May 8, 2011

Why Are the French So Rude?

Street in Cassis

The answer is simple:  They Aren't.

Ok, prepare yourselves for a bit of a rant...

I am so over reading message boards where tourists describe their brief time in France and complain endlessly about everything from the lack of ice cubes in their drinks, to the smaller sized beds, to the restaurants that won't serve them dinner at 5:30pm, to the locals who won't "bother" speaking English.

And I hate to have to point fingers here, but it seems like the complaints are mostly written by North Americans and residents of the British Isles.  Maybe other nationalities are complainers as well, but since I can't read Japanese, Swedish or really any other language other than French and English, I don't know what they're saying about the French.

le café

Please let me reiterate;  in my opinion, the French population in general, we're talking about all 66 million of them, are no more rude than residents of other countries of the world. Even when dealing with visitors who don't want or care to respect their unique traditions, customs and way of life.

I mentioned the stereotype of the rude French waiter in a post the other day and almost everyone commented that they had never encountered one.
So I think it is time to squash this stereotype!
What do you think? 

The only reason I started reading those message boards in the first place was to offer help to people planning a visit to or moving to France, so I have nobody to blame but myself. I've decided to stop reading them. Pin It


Diane said...

I have now been here for the past 6 years, for each and every summer, and I have encountered nothing but polite and friendly French. Perhaps because I try always to be polite and friendly to them despite my French language problems. It is there country and I should be able to speak their language but they are always very patient with me. I love the country and I love the French. Maybe living in the country is better than living in large cities? Diane

MummyinProvence said...

I have to say that, compared to anglophone cultures, the French ARE rude. But it's only because we compare it to our cultural norms. NEVER would I go to a shop in the UK or US and be told I was too fat to wear a certain dress - I have been told that repeatedly in France. That, in my world is rude (and downright hurtful but hey ho) ... When I encounter a friendly helpful Frenchie I take note ... it's unusual.

The whole culture is different so I totally get why the French are perceived to be rude! The number of times I have begged a shop assistant to help me only to receive a sigh and grimace. The customer service ethos doesn't really exist here .. if it's damaged or bad it's the same price ...

It's not all bad ... I think I prefer it to the overly helpful, in your face, group hugging culture over the pond ...

You can't win ... yes, the French are rude ... but I think it's because they prefer honesty over superficial acts.

Susan said...

I am from North America but live in Zurich for these past 4 years. I've been blessed to visit France half a dozen times since moving here, and have only experienced true rudeness in France twice. Both in Paris: once by a Cloak Room person at a Museum, who really let me have it for wanting to hang my scarf along with my coat - oh my the eye rolling and the heavy sigh and emphatic NO with a tinge of disgust. It was actually funny and I was glad to have one "classic" rude-French-person experience to put in my journal.

Just recently I was in Paris again, and had a very rude waiter sputter disgustedly when my friend asked for milk for her tea. I should add she speaks lovely French and most of the waiters we encountered were flirting with her (in a cute way - it was fun) - but this fellow was not a charmer. He was rude. But again, it was almost funny.

Sorry, I'm writing a book here. Just wanted to share my experiences - which have mostly been positive. I love France!

Sugar Daze said...

I'm a NYer living in France for 8 years now and I have to say it is not that the French are rude. Time and again I see examples of Americans or other foreigners entering a situation or conversation with a French person and they simply don't know the "rules of etiquette." It's a matter of different cultures & different customs. When you get off on the wrong foot with someone and make no attempts to correct it, it's gonna be a tense situation and I honestly believe that is what happens 90% of the time.

brian t said...

France is a big country, and the only rudeness I encountered was in Paris. The thing that seemed to trigger the worst was an attempt to speak French: everywhere else in the world (and France), that seems to be appreciated, but not in Paris. The message I took from that was: if you're not a local, you're a tourist, so don't bother trying.

MilkJam said...

The French are NOT rude - Parisians ARE!

I totally agree with you, I need to stop reading the forums because a lot of the ex-pats (especially Brits) are so annoying in trying to "re-create" England here. Dude if you don't like how things are different (including different cultural perception of what 'rude' is) then go home!

Ann said...

Interesting post. The French have a bad rap worldwide for being pompous and rude. In truth, I've encountered just as many unpleasant waiters in Paris as in New York (and double the amount in Beijing). That being said, I find people are delightful -- and infinitely nicer -- outside of Paris. And even "en province" Parisians have a reputation for being cold and conceited.

Evening Hérault said...

Absolutely well said, this stereotyping of the French is mad. In many cases it's not so much "Why are the French so rude?" but "Why don't the locals speak proper English here?"

Obviously you can come across the very occasional snotty waiter or unhelpful red-tape bureaucrat, but that's it - only occasional, and most people are really incredibly helpful (apart from our village librarian).

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ann that when you leave Paris, suddenly everyone seems to be more friendly. But I imagine that has a lot more to do with Paris being a big city than anything nationality-related.

Jenny said...

My husband and I have been traveling to France every year for many years and I can truthfully say I have never, ever experienced a rude French person. The same applies to the locals from all of the other many places we've visited.

I believe it is very much dependent on the attitude of the visitor. I always smile, never criticize and am always positive about the place and people I am visiting.

I will be honest and say that in our many years of traveling my husband and I have often encountered rude and critical fellow tourists, most often from the USA and particularly when in large groups. It seems that the friendly, helpful people we encounter in the US can become demanding, complaining and even rude when abroad and things are different and 'not done the way they are done in America'. This always surprises us because we have traveled to the USA several times (including several visits to NYC which we adore) and only ever encountered wonderful, friendly people and great service.

Urbancrete said...

I love that you posted this. I am outraged by the rude stereotype and often get comments about such from people who have never even been here!

I am from the US, lived in the UK for 4 years and now in France for almost two. I think on a whole the French are the most gracious, kind and polite people I have come across in living or vacationing. They are quiet, gentle, genuine and welcoming. My whole take on it, can be seen here;

While being told a dress is not the right one, could certainly be looked at as rude, it could also be looked at as helpful! I would certainly agree that the French are not interested in anything superficial and frankly I love this! Life to me is simply too short for anything else. Other countries and cultures could learn something here.

I could not, however, disagree more about the French shopping experience as not only do shopkeepers always make a point to say hello and good bye, so does every other patron in the store...the greeting process can be somewhat overwhelming when you are new to France but something that I quickly came to love.

I do believe that in every situation we find ourselves in, we get out of it what we put into it. As a transplant, I am grateful our French friends and neighbors have welcomed us. I expect nothing and why would I, this is their country, their culture, their languauge. It is nothing more than respect to try to learn about it all AND if we want it to be just like where we came from why on earth would we come in the first place. How utterly boring if the whole world were just like the UK or the US or Japan , etc. I look at being able to live in this beautiful place as a benefit. Sad but true, my French is appauling but I try and am greeted with smiles for just that...trying.

Thanks again for opening up the discussion, I'm sure it will bring many differing opinions!

Veronica said...

I agree with Sugar Daze. If you don't make an effort to understand cultural norms, you _will_ have bad experiences. For example if you enter a shop and don't greet the shop assistant with a "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur" as appropriate, but just start straight in with what you want, _they_ will think _you_ are rude, so you're off to a bad start straight away. You can get good customer service, but it's not a given -- you're expected to work at it, which can be pretty shocking for Americans :)

Of course I've met rude people in France. What country doesn't have rude people? (if there is one, please tell me, I'll move there!). I've been living here for 15 years and our neighbours have been unfailingly kind and welcoming. But the behaviour of some of my compatriots, who come here for sunshine and cheap wine, don't bother to learn the language, and miss no opportunity to whine about "the French" embarrasses me (why, for example, is one of the major expat forums called "Survive France"??). I don't visit those boards or blogs either :)

Anonymous said...

I lived in Paris for 10 years and never found anyone to be particularly rude. I`ve returned several times as a tourist and always found people to be very helpful and friendly. I must say that I found people in shops in America to be too much in-your-face and insincere - maybe just a different culture!


Unknown said...

Good article and I completely agree ! Cultural differences exist everywhere and, when travelling, people need to take that into consideration.

I was at the Louvre yesterday with my daughter and a friend visiting from Canada with her son. We experienced rudeness but NONE was from a French person !

Diane H. said...

Such an interesting post and great comments!

Last night we went to a "nice" restaurant here in Provence and they asked us if we wanted our aperitif in the bar before we went into the dining room. We said yes, so were shown into a lovely area where we were left to sit with our drinks for a LONG time. I was hungry so my "American impatience" kicked in and I started griping about the terrible serviced. It took a while to realize that they were kindly letting us enjoy our drinks without interruption. We could go ask for our table whenever we were ready.

What's polite is frequently about context. Although I'm still not used to being felt up by as part of the bra-buying experience!

Urbancrete said...

LOL..."Although I'm still not used to being felt up by as part of the bra-buying experience! "

essonnedaddy said...

Have been living in the Essonne for the last 14 years. Having French PIL's who are from down south, I get an interesting comparison of how different things are down there compared to up here in the Paris region.

Here in our rural Ile de France village, I have met a few friendly people - but have found people do tend to keep themselves to themselves. To us Anglo Saxons (how I hate that term), that could be construed as being rude. But in fact, this is mainly down to the long work hours/spending time with family attitude. That and the fact that many people who do live in my local area in fact come from other regions in France or even other countries. They also tend to move on quickly too.

On my visits to the Dordogne (my FIL's region) I've found people to be friendly too. Of course there is a large British community down there and I find that having spoken to a few French people down there, they actually resent that a lot of British people don't tend to integrate with the local communities.

Of course there are those that do. I'm one here in the Essonne but having said that, my partner is French so I guess that makes things a lot easier. For purely anglophone famillies I guess it is a bit harder to integrate.

Finally, I have often visited the Hérault, where my MIL originates from. People there are far from rude. I've found them simple, friendly, talkative (especially), curious, hospitable and ready to chat to total strangers - something you just don't find here in the Paris area.

