Are Parisians rude? This subject frequently rears its ugly head here. Is it rudeness, or is it something different: say, cultural differences in social behavior plus the language difficulty? What do YOU think? (and why do foreign countries have to be so, uhm, foreign?!)
When first assigned to Germany in the 1970's, I heard that the French were rude to Americans. I wanted to see Monet, so I went anyway. I did not find the French or especially the Parisians rude. My French was limited to a Berlitz travel guide phrases. I could say please and thank you, even if I can't spell them. Everything seemed to go well. In the end, I traveled to France several times, all good experiences. I am sure that there are some rude Parisians just as there are some rude folks in Salt Lake City.
My guess is that they're no ruder than any others who live in a city with lots of tourists. I have run across some really rude ones - unprovoked I'd like to think. But, very few. I've also run across some really nice, friendly Parisians - thinking of those who stop to ask if I need help with direction while I'm looking at my map book & trying to figure out what corner I'm standing on.
I do not agree that Parisians, as a whole, are rude. It always makes me sad when I hear that because it's simply not true, imo. I've spent years in Paris and I have so many stories of Parisians being incredibly kind. We just spent a month there and not once in that time did we encounter even one rude Parisian...quite the opposite. Sure, it's possible to encounter a rude Parisian, I'm not saying there aren't any, but I encounter rude people here where I live every single day. Why do Americans go to other countries and hold the locals to a higher standard? During this most recent stay we were in line at a metro station to buy tickets, we were behind 3 well-dressed American women in their late 50's. The man behind the window was very friendly and answered every question they barked at him in English, one question after another they rudely asked. He smiled and answered every question. When they were done they walked away without saying thank you. We were about to step up to ask for tickets, when one of the women came back and barked another question at him...he smiled, got up, got a big book out to find the answer to her question, when he gave her the answer she again walked away and never said thank you. I was stunned at how rude these Americans were. I then spoke to the man and told him how nice he was to them and how terrible it was they did not say thank you - he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said "it's no big deal, it happens every day". Yet, he was still smiling and helpful.
We have had no problem. It has been my experience that those who are expecting rude or bad behaviour are often richly rewarded. They carry an aura about them and everyone around them picks up on it and gives them what they are looking for.
Nope, I've never seen it. But then again, I always greet the shopkeeper, hotel desk clerk, train conductor, etc., "Bonjour, Madame, >>>". ^ ^ ^ Then ask, "Parlez-vous Anglais", and they usually do. Then I have a good time. I have always have experienced polite, helpful folk everywhere in France, and that most definitely includes Paris. ^^^ The only place nearby that I have had gruff, rude service was in Brussels - several times.
I think there are good and bad,, like any city, I have been treated rudely in Hawaii and kindly in Paris ,, and VICE VERSUS.. so I tend to never lump in one group of people being either rude or not. I do think some people take rude treatment way to personally. A waiter may have just had a bad day,, he doesn't hate Americans in particular,, he hates everyone ,, cause his wife left and took the dog! I agree with Jos statement that you get what you give off sometimes, and it does help to have some idea of culturally acceptable behaviour in any country before you visit( ie , greet all service personal BEFORE asking for service in Paris) We are the visitors, and while I expect to be treated like a guest,, I also try to act like a NICE guest.
generally we find the people in paris, and the rest of France are helpful. The only rudeness we have had was from shopkeepers in Paris. And waiters in Paris, London etc etc
There's a difference between formality, protocol, and being rude. I think the best advice on this board is to continue to remind people to expect different customs for service in other countries.
I've never encountered rude Parisians in all my trips to the city, and I don't speak a word of French. People are people everywhere: some people are outwardly friendly, some are professional/business like, other don't want to be bothered, and everything else in between.....it's what makes the world go around!
I have had two unique experiences in France. Outside of Paris a little old lady walking her dog went far out of her way to help us find our hotel. IN PARIS at a COURTESY BOOTH in a Paris train station when I rushed up to ask which track our train was on I was told: "No, no, no. That is incorrect. You must walk up and say very politely, "How are you today? Then I would answer amd you could say, 'Pardon me but could you help me find the correct track for my train? And then I would ......." By then I had run off and asked a porter who was very helpful. I later asked dozens of French what they thought of Paris and ALL mentioned how rude people there were. Other than that, I have had one rude experience in about 50 years of travel and that was an Austrian who was mad about the outcome of WWII. The restraunt owner told him to leave and not come back.
