Posted: 02 September 2020

Is it better to be a teenager in France than in the UK?

This year's Good Childhood Report found that 15-year-olds in the UK were among the saddest in Europe. Many felt their life didn't have a purpose. A particularly British fear of failure and growing up in poverty could be to blame. 

Our European neighbours like France, Spain and Switzerland were in the top ten for childhood life satisfaction. So what's the difference? We asked three teenagers in France what they liked about growing up there.

Amandine, 16 years old

I like to spend time with my friends, go shopping, grab some food with my friends or just rest at home. As a teenager living in France, I think we have access to a lot of resources: free access to education, family planning or even telephone numbers/hotlines available to young people who need them. We are also lucky to get discounts for going to the cinema for example.

School life is tiring, we study a lot, our school day starts early and sometimes finishes late and we have a lot of homework on top. Other than that, all weeks look the same. 

Like the UK, there is also a lot of pressure on young people, especially when it comes to school and deciding what we want to do when we are older. I don’t know what I want to do, however I will need to make a decision when I’m 17 or 18 so it is very soon. 

Jeanne, 16 years old

I like growing up in France because most people are open-minded, compared to other countries. We are free to believe in whatever we want and love whoever we want. 

'we are free to believe in whatever we want'

During my free time, I hang out with my girl friends or my boyfriend, I go get drinks at my favourite café or I go shopping. Young people don’t feel a lot of pressure in relation to school or what they want to do when they’re older. Of course it depends on families but mine are confident I know I what I’m doing and they trust my choices. 

When I’m older, I obviously want to be happy, surrounded by good people and have a job I like. I’d like to work in international trade. It’s a job I like a lot but it does not go well with family life, this is the only thing that bothers me about it. I don’t want to be away a lot if I ever have a child. 

I have many cousins in Israel. I know they have a lot of pressure about school. Their parents care about their school life a lot and I know my cousins suffer from this pressure. 

Raphael, 14 years old

Yes I like growing up in France even though people’s mentality in general in this country is awful. 

My school life is really good, I have a lot of friends and no one is making fun of me or anything else. During my free time, I like spending time with my friends, play several games with them, exercise and watch films or series.  

There’s an enormous amount of pressure on young people, we keep hearing that we have to study in higher education, that the brevet (an exam you take when you’re 15 at the end of collége) or the bac (an exam you take at 18 at the end of high school that will have an impact of where/what you can study after) are coming up, this kind of things. 

I don’t really know what I want to do when I’m older, I just know that I want to be important and be able to represent my community. 

Putting children's well-being first

Although children may experience the same pressures in the UK as they do in France, those in France are generally happier with life as a whole. Perhaps they have more confidence to deal with those pressures, or have more faith in their society to back their futures. 

We need to give children in the UK confidence. We need to listen to them and demand positive changes they need to see.

Email your MP to put children's well-being at the heart of our national recovery.


By Marine

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