Could telling your boss to f**k off be good for your health?
Elodie is from Paris and has worked in Edinburgh for two years. We got to talking about her thoughts on culture and the differences between Scottish and French manners.
I’ve had this chat before; it usually starts off with glowing about Scottish culture – ”…how friendly people are…”; “…the richness of the history”; – before getting to the meat of the matter: the weather; the obesity crisis, the drinking; deep-fried mars bars; and how scantily clad young nightclub going women are despite the sub-zero temperatures!
To my surprise these things didn’t come up and my planned quip: “We may have the highest rates of obesity and heart disease in Europe but at least we’re the best at something.” remained unsaid.
Instead Elodie told me about her experience of working in Edinburgh compared to her homeland. On first arriving, she was amazed by how polite the white-collar workplace culture was compared to France. However as time went by she began to find the pressure to always be polite no matter what the circumstances frustrating and dishonest.
“It’s difficult to know what a colleague thinks because they are so polite. In Latin cultures if someone annoys you, or if you disagree, you tell them even if that means screaming at each other. Here you can’t do that, people take it personally…. but at home its normal.
The only time people here say what they really think is when they drink.”
I’d never considered our culture of politeness to be a bad thing, much less a repressive force! A hallmark of a civilised society I thought. However the sort of politeness that Elodie felt the pressure to conform to is about more than just saying “Good morning” to your colleague at the photocopier.
It’s an extreme politeness culture that places obedience over honesty. Honesty can be offensive or disagreeable. There is no place for the warm and fiery Latin temperament.
It’s an exhausting facade that causes us to repress our true emotions; politeness bottles up anger; it takes its toll. We seek refuge, a place to release pent-up anger and unbridled emotion. So we drink. Not in a cafe culture of moderation but to uncivilised excess.
Is French rudeness a keener guarantee of health and contentment than bottling up anger and drinking to excess?
The next time your boss annoys you, and you find yourself readying a polite reply, resist.
Turn calmly toward him, with steel jaw and tell him to “F**k off!”
If only for the sake of your health.
by David Paterson