I am a thoroughly American woman from Los Angeles, and Paris is my favorite place on earth. I even lived there for six months. But it takes some getting used to and it also helps if you love things French (the language, art, architecture, literature, music) as well as to have a few good experiences to get the feel of how the French can be. Personally, at times of great personal need I was treated very well and very humanely as a woman alone in Paris. I also found it helped to learn how to walk down the street like a French woman (and avoid leers and insults from passing motorists). You have to modify your "American stage presence" to fit in with that culture. I personally got a lot of enjoyment out of making these adaptations. If you give off any hint of American superiority, or sense of entitlement people are not going to like you. And it's true that the French generally do not hesitate to let you know when they are not charmed by you. There's probably a mysterious "chemistry" issue as to why people "get" Paris or don't. Also, it takes more than just two or three days to deal with all these issues. The French are more formal and often more blunt, but I can accept and enjoy them.
Some general observations: There are rude and polite people everywhere. People in cities tend to be less friendly and polite than people in rural areas. When you go on vacation you only encounter a tiny percentage of the people in that city, so it's pretty hard to judge. My observations based on my one six-day visit to Paris: I didn't come across a single rude person the whole time. I found the people to be friendly and helpful. My husband agreed and found them to be generally better behaved than Americans - and he was convinced they were snooty and snobby before we went. I think it helped that I had read about the culture before we left, so we knew what to expect and knew to say bonjour when we walked into a store. We also may have been lucky. The language was not an issue. When I asked if they spoke English (in French) almost everyone said a little bit and then spoke it quite well. I am convinced it's a myth that Parisians are rude. I think it's caused by not understanding them and not taking into account that they live in a really big city.
Living in Germany at the "request of the US Army" I remember what a range of opinions other soldiers had of Germany: from love to hate. The problem seemed that some folks measured Germany by how American it was. This included everything from line discipline to placement of room heaters in an apartment.....I used to think of it as vector analysis for you scientific types. If the x axis was American and the y axis European, only the x coordinate had any meaning. Funny, we have some politicians that still think that way, so why not tourists....I also knew some Germans that only recognized the y coordinate.
I think it would be great to be an employee in France and not have to put up with rude , bossy and condesending clients or customers...
My experiences in Paris tend to mirror writer Bill Bryson's: "...but I soon learned that everyone in Paris was like that (rude.) You would go into a bakery and be greeted by some vast sluglike creature with a look that told you you would never be friends. In halting French you would ask for a small loaf of bread. The woman would give you a long, cold stare and then put a dead beaver on the counter. 'No, no,' you would say, hands aflutter, 'not a dead beaver. A loaf of bread." The sluglike creature would stare at you in patent disbelief, then turn to the other customers and address them in French at much too high a speed for you to follow, but the drift of which clearly was that this person here, this American tourist, had come in and asked for a dead beaver and she had given him a dead beaver and now he was saying that he didn't want a dead beaver at all, he wanted a loaf of bread. The other customers would look at you as if you had just tried to fart in their handbags, and you would have no choice but to slink away and console yourself with the thought that in another four days you would be in Brussels and probably able to eat again."
I am going to deal with question theoretically, even though the focus is on Paris, which I first visited in 1973. If I found a particular city, especially a capital, somehow fascinating, intiguing, captivating, such as Budapest, Prague, London, Vienna, Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Warsaw, etc., but on my first visit(s) I encountered blatantly rude or snooty people at restaurants, hotels, on the trains, etc., would I go back after having the same experience, say after the first 2 times, yes, I would. If a place as fascinating as Paris has these rude people, bad to non-existent customer service, etc., so what...I am not going to let that sort of thing deter me from going back. Should I let such a trivial matter as encountering rude people in the service industry determine my decision on returning to the city?? Every time I am in Europe I have gone back to Paris. Paris next to Berlin is my favourite place in the world. I have also met Americans who couldn't stand Germany and dealing with Germans and also Americans who had the same feelings for les francais.
