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From: Streak
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Subject: Someone just viewed: Fwd: Someone just viewed: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA -> https://www.google.com/search?pws=0&gl=us&biw=1536&bih=754&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=pzodXIelAs-f9QPv74AY&q=643361467+OLGA+AJAY+QED+MEANS+QUAD+ERAD+D+FOR+%3F&oq=643361467+OLGA+AJAY+QED+MEANS+QUAD+ERAD+D+FOR+%3F&gs_l=img.3…2710.6570..6929…0.0..0.175.1494.0j9……1….1..gws-wiz-img.avKQq1PCA_g#imgrc=FPjoMPBbRuVLdM:
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Why Is the Stock Market So Strong When the Economy Is Weak? Wharton, University of Pennsylvania The K@W Network: English 简体中文 繁體

Why Is the Stock Market So Strong When the Economy Is Weak?

MIC LISTEN TO THE PODCAST:

Wharton’s Itay Goldstein speaks with Wharton Business Daily on Sirius XM about the current disconnect between the stock market and the economy.

The continuing strength of the stock market even as the coronavirus pandemic batters the U.S. economy has baffled many observers. The Dow Jones Industrial Index fell some 30% in the first three weeks of March as COVID-19 began spreading rapidly globally, but it has since gained nearly 60% to current levels above 28,650. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy shrank 31.7% in the April-June quarter, the Commerce Department reported last Thursday.

During a recent segment of the Wharton Business Daily radio show on SiriusXM, Wharton finance professor Itay Goldstein identified three factors that explain the apparent disconnect between the stock market and the economy. (Listen to the podcast above.)

Fast Forward, and a Fed Push

The first, which is true of all times, is that “the stock market is meant to be forward-looking,” Goldstein said. “In general, the stock market is a bit different from the economy, in the sense that what you see right now in the economy is what is going on right now” such as production, employment and so forth, he noted. Even in “normal times,” stock prices and economic output would not move in tandem, according to Goldstein. In fact, we may have situations “where the stock prices may predict something that is going to be different from what we see right now.”

Secondly, the Federal Reserve has “put a lot of money into the market, and that certainly helps keep prices up, maybe above what we would expect without this intervention,” said Goldstein.

“The fact that the Fed started injecting all this money into the market pushed prices up.”–Itay Goldstein

“What the Fed is doing right now is unprecedented,” he continued. The Fed has continued on the trajectory of low interest rates since mid-2019, but also pressed on with its “quantitative easing” approach to inject liquidity into the financial system, which it had used in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. “In recent months, it is not only doing the traditional quantitative easing of buying treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, but also continuing to buy other assets like corporate bonds, which is something that the Fed has not done before.”

In March, in response to the pandemic, the Federal Reserve announced a stimulus package that included expanded windows for its purchase of securities and new credit facilities for businesses and municipalities.

“The fact that the Fed started injecting all this money into the market pushed prices up,” said Goldstein. The prices of assets are “mechanically pushed up” by the Fed’s act of purchasing them. That causes prices for other assets also to rise, “because investors are always looking for places to put their money,” he added.

Last Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell spoke of a shift in its inflation goals, “signaling that it wanted inflation to rise modestly above its 2% target,” as a Wall Street Journal report said. That essentially “ushers in a longer era of lower rates,” the Journal noted. Stocks were mixed in their reaction to Powell’s remarks, but generally trended higher.

“Inflation that is persistently too low can pose serious risks to the economy,” Powell had noted. “Inflation that runs below its desired level can lead to an unwelcome fall in longer-term inflation expectations, which, in turn, can pull actual inflation even lower, resulting in an adverse cycle of ever-lower inflation and inflation expectations.” The Fed was clearly worried about the prospect of the U.S. facing a sustained period of low inflation, a trap that ensnared Japan and Europe, the Journal article said.

“Powell’s statement reinforces the expectation that the Fed will continue to have very low interest rates for a while, which will continue to be a force pushing market prices up,” Goldstein told Knowledge@Wharton. “There was nothing in the statement that changed things in the short term. But the change in framework that was described implies that the Fed will not quickly raise rates when inflation starts to rise. Hence, one should expect rates to remain low for even longer.”

To be sure, the stock markets are factoring in expectations that the U.S. economy will rebound 20% or more in the current third quarter, with the lifting of lockdowns and resumption of modest economic activity in many parts of the country. The latest tally for jobless claims also brought cheer as it fell to 1 million in the week ended August 22, a sharp reversal from the peak of 7 million in March; however, it is five times as large as pre-pandemic levels of about 200,000 a week.

