When 24-hour licensing was introduced in 2005, the government said it wanted Britain to imitate the “continental” drinking culture, where everyone sipped half-pints at café tables and the virtues of moderation were imbibed with spritzer at the age of five. That is a complete fable, says Jim Pollard in the forthcoming issue of Prospect, available on 25th March. The drift has been in the opposite direction: in Paris, le binge drinking est bien arrivé—and it’s because the French are increasingly imitating us.
It’s only the latest, Pollard says, in a long line of English imports ranging from pop records to corporate brands to street slang. And this shift is beginning to affect people’s private lives too, wrote Lucy Wadham in a previous issue of Prospect. When his last marriage to the long-suffering Cecile broke down, Nicolas Sarkozy was attacked over his lack of “pudeur” (a word part-way between shame and modesty) as he pandered to the press: an Anglo-American tactic that went against the grain of the Fifth Republic’s Catholic origins.