You know how the French are rude, right?

I don’t.

Recently, I spent a couple of days in Paris. This also happened to be my maiden visit to Europe. Before leaving, I had heard several horror stories about the rudeness of the French.. They told me the terror would start at the French Consulate itself while applying for a Visa. I had people telling me how their applications were either rejected or unnecessarily delayed. The normal processing time is around 2 weeks and based on what other people had to say, I was prepared for 4.

And 4 was right. Days.

On my first day in France, after walking around the city the entire day, I’m far too exhausted to manage a walk back and I just want to crash. It’s 10 P.M and the sun is just about setting and my hostel is 3 miles away. I decide to take the metro instead This being my first time on the metro, I can’t seem to figure out which line to take and where to. There’s nobody around and I’m wondering if, not when, I’ll get back tonight. Enter French guy in his mid 40s. With no other option but to approach him, I do so. He spends the next few minutes explaining how to navigate the metro system. He also adds that I cannot buy a ticket at this particular station. He pulls one out and thrusts it in my hand.

‘Combien?’ (‘How much?’), I ask. He smiles and walks away.

 

It so happened that a friend of mine was also in the city for the weekend along with her brother. We planned to meet at a certain underground jazz club at 10:15 P.M. I was there on time and waited for nearly 45 minutes with no sign of the two. I was unable to call them since I did not have a local mobile connection at the time and there weren’t any payphones around. I spot a guy at the cafe across the street. I walk over, explain my situation and tell him I’d be more than happy to pay him if I could make just one call. He agreed to let me use his phone but refused to take money. 

photo

Lovers in paradise.

This one is very special. While trying to find my way to the Pantheon, I happened to spot two lovebirds on a bike. The girl was seated on the handlebar facing him. This was the kind of thing I’d probably never see back home and being the hopeless romantic that I was, I ran and stopped them at the nearest traffic light, half prepared to add a couple of French swear words to my vocabulary. I pointed to my camera. They seemed more excited than I was.

 

The following incident is what convinced me to write this. On my last day, I’d bought a shuttle ticket to Orly airport for €11. I flashed the ticket to cross the turnstile simultaneously wondering whether I should write about the most common French stereotype. In the process, I didn’t pay attention to the sign board and entered the wrong gate. I exited and tried to get to the other side hoping the ticket would still work. It didn’t. I went back to the Information Desk and spoke to the lady there (she had earlier helped me operate the ticketing kiosk). When I explained how I ended up taking the wrong gate, she laughed and issued a new ticket, which I didn’t have to pay for.

Things could have gone a lot differently, especially in the cases where money (or money’s worth) was involved. But they didn’t. In my personal view, accusing the French of being rude is a massive generalization. Come on, if you had foreigners walk up to you all the time, asking for directions to the Eiffel tower or what not, without making even an attempt to speak the local language, would you still be as polite and patient as you imagine yourself to be? Granted, there’s always going to be a bunch of people around, but hey! Isn’t that true for every place?

What do you guys think? Do let me know in the comments below.

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28 thoughts on “You know how the French are rude, right?

  1. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Yours is very interesting, I’ll follow you and look forward to more of your travel adventures. I did a bit of travelling in my time and loved it. About the prejudice: you nailed it with the way strangers approach people, I guess. If you expect people to speak your language, act as if the world was yours and generally treat people and cultures as if they were barbarians merely worth your attention because they’re scenic, then the answer will be rude. If you make an effort at their language, are polite and show a sense of humour, then in most cases the answer will be friendly and often paired with surprising hospitality. I’ve experienced that many times. 🙂

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  2. Great post. Argghh you are inspiring my wanderlust already. And I love the picture of the couple on the bike it is just too cute. I popped over from Blogging 101 and am here to stay. Four young boys have clipped my wings somewhat so I will have to travel vicariously through your blog.

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  3. This post made me feel much more at ease at returning to Paris as last time I was there I was so nervy talking to the Parisians. Then in Thailand I made wonderful Parisian friends. It is all about peoples approach. And I believe it’s not a cultural characteristic its a stereotype that people need to drop about Parisians. Just like I don’t like to be stereotypes for being a racist Australian! :l Anyway great read! Thanks for following our blog. Looking forward to sharing our travels with you and now I look forward to following you! 🙂 Take care.

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  4. Thanks for following my blog – and introducing me to yours. I’ll enjoy your adventures vicariously also. Our travel days are a little distant but still so real. Back in a few years once the small folk are up for it.

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  5. Refreshing read; I get sick and tired of travelers, or foreigners (like yours truly) living away from their motherland, who look for what they already know instead of opening their senses to the new cultures. When confronted with the unfamiliar, they tend to resort to insult and undervaluation of the new, as a substitute for the admission of their one-sided view of the world. With that they learn nothing and enjoy little. You surely show here to not belong to this group, and I can see that you’re enjoying yourself in this way. Looking forward to traveling with you through your blog.

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  6. Ahhaha so nice to hear compliments from a foreign! I am from the southern France and I think people in Paris are generally more rude and irritated by tourists than other French but I am glad you had a nice experience. Alos there is this magic trick for foreign if you want a French person to help you: learn just one sentence in French, it could be can you help me or whatever but if you make that effort they will be glad to help you! Personally I find it annoying when a tourist just jump on me yelling in English. Most French people don’t speak such a good english and feel insecure about it, so it’s not arrogance at all 🙂

    Great post anyway!!

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  7. I’m so with you on this. We had marvelous experiences in Paris, accommodating and kind people. I expect it’s how you offer yourself in any culture that makes the difference. And yes, having a few phrases, even misspoken, is huge. Just as it is, quite frankly, in this country.
    I’ll enjoy watching your travels. J.

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  8. Glad you had pleasant experiences. I agree approach is important but have been to Paris 3 times now and in general the “service” people like waiters etc, not general people, are as rude and disinterested as ever. If you are ignored when you sit at a cafe table then can hardly blame the approach. Compare the service level in USA for example. Heading to Barcelona, Berlin and Copenhagen – should be interesting for comparison.

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  9. Haha, great post! After working in two different French companies, I was really expecting the worst based on the title of this post! 🙂 I really like your blog, I’m glad you found mine and commented on it as your comment directed me here! Keep up the good work!

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  11. 🙂 I’ve heard many times that French are arrogant, not rude. ANd then there is a tendency: people are said to be rude in every capital. Capitals usually are big cities, overpopulated sometimes, busy, people are so fed up with misbehaving tourists who came to have fun, got drunk, got lost, got in troubles and do the most idiotic things one can imagine… Well yes, I guess in this case you have all rights to be rude. But if you see that a person is in troubles indeed and just because s/he is in unknown city, I don’t really know a person who wouldn’t help.

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    • In my case, I did get lost. Several times 😛 But I always had a great time getting directions even when the people I approached couldn’t speak English. But yeah, I didn’t cause much trouble and it worked out in my favor 😀

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  12. I’m so happy to hear about your experience! I was in Paris with friends a few years ago and we didn’t do much interacting with locals. At one point one of the girls was looking for a hair straightener and everyone was trying to help us. Unfortunately “hair straightener” was not on our list of basic phrases, so the language barrier was an interesting challenge!

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