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How rude are the French?

My husband and I are going on a Rick Steve's tour that starts in Paris (neither of us have been to Europe or Oversees before!). We are flying in two days early and I want to go see a few things that are not included in our tour. (like the Eiffel Tower) I have told a few people that I know have traveled to Paris about our plans and everyone has commented on how rude and not helpful the French are. I am wondering if this is a generalization or is there a way I can prepare in order to have a better experience!
Thank You!

Posted by
249 posts

My wife and I spent a month in France this past summer-in 9 cities including 4 days in Paris-we didn't encounter a single rude French person; it was our second trip, the last trip was just after we invaded Irag-we met no rude locals then either. I worked on my French (Fr I and II 40 years ago) and absolutely loved the reaction. Some days it was all French, some conversations the French person spoke English and I spoke French-and we did well. I'd suggest (1) a few phrases if you don't have time to study more, (2) realizing that lunch or dinner in a French restaurant is your destination event for that timeframe (don't try to squeeze a meal in between two timed events-it's a lot more fun to go at their pace (3) sign up with Paris Greeters for another perspective on Paris life, (4) carry you credit card/cash in a money belt. Relax and have a great time!

Posted by
2349 posts

The Parisians will not be as friendly as they are in Denton, TX. They will not smile at you on the street, or in fact, even look at you or move out of your way. This is not really rudeness, just a cultural difference. The locals are busy and they live in a big city. Most of the people you encounter in stores and at ticket counters, etc, will be polite, if a bit reserved and formal. Try to follow their rules of engagement by saying "Bonjour" before you do or say anything else. Keep a rueful I'm-an-idiot look on your face and they'll be helpful.

Posted by
7877 posts

Whatever people dish out they usually get in return. So you should ignore those types of comments and do as the previous posters said--and just enjoy one of the greatest places in the world. You'll love it.

Posted by
1896 posts

For numerous trips to Paris, only met two very, very rude people . One bakery owner would not serve us anything. That said, we have met some wonderful people who did not speak a word of English and helped us so much with drawing a map, using hand gestures, etc. We met a wonderful woman outside the Metro after our flight and trip on metro. She was wearing a great mink coat and with her guidance, got us to our hotel after she asked numerous shops in area where it was. Just like any place else, you will find rude people.

Posted by
8433 posts

Paris is my favorite city. I have spent 3 weeks there over 3 trips and have not encountered rudeness. That is not to say there are no rude people there. There are rude people everywhere. It helps to understand a bit about their culture. They are very proper and it is good to greet shopkeepers and the like with a 'bonjour Madame, mademoiselle, or Monsieur", and say au revoir (goodbye) when you leave. Also learn please, thank you, excuse me and other polite words in French. Learn how to say 'do you speak English?' in French. Imagine someone approaching you and speaking a language other than English, with the assumption you will understand them. In restaurants do not expect a quick meal. If you want fast, grab a street crepe or something like that. Also, don't expect your server to hover around or be checking back with you to see how things are. You must ask for the check. I also recommend the Paris Greeter program. The program is free, but they do accept donations. Last year I submitted an application online about 4 weeks before my trip. I was matched up with a volunteer who was raised in the Marais area. He spent over 3 hours giving us a private tour. I had been in that area before, but learned so much more with the guide. They are not allowed to accept tips, so we took him out for a drink after the tour. It was a very nice experience. Politeness and accepting that things will be different than you are used to will go a long way. I hope you love Paris as much as I do. Have a great trip!

Posted by
208 posts

My wife and I have made 4 trips to Paris over the past 3 years, spending over a month there overall. During that time, we encountered exactly one Parisienne who was rude to us. She was a clerk in a Paul's bakery, and seemed to be rude to everyone.
All of the other people we interacted with in Paris were just as nice as could be. Maybe it was the fact that we approached them with a smile, and at least attempted to speak their language (although poorly, I must admit). Everyone we dealt with was unfailingly polite.

Posted by
40 posts

...From our week in Paris during September, here's the "rude" we took note of: ** We arrive at a small breakfast deli 10 minutes before opening time; the owner saw us as two hungry Americans. He said ..."wait a second, I will brought a sidewalk table and chair for pleasure." All with a smile and attempted English. We got to go inside before opening and pick out our breakfast items.
** We arrived by city bus at Gare d' Lyon, about midnight. We asked a young Frenchman (age 22 or 23) where to enter that huge station and find the street behind it where the other bus would take us to our hotel. In broken English he said he would guide us thru the station. After several turns thru that cavernous building he deposited us near the correct door alongside two French army anti-terrorist guards with assault rifles, and said "..it is your stop." I watched him backtrack through the building, on his way; it was obvious that his walk with my wife and I was significantly out of his way. A guard walked us out and pointed to our bus; "merci" we replied. That's about all we knew other than "bon jour and aurevoir or something like that. Only rudeness,loudness or slobliness we encountered was exhibited by other Americans. "Do unto others and...

Posted by
11450 posts

Nicole, French people are generally not rude, but tourists can be rude, uncouth and demanding. We do not know their langauge and expect them to know ours,, we do not know their customs and tend to judge their ways as "wrong" and ours as "right". We ask the same dumb questions over and over, and we often are tired and stressy, and once again, if they can't answer us in our language we feel hard done by. I will give you one tip that will make a big difference. Never, ever ask for anything or ask any question, anywhere, ( a tart at the bakery, a metro ticket from the kiosk, a coke from Mcdonalds or coffee from a Starbucks ) without FIRST saying "bonjour madame/monsiuer" . Period. It is considered the height of rudeness to start any interaction without first greeting the person politely. You can then say " je suis desole je ne parlez pas francais" ( I'm sorry I don't speak french") At this point most people will try and help you as best as they can with their sometimes limited english. Once in awhile you may get a burnt out waiter, or whatever, try and be understanding and not too judgmental of a whole people based on one guy having a bad day, I don't think all Americans are pyscho murderers because I saw one on tv, right? Finally yes, the bill it not brought to the table until you ask for it, they consider it a bit rude to "push" people, an exception is sometimes a a busy cafe they may bring your drink bill with your drink . Remember tips are different there too, just leave a bit of change, like less then a euro for a couple of drinks, maybe 3-5 euros for a nice sit down average price dinner.

Posted by
11450 posts

PS your question was rudely posted, "how rude are the french",, hmm, might have shown more manners to ask " are the french rude" but there you go, seems like you already made an assumption .

Posted by
31325 posts

Nicole, The others have provided lots of good advice regarding the often quoted stereotype that the French are "rude". I very much disagree with the people you were talking to and the advice they gave you, as I've yet to encounter the type of behaviour you described, either in Paris or elsewhere in France. As the others mentioned, it's important to remember that there are a few cultural differences. You'll receive a French Phrase book with your tour, and it would be a good idea to learn some of the polite words and phrases - Good morning / Bonjour Monsieur/Madame, Thankyou / Merci, Please / S'il vous plait, etc. You'll need to be patient in restaurants and it's not likely the Waiter will ask "how's your meal?". Approaching new situations with a smile and as much French as you can manage should make a big difference. As this is your first trip to Europe and to France, I would highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. It provides a lot of good information on the types of things you'll encounter in Europe. It would be a good idea to do some research on how the Metro system works. If you need further information, post another note,as you'll receive lots of good tips from the well-travelled group here. Be sure to wear your Money Belts, and be sure to read the information regarding scams and pickpockets in ETBD. Which tour are you taking, and when does it take place? Do you know yet who your Guide is? When you arrive in Europe, you'll find that it's a different world in many ways. Your first trip will be an exciting and interesting experience, and it may spark a desire to see more of Europe in future. Happy travels!