So there you go, my take on things. I think that there are rude people everywhere. The Paris area makes people a lot more introverted due to their lifestyles here. But once you've made a friend in France, you have them for life... even if you don't hear from them so often.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

ugh. one of my rants as well. the french aren't rude, perhaps more honest and direct. but even if they are rude, in my area it is to be expecteD; We are OVERRUN by brits who came here profiting from a strong pound, drove up property prices and now are selling en masse because things are not quite so favorable. while here, most never bothered to learn french, participate in community life or support local business. instead, they kept there money within their tight social circle and bemoaned (as you noted) that nobody speaks english!!! really?!

to mummy in provence, firstly if you are too fat to wear something perhaps it is more helpful to know it? also, perhaps the exact meaning was lost in translation as I highly doubt the meaning was FAT vs not right for your frame. also I have never entered a french shop without a warm greeting and farewell, far more polite than in other anglo lands. on a side note, calling your fellow residents Frenchies, while not as rude as Frog, is still rude and most likely will not endear you to the local population.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

@ Veronica: wow I am so with you on the forums/blogs, particularly "Survive France". After reading the fine print sub-title "doing it FROGGY style", I was so disgusted ... of course the content mirrors the intent of its heading, mostly disparaging tripe about France.

Frankly, the last thing I hope the author does is Survive France!

Cynthia in the French Alps said...

I have lived in the French Alps with my French husband for 3 years. I never talk about the 'French' because the people in every region of France (of which I've been to most) are quite different from the other regions. I was surprised in Languedoc to find the people as open, talkative, approachable, as Americans. I found the French Riviera people very energetic and high strung (also like the Americans). My region however is like all mountain regions in most countries - mountain people are used to isolation so 'strangers' are viewed with suspicion and not readily welcomed (esp in small towns). As for Paris, I've found lovely people and rude people just like in LA where I lived 26 years. What I still can't get used to however is the practice of telling you their opinions whether you want to hear them or not, and the confrontational, even sometimes mean, nature of people even when you are following French etiquette. I grew up in the South in the US and these things were just not done so I find myself still reacting to them, even though I understand them to be done 'harmlessly.' That is a cultural difference that I may never get used to (esp when it's coming from my in-laws!). Cynthia in the French Alps

Linda C. said...

On my trip to France last year, with one exception only, everyone was friendly, polite and most helpful!.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I like this comment .....

"I totally agree with you, I need to stop reading the forums because a lot of the ex-pats (especially Brits) are so annoying in trying to "re-create" England here. Dude if you don't like how things are different (including different cultural perception of what 'rude' is) then go home!" by MilkJam :-)

AdA said...

French, lived in France for 25 years, and now settled in the USA.

I would say that rudeness is just different in every culture.

When I go back to France, which is twice or three times a year, I find the French rude, yes indeed.
For instance, in France, you're obliged to complain a lot to get what you want in a shop whereas here, you are going to get what you want right away. It's the same in pubs/cafés. Waiters here worry about tips.

But you can find rudeness in the USA too.
One story that happened to me a couple of years ago: when I first came in, every time I entered a shop, I was saying 'hi', well at least the first time, and everybody stared at me weirdly (now, I just say it to myself). So, the time passed on, and I got used to coming into a shop, and not saying anything, but still I was feeling uneasy. Anyway, once, I got back to France, entered a bakery, everybody stared at me, and the girl who had to take my order made me wait at least for 20 sec, for nothing. I left thereafter the shop. Then I went to the 'buraliste', I entered the shop, went straight to look at different magazines. And then I heard someone shouting behind me 'bonjour !'. I turned around, saw the owner, replied 'bonjour', and looked back at magazines. When, afterwards, I left, and thought about what had happened in both shops, I remembered I didn't say 'hi' when entering because I got used to in the USA. (and the 20 sec I had to wait was a kind of "revenge" for having been rude)
So, I thought to myself 'wow, they're rude here'. So I can understand why people from different countries would find the French rude. Both owners were not, they were trying to tell me I was!
And since I obviously speak perfectly French, there was no way they could understand I was 'lost in -cultural- translation'.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

I like the concept presented here concerning etiquette. If you are going to another country, take the time to understand a bit about the basics of the culture. every small travel guide out there provides a summary of sorts. and if you are going to LIVE in another country, be courteous enough to educate yourself and adapt. if you expect it to be the same as home, maybe you should stay home. save us all the bother.

Andi said...

Parisians are as "rude" as New Yorkers, which is to say that they are just a little tougher on the exterior, but if you know how to travel to other cultures and respect their norms you will understand that a lot of things that appear rude are not rude at all! Before I move to France I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on to be prepared - having a French husband doesn't always help because they think everything is normal - one of the best books ever is 60 Million Frenchman Can't Be Wrong by Nadeau & Barlow - it is really good at explaining a lot of things. I think if you go to some of the very touristy places anywhere in the world you will find "rude" people to the extent that they have to deal with tourists all day! It is not their fault and it is a minority of people. I can tell you I have traveled a lot of places in the world and when I think of rude it is not France!

Domaines & Terroirs said...

Since I have worked in a lot of cultures and lived in France for over twenty years, the French are no more rude than any other. They are however different from 'Anglo-Saxons' in that they are extremely private and reserved and this can be perceived as rude by outgoing OTT smiley Americans or Britons. I live in Paris and yes, they can be abrupt, cool and aggressive, which from time to time gets on my nerves, but it is similar to what I experience when I am in New York, so it isn't reserved to this country.

So here are a couple of quotes for all those who demand that the French be just like them:

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you feel comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. - Clifton Fadiman

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. - James A. Michener

Jean said...

In our little corner of rural France, people are friendly, polite, and helpful. They have huge civic pride and are justifiably annoyed by the arrogance of the British tourist, who seems to expect everyone to fall over themselves to speak English.
There is much more of a feel-good factor than in my corner of rural England, where the streets are patrolled by foul-mouthed yobs of both sexes and nobody engages eye-contact, let alone saying "hello" to a neighbour.
Apart from run-ins with the occasional snotty waiter, I would say the French have much better manners than the Brits and are defitnitely less rude.
I agree with others who say if you don't like living in France, go back home - then you will remember all the things you hated about the country you were so keen to leave in the first place !!

Michel said...

I have not found people in France anymore rude than anywhere else. In fact, we have made some wonderful friends in the Vaucluse of people whom we have known for only a short time. As you know, many French people who live outside of Paris think that Parisians are rude rightly or wrongly.

Emm said...

I, too, have had almost universal positive experiences in France, even Paris, where an exceptionally kind token-seller in the Metro one day coped with my stumbling French and answered me in passable English, and with great courtesy.

It may be the urban life that makes some Parisians seem or act rude -- people who live in the countryside frequented by New Yorkers on weekends have lots of horror stories to tell about city folk who are pushy, rude, loud, arrogant, complaining . . . And so on.

Janet said...

I believe in every country you will find rude people, but you will also find wonderfully friendly people, too.
I've been to France twice and each time before going, I was told that the French are rude people so be careful. Though I have yet to meet a rude person in France. I would go back to France in a heartbeat.

tink said...

I returned from 3 weeks in France exactly one year ago. It was my first trip, but my parents have been there repeatedly. Sure, I'd heard all of the stereotypes of the rudeness, but I never once experienced it in 3 weeks in Brittany, Normandy and Paris. In fact, the French I encountered were more than friendly, and downright curious, wondering what country we came from, how I learned to speak French (and complimenting me on how well I spoke it!!), etc. I hate when people perpetuate the rudeness stereotype too, and try to correct folks whenever I can.

tink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Thanks for all of your comments everyone! We are in Spain for a few days visiting friends and have unforseen, very limited internet access. I'll be back online in a few days.

Tidycam said...

When vacationing in Aix en Provence we met a family from Vancouver, where we live, and they said that moving to France 'renewed their faith in Mankind.' I think they discovered that here in North America there can be a 'superficial niceness' with very little depth and authenticity, as well as a lack of identity and knowing who we are.

We, in a general sense, agreed with them and found the French refreshing, sometimes perplexing and very 'real' through our interactions in many different types of situations. Any unsettledness we had in a social setting was an opportunity to learn and sometimes laugh about the differences in our approaches to daily living.

Tanya said...

Great post.

Are the French/Parisians rude? Perhaps, but so are Americans, Brits, Canadians, Aussies...

Perhaps it's because I was also born in Jamaica that some of what people complain about in France makes me shrug. Having complete strangers, even shopkeepers, comment on your size is not abnormal in Jamaica. Would I be surprised if that happened to me in France? Perhaps.

I've never experienced anything untoward in all my time in France. I did, however, witness one interesting exchange between 3 American women and the Cars Air France driver. It seems they weren't satisified with being driven to l'Etoile; they wanted to be driven to their the Air France bus. That has a route. And (supposedly) a schedule. Why they didn't just take a cab? I don't know. It was a discussion that lasted about 10 mins.

Anonymous said...

There are rude people everywhere. We have lived in the south of France for 5 years, and the people are lovely. We have encountered a handful of unpleasant people, of course. Just as when we lived in Texas and Oregon. But overall, our experience has been wonderful with the French. Honestly, we have been to Spain 5 times and have encountered MANY more rude people there than in any of our time in France!

MummyinProvence said...

The comments are fascinating! This post is about one tiny aspect/perception of French culture yet some have become overly defensive and spouted the age old "If you don't like it here then leave" mantra ... seriously? WTH? You can't say anything negative about your "host" country ... ever? Down in the South of France most sentences seem to start with "Mais le problème ..." it's a national sport to complain and criticise everything in France it seems ... is that sport reserved only for the French?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien - why can't I call the French Frenchies? It's not rude at all! Aussies, Pommies etc ... my fellow frenchies actually do find it endearing, endearing enough to trust me to make a Frenchie baby.

My initial comment actually said the perception of rudeness was due to anglophone cultures expecting the same norms and behaviours which doesn't happen. I find the straight up honest approach in France, to be, very refreshing.

Please keep things in perspective - this is ONE aspect of culture - nothing for the self appointed expat immigration officers to get their backs up about every tiny negative comment about France. No where is perfect!

Anonymous said...

I went to paree last year and everyone was soooooooo soooooo nice! from shop assistants in marais to door man at lanvin to hermes assistant and the door person at le bristol... DL

Labrador Lady said...

Hello! I agree with most of the posts - the French are no ruder than any other nationality and when traveling, to be treated well, you must exert some effort to be polite, know the local customs and not insist on doing things your way. Having said that, I enjoy Paris a lot and have never been treated rudely. Even with the language barrier, the most I have gotten is a bit of impatience but others have always been willing to step up and help in these situations.

The Mistress of Spices said...

