Walking around Paris, I came across the following in The International Herald Tribune:
“The government wants to correct France’s image,” said Christophe Beaux, technical adviser for the Ministry of Economy, Finances and Industry. “Our image has been stained by cliches,” Beaux said. “The bad publicity generated by the 35-hour workweek, by workers going on strike, gives people the impression that French people do not like to work.”
Those cliches and bad publicity will just kill your reputation, won’t they?
Note, however, that the French proclivity for strikes should not be attributed to laziness. (Here is some more systematic data: Excel file, html, comparing the French to other countries. Of the G-7, only the Canadians strike more.) In fact many French strikes are hard work. French strikers are more likely than most striking nationals to march, blockade, destroy, or otherwise make their displeasure public. This tendency stems from the centralized nature of the French economy and governance. A few tractors or transport strikers can shut down large parts of the country and thus suffice to grab national attention. French strikers are working hard in their quest for rents.
Addendum: French diplomats are now at strike, this should make at least Andrew Sullivan happy.