Posted by
4671 posts

I can say that I go to France or Belgium at least once a year, more often two or three, and I've only ever had two or three encounters with stereotypical rude French customer service. And one of those was at the SNCF travel centre in London, so maybe he was upset to be in the UK... As various other people have said, the most important thing is that at any kind of business establishment except the very largest department stores or supermarkets, you must always, always greet the staff when you go in. Not doing so and launching straight into your transaction is considered very rude in France, and may well be the provocation for the "bad service" stories.

Posted by
26448 posts

They're not. The question, as phrased, is. The response you get will all reflect what vibes you give out...

Posted by
951 posts

I was there for 4 nights 4 years ago. My attempts to learn French, failed.....I just found it too hard. But I learned my pleasantries. Not only did we never need to speak french, they automatically spoke English to us, before we had a chance to speak. The waiters are very serious about their job and will by no means come back to your table 5 times to ask how your meal is. They know how your meal is. There is no butt kissing in Paris and I wonder if that is why people think of them of being rude. We even stayed at Hotel Champs du Mars, where they are known for being rude to almost everyone.....they were the nicest and most helpful people we met in Paris. Like others have said, their demeanor may be a bit aloof and reserved, but it should not be seen as being rude. I am sure they think American friendliness as not being sincere; fake smile from the server, saying hi to a stranger as you walk by them on a side walk.

Posted by
2349 posts

Pat writes, "It is considered the height of rudeness to start any interaction without first greeting the person politely." On behalf of all retail workers everywhere here in the US and Canada, can I just say that the same thing applies here? When I smile at a customer and say hello, and they pull their cell phone from their ear long enough to say, yeah, I'll have... Well, I don't feel especially warm towards them. And they may walk away thinking friendly customer service just ain't what it used to be. Again, you get back what you give out. (Oops, I realize I may be derailing the thread, and it will now disintegrate into an argument about fake American cheeriness vs authentic European reserve. Carry on.)

Posted by
3159 posts

I do not have anything further to add here that is substantive . All the previous posters have said it all beautifully . I would add one comment however .Throughout my life ( 66 years ) I have heard the " rude ,cold french " canard time and time again . Virtually always I might add from people who had " heard " of it . Having spent five weeks in France last year, my experience thoroughly confirmed what I had always suspected . Even upon returning home , when speaking to my neighbor ( who has never visited France ) he was unwilling to accept that he is incorrect . He still dislikes the French and will only eat " freedom fries " . One does not need an excuse for blind xenophobia !!

Posted by
2876 posts

In my own view the French people are extraordinarily patient and polite, given the fact that their country is inundated by (per the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs) more than 70 million visitors each year, most of whom do not speak French. If 70 million non-English-speaking visitors came to our country each year, I'm not sure they'd be greeted with politeness at every turn (although I'd like to think they would!)

Posted by
2949 posts

Parisians have a reputation even amongst non-Parasian French people for being arrogant, but that's not the same as rude, and it's debatable (in the same way US people have stereotypes about "rude, arrogant" New Yorkers). What American tourists perceive as rudeness often break down to cultural differences: -It is not normal to smile all the time if you work in customer service, are walking down the street, etc. This doesn't just apply to the French but many European cultures. -Customer service transactions are not seen as a socializing event, but just something to be handled efficiently. People will not be chatty with you, ask how your day is, etc. Not rude, just different. -The pace of meals is slower (again, true for most of Europe, not just France) so you my feel like you're being ignored by your waiter, but they're just moving at the typical pace. If you need something, it's NOT considered rude to motion to your waiter or waitress and say "Pardon" to get their attention. Meanwhile, Americans often do things that seem rude to the French (and agian, other Europeans). This includes not greeting them, and walking up to someone speaking English, assuming they can speak it. Learn how to ask "Do you speak english?" before you start talking to someone. If you keep this in mind I don't think you'll walk away thinking Parisians are more rude than anybody else, and you'll probably be pleasantly surprised. We've had nothing but great interactions with people all over France, including Paris.

Posted by
2949 posts

Ralph, the French aren't any ruder than the Germans, just like the Germans it's a cultural difference. You're not going to get to-go boxes in most restaurants in France (or Germany for that matter, unless you're in a very touristy place or an XXL schnitzel place) because taking food home is not part of the culture and see is a faux-pas. Being rude implies some degree of malice. French people aren't out to get tourists, they're just going about their lives in a way that's culturally normative for them.

Posted by
1621 posts

It has been a number of years, but when we spent 2 weeks in France, we met only 2 rude French. One as the cashier at the Eiffel Tower ticket office, the other was a waiter in Villandry. But the 2 rudest people we met on the trip were 2 Canadian ladies staying in our hotel.

Posted by
11275 posts

Nicole: If I said to you, "I hear all Texans are rednecks. Is that true?" you'd probably be very upset, because that really isn't a question; it's an assumption, and a rude one. So, your first step is to put aside assumptions. Second, watch out for "advice" from people who don't know what they're talking about. I actually know of one person who went to France and encountered rudeness. But everyone else I've met who says "everyone knows the French hate Americans" has never been there. Are there rude people in Paris? Sure; it's a city of 3 million people, and at least one of them will be in a bad mood when you visit. Many will be cool, as posted above, but others will be very helpful. If you really want to see rude behavior in Paris, just watch the tourists jostling at the base of the Eiffel Tower. I'd be in a bad mood too if I had to deal with that all day. Do follow all of the above good advice (don't assume everyone speaks English, always say "bonjour madame/monsieur", don't expect smiles and chattiness from service people, etc), and you'll be fine.

Posted by
7877 posts

As I said earlier, what you dish out is what you'll get. Asking for a take out box in a place where food is eaten on the premises is considered rude. If you went to the bar and asked for a bagette sandwich to go, you'd get one in a specialized paper bag or wrapped in a napkin. However, most people would eat even that at the bar. On the other hand, few places have take out boxes or even know what they are, as this grazing in public while wandering is a new concept that's just developing in a country that considers sitting and eating with others, be it family or friends, at regular hours, an important cultural and familial event. A few places are now offering to box things up, but it's still really a new idea. And I agree with Pat about the title of the post.

Posted by
2193 posts

I'll defend New Yorkers. I've been to NYC many, many times, but before my first visit years ago, I was under the impression that New Yorkers could be rude and arrogant (per common urban myth). They were different than folks in Des Moines to be sure, but nothing could have been further from the truth. If you act like a dork in NYC, Toronto, SF, or any big city here, then you might experience what you perceive as rudeness. If you do the same in Berlin, Paris, or London, then you might experience what you perceive as rudeness. You get what you give, and preconceptions can be bad. And tourists anywhere can have a negative stereotype applied to them by locals for a variety of (mostly deserved) reasons. Take that into account. Big cities everywhere are very different from small cities, towns, or other rural places. In Iowa, we're very nice. If you don't believe me, go to You Tube and watch the short Iowa Nice video (really, it's funny and is a must see).

