There was always something amusingly intellectual about talking to some french people (at least the ones I was likely to bump into), that I never put my finger on until hearing an npr story recently about a French pianist who has a new book about classical piano and wolves. And the tight connection between the two.
And it just really hit me, this "frenchiness." She has moved to the US and really loves it here, but she talked about it in such a way that reminded me of the random french guy I met on a train once, who after college went to build roads in Africa, and then to some job in rural china, where he met his American wife, a perfume maker, and then they moved to Mexico where he became a plastic salesman, and now they're in New Jersey, and he's looking for a job.
It was mostly in the metaphors he used maybe, or his way of expressing himself. It was so unique to French. I think its an everyday use of philosophy. He was talking about the friends around the world he has, and how great Skype is for keeping in touch, but then not stopping there, he talked about how he dreamed that Skype may one day lead the the world to transcend the pettiness, and will help us enter a utopian golden age of eternal peace and mutual understanding.
It is an everyday dreamy philosophy, evident in their movies. Dreamers. L'auberge espagnol. The two most recent ones. Where people just sit around and philosphize. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset too.
And it's not a Rational philosophy. That would be too German (Kant, Hegel Marx, etc), though the French started that rational philosophy (Descartes, etc.). But a more everyday philosophy like Foucault. Big grand thoughts applied to everyday life, that life has a bigger meaning, and it should be applied to everything we do. (Bourdieu and Derrida too maybe if I knew their work better). Like the nihilism of the french philosopher in I Heart Huckabees.