I have lived in Paris for the past 5 years so I have to disagree with you to a certain extent...Parisians are often quite rude! However I wouldn't generalize this to all French, as my experiences outside of Ile-de-France have been quite pleasant. But in Paris...bof! I speak fluent French as well, and I think this may exacerbate my awareness of the Parisian rudeness, as I fully understand everything that is being said, including when they insult you. Ironically if you don't understand the language well, you might be better off in some circumstances - kind of ignorance is bliss.

Ruby said...

I've only visited France once with my mother on a tour last summer, and though I've heard of the stereotype, from my personal experience during a crazy national holiday shopping spree with the rest of tourist.... I have only had pleasant and nice services from the French staff, where as the chinese speaking ones were the snobby ones who refuses to help! (I'm Taiwanese by the way. so the hint of snobbiness I felt from them when I asked in either Chinese or Mandarin really was a double whammy.) But the French clerks in all stores have been nothing but polite and helpful. I love how they are so committed to serving only "one" customer until they are done. So, from my experience. I've only encountered "rude french speaking Chinese people" not the other way around :)

Randy said...

I live in Paris, and I have to say generally speaking people are suspicious and aloof and you have to work to get to know them, whereas in the US Americans by nature are friendly. With that said, once you get out of Paris, I find people to be extremely nice.

As in any country there are cultural differences, and perceptions are based on one's culture, perceptions can be very negative. It's not better or worse, it's just different.

Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook said...

I have found that people respond to the way they are treated. If you are friendly and kind to them, they will be nice to you. I have traveled extensively and rarely run into anyone that isn't open and happy to work with me - even when I can't speak their language. A smile opens doors all over the world.

Joe Lillard said...

When I hear people in the U.S. saying they think French people are rude, I ask them where and why. Invariably the answer is Paris. I ask them how they think New Yorkers, Bostonians and Philadelphians would react if a French person walked into a deli and expected to order something in French. I also think it is PERFECTLY responsible to reply forcefully to any waiter who acts rudely in France or the U.S. We live six months a year in Vers Pont du Gard, a modest village next to the Pont du Gard. The village people are very polite and patient when I struggle to explain myself in my inexcusably rudimentary French. We have been visiting France almost every year since 1993 and I have never experienced any French persons being purposely rude.

sistabella said...

I have been in France almost seven years now. It is an awesome experience to live in a new culture. And there are a lot of differences between the interactions of the French {and other Europeans} and Americans. But I don't think it is rudeness, I describe them as "cold".

There is not a will to offend, just a distance, maintained by social etiquette and language {tu/vous}. For example, we have lived in the same home for 6 years, and we know one neighbor! The rest are complete strangers, nothing but a dry "Bonjour" and no eye contact. In CA if a new person moved onto the street they would be greeted by neighbors, maybe some baked goods. Sure we are probably motivated by nosiness, but it is welcoming nonetheless.

Sometimes it is painfully obvious that the person I am trying to communicate hates me and my stupid American accent. Even my perfectly constructed sentences are not understood, and as their patience wears thin the speed at which they speak keeps getting faster and faster, now with eye rolls and cheek puffs!
That is rude for sure, but it's not a "French" thing. I can recall more than once seeing a Mexican in CA struggle to communicate with someone who just didn't want to understand them. Sound familiar? Isn't it fun to live on the flip-side? hehe

As time passes, I learn new ways to approach situations that makes life easier.

nhmillgirl said...

In the weeks leading up to my recent trip, I, too, read many bits about Parisian rudeness. But it led me to this question: I'm a New Englander. We're considered rude/cold, compared to Midwesterners, for example. So would someone in Illinois find Parisians ruder than someone from New Hampshire might? But when I posed the question on the Web, no one responded.

Parisians were incredibly kind to me. I speak what I call "caveman French," and everyone was lovely in their attempts to work through conversations. I had made notes of social mores, such as saying hello and goodbye in shops, speaking more softly, etc. It made me feel I was doing my part in someone else's country.

I stayed in a quiet, not-touristy neighborhood in Montmartre. By day three, shop owners greeted me in English and asked where I was from, even though their English was as bad as my French. I thought it was very sweet.

So, I'm a true New Englander and I thought Parisians were truly lovely. Direct, cleverly sarcastic, and helpful. Not rude at all. I can't wait to go back.

Anonymous said...

I have visited France several times and have never found the French to be rude. Rather, there is a dance in which one must engage: "bonjour Mme/M; au revoir, Mme/M;merci, etc." Too often, I see visitors who do not engage in the very courtesies that are expected and then they are treated with disdain. I think sometimes people do not understand the cultural differences and this results in the mistaken idea that the French are rude. I remember once visiting a shop in Brittany and the shop keeper, after finding out that I was American, asking me if it is true that all the Americans hate the French. What a sad idea she had about Americans. Personally, I love France and the French.

Cate said...
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Forest said...

i think sometimes north americans may mistake indifference or a different level of service as rudeness. Customer service is different in north america (and, granted, it's a bit too much for some people as far as over the top cheery, chirpy & accomodating.) But, if you live in a place where you regularly get enthusistic service, a drop in that level of enthusiasm is noticeable. So perhaps what they mean really in some cases is not necessarily 'french are rude' but just that 'customer service is different here'

Cate said...

I'm russian, live in London, professional photographer and journalist, work all around the world. I can say that french ARE rude. And also, I could say they become more and more ignorant. I never and nowhere meet such arrgoant people as in France. I always noticed it, but for last 2 years french become people who despise, envy and jealouse of the rest of the people around. And it doesn't depend neither on their job, nor on the city. I could describe it as an inferiority complex, complex of the Forever-Second-Place, they always want to be first but always stay the second, I think it ruins their minds and affects their behaviour.

But of course, we always could find some more rude or less rude nations, people, persons, etc. And most of all people around just confused banal civilised people with some civil manners ( like to say "hello", "thanks", "goodbye", etc.) with polite and cultured people.

angela said...

I live in France and don't believe the French are rude. However they may seem so as their culture and manners are different to North American or UK ones (they don't have a notion of servility) and that can come across as being rude. The whole point of travel and living away from where you were brought up is to encounter a life and culture that is different to your own, otherwise why not stay at home? PS I live in a small town, and everyone says hello to you in the street and you are rarely served in a shop or a supermarket without a 'hello how are you?' and 'goodbye have a good day,' I can't say the same for living in the UK where people generally ignore each other.

Sam Mooney said...

Imagine being Canadian - we have a reputation for being sooo polite! As almost everyone has said, it's all cultural.

I learned to say hello when going into a business and goodbye when leaving and I still do it - a rarity here in polite Canada where we usually go in, look around and leave without saying a word if we don't see what we like.

I did once have a traumatic experience in France - not rudeness but it could have been considered rudeness. Too long to tell here but definitely a blog post!

Cheers, Sam

The Food Hound said...

Oh, I have to weigh in on this :) I lived in Belgium for 4 years, and have traveled back to Europe, France in particular, many times. I'm American and can't speak for the Brits, but I can say that Americans in general expect the whole "THEY should learn how to speak to/interact with ME" rather than the other way around (which is the way it should be!) when they travel. I find the French to be very proud of their polite manners and language, and I admire that. All they are asking for is respect. I can speak French, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't help, but there are PLENTY of times I completely lack the vocabulary necessary to navigate through certain situations, and if I just keep plodding through with a pleasant "I'm trying really hard" attitude, I have never been met with anything less than kindness and understanding. And even I had something to learn this last time I went to Paris- I read Clotilde Dusoulier's book "Edible Adventures in Paris" and learned that you are always supposed to greet and say goodbye to a shopkeeper. It's not something we Americans do as a regular practice (though it's something we should adopt), but WOW, did it make a difference!

Our American culture is just different, and in my opinion, not always for the better. True, Americans tend to be more superficially warm and welcoming, but I find the French to be much more genuine once you get to know them. They take more pride in things they do, whether it's making sausage or selling dresses, and a little interest and appreciation (especially with food- this makes ANY Francophile smile warmly!!), you will always have a lovely experience.

And PS- I like ice in my soda. If you learn the word for ice, and ask the waiter very nicely with a big thank-you at the end, you'll get ice. And a smile. In Paris :)

MilkJam said...


When I said if you're constantly criticizing the French it is in reference to those forums where "the French can't do this, the French can't do that, impossible to get a decent cup of tea in France blah blah blah."

I'm sorry but there is nothing wrong with criticizing something specific but generalizing and stereotyping the French and France just is annoying. And like you said it is all a perception of "rudeness". Of course everyone criticizing something but it is putting the label on it as French and France which really seems to rub me (and others) the wrong way.

So yes, if you're not happy with "the French" and "France" then maybe it is better than go home rather than spending your time complaining about it. Otherwise suck it up and stop generalizing about your host country.

Kathleen said...

Yes very well said! When we visited France we were treated very kindly and were blown away by how easy going and funny Parisians were.

Christine said...

People who plan to visit France should be made to read up on cultural and etiquette differences before embarking on their journey. Better yet, take a class in conversational French and use it! Making en effort to speak the language and understand the culture would go a long way toward mitigating the "Ugly American" tag that in too many instances is well deserved.
During my month in France I found the French to be open, friendly, charming, helpful, and funny. Even in Paris.
Thanks for a well-put post. I love the b/w photo.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

@mummy...I'm sorry. were we talking about why french people complain a lot? because that is a different subject. in any event, it appears that the majority of folks responding disagree with your view. which is still, of course, your opinion and valid. maybe if you are experiencing a lot of rude reactions, you should examine the cause .... like calling people frenchie .... hihi, sorry couldn't resist. but seriously, my friends ... the french ones ... don't appreciate labels such as frenchy or frog ... anymore than the english I know who find pommie an insult ... or yanks or ... well, you get my drift. Its nice for you that yours don't mind. funny, I also didn't find any of the comments here pompous enough to deserve the somewhat rude title of " self appointed ex-pat officer " or whatever that was ...

all in all can I just say that, even though I never met my french grandmother or my french great grandparents, I am certain I received extra helpings of their DNA. from the moment I met France and her citiwens, I knew immediately I had found "my people". I have been scolded all my life about my very direct nature. Ha Ha, guess all along I have been just plain rude, if so yay for me. I adore France, her gentle nature and amazing people who have welcomed me. I am the luckiest girl in the world to call France home.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Well said. We didn't find the French rude in Provence. However, we made an attempt to speak French, be polite, dress appropriately, and be respectful. After all, we're visitors in someone else's country.