Fred...I've also known lots of people that don't like Germans or Germany...Germans have a reputation for being rude as well...and I've encountered a lot of rude Germans myself but I would never make a generalization that a country, a city or people from a certain place are rude...it's ridiculous...The same is said of New Yorkers...I was there for the first time in Feb, for 4 days and only met really nice people there...never met or saw anyone in NYC that was even remotely rude....To me, Parisians are wonderful - perfect, no - but wonderful all the same.
Kent, as hard as it is to do, I'd say I should not judge - to just allow something I perceive as rude to roll off my back & put behind me. Now, can I do this - noooo. The few bad experiences I've had tend to stay with me. The main problem with judging by their standards is that I generally don't know what they are. The only measurement I have is what I know. I do keep in mind that the French are more direct than we are & this can come across as rudeness. Other than that, if someone in a shop tells you to 'open your eyes and look' when you ask for something, it seems rude - direct & to the point, but still pretty rude - so rude it's funny. Maybe that's the thing to do, don't judge, just look for the funny side.
Russ: "My experiences in Paris tend to mirror writer Bill Bryson's"....What Bill Bryson said about Paris was downright complementary compared to what he said about Americans and especially women from Iowa in "The Lost Continent". When I get too self-important, I read Bryson to restore sense of balance. When he writes about any of us, he talking about all of us.
You can find rude people anywhere and everywhere. But, you specifically are asking about Parisians. In my experience over two trips to Paris for a total of 16 days or so, I have not only not encountered rudeness, but I have had people go out of their way to be helpful. I have seen other people be treated rudely. Often those people were demanding and rude themselves. If you try to understand the French culture and customs it definitely helps. I think you get what you give, anywhere. I had the same experience in NYC that Susan had. I had heard for my entire life (as a CA native) how rude New Yorkers are. I did not find that to be true at all. P.S. Paris is my favorite city, anywhere!
Susan, what you say is similar to what Gary said of his days stationed in Germany of Germans, as expressed by other US soldiers: love or hate. When I am on a trip there, I always go back to Germany (and Berlin) and France (and Paris)... never tire of traveling there. I like being in Germany and also in France with les francais!
Kent, I don't recall encountering anyone in Paris that I considered "rude". I've always been treated well there, although sometimes the service in restaurants is a bit "different" than at home. The last time I observed bad service in a restaurant, it was ironically the Guide (who lives in Paris) that was on the receiving end of the bad service. Myself and the rest of the group received good service. I try to take the attitude that "it's Paris, just accept the way it is". Cheers!
I just posted on the other thread about my experiences with the "cultural differences." I stayed with a friend on my first visit to Paris, and she explained some of these to me. Like James said, they do have a different attitude towards customer service than we do in the US. It's just different, it's not better or worse, and since I went in knowing that, everything was fine. New Yorkers scared me, too, on my first visit up there. Saw an airline employee bite someone's head off in the line in front of us. We were terrified when we got to the front of the line, but quickly learned that New Yorkers (at least the ones in JFK) treat you how you treat them. If you're rude, they'll throw it right back at you. Down here in the South, we're nice to everyone in front of them, but you never quite know where you stand with someone because of that. In New York, you know exactly where you stand!
My answer is Yes and No. When we arrived in Paris after a flight from London, I walked outside the airport looking for the RER. There was a porter standing by the door. I excused myself and asked if he spoke English. "NO!" he shouted. So, I went back inside the airport and found the information desk. I asked the lady for directions to the RER. She glances in a general direction and said "That way." I started thinking "Uh oh! I don't think I'm going to like Paris at all!" However, the next three days was exactly the opposite. From the hotel staff, to store clerks, to waiters, to train porters - everyone was extremely nice and helpful. So, as others have said - there are rude people everywhere.
During our two recent trips to Paris, we only encountered one rude person: a surly waiter at Ma Bourgoune in Place Vosges. Everyone else was at least polite, most were pleasant, and some were friendly (that's a bit difficult when you have a language barrier). We do always remember to say "Bon jour" and "Merci."
And if you want to be really correct, always add "Madame" or "Monsieur" after the "Bonjour" or "Merci", as in: "Bonjour, Madame" and "Merci, Monsieur" and "Au revoir, Madame". You will be more authentic that way =) And always give these greetings when you enter a store (except maybe a large supermarket!) and again when you leave, say "Au revoir, Madame" (or whatever). It might be the difference between a nice or a surly response from the shopkeeper.