Posted by
1976 posts

I've been to Paris twice in the past 5 years and my two trips couldn't have been more different. On the first trip, my friend and I encountered many unhelpful Parisians, including our own hotel staff. We'd ask them (and people working in stores) where to find clothing stores, drugstores, etc. and all of them would say they didn't know. My friend spoke French well, including the accept, and was polite, and we didn't know why no one would tell us where the closest stores were. My second trip, this past September, was really nice. My sister and I were there for a week. I speak a little French, enough to get by, and we didn't encounter anyone "rude." Parisians are what many Americans might consider brusque, but as others here have said, that's cultural. It was actually a relief for me not to have to play the stupid American customer-service game ("Hi! How are you? What can I help you find? Have a great day!"). And there is a difference between Parisians and the rest of France. My French teacher was from a town called Lorient in Brittany and told us that Parisians look down on French people who aren't from Paris. They think they're backward country people. Since you're already going to Paris, you should try to look forward to it. Learn some basic French phrases (Hello, How are you? Where is the bathroom?) and don't expect everyone to be "rude." Read about the cultural differences between the U.S. and France so if something happens, you'll know not to take it personally.

Posted by
4908 posts

Ditto the other posts re learning phrases, saying bonjour, not expecting everyone to smile at you, etc. The French are more formal and reserved than most Americans, especially when we're on vacation and they're not. The only unpleasant encounter I had with a Parisian was triggered by my own failure to approach someone politely about a problem (luckily my wife is more diplomatic). On the other hand, we'll never forget the bystander who took our picture on the Pont des Arts and then, in 2003 when we were invading Iraq over their objections, anxiously asked us "We're friends, aren't we?" Several people on that trip went out of their way to assure us, in subtle but unmistakeable ways, that the policy differences between our governments didn't reduce their affection for us as Americans. (The fact that we agreed with the French about Iraq probably didn't hurt.) BTW, as an ex-New Yorker, ditto also to the comments about the fine people of that great city. For an interesting take on why New Yorkers seem different from other Americans, see Russell Shorto's "The Island at the Center of the World," about the Dutch influence there. The nicer you are to the Parisians, the more fun you'll have confounding the stereotypes some of them must hold about Texans. Have fun!

Posted by
677 posts

I have told a few people that I know have traveled to Paris about our plans and everyone has commented on how rude and not helpful the French are If that's the reaction of the French to them, then I think you've learned something about your circle of friends... I'll just echo what everyone else has said. Unless you're on fire, the first words out of your mouth to anyone are "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur", and its not a bad idea to throw "please" (s'il vous plaît) onto your requests. It is also polite to offer this greeting when walking into a small shop. Realize France is not America with a different language, they have their own way of doing things. Expecting or insisting they do it the way you are used to back home would, I imagine, not bring out the best in people. And learning a few phrases in French goes a long way; I know maybe 30 words, but a few phrases like "I'd like to buy this" and "we have a reservation" have gone pretty far for me. Imagine the reception in Denton to visitors from Mexico that start every interaction in Spanish and you might get a sense of how some American tourists can come across overseas. When I travel I find that the people at the front desk speak excellent English (although I greet them in the local language when I see them) and are happy to call to do things like make reservations at restaurants.

Posted by
425 posts

In a small French town like the one I live in, anyone NOT issuing a general "bonjour" upon entry to a shop or cafe or office will get a surprised stare from the occupants. It's expected. If you DO quietly say "bonjour" you will melt into the background. The closer you get to a big city, the less noticed you will be, due to the number of other people around you, but this little gesture of politeness will still be appreciated and will ease you into wherever you are. France is quite a civilised place, generally speaking!

Posted by
2525 posts

From personal experiences, Parisians are great and as noted above respond quite favorably to travelers using a few French words and phrases. For what it's worth, if you are first to show the slightest inclination to give way on crowded sidewalks...well, that's a sign of weakness.

Posted by
1821 posts

Never met a Parisian as rude as Ralph, who posted earlier in this thread, and he seems to be from Germany. Luckily, I don't assume everyone in Germany is rude because of him. So rudeness is universal, there are jerks everywhere, It is up to you if you let the few bad apples ruin your experience. (and yes, there are rude people in Atlanta, just try driving here)

Posted by
6372 posts

"For what it's worth, if you are first to show the slightest inclination to give way on crowded sidewalks...well, that's a sign of weakness". How true. I never noticed this traveling around France until I got to Paris. I spent a month there this summer and walked the streets a lot and often ran into groups coming towards me and they didn't move aside at all to let me pass so I had to step around, one time even into the street to get around them. After a couple of times I thought to myself, well that's pretty rude. The next time it happened I just decided I was going to keep on walking and if they didn't move and I walked right into them, oh well, so be it. Amazingly it worked. You don't have to make eye contact, just keep your head up and keep walking. I guess it's not necessarily "rude", just what they are used to. Other than that I found the people all around France and even in Paris, as a rule, were very polite and helpful. I do agree that a few words/phrases of French go a long way toward eliciting that politeness. As for the "bonjour" and "au revoir", it's expected even at street market stalls not just shops. I got so used to it after a month that I even said bonjour to the passport clerk when I got back to the States, he looked at me and I explained it was getting to be a habit, he just laughed.

Posted by
756 posts

As has been said above, the big trick is to learn a few words of French and be big on the Bon jours as well as please and thank you. If you make any kind of an effort they will meet you half way or better. I think it is in Rick's book that I read that they just don't trust strangers who smile a lot, they have been invaded by too many of them. Just wear good walking shoes and take it as it comes, Paris is a beautiful city that I was prepared to dislike and I am looking forward to going back for a third time. Nonetheless it is a big city and all big cities have their ways. A thought on the Eiffel Tower is that if the lines for the elevators are too long, it does not cost much to climb up the stairs to the lower level and the view from there is quite good. Have fun.

Posted by
11450 posts

Carol, Ralph is an American working in Germany.

Posted by
177 posts

You will be fine! That type of prejudice is pretty universal. Some Americans think the French are rude but if you ask French people they sometimes believe that Americans are friendly but have no manners.
Overall, I almost always had a good experience in France. I speak French fluently though and sometimes while speaking English to my wife, I overheard pretty mean things being said behind our backs which I found disappointing. To be honest even when I speak French in France, I try to speak with a neutral French accent because a Swiss or Belgian accent is an invitation to sarcasm and jokes (not rude per se, just tiring). I always found the example of the failure of WalMart in Germany interesting to illustrate the cultural difference with Europe. Shoppers were turned off by WalMart staff hired to greet them at the door and bag their groceries. Germans didn't want strangers handling their groceries. And when clerks followed orders to smile, male customers took it as a come-on.