We lived in the Bahamas for years and it's important to respect the culture of the country. It seems to me more people complain today than ever before and I have no idea why.

Murissa said...

I think what you say has a lot of validity.
Often when people travel they are going to touristy destinations where a lot of the locals tend to dislike. This was the case in Hawaii as well. I am sure it gets on anyones nerves when tourists are being slightly obnoxious.

As for the general complaints of North Americans about the size of bed etc. I take this as an experience that enriches and educates us about the visited culture. It is just their way, take it or leave it. The only thing I didn't like was the amount of mold I ran into in the hotel bathrooms, in both upper scale and lower scale places.
Very stimulating post I see.
The Wanderfull Traveler

Anonymous said...

I've been to Paris three times now and I have to say, I don't understand where this stereotype comes from. The French/Parisien have been lovely. Of course, I always try to speak my broken French and mostly, they politely respond in English. If not, then through sign-language and broken French and English, I've managed to get directions, get on the right train, etc. from pretty much anyone I've asked on the street. I think many Americans (not all!) have a very low tolerance for slowing down and respecting the differences of other cultures and trying to make sense of it. I've seen it at our airports when foreigners come in and the officials are just plain rude, repeating questions louder and louder to people who clearly need the same thing asked in a different way.

Also, I think too many people are completely unwilling to even try and so much as learn 'Bonjour'- which, in Paris at least, will take you a long way. Say hello before you ask for anything. Really, anything else is rude!

Angelina said...

I really love the discussion this opened up- very interesting to hear so many people's different perceptions. I agree with those that pointed out that Parisians are like city people everywhere - and in most big cities shop keepers and wait staff are constantly dealing with tourists which can be annoying. I had only one rude experience in Paris and I thought it was really funny because it was at the "Welcome" center for tourists in a department store. I was sent there to get a discount by one of the clerks I was talking to. I spoke French while in Paris and though I wasn't what I would call fluent, I hadn't been doing too bad. When I started explaining, in French, what I needed to the clerk in the tourist welcome center she said, in English, with an enormously annoyed tone of voice "JUST SPEAK ENGLISH" I don't take that as an indication that French people are rude, just that particular woman. The irony of being so unwelcome in the welcome center amuses me to this day.

Cultural generalizations are hard to shake. I have found it useful that wherever I travel people think I'm Canadian rather than American. When they find out I'm American I am treated to their views on Americans which isn't very flattering and I have to explain that while many Americans may be ignorant and rude travelers, we are not all that way.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to come to mummyinProvence's defence. She merely spoke of her personal experiences in a matter of fact way. As she said, the behaviors she experienced would be considered rude in English speaking countries, and keep in mind that the word "rude" is an English word with well-defined applicatoins and is rightfully used for English speaker's to make culture comparisons.

This subject is so perennial and a book could be written about it. I am sure it is helpful to have it going for people who are involved to take notes and make adjustment accordlying. I remember a few years ago reading on CNN about Parisiens trying to polish up their cold image to smile more and be more helpful to tourists, and the new travellers (especially the Chinese) are benefiting from it. To me French culture is a very feminine one and deal with it is just like a man has to treat a women with more discretion than his male buddy.

phildange said...

I have a story about cultural difference . Four years ago I visited Iran . Good idea as I was the only foreigner I was the salt of the earth . People were nearly fighting to invite me home and make me gifts . But the funny thing I learned is their etiquette requires people to refuse twice when invited or offered a gift . If the giver really means it he will offer it a third time, and then you may accept .
Now imagine an average American or French accepting the thing straight from the first offer . How rude, how barbaric he will be seen by Iranians !
That's about it . When I travel I'm not arrogant, because I know that I don't know .
And you American folks, do you really appreciate the Chinese and Japanese way, always smiling at you while in themselves they see you as an inferior Barbarian ( on this matter they are worse than the Brits)? Personally I prefer French " rudeness " by miles ...

Cindy said...

Live on my road in southern France for one week and you will find out how wonderful the French people are!

MummyinProvence said...

@milkjam - don't generalisations usually happen the world over? Stereotypes are what comedies are made of ... that's how marketing strategies are compiled. Seriously, if people complaining how they can't get a decent cup of tea in France annoys you then why do you go to the source of that annoyance? I complain I can't get a decent Indian or Mexican meal for love or for money in France - doesn't that make me anti-french? urrrr no. Does that mean I should leave France?

@Non Je Ne Regrette Rien - we pick examples of things that happen in our lives to illustrate the point. Having you insinuate that I am 1. Fat and 2. rude is uncalled for. To say arguably negative things about ONE aspect of a culture is hardly deserving of such comments. Glad you love it here so much and everything, EVERYTHING is so, so perfect.

It's amazing how so many people have commented on here with sweeping assumptions about those who are contributing to the conversation. Thanks for reminding me why I don't bother with expats crowds IRL.

Does anyone here REALLY want a post on how wonderful France is? Would that really get 60+ comments ... I love france because the French are such lovely people and they make lovely cakes ... Seriously people?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

oh my, mummy, I didn't insinuate you are fat ... you did, in a sort of round about way and I said if you are, it would be better to have someone advise about an outfit or dress or whatever. I've never seen you, how on earth would I know. as far as making a rude comment, yep I'll own that one, no further explanation necessary. I never disputed your right to share a negative opinion about france or the french ... merely exercised my equal right to disagree and provide my own opinion. and commented upon the example your provided ... seeking to avoid descent into trivialities on loulou's post, I'll just agree to disagree. and remark that probably the english are far more fond of their own lovely cakes. for me, I prefer french foie gras, escargots, truffles and the like ... (ai yi yi, more controversial subjects!) heh heh. and yeah. I love it here. so sue me1 :-)

leon's life said...

As a Brit who has lived in France for nearly 20 years (in Paris too) I would say NO the French are not rude. It’s definitely a culture thing.

However I find that Anglo-Saxons in France are rude (maybe other nationalities but as I don’t understand them )

My favourite pet peeves being being:

- In a shop or bar, an American may say. “Gimme . . ..” No way would a French or a Brit even imagine opening a conversation in such a manner

- Asking for directions or a question without even bothering to ask in you speak English

Veronica said...

My favourite quote here is from Domaine & Terroirs' comment:

"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you feel comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. - Clifton Fadiman"

It's so important to remember that. Think of yourself as a guest in someone else's home, and try to adapt to the way they do things, even if you're only visiting for a few days/weeks. It's just good manners, and makes life more pleasant for everyone. Once you live here and have assimilated, you have the right to complain as much as you like :)

Kelley S. said...

I have encountered more rude people on a single day in Seattle than in all of my trips to France.

Anonymous said...

they are not rude, they are just not as loud as we americans.

Jennifer said...

I just have a few minutes to be online until I get home this weekend so I'll just comment on a few things...

MummyinProvence - Actually I do often write about how much I love France. Those posts may not get as many comments, but I usually don't specifically ask for people to share their experiences like I did here. So I would say that yes, people do like to read about the lovely aspects of France.
I do agree that customer service can be pretty dismal sometimes.

Anon (aka DL) - What a wonderful way to experience Paree! ;)

Domaines & Terroirs - I think the quote you shared pretty much sums it up.
"When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you feel comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable." - Clifton Fadiman

Carina said...

There is good and bad in every culture. It doesn't change from one corner of the world to the other, and no country is more prone to it whilst others are exempt.

Key thing to remember is if someone has had the 'bad' experience, to not tar an entire nation with the same brush. For one rude person, there are one hundred ready to welcome you kindly into their world.

Life is about tasting a little of everything, and just like some varieties of cheese, not every one will be the perfect match.

If someone were to come across a sour apple, they should look again for a sweeter variety. Happily, here are plenty of them to be found.

Jennifer said...

There are so many great comments here. I appreciate you all sharing your experiences, your stories and your opinions.
Thanks again for commenting and to all of you who shared on Facebook, Twitter and on your own blogs and websites.

Anonymous said...

I went to Paris once, with weekend trips outside in Loire and Champagne and never met any rudeness or inconsiderate manners or behavior. In fact, in conversations of broken French, those who spoke English kindly helped me out by adding phrases and words en anglais, and were more than eager to talk when they heard I was from California. (got lots of questions about Hollywood!) I met with difficult personne at a market, a gypsy lady trying to sell me something I did not like and my lack of good language skills unfortunately left us both feeling like the other just didn't get it...evidence that misunderstandings can happen. I follow your blog because I hope to return to France in the future, so keep up the good posts!

samanthastarns said...

I have never encountered a rude French person, either. I was staying in Paris and walked down the street to a little store and asked where the limonade was. At first, he pretended to be mean, and then said he was joking and gave me the drink for a discounted price because I was "pretty and very nice".

Sarah said...

Love the way you just have to disagree with the France is Perfect crowd to get flamed and told to go home. Is that what you say to other immigrants too?

I've been here since 1989 and have encountered plenty of rude people - restaurant staff, neighbours, salestaff, fonctionnaires. Doesn't mean that I'm going to pick up my two French boys and cat and head back to the UK though, although I'm sure someone will make that suggestion because I don't buy into the rosy glasses ethos.

By the way, the Survive France Network's name is supposed to be a tad ironic. It's actually not full of whinging anonymous Anglophones.

MilkJam said...

Sarah, I think you've missed the point entirely.

What myself and a lot of other people are saying is that if you are not happy in France (for whatever reason, rudeness or otherwise) then there is no reason to stay and why would you?? That's what gets me is all I hear from Brits is the neg (including the Survive France which may not be full of anonymous Brits yet all I see on the forums is complaint after complaint).

It only seems logical, if all you do is complain and use such websites to seek out other Brits then why on earth live in France? I would say the same for any other category of immigrants, if you're not happy in your new country (aside from political refugees etc) what good reason is there to stay?

I don't care how long you've been here, it sounds like either your neck of the woods is filled with rude French people or you have not grasped the concept of cultural perspective and what "rudeness" in one culture may not be in the next.

Sarah said...

I'm sure you must be right, MilkSop or whatever you're called.

Bérénice said...