We went to France for the first time in March of this year, spending nine days in Paris and one week in Brittany and Normandy. We had heard that the French were rude but we experienced the opposite. The Frence and Parisians we met were friendly and polite. We bought our dinners at a traiteur where no one spoke English. They were all great and tried to understand our poor French (learned by studying CDs and RS's phrase book for three months before our trip) and help us pronounce the words correctly. When we approached people on the street or at metro or train stations to ask for directions or help, everyone we approached was very friendly and some even went out of their way to walk part way with us to make sure we went the right direction. Maybe it is the language thing as Kent stated - although we do not really speak French our poor attempts were well rewarded and we were even able to carry on a rudimentary conversation mixing French and English. Or maybe we just picked the right people to interact with.
Always use these greetings ("Bonjour, Monsieur or Madame") before ANY conversation with any French person. We were waiting at the train station in Antibes, and a train pulled in ahead of schedule. Not sure if this was ours, I walked up to a conductor and said very politely, "Excusez-moi, parlez-vous Anglais?" He glared at me for a while, then said, very sternly, "Bonjour." Chastened, I said, "Bonjour, monsieur." Then I asked him again, and he did, and this was the right train. Whew! I learned my lesson.
Carol you may have a good point,, not approaching someone who looks like they are rushing off to work,, or back to office is always a good idea.. Some people don't want to help others when they feel underpressure.. and this has nothing to do with which country. I watched a ( American) show called "True Beauty" , these people thought they were on some sort of beauty contest,, but did not know it was about inner beauty. They were set up in situations and filmed. One sitation had them all rushing to what they were told were very important interviews They then had an actor or actress in distress near where they were supposed to be heading. ONly a few of the "beautiful" people stopped to help,, many rushed off with "I'm busy" or just a "no can't" when met with pleas. Interesting. Its not just where you are, its who you pick.
We spent six days in Paris this past June. The staff at our hotel were patient and friendly, as were most of the people we encountered. I even had a Parisian strike up a conversation with me as waited for the bus.Only had a few rude encounters, just some overworked waiters.
In my experience, I would have to say YES. Almost all of the people we depended on for real help were rude. (Even my French teacher, who was from Lorient in Brittany, said that Parisians look down on any French person not from Paris and think that they're backwards country hicks.) When my friend and I arrived at CDG, my friend asked an employee, "Parlez-vous anglais?" The employee said no and then she and the other employees laughed, like they were all in on it. Our hotel staff was completely unhelpful. When we asked where to find Internet cafes and clothing stores, none of them knew anything, as if they had all just moved to the city. On the street, we'd walk into businesses and ask them about the location of the nearest pharmacy or drugstore ("Bonjour, excusez-moi, je cherche..."), and most employees said they didn't know. I'm not complaining about not receiving "typical" bulls**t American customer service, with the big smile and happy attitude. I just wanted basic directions to stores and didn't care what attitude the person had. But we received very little help from people who should have known what kinds of stores were in the vicinity.
Yes. Outside of Paris, we found that the French are very nice and pleasant people.
Regarding Pat's post, it reminds me of an experiment that was done a year or so back in New York. I forget who organized it, but the idea was to study passers-by's reactions to a man playing the violin at the entrance to a subway station [INVALID] you know, those musicians who play hoping people will drop a little money in the hat as they pass by. The difference in this experiment was that the guy playing the violin was no amateur [INVALID] he was a world famous classical virtuoso, and his playing impeccable. He played for about an hour to see if his playing made any difference in the amount of money he got, or if anyone recognized him. The result, as I recall, was disappointing. Most people just walked by without a glance, and the amount of donations he got were about average. In other words, he could have been just any old music student. It didn't make any difference.
Well Sarah,so you are assuming that for some reason,, many complete strangers conspired against you to not help you,, that they all knew where things were,, and just out of SPITE wouldn't tell you. And you think thats reality.. LOL I am not debating how you felt,, those are your feelings,, and you are completely entitled to them.. but really, you are saying people just wouldn't help you ,, just to be mean??
We found people polite and sometimes friendly in Paris. We only had 1 or 2 encounters with people being rude but that can happen anywhere. And we don't speak French (although we always tried with the basics). One of them was overtly bad service with a smile and one was in a bakery where the woman was openly laughing at my pronunciations.
