vividly how Dr Mahathir (former Malaysia Prime Minister) was crying over certain bumiputeras (certain ethnic groups who enjoy privileges over others) who kept asking him for more governmental contracts even though he told them to look out for business themselves. He wanted to lift the crutches which have handicapped some citizens and was causing them to rely too much on the government. I felt sad for this kind of mentality. Certainly government can't solve everyone's problem.

But who am I to judge this country who has thousand years of history compared to a mere 50 years old Malaysia? It might sound absurd to me but a culture is formed overtime and over many generations. At least the French have the right to express themselves and go on strike. This is definitely an area where we Malaysians have to fight for and learn from France.

I will try not to bitch about France in the future but more into discover the positive side of this romantic country. Please bear with me.


  1. Bee Ean, I think that since you live in France now, try to accept the culture and the way things are done there.

    In my opinion, if someone who is from another country lives in the US, then complains about the US, I would tell that person, why don't you go back to your own country. :)

    You're lucky your friends have not reproached you. I'm sure you would not like it as well if the French go to M'sia and criticise M'sia in front of you.:)

  2. Hi,

    I thought so but I talked to this group of friends again, they assured me that they were not offended but instead like to her an outsider's point of view about France.

  3. Anonymous7:16 PM

    I totally agree with you on that sentence :p I wish they are as passionate in improving things on their own than on asking the government to do it for them. The result of centuries of powerful and centralized bureaucracy.

  4. Anonymous2:17 PM

    I am sorry to say this but, I don't understand what you mean by "I have an impression that in France, when a person or a group is having problems, they expect the government to do something.". From my little experiences staying in France, I have not noticed that at all. Perhaps if you could cite an example, I would get what you mean.

    Most French people could be polite while being critized, but they could be really "sharp-tongued" too when they talk about your comments among them. Just that they wouldn't want you to get upset with them.

    Moreover, we can never generalise our observations to the entire population! Well, when you say "the French", have you actually drawn the examples from French from Orléans, Marseilles, Lille, Strasbourg, Paris etc.? I am sorry but I think that to address "the French" is at times being too bold and bound to offend people, and certainly will affect the image of Malaysians in the eyes of "the French".

  5. Nathalie,

    How can my opinions (one person) affect the image of Malaysians (do you mean the whole population of Malaysia?)? If one person's comments lead to that impression, I would say that "those French" are being generalized. :-) At least my comments were based on groups of French not only one person.

    Here are groups that drew me to that impression:
    1. "The fishermen, want government help to cushion the effects of surging marine fuel prices that have eaten away their profit margins." Well, their boats are consuming 30% more gasoline than boats from other countries, why can't they do something about it?

    2. French Winemakers Ask For Government Aid

    3. Aid au carburant, et moi et moi et moi (Taxi, transporteur routiers),,3617941,00-aides-carburant-moi-moi-moi-.html

    4. Des agriculteurs veulent une doublement des aids

    I couldn't quote everyone here but there are still many out there. How about people who couldn't afford housing in Paris and still choose to live there, by asking help from the government? Students want more housing allocation? Unemployed person applying for Assedic is one type of help too. I know of a girl who spent her Assedic money (8k euros ok!) to travel in Australia for a month and she was proud of it. Assedic eventually discovered that they paid her too much, but since she has spent all her money they couldn't pay back. Then I know of others who keep receiving unemployment aids bcos they only want to work for job that would interested them.

    You are right I shouldn't generalized as they are certainly a of good French out there. I will rephrase the sentence:"Certain groups of people in France just wait for things dropping from the sky."

    Actually, I like people to criticize Malaysia from their point of view. Over my debates with some French people they always tell me that they have never thought of that way or this way and they admitted that I was right sometimes.

  6. Bee Ean,

    Well, you might be the one and only Malaysian who the French around you meet in France, or at least in where you live. Would you think that they would actually find out more viewpoints from other Malaysians? The probability is quite low. So your sayings will be their references of what Malaysians perceive French people and systems.