Hello all :) I'm a French girl and I just stop on this article while wandering on the net; I came here through the "survive France" network Facebook page, because its name was a little bit... awkward - ironic and fun, and so maybe out-of-place for my eyes. Oh yes, Loulou, your article is linked there ;)

I'm from "Province" (from Poitou-Charentes region) and live in Paris, and generally, people tend to say that Parisians are more stressed and cold than in others regions. And there also cultural differences in France, southern people are more warm and friendly at the first meeting than nothern, coastal more open than mountain people, etc.
So even for French people, some categories are tagged rude as a whole: administration (we have a difficult love affair with sheets of paper), waiters (in a hurry, that the worst), parisians (because ther run after the time). And elders too, in big cities (if they are afraid from strangers - FN-party electors). But that don't dispense you from civil manners, maybe if they see your efforts they pay you in return with a smile :)

So there are bad and good, like in all countries :) By the way, my first waiter in London made fun of me, and was rude while I was trying my best accent to ask him "a hot chocolate". I was shameful. But my host family at Torquay was wonderful :)

Jennifer said...

No need for name calling. We're all adults here.
Even if the name 'Survive France' was meant to be ironic, I still think it has very negative connotations.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for commenting! I'm glad that you found this post, even though it was through Survive France's Facebook page (where it was mocked and received very strange, nonsensical and negative comments, even though it appears that those who commented didn't even bother to read the post!).

It is nice to hear a French person's perspective on the "rude French" stereotype and thank you for giving your example of the rude waiter in London. It just goes to show, which was the point of this post, that there are rude people everywhere.
And nice people too. :)

Suzie said...

I've been following these comments with much interest and feel I must add my 'tuppence' to the debate. I feel quite angry at some of the commenters on here as I resent being included in some comments about the complaining "British" as if it is all of us! I have lived in France probably for longer than ANY of you have and whether or not I consider the French (or anyone else for that matter) rude is not my point. PLEASE do not include me under an umbrella of "complaining Brits".

Jennifer said...

It's funny because this post began as my rant about tourists sometimes not embracing the unique aspects of France when they travel and has somehow turned into an "expats behaving badly" conversation. Which is very interesting.
I think the residents of UK who move to France are so numerous and are often very vocal, so they are the first ones to be referenced. I wouldn't take it personally. :)
I think it must be like that for the Americans who move to Mexico. They are often the scapegoats for all the other expats from other countries.

Hot Pink Combat Boots said...

I love your blog! I found you through Misadventures with Andi and am your newest follower!

Personally, I don't think French people (as a whole) are rude. Sure, there are rude people there -but they are everywhere (states, germany, france - wherever). Its not the country, its the person.

French Girl in Seattle said...

I have truly enjoyed this post and all the comments following it. Very interesting. I thought you might enjoy the story I posted this morning and would love to hear your take on it. A bientot! Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

Jennifer said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing and I've shared it on Facebook. Sorry it took me so long to publish your comment...I thought I already had but hadn't.

Joanie Ballard said...

My husband & I have traveled several times to France, particularly Paris, for business and pleasure. We always experience gracious and helpful Parisians, with only one "rude" experience to report: an over-worked waiter in an over-crowded cafe who huffed and puffed his way through our order. We could see he was stressed out, so it really wasn't too rude, actually. I need to say that I have been embarrassed by several Americans in Paris, shouting or laughing loudly at a shop clerk or waiter, or screaming at a hotel clerk for not telling him his cab was waiting outside. That was really a sad thing to watch. Those experiences made me cringe. I think if you go to Paris with an accepting attitude towards customs and cultural beliefs you will often experience the charm and sweetness of our French friends. That's been my experience. Warm Regards, Joanie Ballard

Lille said...

Rude people in France? Well,of course. Just as there are rude people everywhere! I just brush it off and learn from the experience. My rule of thumb is: there is more rudeness in big cities than in the countryside. Expect it sometimes, move on and don't take it personally. We all have misunderstandings. If you go in with a positive attitude you will attract a more positive experience.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to burst your bubble but Parisians are rude! Maybe its the bad weather, maybe its that they have to many overly complicated rules for everything they do and things work at a snails pace seemingly without logic, maybe its the fact that they live in small apartments and have to pay lots of money for a small glass of wine when they go out! Then again, maybe its because they are hot and smelly in the summer, maybe because they don't have air conditions, maybe its because you can't get any ice to cool off. Maybe it's because they are very insecure and don't know how to act around other cultures? Maybe it's because lots of foreigners are moving to Paris, or because Macdo, Starbooks and Subway are opening all over the city? Maybe it's because they cheat to much? Or maybe, its just because they are Parisians ;)

Jennifer said...

I disagree with you wholeheartedly and am just you live in Paris? For how long? If not, how much time have you spent there?

Those are some huge generalizations you've made. Like saying that every New Yorker is rude, which couldn't be further from the truth.

Art said...

I think the person who said it's all about cultural perception had it correct. What I have noticed personally is a certain self-absorption among French people: asking them for something out of the blue may result in their feeling as if you have disturbed their personal space. It's not rudeness so much as, maybe, a tinge of selfishness? I have seen this among many French people I know: a certain self-absorption, a certain intolerance for being disrupted. But it's all about what the norm is in a given place. I'm sure that many of us, if we lived there long enough, would come to see that as normal. On the other hand, I tend to come to the defense of Americans quite often. I live north of the border, but every time I visit the U.S. I love how easy it is to make friends with people. You can meet quite interesting people who, though they may be surgeons or scientists, don't have that annoying "chip on their shoulder" and will still introduce themselves by their first name. I love that.

HKS said...

Love the intelligent discussion more than the blog post itself. Myself I would like to share some of my experiences. I'm not British or North American, for that matter.

The French way of life is definitely distinctive and worth getting to know and appreciate, but personally, what makes me feel much better as a traveller is for the native people to understand and respect the Tourists as well, something more noticeable in many other countries I have been to. Not hating on any country for that, but a warm welcome always draws me to a place so much more.

It was my first trip to Europe, and on the plane I was given different seats from my family (two seats back). So when we touched down in Paris I asked a French middle-aged couple politely in English to let me pass through. I did not get to explain I wanted to attend to my young son, because the lady immediately cut in and said something like "Do you have the keys to the airplane door? Do you? If not, sit down." She then proceeded to converse with her husband in french and give me the famous dirty glance French stare-down. I think they were annoyed I did not 'Bonjour' them, or maybe airplane fatigue. The man (who was big-sized) stuck his body across the aisle so as to further prevent me from passing them. I was really offended. I remember I thought to myself, "Wow, French hospitality even before I step onto French land proper!" I wanted to explain I needed to get to my family, but their French-speaking ears wouldn't have any of that English coming out of my mouth. Excuse me when I say I wanted to punch them, it was my first experience in Europe and not a good one at all. Now, I regret letting that couple spoil my first day in France.

The other thing is that the Parisians were always in some sort of stare-frown expression on the street. It was imposing, actually. But I was ready to look past that. An old lady at a shoe shop said something in French like, "Don't sit here! It's for people trying on shoes!" We vacated the seat for her thinking she needed it, but she just walked off and cussed. I mean, customer service is not exactly what they pride themselves on.

Another thing funny was this man who was managing those pay-by-token 5-minute back massage machines in the shopping centres. He was walking up and down in a huff and when we got near to have a curious closer look at the machine, he chased away our potential business. What's the point of having machines there if you're not going to let anyone use or even see them. He literally stands there and dusts and mops the sides of the machine for hours. We found it funny because it's just a machine, not a very stressful job, yet he is acting like he is Sarkozy's bodyguard! Again, this shows how the French take so much pride in what they do, whatever job it is. It is a lifestyle, definitely.

I went to Dijon and Mont-St Michel too, which were expectedly less hostile. I can only wish I stayed long enough (only 4 days) in France (Paris for that matter) to change my opinion of them because up to now I still cringe at the thought of The City of Dreams/Romance taglines my local newspaper always deems as Paris. Having read many blogs and articles on this, I now can't wait to go back and rediscover Paris. I hope I will get to change my opinions of the place.

...(see continued post 2)

HKS said...

(continued from Post 1)...

Interestingly, I found Barcelona much more lively and hospitable. It could be the nature of the Spanish, who, if I may generalise, are more warm at heart- when giving directions, I found the Spanish always did it with a smile and didn't mind conversing fully in English. We even approached a jogger on his running route to ask for directions, he immediately stopped and marked them out for us, while still panting! I felt so bad. They are also not afraid of starting a conversation, "Where are you from?" being the most common and genuine starter that I have received.Or maybe, after all this I have said, it may just boil down to perception. I went to Spain 1 year after the France trip, with lowered expectations and a jaded mindset, always believing the people of the region are cold and unwelcoming. Of course, I was nicely surprised on my 2nd trip in Barca. I do remember my fair share of rude people in Spain which, though less than in France, are in no way less rude. A common interesting point I experienced is they get offended when you do not speak Spanish/French/their language, they pretend not to understand your clear articulate English and brush off helping you with a shrug of their shoulders and an "I told you so" lip purse. Yet this was only a very minority in Spain.No props for guessing which visit I liked more, but my opinions are ever-changing and I do actually want to go back to places I did not like previously, and to set the record straight and reevaluate Parisians for who they really are.Now, 3 years have passed. The things you learn as you grow older. Thank you for the article.

HKS said...

(continued from Post 1)...

Interestingly, I found Barcelona much more lively and hospitable. It could be the nature of the Spanish, who, if I may generalise, are more warm at heart- when giving directions, I found the Spanish always did it with a smile and didn't mind conversing fully in English. We even approached a jogger on his running route to ask for directions, he immediately stopped and marked them out for us, while still panting! I felt so bad. They are also not afraid of starting a conversation, "Where are you from?" being the most common and genuine starter that I have received.

Or maybe, after all this I have said, it may just boil down to perception. I went to Spain 1 year after the France trip, with lowered expectations and a jaded mindset, always believing the people of the region are cold and unwelcoming. Of course, I was nicely surprised on my 2nd trip in Barca. I do remember my fair share of rude people in Spain which, though less than in France, are in no way less rude. A common interesting point I experienced is they get offended when you do not speak Spanish/French/their language, they pretend not to understand your clear articulate English and brush off helping you with a shrug of their shoulders and an "I told you so" lip purse. Yet this was only a very minority in Spain.

No props for guessing which visit I liked more, but my opinions are ever-changing and I do actually want to go back to places I did not like previously, and to set the record straight and reevaluate Parisians for who they really are.

