I would love to go to France, my husbands co-workers say the french do not like americans are rude to them. Is there any truth to this or is that just a false sterotype?
I have been to France/Paris several times lately and have never been treated rudely. I spent a month starting in Paris and going down thru the south of France and never had a problem. However, I try to travel like I am a local rather than an "Ugly American" as some of us are accused of being.
I have had occasions where the service in Paris was slow but I have not taken that as a reflection on me but more as a laid back culture. Smile, be polite, try some basic French and you will be fine. You certainly should go to Paris.
No, rude to everyone! Seriously, not rude if you take a few minutes to understand some of the cultural differences.
The French are not rude. Are Germans rude? Are Italians rude? This exact thread comes around about every 3 months. Let's target another country for a change. It's just as ridiculous.
Thanks for all your input. I think there is the possibility of people being rude to you anywhere you go, but dont believe any country as a whole could all be rude to people from another country. But being as I had heard stories from people who had been there and had negative experiences, i wanted to show them there is plenty of people who had been there with good experiences. thanks again!
French folks are by nature very friendly. This has been my universal experience without exception from the broad avenues of Paris to the narrow streets of small villages. I have no idea how the myth of rude French got started. Maybe by rude foreigners who got back what they delivered?
Rachel, I'd be interested to know whether your husband's co-workers arrived at this conclusion by "hearsay" or from personal experience? I've never had any problems with the French being "rude", and have found them to be wonderful hosts. However, when traveling to France it's important to have some understanding of the culture as there are some "differences". For those that don't make the effort to do a bit of homework, it's certainly possible they might perceive "rudeness" when none was intended. I've observed the French being somewhat brusque with each other, so they're certainly not discriminating against Americans (or other travellers). One thing to keep in mind about the French and their culture, "it is what it is". If you make an effort to use the language and are flexible, I'm sure you'd have a wonderful time in France. If you'd prefer a more "gentle" introduction to the country and culture, you might consider one of the RS France tours (click the "Tours" tab at the top of this page). Happy travels!
Part of the problem is visitors do not take into account the cultural differences when they travel. Always say Bonjour, Madame and Au Revoir Madame. Expect your restaurant meal to take much longer in Europe, especially France. They savor their meals and no one rushes through them. The French are more reserved, are quieter, and do not become your BFF in an hour. Remember to say, "Do you speak English?" in English or French "Parlais vous Anglais?" before you start talking in English. Learn Hello (usually different for morning, afternoon and night), please, thank you, and a few more phrases in the language of the countries you are visiting. This will get you a long way, in any country. You can start your conversation by saying "Bitte, I need another fork" for instance with the first word Please in German. If you think about it, without using the word please, any request sounds like a command. RS books will explain some of the cultural nuances and manner that you must be informed of. Every resident respects a visitor who takes the time to learn about their country. Don't forget to learn the manners in the country so you don't offend others unnecessarily. France, no elbows on the table, etc. Just a couple of other thoughts. Have any of your husband's co workers gone to France? What is your take on whether they would act like Ugly Americans if they visit? Would they insist on their salad at the beginning of their meal or be OK if it is served after the main dish? Would they talk loudly about how things aren't this way in the US, when many Europeans, especially in large cities, speak English? I lived in France for 9 months as a student and have been back 10 times and only once has someone, other young students, been rude. And I knew it because I understand French! Have I gone overboard here? Bobbie
Rachel, You might enjoy watching This Short Video with Rick in Paris. Hopefully it will provide a positive impression. The Guide in the video with Rick is outstanding, and he provides a very entertaining tour! Cheers!
About 6 years ago we went to Paris for the first time (for 3 days). We were totally unprepared - knew no French, didn't understand cultural differences. I didn't feel it was the best experience; however, we were determined to try again and went back in August. By this time, my husband knew a bit of basic French. Our experience was wonderful. We both felt the French people went out of their way to treat us nicely - they were very friendly and helpful. What a great experience this was.
My experience has been that no matter where you are in the world, rude tourists always seem to encounter rude customer service people. Funny how that happens. The French aren't any ruder than the Germans. We met only friendly, helpful people in Paris and in Bayeux.
if you act like an "ugly american" you will find rude Frenchmen. if you treat people politely and with resspect 99% will treat you the same way.
Thanks everybody, you are all awesome! Im sorry to bring up a question that comes around every 3 months! I'm new to the boards so didnt realize! For those who asked about my husbands coworkers, i dug a little deeper and it turns out it was only one of them, he was in the airport in France and said excuse me to someone in his way and he said he was spit at. It is possible this wasnt someone french, its also possible he was being rude in the way he said exciuse me. But I am not going to let one person's bad experience with one other person in an airport keep me from going.
My ancestors were from france and I have long wanted to go, just wanted my husband to hear lots of positive stories and all of you have done that for me. He feels pretty bad for falling for this bad sterotype of the french based on what his coworker said. Thanks again!
You've heard lots of positive experiences so far, and I'll add mine. We had a wonderful time in France, and Paris especially. I found the folks to be kind and helpful, but not overly gushy. I think that is one of the cultural differences that may be misinterpreted as rudeness. They are matter-a-fact and if you approach respectfully and humbly with your "best" French, you will almost always find a responsive French person on the other end. Start conversations with a Bonjour and a Parlez-vous Anglais?
Have a great time!