The rudest people I've ever seen/encountered in Paris were Americans.
I don't know - vive la différence. I guess I was well-prepared for my first visit...and our first visit to Europe was 7 days in Paris. So,.........They were more generous and friendly than we even expected! Many spontaneous conversations started By The Parisians Themselves - WOW! And we knew 'bonjour', 'madame', and 'monsieur'. Period. And probably looked scared to death LOL! Not the stereotypically loud, obnoxious tourist, but meek little creatures who needed some help. Europe ain't Epcot, People! There are French people in France, with all of their history and baggage. There are Italians in Italy, and Germans in Germany. I knew that going in, and it was an absolutely wonderful 5 week experience. Even Italy (oy - giggle). I didn't expect Dallas, TX, and I sure didn't get it. I wanted, and got, Paris. It's a very busy city, and the Parisians are every bit as 'busy' as we are - they aren't my service staff. They're going to work, running late for school, etc. And I'm probably in their way LOL! Yes, there are rude people; nearly everytime I go to my neighborhood Safeway store, someone is standing in the MIDDLE of the aisle, back to me, yakking on their &#@*^$ cell phone. Completely oblivious that they're blocking the aisle. I'm going to end up on the evening news one day..."Lady Goes Crazy and Mows Down Stooopid Woman with Shopping Cart; Cell Phone Thrown into Meat Slicer". I'll take Paris ANY day!!!
I think people in cities all over the world can be rude at times, but that's just the nature of city life. You're surrounded by people all the time and you just want to go about your business, get to work on time, and there are people in your way, asking stupid questions, acting rude themselves. That's enough to frustrate anyone. But no, I don't think Parisians in general are any ruder than New Yorkers or San Franciscans or Bostonians. Every city has its jerks and frustrated people.
short answer-yes. they are. i understand why-they put up with tourists all day. but then again, if not for the tourists, they would be out of a job. i put up with middle school students all day with a smile on my face, because that's my job. we were there for two weeks this summer, and at one point my husband asked me why i look like i'm being walked towards a firing squad every time we approached a restaurant. the reason-waiters in paris. i nearly hugged a waitress in london on our way back home. she actually smiled at me.
We were in Paris for a week this summer. People were more than kind- actually offering unsolicited help on two occasions..We were very impressed quite frankly..Not sure where the rude Parisians were- maybe all on holiday..;-)
I have found that most times when I travel I find exactly what I am looking for.... search out rude people and I am sure you are to find some... search out people who are willing to help and give directions and I am sure you will also find some. Having traveled to over 23 countries I can always find someone willing to help and with a smile! Just like in America... not everyone has a winning personality.
I always seem to get the correct reaction to my action. My actions seemed to be on the super nice and funny. My wife gets the opposite reactions to me and she finds almost everyone rude. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Tracy,, so in two weeks you didn't get any smiles,, wow,, that is terrible. I find I get one at least once every two days when I am there, usually after I have slaughtered the language and ordered a "sock roasted ice pick",, LOL The fact remains,, people will alway visit Paris, they have never gone for the people really,, lets be honest. They go for the history, the food, the many museums and galleries, the beauty of the city itself, and if they find the Parisians half human( which some of us do, LOL) that is iciing on the cake. I guess as some of you may know, I have family there, and I know they are nice, kind and polite people,( hey, they even shower and use deodourant regularily too), so I absolutely find it appalling when people say "all Parisians are rude" simply because that is an ignorant lie. There ARE rude people, but no more then I have encountered anywhere. Generalizing about an entire population group has another name doesn't it? ( an this is not directed at any one poster ,, just an open question)
"if not for the tourists, they would be out of a job". It's worth remembering that Paris is the capital city of a large country. Only a minority of people work in the tourism industry, and only a minority of Parisian tourists are from North America. Try to see these things in perspective. It may be the trip of a lifetime for you, but it is just another day for most of the people you will meet, and they are not paid extra to be nice to you.
Just to add on to Tyler's post, it was Joshua Bell playing in the Metro in DC. He was there for a concert that night, tickets for the concert were over $100. He was wearing a baseball hat and jeans, but playing a 2 million dollar violin. He made $32 playing during morning rush hour. The person who stopped to listen for the longest was a 3-year-old boy.