Now, 3 years have passed. The things you learn as you grow older. Thank you for the article.

Anonymous said...

I'm French so I hope I won't get any of those "go home" comments.I've lived in the USA and in the UK and I do think that the French can be very rude. I'm not even talking about customer service or those arrogant fonctionnaires!
And those of you who suggest Sarah or MummyInProvence should head back to Britain should listen to what the French say when they are in the US or in the UK (esp those South-Ken French).
French is a great country and most foreigners live very well here but please dont criticize those who don't wear your rosy goggles.

Unknown said...

I've been here since 2007 but first visited in 2006. When I moved here I didn't know any French or at least harldy enough to reply to how I was doing. I wasn't aware for a while if people were rude or not cause I couldn't understand them. So I wasn't turned off by the people right away.

The most rude people I've encountered were at the Pole Emploi and my mother in law. Now with both of those cases I know I'm not the only person to receive bad treatment. So I shrugged it off knowing even the French had issues them.

I think the French can be blunt about some things which come off rude to a lot of people. And I think they can be terribly reserved about some issues we freely talk about, thus making us sound rude. It's a culture thing just like most everyone has said.

People like stereotypes just like all French people being surprised that every American that lives here isn't 300lbs. And when people think French people it's all rudeness. Even if it's not true for everyone, we as people can't stop clinging to what we have heard since being a kid.

Clairette said...

Goodness, I could write a book about the French having lived here for the past 45 years ! After reading your many comments, I agree that it comes down to different cultures. To make my point you might enjoy seeing 2 movies, Les Ch'tis and Les Intouchables, films the French public adore but are often not understood outside of the borders.
I do agree that a lot of you are looking at France through rose colored glasses and all the better ! France is such a delightful place to be so I'm so glad that you will enjoy your stay, however long. But I have to agree with several others "dumping" on the French, they are right too. To Mummy, being 5ft7 and weighing around 170lbs, I'm anything but "typical" here. I can't tell you how many times I have been looked over head-to-toe, sneered at, tisked at and been told that I certainly wouldn't find anything in the shop to fit me!! As the Brits say, time to keep a stiff upper lip! Check out the book "French Women Don't Get Fat" for better understanding. I don't shop boutiques! But Mummy, don't bring up the subject if you're sensitive to cracks...
If you ask me if I would change living here my answer would be "no, no, and NO! I love it! I now have a daughter living in the US and enjoy going to see her, it's like taking a breath of fresh air for me and I find myself being the tourist in my own country! I try to behave myself but I secretly know that many there must think I have odd habits and ways of doing things...Clare

Anonymous said...

I am visiting Paris for the first time and not everyone I've encountered has been rude, but if you believe this is the typical way people in other areas treat visitors, you are mistaken.

I think when people say "the French are rude", they really mean "Parisians are rude".

I'm tired of the 'visitors are too picky excuse' excuse. What does this have to do with Parisians being rude?

You say you don't read anything but comments by people who are from North America and Britain, but you're pretty sure it's only these guys complaining. For someone who doesn't like generalizing, you seem to have no problem doing it yourself. Maybe you shouldn't "point fingers" if you have absolutely no other reference! It's like saying only the Swedes like meatballs because you only read Swedish.

I had dinner with several friends from various countries in Europe. I was asked where I was going this trip. When I said "Paris", there was a collective laugh. One of the Spanish men said, "You will love the city, but be prepared for the French. They hate English speakers." This was the consensus at the table.

I decided to reserve judgement and see for myself, as I usually do. My experience has been Parisians are ruder on average than other cities of comparable size.

"Even when dealing with visitors who don't want or care to respect their unique traditions, customs and way of life."

I just want to make sure I have this straight - it is acceptable to stereotype visitors (especially Americans and Brits) as people who don't care to respect the French culture, but it is not okay to stereotype the French? I ask for a glass of water and the waiter can somehow tell I'm not "respecting his culture"?

I don't speak French so I'm not respectful? Are you kidding? I can not possibly learn the language of every single country I visit. It seems only the French have this expectation. I certainly don't expect everyone visiting the U.S. to know English or Spanish. It's not disrespectful, THEY LIVE SOMEONE ELSE. I don't take it personally and it would be rude if I did.

I am telling you I have encountered almost exclusively rude waiters.

Look, is everyone in Paris rude? No, of course not. But, generalizations can be made of certain cultures. And one thing about Parisians is they are not burdened with an overabundance of giving two damns about visitors.

People in Europe make fun of Americans speaking only one language. This is generally true about us! Most U.S. citizens speak only English, some can barely speak that! I'm saying this as a U.S. citizen who doesn't even fit this stereotype, but it's true as a generalization about our culture.

Stop defending the indefensible and blaming the rest of the world (excuse me, Americans and Brits) for Parisians' collective rudeness. Parisians are generally rude. Big deal. Every culture has something messed up about it.

Anonymous said...

French waiters are generally rude from an American perspective. There is a reason for this and it's not because Americans are necessarily picky or disrespectful.

Many U.S. states do not include service people under minimum wage laws. A waiter in the U.S. may not be earning minimum wage and even if they are, it's not much money.

Waiters here almost exclusively live on tips. If they are even perceived as rude, they don't get paid.

So, yes, from an American's perspective the French are rude because we are used to being treated especially good by servers since you are expected to tip as a wage and not as an extra.

I find it ironic that people are so sensitive about the French being stereotyped, but have no problem stereotyping Americans and Brits. It's acceptable to say Americans are disrespectful and ignorant, but boy, oh, boy don't call a French guy rude!

Tammy said...

My husband and I honeymooned in Europe in February 2011 - and we spent the bulk of our time in Paris - where we were not once, but twice, offered unsolicited help on the street when we pulled out our map - and both times the people offering help were very definitely French. We were so enamoured with the wonderful people that we met in France, that we are trying to figure a way to live there - we have three kids, so not as easy as if it were just the two of us. But I have to agree about the stereotype of the French people - it's just that - a stereotype. We think the French are wonderful and we envy their lifestyle.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for stopping by to comment. I love how this conversation keeps going!
I hope your dream of moving to France comes true.

Mary F. said...

We have visited France 5 times and love it. I have many stories of nice French people helping us when we got lost, or when we lost our money in the washer at the laundromat. I love France and her people. We too dream of living there some day, probably when we retire, because we would not be able to support ourselves now, but we really love it there. The number of positive encounters, even in Paris, far exceed the negative, so much so that I can't even think of any negatives.

Alex Bunardzic said...

Coming from North America and experiencing life in Paris, I think I know why do North Americans perceive Parisians to be a bit on the rude side. If you go to a cafe in Paris, and order cafe creme a importer (take away coffee), they make the coffee for you (btw, the coffee will almost always be unbelievably good, it's amazing how they always manage to over-deliver), however when they hand you your cup, they'll only give you one little sack of sugar. That's it. I remember the first time this happened to me, I turned around and was looking for the 'condiments station', i.e. the station where you can load up on condiments, such as milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, honey, you name it. These condiments stations are the norm in North America, but not so in Paris.

I think it's this lack of 'added value' stuff that most North American tourists perceive as arrogance, conceit, and right down rude customer service.

However, I look at it from a different angle -- you want coffee, and they serve you really good coffee, and you should make peace with it and appreciate the excellent service and enjoy it. They know better than you how much milk to put into your cafe creme, so you should not be fuddling around pouring extra cream and other stuff, thus spoiling that magnificent cup of coffee.

In other words, in Paris the customer is NOT always right, and that's why such an attitude rubs some people the wrong way.

Spoi said...

I agree with Anonymous 11:30, that it is pretty weird many Parisians consider it rude if tourists don't speak French.

Well, I speak Finnish, Swedish, German and a bit of Russian. Sorry, I don't speak the main language of every country I visit. The Frenchman can be my guest and pick any of those languages to communicate with me! After all, I'm speaking a foreign language trying to communicate with him. I'm not at all rude with that; perhaps I indeed should ask them how many foreign languages they can speak themselves for complaining about my lack of French skills?

Many Italians don't speak English that well, but I didn't encounter anyone who would have thought it was rude that I don't speak Italian. I can't understand how anyone working in service sector with tourists could be that ignorant. Perhaps the Parisians in this context have a Napoleon syndrome.

phildange said...

What ? where does this come from ?
People understand a foreigner hasn't learnt their language, of course .
What Parisians find rude is Americans ( because this behavior us exclusive to them )who come to France and expect the locals to speak their language, who ask questions from the start in English and don't even say "Good morning" and "Pardon me" .
How would a Texan react in Dallas if a French guy came to him asking questions in French ? Do you think he would be friendish ?
The only problem lies there, and I wonder how you came to your incredible conclusion .

Jennifer said...

I have to agree with Phildange...

Anonymous said...

No matter how diplomatic some posts here tries to be towards French. I speak English, and in every visit to France I encounter at least one situation of rudeness because it starts obviously when i start to speak English asking about something, sometimes even before that if they expect i am a tourist. So much undefendable rudeness in Paris at least

Maureen said...

How did I miss this? Gotta put my .02 in anyway even if I'm number 5,240.

I've visited France many times and I love it there. I've never been treated rudely, service has always been courteous and as long as I try my best to speak even a bit of French, I get a smile.

Now I will admit to cringing when I hear a group of really loud people come in with an accent like mine and then they wonder why they get the eyeroll and poor service.

Anonymous said...

As others have pointed out, it is unreasonable for the French to expect all visitors in France to speak French. When I was leaving France, a Chinese man ahead of me greeted the passport controller in polite and excellent English. He also politely said goodbye and thank you as he was leaving. The passport controller yelled to him as he was leaving "You should have learned French" in French. I then approached and greeted the passport controller in French. As a slipped him my US passport, he sighed and rolled his eyes. I asked him in my most innocent if there was a problem (in French, of course). His attitude completely changed, and we had a rather warm exchange. I was happy, of course, because he treated ME well, but I can't forget how the controller acted toward the Chinese gentlemen who had done NOTHING wrong. It has been a matter of coincidence that I am able to speak French, and I daresay the Chinese man speaks far better English than I do French. I also know from Chinese friends how hard it can be to find opportunities to learn French in China, even for those who really, really want to. I think that the French would do well to remember that some people who are speaking to them in English are ALREADY speaking to them in a foreign language.