    Certainly, we could complain about the French as we know that no one or no country is perfect. The French demand the gouvernment to help is due to their long history of socialism, the poor and weak should not be marginalised or victimised, and ideally, the government should implement policies to help them. Certainly, there are some ridiculous demands, but the basis and the idea of of social aids are for good means! If you could compare the crimes in MY and FR, you would understand why the poorest need these aids.

    And the recommanded way to criticise something is best based on several proofs and over some time, rather than just grabbing an example. Nevertheless, targeting a nationality can never be convincing and will create misunderstandings unnecessarily. Make careful judgements is always wise, especially direct criticisism is best to be avoided in social world. Si les français ne te plaisent pas, rien ne t'empêche de trouver ton bonheur ailleurs.

    Best regards.

  7. I'm really not convinced that people here will take everything I said as what the whole Malaysia thinking about them. I find them very open minded and welcome diversity. Most of them have been to Malaysia and were surprised that we are not as poor as they imagined. Often, when I get introduced to someone, they will ask whether France pleases me and they expect a "yes". For some people, we are so lucky to be here as they consider us as those economic immigrants who couldn't find any job in our own country. Well, at the beginning I just say what they wish to hear, but now I simply say that is in my mind. I tell them what I like and what I have hard time accepting.

    Of course the poor and the weak should be helped. But this good intention can sometimes be abused when more and more people are asking for helps before finding their own solutions.

    Your logic of if I don't like the French then I should go some where else reminded me of comments of Americans asking the immigrants who critized the Iraq war to go home. So do you think the immigrants who complaint about the high health care cost should just get out of the country? Remember part of USA successes is greatly contributed by the diversity in the society. I'm sorry but after 5 years in USA and 3 years in France, I'm no longer a Malaysian who afraid to speak out scared of ISA. It is the freedom of speech that I enjoy in this country and French around me do like to have debate with me. I could often pump in some ideas that they have never thought of. Complaining and debating are in some French's blood. Are you saying that the immigrants should just keep quiet and accept everything here?

    The comment I made on this post was based on many observations, not one example like you stated. It is the demonstration of the fishermen and then now more and more other groups made me finally voiced out. I felt sorry the moment I said it, but it is just what I really thought.

    Next time, I will be careful to not generalize and will inform my friends that whatever I say will only represent myself. :-)

  8. There are a couple things that Bee Ean forgot to mention in her article:
    1 - All but 2 people present à this party have been to Malaysia so they have had opportunities to talk to other Malaysians, so Bee Ean is not what they only know about m'sia.
    2 - All of the people that were are that party are long time friends of mine and by extension of hers, so it was in an environment where we're past "social behaving" and we can talk freely.

    I would also like to add that I've not sensed that anyone was offensed or shocked whatsoever. I believe that we French love to debate and argue and so she was providing us with more ideas to challenge.

    I think that, as long as criticism is well constructed , it is not offensing even though it might not always been pleasant to hear.

    Just my .02€

  9. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Well I guess what you mean by the French who know you guys had been to MY and talked to Malaysians while they were having vacations there. I don't personally come across that many French who have actually stayed long enough in MY and exchange opinions with the locals, or I doubt if you see many Malaysians in where you live now.

    I was just extremely curious that despite the negative judgements towards France, you do not find any better country than France and perhaps live a happier life there. Nothing to do with any intention to ask you to leave at all and thus it's too far to be related to immigrants complaints in the USA. I have never been there and I have no idea how great it is.

    What had made you saying that I think all immigrants should keep quiet? I had made myself very clear: make careful judgements.

    And I do know about what most French people think about Asia. Guess not that different from your experiences. and I don't understand why say something they wanna hear rather than telling the truth about Asia.

    HOw would we know if the people who ask for help from the govt are able to sort out their problems without govt intervention? Sometimes, it's very easy to tell people to find their own way out as we do not experience the same situation/ dilemma. I had worked with many extremely poor people in MY, eg: some elderly stay in a far remote area, sick, alone, no own transport.. I can't simply tell them: hey look, go get a job then buy your own car and learn to drive! That's just an example. Perhaps you could propose a better plan, and first start with MY govt as you would know them better, then move on to convince the French one to make a revolutionary change.