In France you won't find fakes smiles from people. When I talk to the French who come over here they can't get over how toothy everyone is and fake with their smiles and pleasantries. When I moved back after living in France it surprised me as well. Funny, isn't it? If you treat them with kindness, you'll get the same in return. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
"Bobbie" sums it up very nicely. Learning a bit of the language for introductions will go a long way. It hit me after a day there why Parisians live the life style they do, and I enjoyed it. When I first moved to NYC after living in a far smaller city, it took some assimilation and local living to also understand that pace. In a trip to California I found that the weather, natural beauty and the Pacific Coast Hwy contributed to my understanding what being laid back and mellow in California is all about. Enjoy the differences and bring those things which you enjoy back home with you. Splurge for higher quality, not quanity in food and drink and sloooooow down your life to enjoy it. I read about how European visitors to the USA love big buffet breakfasts when they come here. Go figure.
Let's say there are two grandmothers. The first grandmother (we'll call her Italy) is easy-going. She gets on the floor and plays with the kids. There are kids toys all over the place when you arrive. Her home is a decorated eclectically, but is really cozy. She wants to be called gabby, or whatever name the kids can manage. She has a big dog that runs around shedding and slobbering on everyone and everything. There are lots of hugs. The other grandmother (France) is a bit formal. She has beautiful furniture, but the kids aren't allowed to sit on any of it. She insists on being called Grandmother. She loves her grandchildren very much, but treats them more like little adults. If you want the kids to have toys while there, you will have to bring them. Her dog is always groomed and is well-trained and would never jump up on any visitor. She is very concerned with manors and politeness. They are both good grandmothers, but you have different expectations when you visit them.
Well, I vote for the grandmother who is concerned with manors. The kids might even inherit one.
Michael, that is a great analogy!
The other oft-repeated myth is that somebody knows someone who has a cousin whose friend's neighbor was spat on while in France simply because the neighbor was American. Sorry, but I've never bought that one. If one expects to find rude people in France, that's what they'll find, just like those expecting New Yorkers to be the coldest and most indifferently rude people in the U.S. will find that there.
I would have to say it is false. I have had very good experiences in France. Approach others in the same manner that you would want others to approach you. Learn a few French words and phrases; even a simple "Bonjour" or "Merci" is appreciated. If you do use English, pronounce each word and avoid contractions and slangs. Hope this helps.
I have to agree with all the other posters. I have been to Paris 3 times, as well as Normandy, the Loire valley and Alsace-Lorraine. I have never encountered any rudeness and even have lovely stories of helpful store owners, hotel personnel and just people in the streets of Paris who have gone out of the way to help us. Don't be afraid of the French. The country is wonderful and so full of history and art. Just be considerate, polite and try to learn a few basic phrases and you will be fine. It would be a shame not to experience this wonderful country.
They should be (cheese eating surrender monkeys, freedom fries) but aren't.
I doubt any spit was spat. We only speak cereal box French and got along famously. The French haven't forgotten your help in liberating them in WWII, even if they don't show it. If you take an interest in their culture they will respond in kind.
Rachel, "he was in the airport in France and said excuse me to someone in his way and he said he was spit at." Based on the fact that your husband's colleague said only "Excuse Me", I'm wondering how the other person came to the conclusion that he was American? A Canadian or other English-speaker could have very well been on the receiving end as well. I suspect there's "more to the story"??? @ Michael 1, Great analogy and very appropriate! The French do tend to be more "formal", which was demonstrated in the video link that I posted earlier. As Arnaud explained to Rick, there's no point in ordering coffee with your meal, as you likely won't get it. The "formal protocol" is that coffee is served after the meal.
I'll add my two cents since there IS a perception, falsely, that the French are rude. If anything, they probably often find Americans rude and put up with us anyway! The French are far more formal, like the grandmother analogy. So it is imperetive to greet someone before launching into a question or request. And they are proud of their language and culture, so know a few basic French words instead of going off in English. How would you like it if someone just started speaking Spanish to you? Given the zenophobia rampant in the US right now, I'd guess a large majority would be quite offended. So know bonjour, bonsoiree or bonsoir and use it before saying anything else. Pardon moi works too. And know "parlais Anglais?" Use that next and almost everyone will answer in English or be helpful if their English isn't good. And know that many French are embaressed by their English, even though they may speak it very well. Parisians are not as friendly as those in the rest of France, but they will 99% of the time be polite if you are polite (in their cultural perspective) to them.
Last fall's thread on this topic was 4 pages long. http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm?fuseaction=readtopic&topicID=55209&page=1 By the way, Rachel, with a passport, you can still go to France even if they are rude. If rudeness were a reason to hide out at home, most of us would never attend high school or drive. And once you're there, you can research the issue yourself.
My 2¢. When a waitress comes to my table 5 times in 15 minutes. When a cashier asks me "How are you?" even though they won't remember me or actually care I wish I were in Paris.
@Mike... love it... everytime a waiter crouches down at the table and starts trying to be my new best friend...I also long for France... I barely have time in my life for my real friends, and do not want to be talking to some waiter! I was afraid to travel to Paris the first time simply because of those riduclious sterotypes. I even wrote in my journal that I was 'ready to face the French'...after that first trip I realized how foolish the statement was that a whole country of people are all the same and they all hate us! I have so many stories now from numerous trips to France where some of the people went way beyond the ordinary to help an American traveler!
You will realize how narrow minded and fearful many people are without any basis in reality, and you will enjoy a beautiful country with an incredible pride in their food, their art and their culture. Formal yes, but so wonderful!
