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”.
I’m definitely down for this.
From this bbc article. I can’t quite remember how or why I came across it.