A question regularly received from non-France domiciled friends and to which half the response is "this nation's ability to produce a strop by reflex is a great - but misunderstood - quality which other cultures could learn from." The other half of the answer is for another time.

Tomorrow is another (sub) chapter in the history of French industrial action with various transport unions going on a one-day strike. No doubt they will be encouraged by the blockading fishermen's result. But belying the country's reputation as serial strikers are the latest inflation data:

Exhibit 1: selected elements of French inflation rate year over year to April 2008 (1998=100)

This ought to be put in a broader context before any ritual anti-French messages (shame on you) worm their way back down this ethernet connection.

Exhibit 2: French household disposable income, 1970-2005 (latest data)

Over the last 40 years there has been a reversal in the relative growth rates of income and GDP in France: the average rate of increase in disposable income has more than halved since 1970 whilst that of GDP has doubled.

So context does (perhaps) explain some of the strop. And it may even help explain the evolution of the French automobile from fun-machine to dull, bland but worthy .

UPDATE: The spoof 2CV ad based on the original C4 Transformer. And the campaign pitchman for the C5. Citroen sadly desperate to ride Teutonic coattails.

Sources: Insee, Le Monde

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