Thanks Terry Kathryn, I also can't stand it when people talk to the cashier while others are waiting in line behnid them. I kind of enjoy this unseen barrier that French service people put up. I feel like that they're there to wait on me not be my therapist.
And here's my duex centime. While in Bayeux to see the WW II battle sites I needed to do laundry. I got directions from the hotel and made my way there, now if you've ever done laundry in France and other parts of Europe are similar the machines are a bit different. Luckily for me a local family was there, they could see the confusion on my face and guided me through the procedures to get it done. They couldn't have been nicer though we couldn't talk to each other because of the language barrier. A simple smile to each other went a long way, I was able to say merci though.
And last summer when I walked the Camino de Santiago through Spain I met a French girl who was one of my favorite people I met along the Way. Whenever we saw each other or walked together her personality and smile got me through the day.
Hi Rachel, my family of 6 spent 1 week in the cote d'or and another in Paris. We tried hard to use our French , be polite and ask for help/corrections. The whole time we only met 1 rude old guy and he was a tourist in a hotel just like us. Remember to always say Bonjour Madame (Monsieur) upon entering a store and make eye contact. Upon leaving say Merci, Au revoir. They are quieter than Americans are, especially in public situations and don't walk around grinning at you for no reason. Sometimes we think that's being rude. Don't hesitate to go! There are plenty of travel books to give you a heads up so you'll understand the culture.
The French just have a different sensibility than Americans do when it comes to social relations. They are more formal and are offended by overly easy offers of "friendship." I have been very well treated by French strangers at times of great personal need while traveling as a woman alone. And with regard to "grinning," French people think that walking down the street with an idiotic grin on your face and saying hello to people you don't know are signs of senility! Vive la difference!
False stereotypes, in my humble opinion! I've been to France twice and never had any trouble w/ the locals (in either Paris or anywhere else in France). I think a simple rule of thumb is that if you are polite, make an effort to learn a few basic, easy words/phrases ("please," Thank you," "Do you speak english,?" etc.) and don't assume that locals will always speak English, they'll be polite in return. I speak no French (aside from a few basic words & expressions) and never had any problems. It's also about adapting to local customs/the local culture. For example (and please pardon any misspellings here), the French will always add "Madame," "Monsieur," or "Madamoiselle," to the end of basic greetings/expressions, such as "Bon jour, Madame, " Bon sois, Madamoiselle," or "Merci, Monsieur," so if you do the same, they'll appreciate the effort. If you really want to go to that truly beautiful country, don't let the opinions of those (who probably have not been there!) influence a decision NOT to go. You will not be disappointed in all France has to offer.
spent 3 weeks in France and never made a single rude frenchperson. I make an effort at the language, try to say please and thank you in every sentence, and use monsieur/madame/madamoiselle as often as I can. Even the waiters (the most villified) were extremely patient and kind. My advice is to take your friends' words with some caution and head to France to prove them wrong. It is Paris, afterall, and everyone should experience it.
Thank you all!! It probably wont be till next summer when we go, but I hope to keep you all updated on how it went. Thank you for all the great advice!
There's a bit of truth to that but only because the people you are likely to encounter in your travels are mainly service professionals. Hotel staff, servers, taxi drivers, ticket takers at sites, etc. These people are probably less educated, perhaps have rarely traveled outside France, have little money to travel, and only see Americans at our most vulnerable. I doubt any of them have been to your American city! Tourists tend to be stressed or frustrated around these types of locals so perhaps these service professionals only see us like this. Hopefully we will seldom come across the more educated French people, doctors, lawyers, government officials, etc. My husband's cousin is a Parisien (sp?) and that is how he explained this exact question I had.
I for one can say I worked summers for my uncles home improvement business in a lake community in northern Indiana. Dominated by Chicago weekend visitors. Some were rude most were not not. Most were anxious to share their weekend project plans. All paid their bills and thus my check.
My point, you do not have to go far to have the impression certain people are rude. As you travel France or any country learn some basic phrases and smile a lot. You will likely get a smile in return from a person who knows where the money for his pay check is coming from.
Much has been written about the French formality, and the need to properly greet them. And much has been written about how informal Americans are. Has anyone considered that the "Hi, How are you today?" greeting is just as important as "Bonjour, Madame."? I do not want my waiter to sit at my table and be my friend, either. But as someone who works in retail, I cannot tell you how many people respond to my How-are-you with no eye contact, and a "yeah, gimme..." It is irritating and sets the transaction off to a bad start. If instead a reciprocal, "fine, and you?" is said, everyone feels happy and polite. Maybe I'll start off with a loud, "Bonjour, Monsieur!" At least they'll be startled and LOOK at me! Bottom line, anywhere, be rude and it comes right back at you.
Quote from AP - "Hotel staff, servers, taxi drivers, ticket takers at sites, etc. These people are probably less educated, perhaps have rarely traveled outside France, have little money to travel, and only see Americans at our most vulnerable. I doubt any of them have been to your American city! " I think this is entirely false. Many taxi drivers are in university and like having a job like this so they can study. Not sure about training in France, but in Germany, just being a front desk clerk is a 3 year training, and you need to speak at least 2 languages. I have met plenty of wait staff who speak multiple languages as well as being well educated, and the same with taxi drivers. A lot of immigrants who come here find that their degrees they have from their home countries are not accepted, so, they work in restaurants, driving taxis, etc. I think you would be surprised how many service craft earn enough money to come to the US, as well as travel all over Europe. Face it, in an hour or more you can be in another country. It is common for kids here to travel to other countries while in school. It is better not to make generalizations about a country nor its' people like this.