Posted by
1821 posts

To the Germans, sorry we sent you Ralph to represent us. I assumed he was from Germany based on his location. But I think he proves my point. Rudeness is universal. Even on here. (Sorry Ralph, but your prejudiced statements about the Parisians was rude IMHO, it was not direct as it was not based in fact but on your prejudice LOL! As for telling me to "mind my own business" once you put your fingers on a keyboard and post on a public message board you give up that "privacy" right. Feel free to attack my grammar and spelling. I don't really mind :) ) If you let it get to you, you will react and "ATTACK" people or entire cultures (AKA the Parisians) using prejudice to make your point If you roll with the punches, the "rude" won't' be an issue because you won't fixate on them. And of course if you are polite that always helps. At least some of the "rude" I hear about occurs because the "complainer" was rude. I travel a lot. The "Rude" gate agent at the airport was "rude" after the passenger SCREAMED at him/her because it was all his/her fault that they arrived late and the plane left LOL! See that type of "complaint" all the time. In other words if you abuse folks, don't expect them to like it!

Posted by
11450 posts

Mark, thats funny in that I recall the EuroDisney( outside Paris) had a problem when they first opened outside Pari, teaching the new Disney staff to behave in a Disneyish way, smiling, gushing, "happiest place on earth way" it did not come to them naturally, it was not their culture. They seem to have it down now mind you, but as I said, I recall it was something they had to be taught.

Posted by
177 posts

Pat, you are absolutely right. I have been to Euro Disney and the staff has a tough time with the Disney code of conduct. Smiling is not seen as appropriate in a business context or transaction and can be interpreted as flirtatious.

Posted by
11450 posts

Yes , but Ralph that seems to apply to you,, "freedom speach does not protect...." You weary some of us with your pretentions,, referring to a quote but not posting it, ( the purpose being ,affecting seeming non chalance, "oh, doesn't everyone know that quote by old jim") yeah yeah yeah,, google is a game two can play. .

Posted by
147 posts

Thank you for all of your information!! I did not mean to offend anyone. I will brush up on my French, become familiar with the subway system and look into a volunteer person? Thank you for your help! I did read Europe Through the Backdoor and can't wait to get my books from Rick Steve's Tour. We are going on the 14 day Europe tour. This is a huge trip for my Husband and I. Any thoughts on what the weather will be like in May? Thanks,
Nicole

Posted by
961 posts

Jeez, people, lighten up. You've sidetracked this thread enough. Nicole, I believe that the unfriendliness of the French is similar to the reputation of unfriendly NYC residents: might have been true 50 years ago, hasn't been true in my experience. The single exception in 3 trips was one crepe seller in the Latin Quarter. He asked where I was from and I said 'Texas'. He scowled at me and said "ohhhh, George Bush, blah blah blah". I smiled and said, "George Bush is not a Texan, he was born elsewhere". I figured, everyone gets to have a bad day sometime.
Have a great time, and read the guidebooks!

Posted by
31325 posts

Nicole, The weather should be quite nice in May, but of course there are never any guarantees. Be sure to pack some clothes for "layering" and also some light rain gear. As Rick has remarked on occasion, "there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing". Cheers!

Posted by
267 posts

In a number of short visits to France, I can only think of one experience of rudeness from some probably bored airport workers. On the whole I do not think that rudeness in France is any more common than it is in any other country. I remember being told by a fellow Australian who had worked in rural France, that French country people consider Parisians to be rude. I have had no such experience myself other than the one mentioned above.

Posted by
8055 posts

"might have been true 50 years ago" Wasn't true then either.

Posted by
177 posts

"might have been true 50 years ago Wasn't true then either." To be honest, I went to Paris for the first time 42 years ago and there was then still a tradition of the eternally grumpy and sarcastic Parisian in an almost comical way: The "titi parisien".
A person that would invariably respond "on fait aller" (we make it go) to the "Ça va?/how are you?" question.

Posted by
8055 posts

I lived there from 1960 to 1965 and know firsthand from personal experience it wasn't true then and it isn't true now.

Posted by
177 posts

Not true and rubbish? Gosh. What a patronizing forum.
I went to school in Grenoble until my baccalaureat and I remember visiting "Les Halles" and other sites. Colorful and fun but pretty abrasive.

Posted by
11450 posts

Mark you visited, Susan lived there. My first visit was 1972, I was a child , but didn't find anyone rude to me? Perhaps they are only rude to some people ?

Posted by
11450 posts

Nicole as for weather in May on the tour, it will vary quite a bit, in will be nice in Rome, warm but not roasting hot, but in the mountains in Switzerland it can still be a bit nippy, there may even be snow up on some of the hiking trails. We were there in late July and the locals told us there was snow on some trails still in early June that year.
Bring layers as advised, a rain jacket, a warm sweater or fleece, and most of us, good shoes. For Rome remember you need to have covered shoulders ( so no tank tops or sleeveless sundresses unless you bring a shawl or sweater) and covered knees ( that goes for hubby too) to tour the Vatican. They are strict about that in Italy, not so in France though.

Posted by
177 posts

Pat, I have family in Paris and I was many years in Grenoble. I did not mean rude like mean spirited. I was simply referring to a Parisian culture that I really liked. Very funny, irreverent in a good way but that could certainly be construed as abrasive to outsiders. The comedian Coluche or the popular singer Renaud (both Parisians) captured so well that spirit. Waiters in cafes did not hesitate to make fun of their customers etc... I think it is mostly gone as the world becomes homogenized.

Posted by
5582 posts

New Yorkers aren't rude, but they are often in a hurry. So, when you stop to take a picture of the Chrysler Building in the middle of the side walk at 3rd and 44th at noon, you're going to get a lot of people pushing past you and it may seem rude, but it's our lunch break. See the TripAdvisor Forum for NYC and you'll see lots of posts from Europeans, Australians, mid-westerners and more about how helpful New Yorkers are. Stand on any corner gazing at a map and in less than a minute some will ask if they can help. It is the culture difference whether it is NYC or Paris. Pam

Posted by
3192 posts

Poor Nicole! Little did she suspect that she was opening such a big can of worms with her original question. I think that some way on she acknowledged that her worries were allayed, but the thread goes on and on. No matter how many testimonials to pleasant experiences with the French appear, some people will continue to assert that they are rude, unhelpful, blah, blah, blah. Then there are the predictable posters whe seize the opportunity to treat us to more of their right-wing sniping. Enough already!

Posted by
2193 posts

In fairness, there's plenty of liberal BS shared here, too, and even a little socialist BS thrown in for good measure (usually by me). 95 percent of the folks here are leftists...no room at the inn for just 1 Libertarian?

Posted by
9 posts

We are US expats living near Amsterdam, and traveled extensively throughout Western France this past summer (as well as most of Western Europe in general). From our experience, I would say I encountered more people in France who were not interested in trying to communicate in anything other than their native language than in many of the other places we visited. That is not to say they are rude, but that we did encounter a lot of people at restaurants and out and about simply had no interest in trying to communicate in anything other than French - most of them in the smaller towns, but some in Paris and the large cities as well. I find this is my biggest problem communicating in Europe in general - most people at least show an interest in trying to communicate, either with hand signals or whatever, but there are those who simply do not have time or want to make the effort to try to figure out a way to communicate. It can be incredibly frustrating. From our experience, we encountered more of those people in France than say, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands... And, pick pockets are quite real and are incredibly skilled! They often work in teams.

Posted by
8293 posts

Katie, I am intrigued by your post. You say that in France there were many who "were not interested in trying to communicate in anything other than their native language". As a visitor, were you interested in communicating in other than your native language? Did you ascertain that the people you met actually could speak English but stubbornly refused to? My experience in France is that as you get further away from Paris, fewer French people can speak English. It isn't a matter of "not being interested in trying to communicate" in English. They simply do not speak anything but French, just as many in your country and mine speak only English. Now, since rudeness is the topic of this thread, I leave it to you to decide if it is rude to be unilingual.

