Have you got what it takes?

There is one characteristic that defines the French more than any other. It’s not elegance or sophistication or a taste for the finer things.

It takes ‘culot’ to be French.

Literally, ‘le culot’ refers to the place on the lamp where you screw in the light bulb (what do we call that in English, anyway?). It can also be used in familiar French to describe the runt of the litter.

But ‘avoir du culot’ or ‘être culotté’ is something else.

It’s what you need to steal the town sign from the main road. Or to swipe that old yellow mailbox from the village square. Both of which have been observed in our area in recent weeks.

IMG_1909‘Culot’ is what is takes to steal the four wheels off a car parked in your driveway in the dark of night. This happened to us a few years back, in what I thought was surely a rare case of culot. But one of my favorite French bloggers recently reported a similar incident in her excellent blog, Je dis, tu dis, il dit, nous disons.

It’s also why the French have managed to pull off some of the most daring heists in history, acts of bravery in war, and why they’re almost always the stars of those crazy videos of base jumpers.

Chutzpah. Brass. Cheek. Nerve. Whatever you call it, the French have it in droves.

I was not born with this. On the contrary, I was always rather timid about flying in the face of authority.

But wait. See that person in the little red car, slipping out of the traffic jam to sneak around the block and cut back in just before the light? C’est moi. After twenty years in this country, I’ve got me some too.

Quel culot!


  1. phildange · May 8, 2014

    You could like Philippe Petit famous and illegal tightrope walk across the Twin Towers in 1974 . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAZppPSbxxs

    • MELewis · May 9, 2014

      Wow, absolutely breathtaking. Not only nerves of steel, but joy in the adventure. Thanks for sharing!

  2. susannye · May 29, 2014

    ME – we call that thing where you screw the light bulb in … a socket. I lived in Switzerland for 17 years and have been back for 10 – it doesn’t happen too often anymore but once in a while I still find myself saying – what do we call that in English? Delighted to hear you found you chutzpah. Take care – Susan

  3. Pingback: Système D | FranceSays

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