I have stayed out of this discussion until now but Tracy's post about two weeks of grimly facing Parisian waiters' rudeness has aroused my curiosity. I want to know how these waiters were rude. You will never encounter the French equivalent of the American "Hi, how are you folks doin' tonight?" and "Hi, my name is Tyler and I'll be your server tonight." No, but you generally do get served in a coolly professional & efficient manner, which is just fine with me. I don't need him to be my friend. The only time a waiter in Paris was "rude" to me was when I was in his way and he was approaching with a huge & heavy tray of food. So, Tracy, please tell us what those poor, benighted Parisian waiters did every day for two weeks that caused your "marching to your death" angst.
Here's video of Joshua Bell at the Metro Station: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnOPu0_YWhw
I've actually encountered what I would consider ruder people in Rome than in Paris. I've also encountered really nice people in both places. Americans tend to be very direct and outwardly friendly while the French esp Parisians tend to be more subtle, more aloof to strangers and are very much into gamesmanship. There are also some major cultural differences as the French still follow a strict,subtle social protocol that few non-french understand. I'm sure working in a major tourist city is a bit frustrating. I can imagine the novelty wears off around the 20,000th customer asks to have their pictures taken with you or calls you 'Garcon'. We seem to get better service (and food) if we stay out of the main tourist areas for eating. This is also true in San Francisco.
I've also noticed that many Americans approach people in Paris expecting to establish a kind of "friendship" connection in order to transact their business (whether this be buying bread in boulangerie or asking directions of someone in the street). The French are put off by strangers who come on to them as friends. They expect cool, distant respect- this is the currency of their transactions with strangers. It is not that they are rude, they just do not cotton to strangers who come on to them as friends. Many Americans do not understand this.
No, no, no! The American corporate restaurant greeting is collective and is more like, "How we doin' tonight?" If you're quite lucky, you may even get a, "I'll be taking care of you tonight!" thrown in.
I fully agree with what Gwen wrote. "And if you want to be really correct, always add "Madame" or "Monsieur" after the "Bonjour" or "Merci", as in: "Bonjour, Madame" and "Merci, Monsieur" and "Au revoir, Madame". You will be more authentic that way =) And always give these greetings when you enter a store (except maybe a large supermarket!) and again when you leave, say "Au revoir, Madame" (or whatever). It might be the difference between a nice or a surly response from the shopkeeper. " In found myself enjoying the formality because it does a few things for you. -You start off greeting each other instead of a "Hey you" approach. -The person will know that you can't speak French and will communicate in English. (At least the people I met did) -I see nothing wrong with showing some respect for the country you are visiting. I enjoy how this sloooows you down so that you can enjoy yourself instead of hurrying like a rat in a maze. I came to Paris to enjoy myself and learn the culture and differences, not get mad at them. I returned from France understanding a lot more why people live a certain way. -There is a quality of the language when you hear people speak it who have those slight inflections of experience. Spoken French can be very musical in a way. My knowledge of Polish is enough to get by with relatives. However, when I heard the 9 year old daughter of a relative speak it, OMG it was pure heaven to my ears in beauty. People are proud of their country. I found that discussing the differences between the USA and Paris with a local resident on the TGV one day a great experience for the both of us in understanding why we do what we do. It was a lot of fun explaining the many different parts of the USA and accents along with OUR issues of language and manners.
It's nice to be corroborated by another person who goes to Paris to enjoy and learn. Personally, after being in Paris for a while and then returning to my home in Los Angeles, I have been struck by the loose, squishy lack of boundaries we Americans are used to in our dealings with strangers. I notice it right away in the airport as I go through customs, get my bags, look for a taxi, etc. We're so much looser and less respectful. I really prefer the French/European style, to be honest.
I have no opinion on the rudeness or lack thereof, as our first visit to Paris will be next March (although I do subscribe to both the 'people are people' and 'you get what you give' theories). However, I do have a question regarding greeting shopkeepers in particular. In a small shop, with an unoccupied clerk or shopkeeper, it makes perfect sense to greet them when you enter. But if the store is bigger or especially if they are busy, do you browse and greet them when you're ready to pay? What if you are leaving empty-handed?