Posted by
2193 posts

"encountered more people in France who were not interested in trying to communicate in anything other than their native language..." Umm, maybe that's because they are French, live in France, speak French, have 100% of their daily conversations in French, and really have no reason to speak in any other language. And how is this any different than right here in the ole' USA? Even though most Americans will have an interaction with a Spanish speaker somewhere at least once per day, what percentage are not interested in communicating in anything other than English? Answer: 100%. Reminds me of a tee shirt I saw at the Iowa State Fair: Uncle Sam exclaiming, "You're in America...Speak English!" Nice. Actually, I'll go out on a limb and suggest that the Canadians I know and have met are seriously the nicest people anywhere. I've met and know people from all over...BC to Quebec. While I'm at it, I'll also suggest that folks from Minnesota seem to be about the nicest around, and I've been everywhere. Just my opinion, of course.

Posted by
1014 posts

I feel like people honestly believe that everyone speaks English and are hiding it. It's simply not true. Especially in France. Sure, they start taking English in their écoles primaire and might on average know a little more English than Americans know French-but think about your experience. Most people in the US start taking language courses in high school. Would you feel comfortable with someone in French talking up to you in Chicago and asking IN French directions. Chances are your high school education flies out the window. Bottom line, the French are not rude. How can people characterize a group of people? Customs are different in different countries. Embrace it. A world where everything is the same would be a boring one.

Posted by
8293 posts

Since my post earlier this morning I picked up a book at a garage sale, called "A Short History of Rudeness: Manners, Morals and Misbehavior in Modern America" by Mark Caldwell. I haven't read it yet but the blurb on the back says in part, the author "...gives us a chronicle of the demise of manners and charts the triumphant progress of rudeness in America." So the French seem to have the reputation but we in (North) America may have to step back and look at ourselves, too. Just sayin' ...

Posted by
120 posts

We French are not good at all with foreign languages including English. English teachers are not native English or Americans and most of them have a bad accent and speak slowly so unless we spend some time abroad to absorb the foreign language, our comprehension to fast speaking English travelers is very limited and as we get an awful accent, we don't really want to practise it with tourists.

Posted by
8433 posts

What I think is rude are people who travel to countries that speak another language (let's say English speakers going to France), and the English speaker laments that those French people are rude because they don't speak English and don't attempt to speak it to accommodate your lack of French. The French in this case aren't rude, it's that English speaker who has unrealistic expectations. Let's turn the tables. A French person approaches you in the U.S. and begins speaking French to you. Can you speak French to them? Do you even try? Chances are that most people can't or won't help that person. On my first trip to Europe I was traveling with my brother-in-law, who had served 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He had traveled all over the world. I expected him to be the most 'worldly' of all of us. It turned out he was the epitome of an Ugly American. He got upset when people couldn't speak to him fluently in English, no matter what country we were in. Maybe Ex-Pats and military people who are offended by European's lack of English should move back to the U.S. or stay on base.

Posted by
164 posts

We were in Normandy area for five nights and five in Paris in early October. We did not encounter anyone who was rude, but we were not pushy and aggressive, as some Americans can be (it's a trait of some of those in two particular northeast states - but hey, don't want to stereotype). If you are nice to them, you will get the same back. Please say "bonjour." That is an expectation they have for everyone. Greet them, and you will be greeted back. Everyone was so nice to us, and we also did the Paris Greeters (Nathalie toured us around her neighborhood of Ille St. Louis and Ille de la cite). She was soooo nice, and we have been e-mailing back and forth since. There are rude people everywhere ! We should not paint everyone with the same brush. 99% of people are really nice and helpful, but there is always that 1% wherever you go.....and you sometimes run into that, but in my experience in France, it didn't happen !

Posted by
120 posts

James wrote "And I would love to hear Coco's (and Marseilles Roger's) opinion on Parisiens." Honestly I don't go to Paris very often, last time was in 2008 to spend the day with an American girlfriend. I prefer going to London that I know better but gives me a real change of scenery and I feel great there hearing and reading English all around me! We used to say that les Parisiens were snobish and looked down at us les Provinciaux but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when about 6 years ago, someone, seeing me looking at my map, asked me if I was lost (I had my two boys aged 10 and 8 with me for a short trip) and I found the people generally nice. Actually I can see no difference with Dijon people.
But I keep on saying "Parigot tête de veau, parisien tête de chien" when we spot a Parisian car (hard to tell now with the new car plates)on the road to the South, just for the fun! ;)

Posted by
8433 posts

I never suggested that all military people should stay on base. I only suggested that if any military personnel or ex-pat's are offended that some European's don't go out of their way to communicate with them in English, maybe they should go back to the U.S. or stay on base. I took Spanish in high school and live in an area with many Spanish speakers. Do I speak Spanish? No. Am I rude because I don't speak Spanish? No. I speak English, which is the only language required of me. If I was going to a Spanish speaking country I would brush up on my Spanish to try to communicate while there. I would not be offended if they couldn't communicate with me in English.

Posted by
2916 posts

Simple answer. The French are not rude. In fact, they are incredibly friendly.

Posted by
11450 posts

James your behaviour on the forum is pretty transparent, , , Norma makes some reasonable comments, but you have to turn it into a "how rude are Canadains" rant. What has HER nationality have to do with her opinions, nothing, she made some reasonable assumptions , very much like the other posters did, but they were American so you are ok with that right?
And James you are right, you have very limited experience. Canadians do not have a reputation for being rude or small minded, but , of course we have some small minded rude people too, much like the do in your hometown, perhaps even in your house.. And as for french not speaking english, even though they take it in school, I took french in school , 5 years , and my spoken french is dismal, I can however read it ok ,, and how many of you took some Spanish in school, so you can chat away with the Spanish speakers? Do you ?

Posted by
12400 posts

I believe Coco's explanation is a valid one since it is what I have heard from other French as well. Of course, they told me this in English because back then I could not understand the language. Based on my trips in France, ever since the first in 1973, it is my observation (and it's only a generalisation and in my view has nothing to do with rudeness) that relative to other nationalities, such as the Germans, Dutch, Swedes, Austrians, Polish, Norwegians, I would also say, as Katie has observed, that the French have a disinclination to speak in any other language but French. Can I blame them? Or, should I ?
I say there are non native English nationalities who like speaking in English, whatever their reasons maybe, cultural, linguistic, etc. Nowadays, I use French to start, sometimes I am able to continue, sometimes they ask if I speak English, we both switch off to English. In my younger days I started with English after the usual polite greetings in French but if the English was getting nowhere, I asked if they spoke German, some did, kids as well as adults, and continued that way. Rudeness is relative to me depending on one's own definition.

Posted by
1896 posts

If you have lived through all the comments posted here, you can survive Paris or anyplace else for that matter.

Posted by
1064 posts

The rudest people I have encountered in France were U.S.Francophiles who assume that anyone with a Southern accent is an ignorant redneck. But that is a topic for another day.

