The young centrist, who was elected on a promise to ‚Äútransform France‚ÄĚ said his economic and social reforms were creating a ‚Äėculture change‚Äô.
Mr Macron, an unabashed admirer of the Danish economic model that mixes a strong social security and flexible labour laws, made the remarks during an exchange with French expatriates on Wednesday afternoon.
He said: ‚ÄúWe should not be na√Įve, what is possible is linked to a culture, to a people who are marked by their history.
‚ÄúThese Lutheran [Protestant] people, who have lived through transformations in recent years, are not like the Gauls who are resistant to change,‚ÄĚ he said, referring to the ancient tribes that roamed France more than 2,000 years ago.
The young centrist, who was once slammed for saying the French ‚Äúhate reform‚ÄĚ and that the country is ‚Äúunreformable,‚ÄĚ also said he had succeeded in bringing about a ‚Äúcultural change‚ÄĚ in France.
Mr Macron said: ‚ÄúYou will see France transformed by its people. People are changing mindset, they are much more open to risk.‚ÄĚ
But the opposition back home pounced on his comments.
Far-right chief Marine Le Pen said on Twitter: ‚ÄúWhile in Denmark, Macron excoriates ‚ÄėGauls who are resistant to change‚Äô: as usual, he is displaying contempt for the French while abroad! The ‚ÄėGauls‚Äô will take great pleasure in responding to his arrogance and scorn!‚ÄĚ
Far-left lawmaker Alexis Corbi√®re from the France Insoumise party denounced remarks of a ‚Äúconfounding stupidity‚ÄĚ.
He tweeted: ‚ÄúMacron in Denmark is not only contemptuous of his own people, but also very ignorant about Gauls, who were great inventors.‚ÄĚ
Conservative chief Laurent Wauquiez also condemned his centrist rival, saying a president could not ‚Äúcriticise and caricaturise‚ÄĚ his own people.
Mr Macron was quick to respond to the controversy, telling a press conference in Finland that his comments had been made in jest.
He said: ‚ÄúYou need to step back a little from the controversy and from social media. I love France and the French, make no mistake. I love it in all its components. I love these Gallic tribes, I love who we are.‚ÄĚ
The 40-year-old leader is struggling to recover from a scandal surrounding the sacking of his top security aide, Alexandre Benalla, last month.