Jo is right. Being a waiter is France is a deeply respected and protected institution.
Karen, the"Hi" part is ok, the "how are you today" is none of your business and intrusive. I don't do retail for pleasure, I'm there to purchase what I came for and to leave. The " can I help you" usually has them reading the same packaging material as you are. If I want a cheese burger I"ll ask for one(do you want cheese on that?) And for the waiter that squats at the table side, an 80 year old couple and I recently tried everything to make one go a away, we had to call the manager. Polite is over rated in retail and product knowledge is under rated. If North American retailers paid their workers a decent wage, maybe they would take a intreats in learning about what they sell.
When I was a Parisian working mother, with a toddler in daycare and three hours of metro RER commuting a day, I'd get into a tiff with someone everyday--in the metro, at a service counter, ticket booth, waiting in a mob scene at the post office, etc. Since we moved back to the States thirty years ago and I've been going yearly as a visitor, I've had no tiffs. Instead I laugh a lot and have friendly or respectful interaction with everyone. Surprise, it wasn't the Parisians who were rude, it had been ME!
Nonsense. The French are just like people anywhere and will respond in kind to whatever attitude is shown toward them. Try smiling and saying "bonjour". It goes a long way.
What we perceive as rude is perhaps a cultural thing...my French teacher is always saying, "but of course" when we ask a question which we translate as saying, "yes, stupid!" but I believe what she is saying is just "yes" or "sure"...I chuckle every time she responds that way!
So then we also have the question, " Are the Americans rude to the French?...............!!!!!
"So then we also have the question, " Are the Americans rude to the French?" Everyone is different. Every nation is different. When one visits someone's house OR a foreign country it would be very arrogant to expect everyone there to fall into step with you and your ways of doing things. There are things that one does or does NOT do here in France, just as there are "taboos" in the US or anywhere else. Keeping a low profile in a new place until you get into the "swing" is always a good bet. Every nationality that visits our hotel has it's own little "trademarks". Americans are no different. BUT Americans, as a whole, are no more rude than anyone else. What we do find however is that there are two words that keep popping up with tedious regularity ...... "Roger, WE NEED ........". :-) Roger
My husband and I have been to Paris and driven thru France from North to South. Nothing but a wonderful experience. The French people were great. It's a beauitful country. Well work a visit. Funnily enough, my husband some years ago felt like your co-workers
and did not want to visit France. I told him visit once and if you don't like it, you need not return. After being there one time, not only did my husband want to return, but he learned some french. Now he raves about it. Have fun
This is one of those questions that is asked all the time about the French. Look at it this way, if I was to spend a week visiting Rio Rancho which has a population of about 80,000, is it possible in those 7 days that I may run into 1 service person who is tired or harried or just having a generally lousy day and comes across as abrupt or rude? Now is it fair for me to come back and announce "All the residents of Rio Rancho are totally rude and they do not like people from Boston!" just because 1 person was a bit of an A-hole? Your husband's co-worker is just perpetuating a stereotype, and I've heard about the "airport spitting incident" more than once on this board. Why the alleged spitting always seems to take place at the airport is beyond me... it would be way more believable if it happened in a restaurant (but only because I used to work in a coffeehouse so I've seen some pretty pissed off baristas add their special ingredient to more than one latte and espresso - and they weren't French!).
They find us rude, too, sometimes. It all has to do with unspoken expectations. Strongly recommend you read "Talk to the Snail" by Stephen Clarke (very tongue-in-cheek, but still wise) and/or "Savoir Flair" by Polly Platt (very practical). These books explain the cultural differences between the French and us Anglos. Once you understand their expectations and thought processes compared to ours, it's smooth sailing.
Ken brought it up,, and it would be nice to see an answer,, how do the french know what nationality a person is,, I mean Canadians look the same as you, wear the same clothes etc,, and Australians , Brits , and New Zealanders all speak english too,, so why if a person is rude to an American,, they always ASSUME its because they are American,, and not just because the person being rude was either just a jerk to everyone, or having a particularily bad day. I definately think some Americans go with a bit of a chip on their shoulders... it never helps .
Hasn't anyone ever been rude to you in your own country,, one of your fellow citizens, of course they have,, people are people everywhere.
Rather, Americans are rude to the French (with, as posted above, a lack of respect for THEIR customes).
Karen, the problem comes when 'Hi, and how are you today?' is said in a breezy I don't really care what the answer is because I say the same thing to everyone, kind of a voice. On the day that my mother died I had no choice but to go to the supermarket to get food in for my father. I found it difficult to answer, 'I'm good thank you and how are you?' It was the worst day of my life so far and I felt pressurised into responding in a way that the enquirer would be satisfied with. We can't all be happy confident people all of the time. It's probably why we Brits tend just to talk about the weather! 'Bit nippy today' never offended anyone. On the topic of asking in the language of the country one is in whether or not they speak English before asking a question I would agree is the best advice yet. It is so simple to do. An American woman in the queue behind me at breakfast in a German hotel asked in English and with no preamble, 'Is that yogurt or cream?' I found the expectation that I would understand her rude. 'Sprechen Sie Deutsch?' before her question would have made all the difference. She could even have said, 'Excuse me, do you speak English?' The majority of people probably do speak or understand rudimentary English, it's the expectation that is unacceptable. And it is not only the Americans who have this expectation, the British are as bad.
