How The Supposedly Lazy French Are More Productive Than Germans


When many foreigners with their luggage all packed think of France, images of croissants and wine often come to mind. And when the same people think of France in a more serious way (what are you talking about! Croissants and wine are nothing but very serious things) or, let’s say, in a more political, economical and productivity-related way; still, not many think of France as the real boss of the European Union. It happens a lot because people are super focused on Germany and the UK when the terms “power” and “Europe” are in the same sentence. Only a few already realize that France, from the sneaky shadows, is really the smarty-pants general of the old continent.

Some people call the French lazy (apparently, it’s a well-established custom in Europe to call lazy those people who live in the south. Spaniards, the Portuguese, the Greek and Italians know better). And others simply state in a more subtle way that the French spend more time people-watching in the cafes than working at their offices. And maybe they’re right. But then they have a look at the following graphic and they see that among the countries in the Eurozone plus the UK with more than 20 million people – France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and Italy – they are, yes, the French are the most productive nation (because who cares about Luxemburg and its utopian land where money falls as wintertime raindrops).


Curious, huh? According to OECD data from 2011, French worker productivity stands at $57.7 worth of output per hour while German’s is $55.8 and the United Kingdom’s is $47.2.

So yeah, surprisingly enough, the lazy french work more productively than even the German super efficient workers. They work fewer hours and produce more. Wow!

What’s their secret? How do they live so happily (Paris being the city of love, the daily croissants and all the bohemian guys with mustaches writing postmodernist novels in legendary cafes, frequented in the past by literature legends like Cortazar, Hemingway or Salinger, etc.) while the rest of the world grinds away?

Work Less But Smart

France is famous for its short working week of 35 hours. Government reduced the regular working week in 2002 (40 hours since 1936 and then 39 since 1982), and even if it still is a controversial topic, there are signs of its advantages from a productivity point of view.

Some say it’s also good for job creation. And some say it’s just a myth because people work more hours than the established 35. But anyway, at the end of the day it’s clear than the French work less than others. According to a 2013 Eurostat (service of the European Commission) study, workers in France work 40.7 weekly hours, Germans 41.5 and in the UK 42.8 hours.

Good for the French if they manage to get the job done while spending fewer hours in the office. But what is really their working philosophy?

Patriotism, Creativity, And Flexibility

A lot of things are said about the French work ethic and productivity mindset: From the “they’re always on strike” to the “can you believe they only work 35 hours a week?” And from the “Waiters don’t have to work for tips so they’re lazy” to the “The French are on vacation more than they’re at work”. Everything is quite true, but damn, they are also good fighters and they are proud of what they do. Remember their motto?

“Liberté, égalité, fraternité.”


And creativity is definitely one of their most powerful weapons. Think about it. How many writers and painters the world would have missed if Paris and the Provence region were not what they are?

About flexibility, if one good thing the Mediterranean countries have, that is flexibility. Or as one guy named Michael Johnson once said (source): “One quality the Mediterranean peoples have brought to the world is the ability to live comfortably with inconsistency. The Greeks have it, the Italians have it and certainly the French do. To northern Europeans, this ability sometimes looks more like confusion, self-doubt or possible mental illness. But it is not.” Are you listening, Germans? Can you understand that not everything is black or white? Grey is also a perfectly beautiful color. The French know it. And that’s not the only thing they know…

French Suck At Sports

(Warning: Joakim Noah and Tony Parker, please, don’t read the following lines).

In Spain the football is beyond awesome, Rafael Nadal is always a beast and the Gasol brothers keep destroying the zones of the NBA. In Germany, the national football team is always the proud of the country and Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg dominate the F1 day in and day out. In the UK, the Premier League is an extremely exciting competition and nowadays the cyclist Christopher Froome is leading the Tour of France. Guess what country is in the present more famous for the competitions that hosts than for the cool winners they have?


France, France, France…Since the good old times of Zinedine Zidane, the French don’t have many sport successes to talk about in their offices. And less chitchat is good for business, right? So congratulations for your working productivity! You deserve some awesome…


This is the list of the countries that enjoy of more paid holidays:

Australia 30 days, Ireland 29 days, Tunisia 30 days, Italy 31 days, New Zealand 32 days, Slovenia, Croatia and Poland 33 days, Spain, Germany and Denmark 34 days, Austria 35 days, Iceland and the UK 37 days, Portugal and France 38 days, Lithuania 39 days, Finland 40 days, Sweden and Brazil 41 days.

And that’s not all. Because while the Germans invade every year the island of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands in Spain like crazies, having not even two free meters of sandy beach to enjoy themselves, because they only own islands in the cold Baltic Sea and in the North Sea, the extremely lucky French have paradisiacal islands all over the world: (Time to be stoked). In the Indian Ocean (the sharky but still beautiful island of Reunion, for example), in the Caribbean (like Martinique), in the Mediterranean (Corsica), in the Pacific (like Bora Bora or the surfing paradise called Tahiti) and even some more in the Bay of Biscay.


Some would argue that there is no more efficient country than Germany, and maybe after checking out a lot of statistics and graphics, they are indeed right, but when it comes to living efficiently, and not only to work, the French really know a couple things more. They have the magic recipe for a good living: fewer hours working + more productivity + more holidays = awesome existence on earth. Vive la France!

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