Posted by
11450 posts

James, being a military vet ( and that can mean alot of things) does not exempt one from being an "ugly American" if one behaves "ugly" then one is "ugly" and ones profession has absolutely nothing to do with it. Next you will be telling me vets walk on water. Ha.

Posted by
11450 posts

No..James I did not say I have nothing against Americans because I have a friend who is one, I said I have a friend who is American and I like her anyways( which is a joke, nothing you'd get though since you have a major chip on your shoulder) , perhaps your reading comprehension is the issue here? Imean being American in itself makes one neither likeable, nor non likeable, I take each person on a case by case basis , and you are an American I don't like, however, there are others I do. I don't ask people on the street what nationality they are before I like them or dislike them.

Posted by
8433 posts

James, you're wrong. I value any vets sacrifice and service, as well as the sacrifices military families make. That said, my BIL still acted like an Ugly American. He refused to eat anywhere that didn't have an English menu. If a server (or anyone else) had any knowledge of a few English words, he would get angry that they didn't understand his detailed and complicated order. He insisted we go to a Mexican restaurant in Rothenburg, then was mad when the server didn't understand his order of 'dos cervezas por favor." He insisted that someone working at a Mexican restaurant should understand his Spanish AND his English. Those examples are just a small sampling of his behavior. As valuable our service men and women are, that doesn't mean that some can't be ignorant, idiots or ugly Americans. The fact that someone serves in the military does not give them a pass to be rude to people.

Posted by
8293 posts

Now, James, leave Pat alone. As we say in Quebec, "Hey, you fight me, you fight my gang, eh?"

Posted by
1040 posts

We were in Paris in May 2012. I agree with the posters who say that polite greetings are very important ( i.e. Bonjour Monsieur/Madame). To simply say Bonjour may even be considered less than polite, in that it is the French equivalent to Hey you. Also, the French are generally quieter in public settings. Keeping your voice volume down helps in getting along. (Americans often speak louder than people in many other countries).

Posted by
7877 posts

Comparing English-speaking abilities of people from a Germanic-based language with the English-speaking abilities of people from a Latin-based language is comparing herring and tuna. Too bad a few people think it has to do with attitude because they rain on their own parades. Some people are just unhappy no matter where they are or what they are doing.

Posted by
1525 posts

For the record, in my limited experience (33 days in France so far), there is absolutely nothing to complain about regarding the behavior of the natives toward tourists - at least toward tourists who are trying to be polite. I have seen far worse behavior on this board. And I have seen that behavior treated as sort of charming by people who apparently don't realize they are, in effect, contributing to the problem by not objecting to it.

Posted by
389 posts

When I was on active duty in Europe, in my more cynical moments, I found it ironic that the U.S. government sends thousands of its least curious, least culturally sensitive citizens to live abroad every year. Will
SGT, USA

Posted by
11450 posts

Will that is an interesting post, thank goodness it was posted by an American, would be heck to pay if anyone else made that observation . I have observed that some military men posted to Europe seem to really dislike it alot, even after then return home.. actually its not the places but the people and cultures they seem to have issues with, and I wonder why that seems unique to military as many other posters ( on this and other forums) who are expats in europe seem to really enjoy where they have been or are, even if place was job chosen, not entirely their choice to begin with.. Are those sent over to live and work in bases in Europe prepared properly by the forces to understand the new cultures they are dropped into, or do they stay mostly to themselves, living on bases, hanging out only with other expats, and never really gettting a true taste for where they are living.. a whole other topic I suppose.

Posted by
389 posts

Bets, interesting points about Germanic vs Romance speakers, although I have to disagree that English is fundamentally more difficult for French speakers than German, Dutch, etc speakers. I'm confident in recalling that English has a lot more cognates with French than with German. Sure, some of the basics of English grammar and vocab are Germanic, but at least from the other way around, I find French a lot easier to pick up on the fly than German. I hazard to guess that this cultural difference goes back many centuries-- perpetual wars and then religious differences meant there was little respect for English culture in France. Also, "nationalism" and high cultural self-regard probably developed far earlier in France than any Germanic country. But really, easy facility with English in surprise us in a foreign country, rather than be expected. I know I found it remarkable how many northern Europeans spoke English so well when they hadn't lived in an English-speaking country.

Posted by
12040 posts

"and I wonder why that seems unique to military as many other posters ( on this and other forums) who are expats in europe seem to really enjoy where they have been or are, even if place was job chosen, not entirely their choice to begin with.." I'll make a generalization here. If you're living in Europe as a non-military ex-pat, you probably went out of your way and made significant sacrifices to make it happen, because it was something you really wanted. Call it a self-choice bias. Those in the military may or may not have chosen to come here. And let's face it, there are plenty of people in the US and Canada who are not obsessed with Europe, and have no desire to visit or live there. These people are no better or worse human beings than those of us who have turned Europe into a personal fetish. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. I would add to that, it should be the horse's own choice whether or not it drinks.

Posted by
638 posts

It's not that the U.S. government is sending them to "live" in Europe, they are sent to do a job. The vast majority of the soldiers and airman are under 20 years old, to be honest not the most culturally sensitive, they're trained to fight, not trained to go sightseeing and dine in fine restaurants. I don't think military personnel are considered expats, I know when I was one I never looked at it in that way and those I served with didn't either. And sometimes cynicism plays into it because once there they are stuck, not only being on the other side of the world from the only place they know but working long hours and they're with people they not only don't like but have to follow the orders of, some learn to adjust and come to enjoy their time there but some don't and can't wait for the day they rotate back to the U.S.

Posted by
961 posts

To add to the offtopic posts about the young people serving in the military: their low salary does not allow for many extras or travel, and those who left families back in the states are particularly financially stressed.

Posted by
12040 posts

"their low salary does not allow for many extras or travel," Perhaps someone in the military can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure for the most part, that isn't true. I believe the USO and other organizations offer low cost bus tours all the time. Military members also do not pay local petrol taxes, so if they own a car, they can drive far distances much cheaper than a European citizen could. From what I have seen, it seems that the US government tries to make leisure time travel as easy, and inexpensive as possible for the military stationed in Europe. Whether or not they take advantage is up to the individual.

Posted by
515 posts

Nicole, we took the 14 day RS Best of Europe trip a few years ago. Fabulous experience, beginning to end. Everything you do will make you want to smile, and smiles are recognized in all languages. We encountered no rudeness whatsoever. Just brush up on your greetings, try some basics, and smile. That nonsense about the French is leftover from the not-so-popular, ummm, Iraqi turmoil. On another trip, we visited much of the Normandy region and found that the French still show much gratitude for WWII liberation efforts. Put your worries to rest. Have a joyous trip!

Posted by
2949 posts

Because I love a total tangent:
Barry - The demographics of people working for the US government abroad have changed a lot in the last couple decades, though, because military bases aren't just for active duty service members (who, if enlisted, yeah, tend to be young). Thanks to the defense contractor thing, a huge portion of those working on bases are older, since most contractors have already finished at least one tour before getting out. There's also a lot of government civilians, many of whom are in their late 20s through 50s. Will - I might have chuckled slightly at your observation. I don't understand why people decided to trash vets on page 3 of this discussion (which I skimmed, because it was obnoxious) but as long as we're talking about stereotypes it's totally fair to say that some of the young people in our armed forces can behave boorishly at home and abroad. By the other token, almost all of my american friends here are affiliated with the military (as am I, obviously) and they're all culturally sensitive, well-traveled, and love living abroad. But I met them through a very international group of people and not on base, so it's a self-ing group. I think you get all types, a lot of people are thrilled to get assigned here and make the most of it and immerse themselves in the culture as much as possible, and others come for 3 years and never once enter a German grocery store. One thing that the travelers here may not realize is how daunting an experience being an expat can be. It's not like being on vacation all the time! I think there are periods everyone goes through where you're frustrated with the people in the host country and feel alienated by a foreign culture and customs. But for most of us this is a temporary thing.