Shoni, my point is that it is a greeting, just like bonjour. I'm sure not everyone saying bonjour really means Good Day. And actually replying honestly may even lead to a warm reply and concern. Or not. But we are all human, social animals, and we need that human connection in some form. Some of us should stop muttering under our breath about how informal/too formal or friendly/rude a person is, and just look that other person in the eye.
The french are rude sometimes, and if they are they most likely have good reason for that. Many good comments on this page: the grandmother analogy, the absence of fake smiles, the history of being allies in the 2 world wars etc. They have so much history and cultural treasures right from stone age to the 21st century. A fact that the french are well aware of and justifiably very proud of. So if you encounter rudeness the reason most likely is some misunderstanding due to the language barrier. If that can be ruled out you should think again of what you did - because the rudeness can be just a honest reaction to something you did. If that's not the case then someone just has a bad day (to that the french are entitled too) - forgive, forget and move on.
France is a fantastic country with friendly and honest people. Enjoy your trip and never worry, just use some common sense!
I have been all over Europe many times, including France, since 1951. I have twice encountered rude French over a 60 year period. That's a pretty good average and at least as good as you are likely to find for any country, INCLUDING the USA.
I don't mean to be rude.... but I think the Brits are rude.
Beautiful wedding today, but how rude is it to make us look at some of those riduclious head ornaments they call hats???? Sorry to be so judgmental. I did go to Carnivale and wear a mask, so who am I to talk???
The first time I saw this thread title, I thought it said "Are The French Nude to Americans" to which I remembered our day at the beach and and thought YES, ABSOLUTELY!
I'm just glad to find that I'm not the only one who finds "How are you?" an awkward way to greet people.
Just back from 10 days in Paris and Normandy. The French folks we encountered were friendly, helpful and treated us wonderfully. I would not hesitate to travel there. You will love the people.
Frankly, if I wanted to see France I wouldn't care if they were rude to me or not...;-) It would take a lot more than that to keep me away; how many people go to their hateful sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving every year?!?
BTW, they don't "hate Americans".
I've never understood all the angst about the French being rude to Americans. I encounter at least one rude American every day of my life in my hometown, more than that if I include experiences in traffic, so we all should be used to a daily does of rudeness. What's the big deal if someone IS rud to you in Paris or France. You deal with it here, you'll deal with it there.......who cares....you're in Paris!!!!!!!!
We were terrified of New Yorkers before we visited there. We saw an airport employee completely bite the head off of the guy in line in front of us, and thought everything we heard was true. When we got to the counter, all she said was "can you believe the nerve of that guy?", and was nice as pie to us. Here in the South, we're nice to everyone's faces, but be careful when you turn your back to someone. In New York, they're not rude, just honest. That being said, just be aware of cultural differences. Say bonjour and au revoir, even when just entering and exiting a store. Be aware that store employees won't stop a conversation to help you, they'll finish what they're saying to their coworker before helping you. And you have to ask your waiter for the bill. That's just how they do things over there. No better or worse, just different.
I felt I had to add yet another 2 cents to this thread. I was in Macon, France (smaller town slightly north of Lyon) and had a bit of a hard spill on a bike near a vineyard. The woman running the shop for the vineyard couldn't have been nicer to my friends and I, and we only knew basic French. She gave me a glass of water and some bandages and called a cab for me to ride back to my friend's home. The cab driver was just as nice, offering to take me to the hospital! I definitely echo the sentiment that knowing a bit of the language goes a LONG way. Honestly, most French know a bit of English, and if you're willing to try to speak their language, they'll try and use whatever bits of English they know to help communication.
Well, I'm late to the party as usual. But here is my take on "How are you?" as a greeting. I have to agree with some other posters. IMO it is a weird and intrusive way to greet a person. When I was in my early 20's (last year ;-)) I worked for a large grocery chain in the liquor department. How appropriate huh? Anyway, a man came in with his son, both dressed in suits. The other cashier asked "How are you? His reply was "I just came from my wife's funeral." I never asked a customer that question again despite it being company policy. From then on it was "hello" or "what can I do for you?"
"How are you?" is not a universal greeting in the US. I grew up in Philadelphia (no, we really don't greet each other with "Yo"), but went to university in the Midwest. It took me about two months to realize that people really didn't want to know about my current state of being. I still find it an odd greeting to this day... but not nearly as odd as the "Grüß Gott" they use in Bavaria...
I doubt that many people would understand why I, like Tom and Mike, have a problem with the greeting 'and how are you?' Unless it is asked by a good friend who really wants to know how I am, then it is totally meaningless. The casual 'greeter' does not really want to know how I am feeling and nor would I always want to tell them what could be personal (if I am expected to answer honestly which I doubt). The question is just a habit often used by people with a lack of imagination when they meet someone. It is intrusive, and the answer 'I'm fine' is more often than not also meaningless. There are many other ways of addressing a stranger, which vary depending on the situation. I am probably in a minority here but the question always makes me cringe.
Shoni's example is a prime example of why understanding cultural norms is so important ... otherwise one may think someone is rude when they are simply following cultural norms. In the U.S. "How are you?" is simply a greeting and the polite answer is always "fine, thank you". It is just a greeting and the greeter does not expect to hear how the person really is. If people who visit the U.S. don't understand this, then they may think Americans are rude and intrusive when in fact, this is just a cultural norm. They don't have to like the practice, but it is what it is. I recall my German teacher explaining how perplexed she was when she first came to the States. People would say, "How are you?" and she would start to give a long detailed answer and the other person would be walking away.