Apples and Oranges

The third factor is the fact that “the stock market is a collection of firms that is not necessarily representative of the economy as a whole,” Goldstein said. “That is amplified these days.”

“The stocks that are doing very well – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix – haven’t been hurt that much by the current economic conditions.”–Itay Goldstein

In fact, the stocks that have been gaining strength do not really reflect the pain from the pandemic. “In particular, the stocks that are doing very well – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix – haven’t been hurt that much by the current economic conditions. Some of them maybe have benefited from them. They are very dominant in the stock market, but they are not necessarily representing the economy as a whole.”

The disconnect extends to the share of those companies in employment or other macroeconomic parameters. “It’s very easy to look at the stock market, see those headlines, see those firms doing very well and pulling the market up,” Goldstein said. “But at the same time, their contribution to the overall economy is not as big.”

Further, Goldstein pointed out that many small businesses are hurt by the current economic conditions. “They certainly are affecting employment data, output data, but they are nowhere to be seen in the stock market,” he said. “In general, small businesses have no access to the stock market…. You see they are closing down. They are firing people, and so on, but you don’t see any reflection of those particular businesses in the stock market.”

A Coming Correction?

The current bull market will not last forever, especially if hopes of an economic revival don’t materialize as early as expected. “It’s certainly possible that we will see a drop in prices on Wall Street pretty soon,” said Goldstein. “There are a number of ways to look at it, but it could definitely be the case that we will wake up and see prices starting to decrease. As I said, part of what’s going on is the fact that stock prices are forward-looking, so maybe they are seeing something optimistic. But it could be that they are missing some negative signals, and maybe those negative signals will come back to hit the market soon.”

Goldstein added: “The unprecedented actions that the Fed took indicate that they thought this is a time of emergency, and they need to do whatever it takes to keep the markets up and help the economy.” That included calling for fiscal actions from Congress to do more in order to help the economy, he noted.

Amid all those liquidity infusions are worries that the federal debt will balloon to unmanageable proportions, Goldstein said. At the same time, “probably the majority of people think that the times are so unprecedented, the problems are so difficult, that you shouldn’t think so much about the debt but rather put more money to work in order to save the economy from falling further down.”

Join The Discussion

3 Comments So Far

Robert Arvanitis

The stock market is a prediction machine in the short term, a weighing machine in the long term.

That means the stock market is looking past the reelection of the president and end of unfettered carnage seeking political advantage.

Likewise, the market is correctly discounting the transient burdens of bad local political decisions occasioned by the virus. That has needlessly cost America unnecessary pain, but not real structural damage.

That’s what markets do — look past venal grasping for power, to the real strengths of America, now and in the future.

Jim Bozin

Fed actions have killed all the other options and there still is a need to invest money for pensions, etc. and no other places for it to go. Does anyone sane really think Apple growth has doubled it’s market value? Causing bubbles is bad policy. Just look at what the zero interest policy does to bond yields and bank lending. Bonds against stocks was the gold standard of off-setting market volatility.
The FED has continually overstepped its bounds and it’s well past time for the Govt to reel them in. China was able to grow for 3+ decades on a stable currency basis, why can’t the FED? Ludicrous to now think it’s has to let inflation rise. This “fool’s errand” has to stop. It’s literally killing us slowly. We’ve gone down twice and the third isn’t far off. They need to stop being the enabler for Congressional overspending. Already not able to sell their bills and have to buy them back and interfere in the stock market. I don’t recall that in their charter.

David Gleason

Why does this matter? I’m sure it does; I just don’t know exactly why. Wall St anticipates a COvid-19 vaccine, but given the mishandling of the crisis so far, it’s likely the vaccination will be mishandled as well. And the U.S. refused to cooperate with other nations In terms of manufacturing and distribution, so we’ll be on our own and politics will dictate medical policy. What then? Apple is predicted to keep rising — even doubling again — but it could just as easily slip due to changes options trading strategies. If the F MAGA stocks keep rising, it won’t help anyone but large investors and mutual funds; the decline in the 10-year Treasury yield by 95 % is a larger indicator of the trouble ahead — there is no safe haven. The simple truth is that the market is trying to guess what comes next. For investors who can ride out the next crash, it’s not important; but for everyone else it’s a high risk game that is likely to cause more pain than gain. We are on a dangerous course and there is no one steering the ship of state.