Posted by
2949 posts

As to the rudeness, well like Ralph I also went to France after I'd posted in this discussion, 2 days in Alsace, and the whole time was met with nothing but pleasant friendly helpfulness. Admittedly Alsace is not Paris, but every time someone was really nice to us, I'd turn to my husband and say, "There's the legendary French rudeness again! The nerve!" I was hanging out with a French friend of mine last night and the subject of "rude French people" came up independently, and she asserted that Parisians "think they're better than tourists - because they think they're better than everyone who isn't Parisian!" And when asked to stereotype her countrymen as a whole, she said that "We French love to complain, it's our way, but I think we are pretty nice overall." I tend to agree, and I like to complain too, and find stereotypical US Southern and Midwestern friendliness off-putting or even annoying, so maybe that's why I've never noticed anything particularly rude in France. There's nothing wrong with a few good-natured national stereotypes - the problem with the "rude French" one is just that it isn't very true. In my experience and obviously the experience of the vast majority of people who responded here.

Posted by
6372 posts

Ha. I'm with you Frank, who remembers - oh, and it probably got answered to the posters satisfaction in the first few posts.

Posted by
638 posts

Yes, this topic is so far off target it's kind of funny in its own way now. Sarah, I was strictly speaking of active duty personnel and that can be boiled down to first enlistment. Yes the non uniform employees are a different group. I was part of the former, I have friends that I served with that are part of the latter that went into that part of the government after their enlistment was complete.

Posted by
82 posts

They were so rude my wife and I can't wait to get back and experience more of their rudeness! To say the least they were delightful people more than willing to help us out!

Posted by
6584 posts

Last time we came into the Gard du Nord train station in Paris, the information booth was staffed by non-English speaking employees. This is where all the English tourists get off the Eurostar trains from London (thru the Chunnel.) Go figure! We stayed off the beaten path in Paris, and found the locals to be very charming and nice people. Be sure to drink wine, not beer. Just be prepared drop E25 apiece for dinner in Paris on average.

Posted by
16171 posts

This turned out to be the most "posted" thread on Helpline and I went on vacation and missed it! My question is: Do Swedes have endless dialogues on rude Finns? Do Germans kvetch continualy about rude Italians? Or is this a unique Anglo-Franco phenomenon?

Posted by
2949 posts

Sam: the universal truth about Europe is that every nation talks a lot of s*** about the other. and quite a bit of intra-national, regional s*** as well. Traveled with a Swabian to Berlin, half the time he was making fun of their accents and complaining about his tax dollars going to them. Meanwhile Berliners complain about Swabian hicks gentrifying their neighborhoods and driving up their housing prices and acting like noveau-riche jerks. A German friend of mine from the north thinks Swabians are incredibly weird and shy, "like small deer caught in headlights." And the general concencus is that they're cheap. I've heard people of pretty much every nationality complain about the rudeness and frugality of the Germans. So no, this isn't unique to Franco-American relations, if anything, the stereotypes between European countries is really a lot worse.

Posted by
12400 posts

Earlier here there was mentioned by way of jokes when speaking French with a distinct Belgian accent (recall the scene in "The Dinner Game"), true, especially when you're up north in the Pas-de-Calais and Artois areas. On the German side the perennial regional comments and jokes (usually negative) reminds me of those directed at Ostfriesland. These regional views, attitudes, or stereotypes depicting others in different parts of the country in some of negative light are cultural and historical, (Kleinstaaterei). Behind the stereotypes of any nationality is a percentage of accuracy, whether you're refering to the Germans, Americans, Chinese, Dutch, French, Poles, Hungarians, Japanese, etc. Whether one accepts that, a certain percentage, is up for dispute. One German in Brandenburg told me in a lengthy discussion of this difference, however you measure it, that after twenty years the former east and west still weren't united, not together..."Wir sind nicht geeinigt." Seen from an historical perspective, I told him that was a sad assessment to make.

Posted by
10308 posts

Overheard recently at Athens Airport: Immigration Officer: Nationality: German Tourist: German Immigration Officer: Occupation?
German Tourist: No, just a vacation This has absolutely nothing to do with this thread just like half the responses.

Posted by
11450 posts

ER , Frank, your last two posts were about how many posts were off topic, may I suggest if you are not part of the solution( staying on subject) then you may in fact be part of the problem, lol

Posted by
10308 posts

I guess you're right, Pat. My two posts did distract from this thread unlike your TWELVE posts. LOL So, to bring it back to topic I'll say this: The French are no ruder than anyone else. No matter where you go in the world, you'll meet people who are nice and people who are rude. Just like on this thread.

Posted by
1896 posts

Off topic again, LOL. Anyone recently read our "community guidelines" recently, or is it just me?

Posted by
12400 posts

"...the frugality of the Germans." It is exactly that virtue which enables the Germans to be in the salient position of having the means to bail out these nationalities, regardless of their tedious complaints. Of course, the frugal Germans don't have any other choice.

Posted by
12040 posts

"My question is: Do Swedes have endless dialogues on rude Finns? Do Germans kvetch continualy about rude Italians? Or is this a unique Anglo-Franco phenomenon?" From what I've heard, it's the Norwegians, Danes and Finns complaining about the overbearing Swedes. And just ask the Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians what they think of the Serbs (and vice-versa). Don't get the Poles started on the Russians, although they seem to have surprisingly warmed towards the Germans. Everyone in Europe seems to like Italian food, but they find dealing with Italians less than pleasant... particularly the cool-blooded northerners. Point being- yes, Europeans hurl invectives at each other just as readily as some Americans do on the French.

Posted by
57 posts

Spent a week in Paris in October. My 4th time there. For the most part everyone is very nice. They are more reserved than us texans. Biggest tip. When entering a business or speaking with anyone always begin with bonjour madam/msr. You are considered rude if you don't and likely to be treated poorly.

Posted by
87 posts

Nicole, My family has visited France twice in the last 3 years and will again next month. We have always been treated well in Paris and the surrounding areas. I think that Paris can be compared to other like sized cosmopolitan cities in this regard. There are rude people everywhere but I found that Parisians were as polite as anywhere else. The people who peddle the Tchotchkes near the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Cour were the most annoying (but most of them were not French). Have fun! Jack

Posted by
1064 posts

This conversation was far along when I first tuned into it, and I have not paid much attention to it since. But I checked back in and found about what I expected. After all, much of this thread seems to be RS regulars ignoring the question and simply arguing with one another for no good or apparent reason. I am no authority on the French people but have met two or three hundred, probably more, in my time, and can recall only one absolute jerk, not counting a couple of insufferable Francophiles from the U.S. That is below the number of rude people, jerks, that I see on a daily basis at home. But statistics tell us that roughly three percent of any large population will be extreme in one direction and another three percent in the other. So, just expect but ignore a few jerks along the way, whether you stay home or go to France -- or visit Travelers Helpline -- and enjoy meeting some truly pleasant people along the way.