    Also my 0.000002€

  10. Anonymous9:19 PM

    Actually, even in Malaysia the Gov protects and helps the citizens. For exemple, the gov taxes the foreign cars to improve the sales of the local industry. If the gov doesn't do it, the free market could damage the local industry. A lot of countries try to protect and support their economy.

    One more exemple : in Malaysia, a part of the population receives some privileges and support from the governement. They would be very upset if suddenly, the gov would stop to support them. The two other main groups in Malaysia are quite upset about this support because they don't have the same rights. In France, at least, there is no racial discrimination about it. Even the arabians or blacks as well as asians car receive boursaries for exemple. If I am right, the Malaysian gov prefers to support a specific part of the population.

    About the "Des agriculteurs qui veulent une doublement des aides", there is a similar situation in US, the farmers receive public subventions, as well as some industries like Boeing.

    About the "Aide au carburant" and "The fishermen, want government help to cushion the effects of surging marine fuel prices", it is easy to understand if you know the pourcentage of the taxes in the price of the fuel: more or less 60%. Consequently, if you want to reduce this price, it could be understandable to negociate with the Gov, or to compel it to reduce these taxes.

  11. I didn't know that by making negative judgment I can't have happier life here. I believe life is made of happiness and sadness. I have many negative opinions towards Malaysia but I was happy there. Besides, I have also made many positive comments toward this country. Like I said, there are things I like and there are things I have hard time accepting. Most importantly, my husband and his family are here and they treat me very well. So despite some negative feelings towards the French, I do have my happy moments. You are lucky if your life is consisted of 100% happiness and all your judgment towards this country are positive.

    Everyone has their own way to form an opinion. My opinion was based on many observations plus 3 years living here. It was what I feel and you could be agreed or disagreed. In fact, some of my friends agreed with me and they are French.

    I made that comment bcos I was sad. Sad that some French behave like some Malaysian who have been spoilt by the government, and I know it is one of the root problems that will hurt a country in long run. Example: The fishermen were asking money from the government due to fuel price surged. But I have known of a group of fishermen in Malaysia that sold their boats and gathered capital to operate a fishing farm which turned out to be very successful. They didn't need any government help. So continue money assistant will not help solve the fishermen fundamental problems. They could probably come out of other suggestions instead of keep asking for money.

    I'm in the management line and I know that some consultants who were given only a month time could better understand a company problem than a CEO who was leading the company for 10 years. Of course I'm not any consultant, just want to let you know that one doesn't have to be in a country for long before actually seeing problems. Some French are so used to helps that they don't realize getting helps might not be the best solution.

  12. Thanks anonymous, your examples just proved my points that aides are not always good. See how Proton is doing and how certain groups in Malaysia are handicapped by the helps. One day the government can't help due to free market regulations or the government just doesn't have enough money, what would happen to these people?

    France government is facing one more constraint compared to the USA government, as for some aids now they need the approval of EU. Today they have the green light to help tomorrow they might not.

  13. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Actually, I didn't try to prove if these helps are good or not. My exemples showed that it is not a French specificity. A lot of govs of (supposed) liberal countries are protecting their economy, from USA to Asia. It seems that the developping countries which are completely following the liberal rules of the IMF are in trouble.

    Few countries of north Europe have an "engaged" governement and results look good. On the other hand, many developping countries follow the liberal rules of the IMF and the result is a disaster.

    European Union is not the only one constraint to perform a "Keynesian policy". Many international agreements constraint USA to limit their help.

    Two more Asian exemples : Taïwan and South Korea. These countries developped thanks to the public funds.

    In Europe, Marshall Plan was quite efficient to developp many countries like France, UK or Germany after the WW2.