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OLGA SHULMAN LEDNICHENKO AJAY ISHRA HILLARY CLINTON MOVIE -

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OH THE FUKINFG UNCULTURED BRITISH: WELL, NW THEY ARE TALKING ABUT WHAT? :) Why the French love to complain In France, a complaint is an appropriate and frequent conversation starter – but the appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to complain is a delicate art. 1 September 2020 Many a conversation in France begins with a sigh and a lament: the weather is bad; the grape harvest is worse; politicians are inept and stupid to boot. When I first moved to France more than a decade ago as a starry-eyed 19-year-old American, I was disquieted by this constant barrage of complaints. Why, I wondered, were the French always in such a bad mood? But when I finally got up the courage to ask a French friend, he baulked: they weren’t complainers, he said. They were râleurs. In France, there are several words for “to complain”: there’s “se plaindre”, used for regular old complaining; there’s “porter plainte”, for complaining more officially. And then there’s “râler”: complaining just for the fun of it. The French love to complain – and have several words for it (Credit: Credit: Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images) The French love to complain – and have several words for it (Credit: Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images) “Râleris informal, even curmudgeonly (think “grumble” or “grouch”),” explained Dr Gemma King, senior lecturer in French at the Australian National University and editor of the blog Les Musées de Paris. “You might râler about doing something but still do it (albeit begrudgingly), whereas porter plainte implies you will not be doing something and someone will be hearing about why.” When I was still in the throes of applying for French residency permits, and French citizenship was still a lofty dream, I used to joke that I would know I was truly French before receiving the confirmation letter because I would certainly waken with the uncontrollable urge to moan and groan. In preparation for that fateful day, I would mock-whine to anyone who would listen:the soup is too cold; the salad is too warm; a neighbour neglected to say “bonjour” to me. You may also be interested in: • Why the French love to say no • Why is this city so tolerant? • A word that encapsulates ‘Frenchness’ But while my friends laughed at my attempts to sigh like a French person, it was a bit, I imagine, like watching a child who has yet to fully grasp language pretend to talk on the phone. The appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to râle is a delicate art, and one that I had yet to fully master. In France, a complaint is an appropriate – and frequent – conversation starter. One could begin talking about a restaurant by focusing on the poor service during an otherwise great meal, or highlight the fact that the east-facing windows in your new flat mean you now have to buy curtains. But while, as Julie Barlow, Canadian journalist and co-author of The Bonjour Effect, explained, “To Americans, saying something negative sounds like you’re closing the conversation”, in France, such comments are perceived as “a way to invite other people’s opinions”. North Americans, she said, are not as comfortable with confrontation – or with criticism – as the French are. Râler, then, “comes across as something that’s more intelligent than being too starry-eyed and optimistic about things”. Conversations can be likened to “duels” and are seen as a display of intellect (Credit: Credit: Frank Rothe/Getty Images) Conversations can be likened to “duels” and are seen as a display of intellect (Credit: Frank Rothe/Getty Images) Anna Polonyi, a Franco-Hungarian-American writer and head of the creative writing department at the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking, posited that this distinction may stem from a core fear shared by many Americans: that of being perceived as “a loser”. “There’s no word for that, in France,” she said. “In order to be a loser, the world around you needs to think of things in terms of winning. And I’m not sure that that’s necessarily how people see social interactions [here].” In France, conversations could instead be likened to “duels,” according to Barlow, and the opening punch may well be a complaint – a display of demonstrable intellect, “something that makes people seem critical and like they’re thinking and not naïve”. Polonyi experienced this first-hand when she moved from France, where she was raised, to Iowa. There, she noticed, people kept themselves from negative speech as long as they could, only unleashing a barrage of complaints when it had built up far beyond what they could stand. The appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to râle is a delicate art (Credit: Credit: John Harper/Getty Images) The appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to râle is a delicate art (Credit: John Harper/Getty Images) “It wasn’t complaining the way that we knew it; it was venting,” she said. “It felt like people weren’t giving themselves permission to complain in a way that actually built intimacy. They were just sort of not doing it until it was impossible not to.” Polonyi even found herself picking up on an American tic: concluding her complaining with an addendum. “When I complain in English, it gets slotted into this narrative,” she said. “I have a certain expectation that at the end of that conversation I need to be like, ‘Oh, but I’m gonna get through it!’