They have identified big differences in the national personalities of the two nations in a new study which classes the French as neurotic introverts, while the British are stable extroverts.
In the study of national neuroticism and extroversion covering 33 countries, the French and the British rank at opposite ends of the league table. While the French are the second most neurotic nation, the British are one of those afflicted least with a neurosis.
The French emerge as neurotic introverts, a condition which is linked to high rates of anxiety, phobias, hypochondria, and obsessive compulsive disorders. Germany and Austria, on the other hand, are classed as neurotic extroverts, a condition associated with psychopaths.
The study, by Professor David Lester, used social indications from each of 33 countries to put together a league table reported in the international journal Personality and Individual Differences, published by the Oxford- based Elsevier Science.
Among the indicators used were suicide, alcohol consumption, accidents, divorce and crime rates. The report also says that a country's caffeine consumption is an indicator of national personality, which may partly explain why the tea-drinking UK and coffee-gulping US are not neurotic nations.
Professor Lester, formerly of Cambridge University and now professor of psychology at the Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, said: "Caffeine production has been hypothesised to be associated with low national levels of neuroticism.
"Caffeine appears to stimulate the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system and so may be ingested more by people who have low levels of sympathetic activation in order to raise their levels.''
Research has also indicated that extroverts smoke more than introverts.
When all the ingredients from the countries were put together and analysed, Hungary came out the most neurotic country, and the US the most extrovert. The least neurotic country was Egypt, followed by Turkey and the Dominican Republic. The least extrovert country was Spain, closely trailed by Portugal and Chile.
The Germans, Swiss and Austria were also classed as neurotic extroverts. "At the extreme level in the individual, neurotic extroverts can be hysterics or psychopaths, individuals who are anti-social with no shame, guilt or remorse," Professor Lester said.
WORLDS APART: HOW NATIONS COMPARE
9 Trinidad and Tobago
1 United States
4 New Zealand