"..In the U.S. "How are you?" is simply a greeting and the polite answer is always "fine, thank you..." It's not a greeting in all parts of the US: http://tinyurl.com/cnp6v6
((http://tinyurl.com/cnp6v6)) We Southerners sure are nice! Thanks for asking! The 'how are you?' 'fork' reminds me of the post several months ago from someone who (if I remember this correctly enough) arrived in London and wasn't feeling all that great - tired, too. Everywhere she went she was asked 'are you OK?'. After the 5th time she was really starting to wonder just how badly she looked LOL! She must be looking at least as badly as she was feeling! She finally asked the last sales clerk who asked her if she 'was ok' if she really looked that badly! Turns out, the salespeople, etc., were just asking if she needed any assistance! Just being polite...nearly ruined that traveler's day! Most non-French find the habit of shaking everybody's hand to say hello, then again 30 seconds later to say good-bye, a bit 'excessive', but it's what you do... there. Rachel, let us know when you've bought your airline tickets ;-)
I agree with Laura. It is a greeting here in California. And that's all it is, a greeting. I much prefer it to no greeting at all from service workers which happens all too often.
Thanks for the link Michael, very funny and appropriate to this conversation. We all know to steer clear of that person who actually tells you how they are doing.
You should learn their customs, and at the very least how to properly greet when approaching the French. If you show what they consider proper manners and refrain from being a demanding person (Americans are thought of as being demanding, and we are for the most part, and a little spoiled), then things should be just fine. Don't mistake someone's aloofness for being rude. They are more subdued for the most part and are not always as outgoing as Americans initially.
I have been to France several times, including Paris and have found the French to be very gracious, in general. Like everyone else people in France can have a bad day and may not be as "friendly" as folks back home. I love France so I have learned a bit of French over the years and a phrase I use to preface a request is: Je parle francais comme une vache espaniol, mai j'ai une grande problem......I speak French like a Spanish cow, but I have a big problem. This always results in a laugh and offers of assistance from everyone within earshot! Humor goet a long way in most cultures!
I love that Saundra! I will definitely have to learn that phrase!!
I am currently in France....and have met people who are helpful, courteous and extremely friendly. Some examples: Eyeglasses fell apart while in Niort, a shop there put them back together...no charge. Arrived in a town after the busses stopped running....lady running a vegetable stand in the train station called a taxi and said she would wait for the taxi to get us before the left. Got lost in Aix en Provence, asked a young man for directions, he said follow me, hopped in his car and led us to where we wanted to go. Teacher in a secondary school heard us in a local cafe and came over, said she usually ate lunch there and if there were any questions or problems, she would try to help.
Can't stress how helpful, friendly and welcoming the people have been here. And like others have said, learn some phrases, be patient, and you will be fine.
No matter where you are in the world, I think a good thing to remember is that, in general, "you get what you give." If you are polite, humble, patient, respectful, and make an effort to understand the language and culture, I highly doubt you will experience much rudeness. I was in Paris in November, and didn't feel like waiters/sales people treated me any different than I would have been treated in NYC, despite the fact that I speak about 2 words of French Bonjour and Merci. When I was in Normandy in March, I encountered many people who were amazingly friendly. English speaking French wanted to know all about our vacation and where we were from. The people we encountered who didn't speak a word of English had no problem resorting to gesturing or miming to get their point across. I don't understand why, but there are a lot of people who really cling to the 'French hate Americans' stereotype. I suppose everyone's experiences are different, but don't let someone else's stop you from having your own!
In case it has not been said enough, a humble request will get a very gracious responce. If you have your spine up, you will not be disappointed, they will treat you like you deserve. With your jusband's attitude, I would avoid France. Else it becomes the self fullfilling prophecy. My first trip, I got off the train, walked in the lobby of a hotel as a conspicuous American. I asked if a room was avilable. He just stared at me. I attempted a "Se vous plais, a chambers?" The guy laughed at my brutal attempt and gave me a suite with a balcony, 100 sq ft bathroom, for 49E's. It was night & day with the most fuoltile attempt, but a genuine effort. Many many Americans do not feel this effort should be required, hence the perpetuation.
Please let this post be done
Short answer: NO. Do not avoid France because of stereotypes! People are people, all over the world. Some are cranky, and snap at you. Some are all sweetness and will go out of their way to help you. In big cities everywhere, being a clueless "American bumpkin" is likely to get you rude treatment in return, and not just in France. Learn "bonjour" and "au revoir" and "pardonnez moi, mai, je cherche...." and so on. Practice smiling while you speak. Then go to France! My husband and I go twice a year, almost every year, and have had no more rude behavior directed at us in Paris (or elsehwere in France) than anywhere else we have traveled. I imagine the "French people are rude" myth sprang up a number of decades ago, when Americans first started travelling in greater numbers to Europe, and did not yet know how not to be bumbling and clueless. We know better now. Go to France! Don't deprive yourself! I love it love it love it there!!!!!
The great psychologist Carl Jung explained it this way. He said the French as a culture have a very highly differentiated emotional aspect and understanding to their personalities so that they do not take offense at people who are "short" or abrupt with them. They have a well-developed emotional understanding amongst themselves, unlike the Germans (according to Jung) "who want to be loved every time you sell them a pair of sock suspenders." Anyway, that's Jung's explanation. I love Paris and France in general and have never had a problem as long as I spoke a few amenities to people and minded my manners. The French can take offense at people who try to be overly familiar too soon.