.” I think the French are optimistic and positive about themselves and their lives, but they tend to be really hard on their country In French, on the contrary, there is no need for a conclusion. “I feel like the more specifically I can complain, the more I can move the other person to feel sort of empathetic about how horrible something is,” she said. The French attitude towards complaining is uncomfortable for many Anglophones, many of whom argue that negativity breeds negativity. But according to some experts, the French attitude may in fact be better for your health. A 2013 study in Biological Psychiatry found that attempts to regulate negative emotions could be linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while 2011 study from the University of Texas at Austin found that bottling up negative emotions can make people more aggressive. Many a conversation in France begins with a sigh and a lament (Credit: Credit: Fotostorm/Getty Images) Many a conversation in France begins with a sigh and a lament (Credit: Fotostorm/Getty Images) This isn’t to say that complaining is always positive. Complaining too often can get you caught in a spiral, actually rewiring your brain to always focus on the negative. But French râleurs may well avoid this unfortunate side effect, in part because they rarely complain about their own lives but rather about external issues. According to a poll on the practice, 48% of French people surveyed said that the thing that they complained about most was the government. It’s perhaps no surprise then, according to a recent article in Politico, that the French opinion of President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the pandemic was overwhelmingly negative. Personal issues, meanwhile, are very low on the list of things the French choose to râle about, according to the poll, with 23% complaining when people don’t call them back, 33% complaining when they can’t find their keys or phone and only 12% complaining about issues linked to their children. “I think the French are optimistic and positive about themselves and their lives, but they tend to be really hard on their country,” said Barlow. “Don’t go to a party and praise France; people will laugh at you.” French people rarely complain about their own lives but rather about external issues, such as the government (Credit: Credit: Adisa/Getty Images) French people rarely complain about their own lives but rather about external issues, such as the government (Credit: Adisa/Getty Images) According to Margot Bastin, a researcher at Belgian university Katholieke Universiteit Leuven who has published peer-reviewed papers on the effects of internalising negative emotions, the fact that the French focus on issues that are “not personal, not related to themselves” may indeed be healthier. But Bastin’s research has also found that while a certain amount of venting can be helpful, it is “detrimental [when it] becomes a very prolonged process, when it happens excessively”. If someone’s complaining, I feel like there’s authenticity there But the French on the whole, do not tend to catastrophise – nor, as Polonyi noticed, rarely does their complaining even have a goal of resolution. While there’s no dearth of Americans wanting to speak to a manager to right a wrong or Brits audibly sighing when someone is queuing improperly, in France, complaining is not seen as a means to an end. “I don’t think that they’re complaining because they necessarily want to change anything,” said Barlow. “I think it’s a cultural, conversational tic.” As with most conversational tics – like asking how someone is without actually caring to know the answer – complaining in France is above all a means of forging interpersonal connection. And it’s an apt one. One study conducted at the University of Oklahoma showed that complaining may have a positive impact on connectivity; and research also shows that it can be a useful tool for bonding. Complaining is seen as a way of forging interpersonal connections (Credit: Credit: Busa Photography/Getty Images) Complaining is seen as a way of forging interpersonal connections (Credit: Busa Photography/Getty Images) “The other person is listening to you, you really feel connected with the other person, you really feel close to the other person, you feel understood,” said Bastin. To wit, I never felt more French as when I left a scenario that only served to highlight my foreignness: going to the police prefecture to renew my residency card. After a truly Kafka-esque journey through the bowels of the bureaucratic office, I complained to anyone who would listen, painting a portrait of the ineptitude of those in charge, of obsoleteness of the list of documents I had been asked to prepare. And while my French friends did not share this specific experience, they used it as a jumping-off point for complaints of their own: experiences with the tax office or zoning department, where other bureaucrats threw other wrenches in other wheels. It was, apparently, a common complaint. After years of living in France, I was finally building intimacy with locals; I just hadn’t known I would have to complain so much to get there. “If someone’s complaining, I feel like there’s authenticity there,” Polonyi said, “and I’m reassured by that authenticity. Because I feel like, in a way, complaining is, in some sense, being vulnerable.” Why We Are What We Are is a BBC Travel series examining the characteristics of a country and investigating whether they are true. Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “The Essential List”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. Share this article: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Share on Google+ Share by Email Follow BBC Travel Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram Explore the BBC Home News Sport Reel Worklife Travel Future Culture Music TV Weather Sounds Terms of Use About the BBC Privacy Policy Cookies Accessibility Help Parental Guidance Contact the BBC Get Personalised Newsletters Advertise with us AdChoices / Do Not Sell My Info Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read about our approach to external linking.