    A strong Gov is a French "tradition" since many centuries, since the 100 years war to be more precise. At this time, France and England were in conflict. The English model was more "decentralized", the power of the King was limited by the parliament house. This model was very good during the two first parts of the two main conflicts of this war, the Kingdown of France was collapsing. To "save" the situation, two French kings centralized the administration and the ressources. The King Charles VII was a "strong King" in a "collapsing country" and he was able to reverse the situation and to defeat the English Kingdown. After the two last battles of Formigny and Castillon, England was left its continetal territories in France. These defeats led to the English civil Wars of the Roses.

    This period was very important for the two countries because it built-up the "model" for many centuries. France is still (too much?) centralized, the Gov is involved in the economical life. Some countries followed a similar way for different reasons, not related to the French history. The complete liberal system is one way, but not the only one.

  14. Anonymous9:16 AM

    Sorry for the grammar and vocabulary errors...

  15. Anonymous,

    Don't worry about the typos I myself made many sometimes. :-)

    I didn't say France is the only country doing it or the liberal model is better. What I see is that some groups or individuals are too dependent on the government and it might be time to be a bit more independent seeing that the government itself is having serious financial deficits. Sooner or later the government has to cut down aids; or keep providing aids but jeopardize other development plans and helps for more needy people, or let the deficit pilling up.

    The governmental help for Proton at the beginning was with good intention and the goal was hoping that one day Proton will be able to compete internationally. Unfortunately, even with the protective policies, Proton is still not able to stand on its own and remain a burden to Malaysian government. Beside, Malaysians’ interest is jeopardized in enjoying good quality cars with reasonable price. How I wish Proton could be as successful as Kia who was formed around the same time as Proton. I do not believe that helping Proton for an unlimited period of time is a good measure for the company in long run.

    Taiwan, a country smaller than Malaysia and have around the same size of population, managed to compete internationally in terms of their semiconductors and electronic products. Governmental helps at the beginning led to this success but I believe other kind of non-monetary policies like emphasis on innovations and science education played a big role too.

    I believe appropriate aids are important for businesses, but from my humble opinion, continuous and unconditional helps breed laziness and inefficiencies and prevent creative solutions, something I see in Malaysia, and now in France.

  16. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Moi,je répondrai en français car comme les 3/4 des français, je ne parle pas suffisant bien anglais pour rédiger dans cette langue.Depuis des années,nous reconnaissons que nous savons pas faire apprendre les langues étrangères aux scolaires , mais on râle, on manifeste, mais jamais une réforme concrète n'a changé cela.Les Français contestent tout le temps et sur tout mais n'acceptent jamais le changement. Ce soir, j'entendais encore un débat sur le versement des indemnités de chômage aux personnes qui ne recherchent pas réellement de travail.Dans mon métier, j'entends régulièrement des gens de tout âge qui-sans aucun complexe- avouent ne pas chercher de travail car ils touchent autant au chômage qu'en travaillant et qu'ainsi ils ont des aides(allocation logement,aide pour femmes isolées-élevant seule des enfants- bourses scolaires).Il y en a beaucoup en France qui vivent des aides.Notre système économique repose trop sur les aides;il y a quelques années, si je me souviens bien ,les agriculteurs recevaient des aides pour la destruction de leur production laitière et aujourd'hui nous manquons de lait....Entendre Bee dire cela ne me choque pas;cela fait prendre conscience de la vision et de l'opinion des étrangers "intégrés" vivant et s'intéressant à notre pays.

  17. I think I agree that you don't like everything and forced to agree on everything. Personally, I do think that French people are pretty lucky that they have a government to fall back to.
    Like you said, there are specific groups in Malaysia that can fall back to the Malaysian government to seek for help and support.
    In my life, I never recognise any help that has been given to me apart from those from my family.

    I do agree that some French people might have been too dependent to the government and expect the government to help them whenever they have problems. This is my opinion and anyone could agree or disagree with it.

    Some of them may have misused their privileges. Say for those lazy ones that rather depend on their unemployed benefits for years rather than improve their skills to make it easier to get a jobs. They thought that the government could support them forever.

    I guess, I voice what I think and if I feel something that I find it hard to accept, I do think I have the rights to voice it and I assume people will not take it badly for ideas/opinions during discussions.