I've never been to France, but my experience in travel and in life is that rude people are treated rudely. I imagine the same is true in Paris. :)
One more vote that your husband's co-workers are off-base and probably have never been there! Best example of this is that my wife and I did a trip to Paris several years ago for eight nights. During which we met a whopping TWO rude people! I challenge ANYONE to go to New York City (or any large city, for that matter!) for eight nights and see if you only come across two rude people! Honestly, in twelve visits to France over the past fifteen years, I could probably count the number of rude people on one hand! One thing that truly helps is if you know a LITTLE bit of French before going. I'm talking about the basics - hello, good-bye, please, thank you, I would like. Even if you butcher it, people will appreciate the effort.
I have never forgotten one morning when I was in a Parisian cafe and an American couple sat down and without any preamble just started speaking English to the waitress, asking complicated questions about the menu as if it was their god-given right to do this. I was angered by their behavior and embarassed to be one of their fellow-Americans. And I completely understood and supported the waitress's irritation and annoyance at being treated in such an arrogant and thoughtless manner.
LOVED the French and found them charming. We had reverse culture shock when we arrived home, seeing how rude we Americans can be in comparison. When we arrived at the airport in Paris on our very first trip to France a years ago, I had practiced saying, Hello, do you speak English, etc. Fresh off the plane, I needed to get directions.......after greeting the airline rep with the appropriate brief greetings in well-practiced French, I my jaw dropped when her response (in plain harsh English) was "WHAT do you WANT?" She was an American Delta rep from New York (not French). Every French person with whom we interfaced after that was so delightful. The only incident of what might be perceived as rudeness (but it wasn't) was in a post office where one of the customers was being completely ignored. Turned out he was French and he jumped to the head of the line, so the post office was ignoring him (since he was rude) and one of the charming French customers explained to us what was happening when we asked. Follow the cultural norms, and you too will love the French.
Two more cents. My wife and I were just there in April and we were treated respectfully everywhere we went (Paris and Dordogne). Just an observation, though. If you were a Frenchman travelling in the US circa 2003, when the United States Congress banished French Fries from the menu in the capitol cafeteria, replacing it with Freedom Fries, you may have encountered more than a few rude Americans.
After spending 4 days in Paris, and 3 days in the vineyards, not once did we encounter a rude person. Quite the opposite. 2 funny observations. 1. It was not crowded at all. Many times we were alone on streets, alone in restaurants, etc. Tourism must be down.
2. The dogs are so well mannered. The pet owner walks along, and the unleashed dog prances along, not tempted to walk ahead or behind. No temptation to greet other people or sniff. The don't run away and stop at the curb without command. EVERY DOG, even puppies! We came home and had a long talk with our dog. Our American dog is very unmannered and probably rude :)
'you may have encountered more than a few rude Americans......' about the french fries. Nope. I was travelling with an idiot couple who insisted I do the translating and ask people about it. Most didn't know about it, and those that did thought it was: a. stupid b. a joke c. could not have cared less I don't look at the english side of a french menu much, or even eat very often in such places, but it sticks in my mind that they're either called just fries or maybe fried tatters - - maybe that's why they missed the insult, such as it was. But, make a note, that may have been the last time that congress got something meaningful done - - such as it was.
We just got back from Paris. The French people were fabulous. Polite and friendly. They blew every deeply buried stereotype (I admit I, too, was worried!) I had out of the water. Several times we were helped out by friendly, willing people. Just smile, be polite and friendly, and that's what you'll get back.
I've had very slow service in Nice but I doubt it was because I was American. Another day and another establishment, all was fine.
The French like Americas and they like American things like out fashion. music, and TV programs. They have a formal manner. You must say hello (bonjour) sir or madam (monsieur/madame). Tell them what you want and include please (s'il vous plait). Follow-up with thank you (merci) and goodbye (au voir). Many speak english but are shy about using it. Having said that; they do things that Americas may find rude. But this is just cultural differences. They mean on offense.
The French are very rude to rude Americans. There are occassional jerks in USA, you can find the same in France. Each time I enter a store, hotel, etc. ( I writing this quickly and spelling BADLY - didn't have the time to look up spelling in my books.) I say "Bonjour Madam (or Monsieur). Parl le vous Anglais?" (Check the Rick Steves phrase book.) No matter how badly you mangle this doors will open, birds will sing, life will be beautiful. And all the time keep a pleasant big a -- smile on your face as we say in Texas. Do NOT be too gushey and friendly. The the French take that overly friendly American habit for stupidity. They are not cold folks. They are polite, reserved, and proper folks. Also - if you can find it - Berlitz put out a book of the 80 essential words to use in about 20 languages. Master about 1/2 to 1/3 of that and you will be a language master compared to 95% of all the Americans.
I am asked this all the time. Was surprised to see this is an old Thread, but oh well, lol The French, after 8 trips to different regions, Which also included Paris on way in or out, have always been pleasant, helpful and friendly. The only unpleasant experience we had was in Gare du Nord area. It's like being in a different part of the world. Pushing, aggressive etc. but I don't class that as being "French." the Africans speak French, but they are culturally different. Americans aren't special. The world doesn't need to stand to attention because we are visiting from America! Once you understand this, everything should be okay. We are guests in other countries. Different rules,
Practices, and expectations. J'adore France. Vive la France.
