Leading article: Lifestyle envy

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The Independent Online

Rejoice, Rejoice! as an earlier prime minister said in another context. That nasty spat with the French over Iraq seems to be dead and buried. We are now best friends again - so much so that more than one in five Britons confesses to wishing that they had been - fancy this - born French.

There is, of course, a large element here of lifestyle envy. French food, French wine, café society, that delightful feeling of being permanently en vacances. Who would not prefer their leisurely existence to our crowded British roads, our even more crowded public transport, and a working week that exceeds their 35-hour dalliance with the job by another five hours or more at the grindstone?

As for the language, how much easier it would be, had we been brought up fluent in that light, melodic trill, rather than having to learn it, handicapped by our own birthright of gruff Nordic syllables. And think how much more charming a land Britain would be if we spoke our own language in the accent of, say, Arsène Wenger. (And dressed as stylishly as Audrey Tautou, loved as passionately as Brigitte Bardot and aged as gracefully as Catherine Deneuve.)

Even as we dream, though, we can feel better by remembering this. For every 10 British lovers of brie and Bordeaux, there will be a Frenchman who craves a tweed jacket in the English style, a stout pair of Oxfords, and a Glenmorangie before bed. There will be a French woman who would just love to dash to the boulangerie without her make-up, and a French teenager who would give anything for the social freedom of her British contemporary. Lifestyle envy goes both ways.