Oh, my husband was so sure that the French would be rude....however, we took the time to learn a few basic phrases in French before we went, and we made sure to always be as polite as possible. Our experiences have been great, and I believe the French to be some of the most polite (not casually friendly as we are used to in the USA) people ever. It helps to remember that the French are very reserved and very private beings. We love the French atmosphere of politeness and good manners. Good manners work well everywhere.
Bingo, Rudy! [BUT your name is 'Ru-de'...;-) ].........And how about we try a little harder at home, too - next time you enter a shop, speak with the checker at the grocery store, etc., give them a 'Good morning, Ma'am' or a 'Hello, Sir'.........and treat THEM like a human being. Let me know how that goes for you. ;-)
I can say the rudest person I ever encountered in my travels all over the world was myself...after a particularly grueling 24 hour flight with connections, I got off the plane with a bad attitude and unfortunately I took that attitude with me for about 2 or 3 hours...until I could finally unwind with a glass of wine in an outdoor cafe. Unfortunately I couldn't undo the damage I had done anymore than I could un-ring a bell. It was a lesson in humility that I have not forgotten, Since then when I encouter someone who seems a little annoyed or out of sorts, I remember that they might just be having a bad day, and I let it go.
Eileen......fyi....people do call me "Rude". All in good humour though!
Well, Pat, I didn't say or imply that people were conspiring against me, nor did I say that they wouldn't help me just to be mean. And I don't think that's reality. It was my experience and all I have to go on is my experience. I don't know why they wouldn't help and all I'm saying is nothing like that has happened to me in any other city to that degree. I don't like Paris and for some reason you seem personally insulted that I don't like Paris. I'm not picking on anyone for liking Paris; everyone has their own opinion and that's fine. You and I have already had this conversation on another thread so let's just agree to disagree.
Most of my eight trips to France have included some time in Paris, and only once have I encountered a rude waiter. (Trust me, it wasn't a cultural difference; he was rude.) Conversely, we have been the recipient of many acts of generosity and kindness. Last summer, on the last evening of our trip, we experienced two such. First, returning to the Gare to retrieve our luggage and go out to CDG, we couldn't find the left-luggage office, even though there are maps of the station posted. A woman came up to us and asked if she could help. Despite having a train to catch, she spent some time and actually walked us to our destination. Second, though we knew there are two RER B trains, we got on the wrong one. As soon as the track split, someone seeing our luggage asked if we were going to CDG. When told yes, he explained our mistake and told us what to do. Other passengers helped get our heavy bags out the door quickly. The suburban stations don't have escalators; but both going down one side and going up the other side of the tracks, people immediately offered to help us. I know nothing will convince those who are sure Parisians are rude. However, neophytes need to hear other opinions; so that they don't go with bad attitudes and provoke the behavior they are expecting.
As someone who works in a customer service job, I know what its like to deal with rude, demanding customers all day. I don't know about Paris specifically, but I think there are rude and demanding people everwhere. As pleasant and cheerful as I try to be to everyone I meet while traveling, there's always someone who is a perfect jerk in response. Most people do appreciate friendly customer service, but for me in my job, that works both ways. If someone who wants my help is rude or unpleasant to me, I'm not going to go out of my way to be so very helpful to them. As a solo traveler I am sometimes totally ignored in restaurants and cafes, and if so, I get up and walk out, assuming they don't need my business enough, and go somewhere else. I realize that service standards are different in Europe, but to be left waiting for half an hour in a cafe is just wrong, no one's that busy.
Sarah,, I am glad you will not be returning to Paris,more room for me, so no worries there, I don't care if you like it or not, but you did use the phrase "like they were all in on it",, sounds like a conspiracy to me..
Gwen hit the nail on the head[INVALID]Parisians or any French don't come onto or at people like long lost friends, but show respect for a person's privacy and individuality as demonstrated in the tu and vous difference. On the other hand, they do have much closer body language when speaking, even with strangers, and use eye movement for expression while we tend to use head movement. Waiters are professionals who do an efficient job without the fluff. The set phrases developed by the corporate restaurants don't exist. Finally, living part of the year in France, I was so surprised when the rudest person I met was a Flemish policeman in Brussels to whom I asked directions in French. Even trying English didn't patch up the problem. But then the Flemish want to split Belgium in two to get away from the French-speakers. How rude.