I'm an American who has been living in France for over a year-and-a-half now. I have lived in three other foreign countries prior and have traveled to at least 35. To me, next to Russia, France is filled with some of the rudest people I've encountered.

It's not a question of being a loud, abrasive American...though you will find those and I'm not a fan of them either. And to me it's not a question of being less "superficial" either. Having been raised in a small town in the Midwest, I've found most courtesies to be sincere. L.A. is an exception.

To me, it's due to the following:

1.) Habitude. In many ways, it feels to be a more formal society, which lends to its charm, but also makes it less flexible. France is not a nation of immigrants, as America is. They're very rooted and protective of their "Frenchness" to the point that it alienates, not just your standard tourists but even their own countrymen living in the banlieus.

2.) Laicité is one of the guiding principles of the nation. Whereas, in America we're heavily influenced by certain precepts, like the Golden Rule, even if one isn't religious per se.

3.) Workers' rights have a long, historical root in France. That's why manifestations are about as ubiquitous here as fromage. It's very hard to fire someone once they've been employed for some time. Also, tipping is not standard, therefore sales associates and servers have very little incentive to assist customers.

4.) Finally, education. Several Frenchies I've met have told me that during their introduction to the English language in lycees, they were often ridiculed by classmates and sternly reprimanded by teachers for their accents. You'll often hear a French person apologize for their accent when they do speak English. They're made timid by it...or, depending on the person, would rather have you look foolish and do all the communication work, than them, by meeting you halfway.

The best line of defense is offense. I make it a point to engage people right away, give them my so-called, artificial American smile...ask "Ca va?" and that often has great results. And when it doesn't, I'm not afraid to call out the rude, bored shop girl or baker because they're not used to people doing that.

Just be your friendly self, try your best to communicate in French and don't take any merde from anyone!

Anonymous said...

To Phildangue, Loulou in France etc. - I am half French and half American and I can tell you I grew up with it: the French don't even like each other! Like Cate from Russia said, they are jealous and envious and for those who have had great experiences, good for you. But stick around - If you are an attractive female, especially a foreigner, omg - watch out. No scruples, no holds barred. When you speak French and are in the culture, you get it - the jabs, the petty jealousies, the anonymous denouncements.... And oh, even well-educated French believe that all Americans are "superficial" and "rich"!!

Phil said...

Well, this was a while ago, but my wife and I loved it and it's never too late to say you liked something someone wrote, right? Right.

A bientot..

Jennifer said...

No, never too late! Thanks for chiming in.

Cheryl said...

I've lived in Lyon for the past 11 years and have seen myself as ambassador on both sides of the Atlantic- correcting stereotypes in the US and in France that each have about the other. I always explain that it's a 'code' and once you know the code, you realize that it's not a 'rude' thing, it's cultural.

I do love it here, but there is one thing that drives me bonkers. In all the books, French or Foe and the like, it talks about the subjects that are FORBIDDEN to discuss in polite company. I have found that French people have NO compunction asking me *very* personal questions that they wouldn't dare ask each other (or tolerate being asked by someone else). Why are you in France, what do you do here, how much do you make, how much was your house, DID YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA? etc.

I didn't even realize it was going on until about a year ago when all of a sudden it hit me- "HEY- you wouldn't ask another French person this! I was told never to bring this up!" Then I realized that the rules don't apply in that direction (local asking foreigner).

So the advice I'd give is to pay attention and don't do what the books tell you not to do, but don't be shocked or surprised if you find yourself at the receiving end of some pretty personal questions. You can usually shake them off with a joke, if you're really uncomfortable... I have actually said, "I was told never to bring that subject up to a French person- was the book wrong?" (looking innocent and smiling the whole time)

Or, in the case of 'Who did you vote for?' I answered that Americans ARE JUST LIKE THE FRENCH in that we never discuss who we vote for. They understood perfectly, no one felt bad and we went on with life...

Craig said...

About 20 years ago we had a French cultural exchange student from Paris stay with us for two summers. We got to know him really well and a discussion came up about the stereotype for the French people being rude. He laughed and told us that the French people really admire Americans. However, they just don't want to admit it. He said, "The French love the French". (national pride) He gave us a few pointers. He explained that many Americans show up in Paris wearing their Budweiser tee shirts, shorts and sneakers. They expect everyone to speak English and don't even make an attempt to speak French. We observed how he dressed, picked up on how he acted and put our observations to use when we first visited France the third summer. In the interim, we took an evening high school French course. On the way over on the plane we observed an american couple with an out of control child. The dad was wearing a Budweiser tee shirt, shorts and sneakers. I thought to myself about our initial conversation with our French student and what problems these people would have when they landed in Paris. We have been to France about five times since then and have never experienced any rudeness. My wife continued on with her French lessons. I attempt to speak French and am sure that I butcher the language. When I do attempt to speak French, people either answer me in English or we muddle through even if they do not speak English. I have even resorted to drawing a picture to help communicate. The French people have been extremely patient and kind. Rented a canal boat the last two summers and visited small towns and villages. Fewer people spoke English. There was an older French couple that we ran into. I could understand enough of what he said that he was annoyed with all the tourists on the canal. (That included us) We had an electrical problem with the boat. Despite complaining about the tourists, him and his wife went out of their way to try to help us out. They showed up with tools and a small French-English Dictionary. We used our French-English Dictionary to figure out the words related to the electrical system. Bottom line-try to speak French. Take the time to learn a little about the culture and customs. You will have a great experience. We still stay in touch with our former French student. He invites us to his home for dinner every time we are in France and even took us to Normandy two summers ago. My wife's father, who has passed away, was in the Army and landed on D-Day on Omaha Beach. The visit to the invasion beaches and American cemetery. It was a sobering experience. I believe our former exchange student is a true friend for life and we can't wait to return to France.

Anonymous said...

Aaah, reverse psychology. Everyone is falling over themselves to defend the French.. I've lived there for 7 years in total, gone to school there, and yes, I have to say that among the top 5 rudest encounters in my life, almost all of those were in France.

I've never been shouted at by a dentist anywhere else, nor shouted at (unprovoked) by civil servants, nor treated with such brusqueness at any remotely civil-service organisation (e.g the SNCF) anywhere else but France. Sure, the French are by and large civil enough, but when they're rude, they're REALLY rude.

Anonymous said...

We just came back from paris 3 days ago and we experienced both extremely rude but also wonderfully amazing people. Im 26 pregnant with twins so evidently pregnant and huge and I had a street vendor selling eiffel towers shove me so hard I fell off the curb and I had some lady let go of the door in a shop hitting me. But on the flip side we found a pizza restaurant where the waiter was lovely and helpful and gave us a wonderful evening. The metro was busy but people did give up their seats for me and up on visiting the catacombes I was rushed to the front of the queue which was absolutely amazing. Paris though scares me :( its so busy but to be expected

Anonymous said...

Are you trying to tell me that the well-established, often-repeated, consistent, entrenched and widely shared impression that the French are rude is just some kind of ... misunderstanding? A conspiracy? A strange coincidence?
The reason there exists this widespread idea that the French are rude is ... because the French are rude.
I was there twice last year and just about all the service I received in Paris, but also in Normandy, was remarkably rude - and I was already bracing for it!
In addition to the standard indifference, dour faces and general rudeness one waiter actually hit my 5 year old son for playing with an ashtray.
When my French-speaking wife berated her for her action she just slinked away with a red-face, but no apology, of course.
I've lived in Europe for 10 years and the French are without any doubt the rudest people Ive encountered.

MelloBelle said...

My experience in France was that people were friendly and helpful. Most people I encountered, especially in shops and restaurants, spoke English and were willing to speak it in order to assist me. Actually, many people on the street spoke English as well, and whenever I asked politely in French, they would switch to my language and give me directions, advice, etc. I only encountered two rude people and they worked concierge at hotels. This had more to do with who they were as people and did not reflect on the French as a whole. I had to laugh when I read about the ice. I love lots of cubes in my glass and I didn't know how to ask for it in French. This is something no one could help me with unless they spoke English. I found it curious and funny rather than annoying. I got used to the small rooms and beds rather quickly, no biggie. It was my first visit to France, but it definitely won't be the last. Living in France, is a definite possibility for me. I love it!

Anonymous said...

Simply put, well meaning visitors simply don't understand. French culture is all about codes and subtlety. This is to allow the french bourgeois to differentiate themselves from the peasant class. It is a constant battle of who is more educated, or a better 'french'. As a foreigner, you are retarded and should be publicly ridiculed in their eyes. The act of demeaning another person cleverly, without the victim realising it, is the only pleasure the french seem to truly, gleefully indulge in and when, only when, one lives, works and converses fluently with the french do you realise how they have become the most bitter, scathing and downright inhuman people. When they overcharge you, it shows that they are smarter than you, when they are rude it shows them how simple you are. This is the true undercurrent to the 'odd' experiences of visitors. Simply the nastiest, most bitter people in the world I am sad to say.

Anonymous said...

Really french are rude. I said to myself maybe I don't know them too well and try to make myself understand thier culture but they never stop to amaze me with thier rudeness its like thier way of living to treat people with disrepespect. Scenario, went to the market buying some vegetables for preparing salad tomato then I want cocumber as well. He then said is this for eating, I didn't know what he meant so I ask him in French why are you asking and soon I got home didn't feel it was a joke. Hey! This rude joke, you do only to your connaissance I am a customer who doesn't now your affaires. So pissed off!

Anonymous said...

Saved as a favorite, I really like your site!

Anonymous said...

Great site. I have to say, reading many of these anecdotes about the rude French, it would be great to hear the other party's perspective.

I've travelled extensively - 20+ countries and many major world capitals - and in our 3 visits to France we had nothing but positive experiences overall. Of course nothing is ideal 100% of the time, but we are visiting France again for our 4th time this year, and it is the only country (other than our home, Canada) that we are considering as a retirement home base.

In Paris, 2 noteworthy incidents of kindness stand out. We were travelling with our son who was 5 yrs old at the time, and an official at CDG airport picked us out of a very long line for express service. A very similar thing happened at the Musee D'Orsay. Rude Parisians? Je ne pense pa!

I'll also add that Aix en Provence seemed like one of the happiest, idyllic places in the world to us. Everyone smiling and relaxed, amazing to those of us used to living in big cities.