Posted by
2949 posts

Although the arguing is unpleasant, some of the tangential discussions can be very interesting, including this one. Certainly more interesting than people repeating the exact same thing ad nasueum, which is still at least half the replies in this thread.

Posted by
701 posts

My family (3 adults/2 children) spent one month in France (Paris, Languedoc, Normandy) in 2009 and am happy to report that we were treated wonderfully by the locals! I adored France on that 1st trip. We can't wait to visit again next summer - 3 glorious weeks in Provence! It is a stunningly beautiful, charming, peaceful country.

Posted by
126 posts

I'm surprised that most of the posters that have been to Paris have never, ever met a rude person. Cool for them. In my many travels to Paris, I have definitely encountered rude people - just a couple, mind you. In those instances, I had done nothing wrong and committed no dreaded Americanism or faux-pas; it was clearly their own ignorance and arrogance that came through at that particular moment - or they were just having a bad day. No big deal; I'm used to the plenty of rude people in my hometown of Miami to have developed a thick skin. Having said that, I have met some of the nicest, most caring, warm, understanding, and funny people in France - including Paris. For instance, waiters with the patience of saints waiting for me to practice my entire food order in French (and politely correct me when required) or people who stopped in their tracks to point me in the right direction when I appeared lost. I have lived in various continents and have traveled quite a bit all over Europe and South America. Most of the time, I don't meet rude people because I'm by nature - and education - a polite and considerate person. I also have an understanding of different cultures. But we are human beings and everyone can have a bad day, don't you think? I must say I strongly disagree with those people who make ignorant comments like "the French are rude" or "Frenchmen make the best lovers." Those sort of generalizations are just silly and untrue. Keep an open mind - I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time. Cheers.

Posted by
3 posts

I'm from Dallas (Frisco) and Texan's are friendly people. Very outgoing. And this is different from the culture in France. I have only been in Paris - a big city - and Most Americans are EXTREMELY rude and inconsiderate to Parisians so while I do understand why they are tainted, I must admit, I do not not prefer France. My advice is to smile, be polite (all of the southern charm you can muster) and just use good manners. Don't be afraid to ask questions and ask multiple people to make sure you'e getting the correct answer and that you understand the answer. Have fun - paris is incredibly romantic and beautiful. You're going to have a great time!!! Terea

Posted by
11450 posts

Jack, , most of those peddlers are French, French immigrants from the African french colonies, but definately french, and by now,mmany are second generation or more. They are not allowed to peddle , so thats why they vanish if cops around, its not because they aren't french.

Posted by
44 posts

In Brooklyn we can be rudier than any Frenchman or Frechwoman

Posted by
28 posts

Love this thread. Nicole, I am a New Englander who lives near you in Westlake. Over the past few years as I travel back to Boston or New York I find that the people in those cities are more abrupt and a little colder than what we are used to in Texas. Sociologists would call these "low context" societies where Texans are "high context". You may notice the same thing in Paris. It's just a cultural difference, and I am sure that you know how to charm your way right through it. You will meet many, many lovely and helpful people in Paris. You will get back what you put out... The supposed rudeness of the French is an interesting topic, though. When I first visited France and Spain in the late 80s I encountered quite a bit of abruptness and official type attitudes. Comments such as "it cannot be done" or "you have the wrong information" without an explanation or an alternative were common for me. I could go on at length about being ignored or talked down to by waiters in both cafes and expensive places. I don't see that in either country now. It may be that I have changed, or it may be that the cultures have changed. Just today we had an issue at the airport in Spain that we thought might derail our travel, but the agent just smiled and worked through it in a way that made us all laugh. I think that there has been a generational change in the larger cities of Europe. People are more relaxed and more friendly. What do others think?

Posted by
7877 posts

@John, You are so right about low-context culture vs. high context. The slight lift of an eyebrow conveys a lot of information in France, whereas we need to be much more expressive with so many different cultures living together--and we are. Your second point about a societal change since the 1980s is probably accurate, though no personal examples come to mind. However, with thirty to forty years of contact, you (and I) have probably changed and read situations more accurately, as well. Very interesting points raised.

Posted by
5 posts

Nicole, I have been to France for 2-4 week stays twice and have never met a rude French person. People seem to appreciate my attempts to speak their language and my joy at being there. I refer you to a site that rents Paris apartments that offers (free) 10 Mistakes Paris Visitors Must Avoid! I think this will be helpful. It reinforces what many have posted: http://www.alacarteparis.com.
Cindy

Posted by
46 posts

I have never seen this many replies to a question. Amazing!!
And everyone is saying the same thing, the French are not rude, but people will react to how they are confronted. There are many more rude American tourists that know the cultural customs of the country they are visiting. Do your homework as Ken in Canada suggested and you will have a great time.

Posted by
147 posts

Thank You everyone for your responses! I didn't mean to start a huge debate! I will continue to read and be prepared for France!!

Posted by
262 posts

I didn't respond the first time around, but have to make a comment now. Paris doesn't have the only rude people in the world. The great USA has many rude people too! After the presidential election last year, I was talking with a group of friends and a women came up to me after they left me and had the nerve to say, "your friends voted for the wrong candidate, he is going to take all your money. They are stupid!" No she is ignorant,stupid and rude all in one. How dare she make a comment, when not even spoken to and assume that people are stupid! It happens in every country all over the world. You will meet incredible people and some idiots as well. Hopefully much more neat, interesting people and very few of the other.
Happy Travels!!

Posted by
638 posts

"And this is different from the culture in France. I have only been in Paris - a big city - and Most Americans are EXTREMELY rude and inconsiderate to Parisians" "There are many more rude American tourists that know the cultural customs of the country they are visiting." These are blanket statement If I've ever read any. How in the world can you prove this unless you know every American that has ever traveled to France. Me saying, Americans are extremely kind to the Chinese and knows every Chinese customs makes about as much sense.

Posted by
15 posts

I'm probably joining everyone in flogging this horse to death. My brother-in-law attended a short cooking course in Paris, and he said many people that he met in France were rude. (They have spent many years overseas - Germany, Iceland, Asia and made it point to live on the economy.) However, a few months after that, we spent a few days in Paris, and, although we spent very little time with the "common man," I found the service people to be very nice. (I was very nervous because I had heard that the people were rude.) One desk clerk was standoffish, but everyone else we dealt, including non-native French employees were nice and pleasant. I will say my most unnerving experience was trying to find the toilet in a restaurant and having to wait outside the open door of the men's room; I could have done without a view. I actually found the people in England (not all of course, just a large number we encounted except for our foreign hired car driver) to be rude; many people we encountered in France, German, and Netherlands were just overall reserved.

Posted by
36 posts

I once thanked a hotel clerk for his kindness that he showed toward my family and he replied " It's my job". I thought that was a bit rude. I speak Spanish so I would go into the stores and ask if they spoke Espanol and they would smile and say "Un poco". But, when I asked them in French if they spoke English, you'd thought I'd asked them to swallow a poison pill! They would say "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!". Too funny. Tom