Why the French love to complain
In France, a complaint is an appropriate and frequent conversation starter – but the appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to complain is a delicate art.

The French love to complain – and have several words for it (Credit: Credit: Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images)
1 September 2020
Many a conversation in France begins with a sigh and a lament: the weather is bad; the grape harvest is worse; politicians are inept and stupid to boot. When I first moved to France more than a decade ago as a starry-eyed 19-year-old American, I was disquieted by this constant barrage of complaints. Why, I wondered, were the French always in such a bad mood? But when I finally got up the courage to ask a French friend, he baulked: they weren’t complainers, he said. They were râleurs.

In France, there are several words for “to complain”: there’s “se plaindre”, used for regular old complaining; there’s “porter plainte”, for complaining more officially. And then there’s “râler”: complaining just for the fun of it.

The French love to complain – and have several words for it (Credit: Credit: Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images)
The French love to complain – and have several words for it (Credit: Julian Elliott Photography/Getty Images)
“Râleris informal, even curmudgeonly (think “grumble” or “grouch”),” explained Dr Gemma King, senior lecturer in French at the Australian National University and editor of the blog Les Musées de Paris. “You might râler about doing something but still do it (albeit begrudgingly), whereas porter plainte implies you will not be doing something and someone will be hearing about why.”

When I was still in the throes of applying for French residency permits, and French citizenship was still a lofty dream, I used to joke that I would know I was truly French before receiving the confirmation letter because I would certainly waken with the uncontrollable urge to moan and groan. In preparation for that fateful day, I would mock-whine to anyone who would listen:the soup is too cold; the salad is too warm; a neighbour neglected to say “bonjour” to me.

You may also be interested in:
• Why the French love to say no
• Why is this city so tolerant?
• A word that encapsulates ‘Frenchness’

But while my friends laughed at my attempts to sigh like a French person, it was a bit, I imagine, like watching a child who has yet to fully grasp language pretend to talk on the phone. The appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to râle is a delicate art, and one that I had yet to fully master.

In France, a complaint is an appropriate – and frequent – conversation starter. One could begin talking about a restaurant by focusing on the poor service during an otherwise great meal, or highlight the fact that the east-facing windows in your new flat mean you now have to buy curtains. But while, as Julie Barlow, Canadian journalist and co-author of The Bonjour Effect, explained, “To Americans, saying something negative sounds like you’re closing the conversation”, in France, such comments are perceived as “a way to invite other people’s opinions”. North Americans, she said, are not as comfortable with confrontation – or with criticism – as the French are. Râler, then, “comes across as something that’s more intelligent than being too starry-eyed and optimistic about things”.

Conversations can be likened to “duels” and are seen as a display of intellect (Credit: Credit: Frank Rothe/Getty Images)
Conversations can be likened to “duels” and are seen as a display of intellect (Credit: Frank Rothe/Getty Images)
Anna Polonyi, a Franco-Hungarian-American writer and head of the creative writing department at the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking, posited that this distinction may stem from a core fear shared by many Americans: that of being perceived as “a loser”.

“There’s no word for that, in France,” she said. “In order to be a loser, the world around you needs to think of things in terms of winning. And I’m not sure that that’s necessarily how people see social interactions [here].”

In France, conversations could instead be likened to “duels,” according to Barlow, and the opening punch may well be a complaint – a display of demonstrable intellect, “something that makes people seem critical and like they’re thinking and not naïve”.

Polonyi experienced this first-hand when she moved from France, where she was raised, to Iowa. There, she noticed, people kept themselves from negative speech as long as they could, only unleashing a barrage of complaints when it had built up far beyond what they could stand.

The appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to râle is a delicate art (Credit: Credit: John Harper/Getty Images)
The appropriateness of when, to whom and about what to râle is a delicate art (Credit: John Harper/Getty Images)
“It wasn’t complaining the way that we knew it; it was venting,” she said. “It felt like people weren’t giving themselves permission to complain in a way that actually built intimacy. They were just sort of not doing it until it was impossible not to.”

Polonyi even found herself picking up on an American tic: concluding her complaining with an addendum. “When I complain in English, it gets slotted into this narrative,” she said. “I have a certain expectation that at the end of that conversation I need to be like, ‘Oh, but I’m gonna get through it!’.”