My wife and I, our 8 year old daughter and teenage niece spent a far-too-short three days in Paris last year before moving on to Barcelona for a Disney cruise. We had no problem interacting with the locals. I got by on 30-year-old High School French. (God Bless You Mrs. Brown, I really was paying attention in class.) When people here say "learn French" I would add the following: If you're staying in Paris or other tourist-heavy areas a few basic phrases should do just fine. You don't need to blow $450 on the Rosetta Stone French course. Ugly Americans neglect the basic courtesies: bonjour, comment allez vous?, etc. Don't fret about not speaking perfect French. You get major brownie points just for trying. Preface your "Do you speak English request with the word 'desole' (day-so-LAY), which means "I'm sorry." It seems to subtly change the dynamic of the conversation so that the person being addressed feels slightly superior, and takes the Pushy Tourist sign off your forehead. I highly recommend the book 'Talk to the Snail', by Stephen Clarke for further insights into the French psyche. This submissive approach is also highly effective when dealing with waiters.
Hello, just returned from four short days in Paris and we had no problem. Everyone from taxi drivers, bus drivers, fellow passengers on the metro, cafe staff, bakery staff....all were absolutely wonderful. I stopped in a local butcher to buy a roasted chicken, and we had a nice conversation based on my limited French, his limited English, hand gestures and nods. And the chicken was delicious. I know this is an old post, but the topic is always a concern to Americans and really shouldn't be. There are rude people in France, to be sure; but there are also rude people in Chicago. Don't let one incident or story scare you away.
I'm on my way to Paris this morning. The "rudeness" factor is the farthest thing in my mind. In fact, I can't wait for French-style service and class. Give me a French restaurant server over an American any day!
Alexander have a wonderful visit, if you go looking for the good you will likely find it, some go with such negative ideas and attitudes its no wonder they find the same . A poster on the last page said he recievced slow service at a restaurant in Nice ,, but doubted it was "because he was American"as on another day and place had good service".
He had the correct attitude,, sometimes people are just having a bad day,, its not you, or your nationality. Also unless Americans wear their flags as clothing,, not sure how they think that everyone knows they are American? I know they know you are a english speaking tourist, but they generally can't tell Canadians from Americans in my experience,, I have been asked if I am American as I talk and dress identical to Americans from my region( Pacific Northwest). Same with those from Australia or New Zealand,, even brits,, our accents are clear to us, but can YOU tell a french speaking persons country of origin from accent alone,, doubt it unless you are have a good ear( they speak French in Belgium, Quebec and some Caribbean countries.. etc ,, they all sound "french" to me( ok i can if someone is from Quebec!) lol
You are dead wrong Ralph. I think it's you. Not Parisians and not New Yorkers.
I've spent lots of time in Paris and also many other parts of France. I also lived within 10 miles of Times Square for most of a decade. People are people. Never in either place have I noticed rudeness as a rule. Some people, yes. I've noticed that in many other countries but in all it has been on an individual basis. I would wish that people not generalize.
While I've never encountered any rude Parisians, this one man show exploring the stereotype is a huge hit with tourists and locals: http://www.oliviergiraud.com/
Hi Rachel, We just got back from Paris. For the most part the French are welcoming. Add a few common french words to your vocabulary like please, thank you and pardon me. and they will appreciate it. We only had two negative encounters. My daughter and her friend tried to go otu to a club ( they are 22 yrs old). they waited 45 minutes in line and when they got to the front the bouncers would not let them in "No Americans". sad but true. The frnech boys in front of them tried to convince the bouncers that the girls were with them, but no use. Just remember, it is their country and you are a visitor. Just like in America you will meet obnoxious people, but you cannot judge a entire country on a few jerks. Go to France!
Bouncers at clubs all over the US refuse entry to people all the time based on many things, nationality, gender, looks, dress. It's not unique to a club in Paris.
There was a story in the London Metro newspaper today about a group of British troops in uniform who were denied entrance to a British pub. The Landlord said it was because they were "in fatigues" and therefor he would not allow entry. The troops were looking for refreshment during their practice for taking part in the funeral of a fallen comrade killed in Afghanistan. The troops did not explain the situation to the Landlord, who has said if he had known the circumstances he would have welcomed them. Was the British Landlord rude?
Nigel I don't think the landlord was rude. A group of young men in millitary garb could be rowdy, and perhaps this particular pub owner had issues before with groups like this. I think the fact that they had come from practice for a funeral is absolutely unimportant,, thats just a pity thing,," oh the poor lads" does that mean they most definately would NOT have gotten out of hand,, doubt it, just as likely if not more so.
Claudette, how did bouncers know girls were American,, they could have been Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders, South Africaners, or Brits... ?? Were they loud in line up ? Were they wearing white sneakers and ball caps( joking) ? Maybe they were homely and he just didn't want to let them in? Sorry but that does happen( in many places) ,,, and the American thing could have been an excuse.. However. I am sure there are some French people who do not like Americans,, just like there are Americans who don't like French people,, or black people, or mexicans, or anyone who doesn't fit their ideal of what is right.
There are jerks everywhere in the world.
What's funny is the French people I know hate Parisians and do find them rude, kind of in the same way many Americans dislike New Yorkers and find them rude. That said, with the exception of a few surly waiters, I've found people to be surprisingly nice in Paris.
'French people I know hate Parisians and do find them rude' Exactly what percentage of the French population was surveyed to come up with this gem of pseudo-knowledge? 'the same way many Americans dislike New Yorkers' Exactly what percentage of the American population was surveyed to come up with this gem of psuedo- knowledge?