Our next trip is in a month, to the Aude and Pyrenees Oriental regions of Languedoc Rousillon. Can't wait!

Stephen from Canada

P.S. Merci beaucoup for your excellent website and useful posts. :)

Jennifer said...

Thank you Stephen! I enjoyed reading about your experiences.
Enjoy your trip to the may have noticed that we lived there for 8 years and have very fond memories. You'll love it!
I have a question, if you don't did you come across my blog? Through a Google search? I'm just curious! :) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,

I believe I came across your site searching "cost of living in France" or "cost of living in Languedoc" possibly.

Our tentative long term plan - when our 9 year old son is independent - is to spend 4-6 weeks, (January and February) somewhere "warmish" and sunny in the south of France. We are in our early 40s now.

I was interested in a comment that you posted in on entry on the site where you said something along the lines of "...there is nowhere in France that is warm all year round", in the context that one has to factor in heating costs.

Cold is of course we've just had a winter in Ottawa that has lasted 5+ months of consistently sub-zero Celsius temperatures. +10 degrees and sunny on average sounds like a real upgrade to us. :)



Jennifer said...

Thanks for letting me know about your search. I was just curious!

I think that after Ottowa, the south of France will feel very warm...especially after this hellish winter North America has had. However it does freeze there and it can snow occasionally. We had our heating on from early November until March, on average. Hope that helps!

Unknown said...

Hi Jennifer,
I know this thread is old, but I too have been motivated to chime in. We are just back from a 6 week holiday in Europe, 2.5 weeks in France and although our experience was no doubt optimised by being Australian (and by my attractive fluent french-speaking wife), I did venture out on my own a bit and found the Parisians no more rude than most big city dwellers and in the regional areas they were welcoming & helpful and seemed to appreciate my (laughable) attempts at their language. It is also a truly gorgeous place and property/businesses are SO CHEAP! I confess to being instantly smitten & we are planning to start a business & buy property there asap. We did have one classic 'rude' frenchie experience (told pointedly by a 30-something frenchman disembarking the Eurostar that our 2 small boys had made his trip 'oonbehyrebool!'). However to balance this, in a village on the A-road to Strasbourg, a fellow we stopped at random (after our GPS steered us into a cul de sac) not only spent about 15mins explaining to us the best way to find our accommodation, he then caught up with us in his car after we had set off and told us to follow him to the location, several km out of his way! This would be unusual enough anywhere but with the reputation the French have for unhelpfulness, it makes it all the more striking.

Linda said...

My husband and I spent six weeks in France this past Spring and aside from one or two cashiers at the supermarché (it was our fault), we didn't encounter any rudeness. The first week we were there we went to the Carrefour and bought produce, not knowing we needed to weigh it and put price stickers on the bags. Not knowing the language enough to understand what the flustered cashier was telling us, we just kept saying je ne comprends pas. Luckily for us, a customer behind us grabbed all of our produce bags, weighed them and priced them and came back and we finally understood. We were falling all over ourselves to thank the lady (who didn't speak English) but she just smiled and said it wasn't a problem. The other time we encountered a rude cashier was when my husband tried to take the trolley (the ones you drag along behind you) through the checkout line - big no no. Each time, the rudeness was more of a coolness, a quiet disapproval. It was our cue to learn the system and learn we did. The rest of our trip was delightful - in fact quite a few people went out of their way to be helpful to us. We were in Père LaChaise cemetery and couldn't find a tomb despite the map we'd bought. A man noticed our confusion and pointed us in the right direction. He was a writer and lived in Paris - a French man. Later on that day we again got confused in the cemetery and another French man walked with us (quite some distance) and brought us to the tomb. Both of these men were just ordinary Parisiens.

The difference between shops and other businesses in France and in the UK/USA is that in France employers generally treat their employees like family and their establishments like their homes. You, as the customer, are coming into their home when you enter their establishment, so keep that in mind. Acknowledge everyone you come in contact with - usually a quiet bonjour or bonsoir if it's a casual setting and if it's formal, be more formal in your address. They appreciate it if you have a subdued manner and are courteous. This is the land of Egalité - even the shop assistants are equal to you, the customer, so treat them like a human being, not like an appliance and you'll be treated like family, too, or at least like a good neighbor.

I love France - Vive La France!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think you are biased. I'm guessing you're French yourself and so are more used to the French culture. Not to offend anyone that is french, but I think that rudeness is part of the French culture. Being rude may not be offensive to french people because it is just part of the culture, but I can tell you from personal experience that the French are not the most warm and fuzzy of people. Often they will openly insult you and think almost nothing of it. I'm American and live in a friendly community in a small town, so this was a shock for me. It was also hard for me to tell if someone liked me or not when they would often say mean things, but then acted like we were close friends. Don't get me wrong, I made tons of friends and had a great time in France, but just know if you're going to France that the French have a different way of um communicating.

Jennifer said...

If you had taken just 5 seconds to read my bio, you would have seen that I am an American. So no, I am not biased.

Unknown said...

In supporting Jen's point of view, here, I'd also want to pitch with some more arguments.

Thanks, Jen, for this article, your visit on my blog, and your beautiful site :)

alircarl said...

A few years ago I went to France and travelled from Paris, through Normandy, then south to Provance. I made an effort to learn some French and tried to use it everywhere I went. I never had a bad experience and found the French to be uniformly polite, nice and helpful, even in Paris.

I loved the country, it's so beautiful. Everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Someones said "rules of etiquette." -Exactly!

I live in south-east part of France and I went to school to learn French at one of the biggest university in France - Stendhal in Grenoble. As you can imagine, I was in a group of people from each corner of our globe: Japan,Korea,China,Peru,Iran,Brasil,UK, Italy, Germany, Poland and US & Canada as well. We all come from different cultures, but believe me, no one can understand american & canadian students: ther were eating during classess,and this was very,very annyoing. I have tried to explain them that we have breaks between classes and you will have a time to eat you salad/chicken/sandwich/whatever in nice caffeteria or outside in the garden, rather in class with 16 students, which they were forced to smell you food...however they did not care.
I'm really sorry, Students from North America & Canada- in Europe this is treated as a lack of private culture and also lack of respect for the teacher. Yes, I heard this is standard behaviour in your country and even teachers eats on front of their students,however, you are not longer in US or Canada so it would be nice to adjust. Even my british collegues hated it. We also spoke with the french teachers and they are aware of this behaviour -but even they were saying this is lack of respect.

So, before you start to complain how we in EU (especially French citizens) are rude , maybe first look at yourself?


Matt said...

I've been living in France (Alsace)for 4 years now. I've had some experiences on this issue.
Being a socially active person and living in a city with a lot of expats I've never had difficulty in finding friends, I organise activities, trekking , cook for friends. In order to learn the local culture and the language I chose to stay in a colocation with French people and they told me that they were happy to have me as a clean, respectful and supporting friend, they were respectful and nice to me in general. But one thing I observed is that French people usually don't invite foreigners to their friend circles and don't join others' (expats, foreigners) friend circles. They don't usually tend to learn about others' cultures, language, food (which is very common in some cultures) For instance I've been invited to at least 30 dinners by the time, only 2 of them were French. I've invited many but since the French reply rate is low I naturally went on with expats. This is not being rude but more like being introvert & closed. Also in romantic relationships they are quite conservative. They fall in love with other french only ^^

When it comes to professional life in the institutions I worked people were not rude, they were usually very helpful when I asked for help. When it comes to friendship at work the majority don't continue the conversation more than a "bonjour" in a normal day. So they were not rude but not friendly either.

On one event I'm not sure what to say;
In the school I work one day a week there was a lunch which was for a feast, everybody gathered to enjoy the lunch and while I was sitting alone in the same room, nobody called me to join them. After about 30 minutes one lady who was late for lunch entered the room, invited me but then nobody moved the chair to give me some space so I went back to my seat. Maybe I should have asked them to move?,I don't like to be in an event where I'm not invited, but still I felt very strange.Is it culturally normal?.

Joe said...

My wife and I are long-time residents of San Francisco, both in our 60's with me pushing 70. We are retired and moved to Lyon in April to live in France for a year. This is our third time in France and second time in Lyon and we love it here. The people in this city and in our neighborhood could not be kinder or more friendly. Neither of us speak much French but we are studying and trying. Luckily, many people speak English. But we have never encountered a rude or exasperated gesture when we try to speak French and we find the people here to be incredibly patient with us when we speak little French and they speak little English. We have a huge outdoor market in our neighborhood that runs every day except Monday. I shop there almost every day and despite my lack of French skills, I have made several lovely acquaintances with the vendors that I frequent. They remember my name and I remember theirs. They greet me with a smile and a big bon jour and I do likewise. One vendor, an older woman who I buy my cherry tomatoes from, greets me with a fist bump! It's one of the highlights of my day.

Maybe we are just lucky. The French that we have encountered are incredibly polite, but in a genuine, and genuinely kind, way. People say please and thank you and offer me their seat on the bus or subway. I love saying, and hearing, "bon jour" when I walk into a shop or approach a vendor and "bon journee" when I leave.

Without a doubt, we will encounter rude people. But to say that "the French are rude" could not be further from our experience.

Joe said...

My wife and I are long-time residents of San Francisco, both in our 60's with me pushing 70. We are retired and moved to Lyon in April to live in France for a year. This is our third time in France and second time in Lyon and we love it here. The people in this city and in our neighborhood could not be kinder or more friendly. Neither of us speak much French but we are studying and trying. Luckily, many people speak English. But we have never encountered a rude or exasperated gesture when we try to speak French and we find the people here to be incredibly patient with us when we speak little French and they speak little English. We have a huge outdoor market in our neighborhood that runs every day except Monday. I shop there almost every day and despite my lack of French skills, I have made several lovely acquaintances with the vendors that I frequent. They remember my name and I remember theirs. They greet me with a smile and a big bon jour and I do likewise. One vendor, an older woman who I buy my cherry tomatoes from, greets me with a fist bump! It's one of the highlights of my day.

Maybe we are just lucky. The French that we have encountered are incredibly polite, but in a genuine, and genuinely kind, way. People say please and thank you and offer me their seat on the bus or subway. I love saying, and hearing, "bon jour" when I walk into a shop or approach a vendor and "bon journee" when I leave.

Without a doubt, we will encounter rude people. But to say that "the French are rude" could not be further from our experience.