I think the French are optimistic and positive about themselves and their lives, but they tend to be really hard on their country

In French, on the contrary, there is no need for a conclusion. “I feel like the more specifically I can complain, the more I can move the other person to feel sort of empathetic about how horrible something is,” she said.

The French attitude towards complaining is uncomfortable for many Anglophones, many of whom argue that negativity breeds negativity. But according to some experts, the French attitude may in fact be better for your health. A 2013 study in Biological Psychiatry found that attempts to regulate negative emotions could be linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while 2011 study from the University of Texas at Austin found that bottling up negative emotions can make people more aggressive.

Many a conversation in France begins with a sigh and a lament (Credit: Credit: Fotostorm/Getty Images)
Many a conversation in France begins with a sigh and a lament (Credit: Fotostorm/Getty Images)
This isn’t to say that complaining is always positive. Complaining too often can get you caught in a spiral, actually rewiring your brain to always focus on the negative. But French râleurs may well avoid this unfortunate side effect, in part because they rarely complain about their own lives but rather about external issues.

According to a poll on the practice, 48% of French people surveyed said that the thing that they complained about most was the government. It’s perhaps no surprise then, according to a recent article in Politico, that the French opinion of President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the pandemic was overwhelmingly negative. Personal issues, meanwhile, are very low on the list of things the French choose to râle about, according to the poll, with 23% complaining when people don’t call them back, 33% complaining when they can’t find their keys or phone and only 12% complaining about issues linked to their children.

“I think the French are optimistic and positive about themselves and their lives, but they tend to be really hard on their country,” said Barlow. “Don’t go to a party and praise France; people will laugh at you.”

French people rarely complain about their own lives but rather about external issues, such as the government (Credit: Credit: Adisa/Getty Images)
French people rarely complain about their own lives but rather about external issues, such as the government (Credit: Adisa/Getty Images)
According to Margot Bastin, a researcher at Belgian university Katholieke Universiteit Leuven who has published peer-reviewed papers on the effects of internalising negative emotions, the fact that the French focus on issues that are “not personal, not related to themselves” may indeed be healthier. But Bastin’s research has also found that while a certain amount of venting can be helpful, it is “detrimental [when it] becomes a very prolonged process, when it happens excessively”.

If someone’s complaining, I feel like there’s authenticity there

But the French on the whole, do not tend to catastrophise – nor, as Polonyi noticed, rarely does their complaining even have a goal of resolution. While there’s no dearth of Americans wanting to speak to a manager to right a wrong or Brits audibly sighing when someone is queuing improperly, in France, complaining is not seen as a means to an end.

“I don’t think that they’re complaining because they necessarily want to change anything,” said Barlow. “I think it’s a cultural, conversational tic.”

As with most conversational tics – like asking how someone is without actually caring to know the answer – complaining in France is above all a means of forging interpersonal connection. And it’s an apt one. One study conducted at the University of Oklahoma showed that complaining may have a positive impact on connectivity; and research also shows that it can be a useful tool for bonding.

Complaining is seen as a way of forging interpersonal connections (Credit: Credit: Busa Photography/Getty Images)
Complaining is seen as a way of forging interpersonal connections (Credit: Busa Photography/Getty Images)
“The other person is listening to you, you really feel connected with the other person, you really feel close to the other person, you feel understood,” said Bastin.

To wit, I never felt more French as when I left a scenario that only served to highlight my foreignness: going to the police prefecture to renew my residency card. After a truly Kafka-esque journey through the bowels of the bureaucratic office, I complained to anyone who would listen, painting a portrait of the ineptitude of those in charge, of obsoleteness of the list of documents I had been asked to prepare.

And while my French friends did not share this specific experience, they used it as a jumping-off point for complaints of their own: experiences with the tax office or zoning department, where other bureaucrats threw other wrenches in other wheels. It was, apparently, a common complaint.

After years of living in France, I was finally building intimacy with locals; I just hadn’t known I would have to complain so much to get there.

“If someone’s complaining, I feel like there’s authenticity there,” Polonyi said, “and I’m reassured by that authenticity. Because I feel like, in a way, complaining is, in some sense, being vulnerable.”

Why We Are What We Are is a BBC Travel series examining the characteristics of a country and investigating whether they are true.

Join more than three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “The Essential List”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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