The question Liz has asked (a few posts up) seems like a good one, does anyone here know the answer: "In a small shop, with an unoccupied clerk or shopkeeper, it makes perfect sense to greet them when you enter. But if the store is bigger or especially if they are busy, do you browse and greet them when you're ready to pay? What if you are leaving empty-handed?" Does anyone have an opinion about what is appropriate, in Paris, in a larger store where there is no one near the entrance?
But if the store is bigger or especially if they are busy, do you browse and greet them when you're ready to pay? Yes. What if you are leaving empty-handed?" Look at them, say merci au revoir. Does anyone have an opinion about what is appropriate, in Paris, in a larger store where there is no one near the entrance? You can just leave if there is no one to interact with. If anyone is around, be sure to say au revoir.
Bets: Thank you. And I found your longer answer of interest, you must have edited it - this is the kind of thing that isn't covered in most of the guidebooks :)
Glad you got to see it, but I realized that I hadn't answered your questions.
Actually you did and very well, I thought! It's been interesting to see this thread get so much discussion, I've enjoyed reading all the opinions. Cultural differences are fascinating, aren't they?
Bets, I found your comment about the eye movements (of the French) versus the head movemets (of Americans) interesting. I lived in Paris for six months and never noticed that with enough awareness to articulate it. I wonder if we Americans are (at an unconscious level) disconcerted by this difference.
Further to what Bets and Gwen have said: Seems like this thread is about cultural differences in behavior. The way in which Parisians are different from us is interesting. One goes to Japan, or Israel, and you expect significant cultural differences, and when you see them you're not surprised and you understand why - different world views, different history, different religion, in the case of the Japanese two thousand years of no Western influences, in the case of Israel three thousand years of a different kind of Biblical experience (the Hebrew Bible). And then you go to Paris, and you're thinking, well, it's Western Europe, sure they're going to be speaking French, but the people won't really be all that different, they must be a lot like us - and then the French end up being more different from us than you're expecting, and it can blindside you. Fascinating! And could be disconcerting, for some.
I think you've hit the nail on the head Kent. People that go to Paris/France and are disconcerted or make the statement: Parisians Are Rude are not comprehending it's not only a different country, but also a different CULTURE. Their social rules are different from ours. I assumed everyone knew that but this thread has made me realize some people don't. They may say they do, but they don't...My answer to the question about walking into a store and the owner/salesperson is busy...greet them as soon as you make eye contact with them even if they are helping another customer. And Bets is absolutely right about saying goodbye even if you leave without buying anything.
Are Parisians rude? No. I've seen more rude behaviour exhibited by some of the regulars on this board as they jump down the throats of newbies for asking a question that may have already been asked 20 times in the last year, or they snipe at others for having a differing opinion from their own. What is their excuse? It sure isn't a cultural difference or a language thing.
A lot of answers have been given here on the topic of rudeness and Parisians, however one may define that. True, that Americans and les francais don't play by the same social rules, and you might even ask why should they? I have been to France 16 times since 1973 and have had only a few moments of unpleasantness. But I wonder if the topic of rudeness and other nationalities, other than les francais, such as with the Italians, English, Dutch, Spanish, and Germans would generate the breadth of responses as seen here. My very first attempt at communication in France was at Orly as we were trying to ask this driver of the airport bus about going into Paris in July 1973. Our fragmented French and his almost non-existent English were getting us nowhere. He was more than patient with us. Because it had worked for me 2 years earlier in Sweden, I decided to ask him: parlez-vous allemand, monsieur? He did...the communication problem was solved. I've always marveled at that man's patience with the two of us 23 year olds. When we got to the hostel near the Nation Metro station, the reception desk was no where as patient. It depends on the way one interprets rudeness and one's own sensitivities to social situations. Seating alone in a restaurant in France has never resulted in my being ignored or refused service...and definitely not in Germany.
Parisians rude? As a whole, nope. As other's have mentioned they are some of the most polite people on earth, in a very formal way. I prefer it to be honest, I was at a restaurant last night and had to sit through a 5 minute speach from my waiter along the lines of Hi I'm James, we're going to be BFF's for the next 45 min, our new summer salad is amazing, I had it last night for dinner, probably going to have it again tonight etc... I really don't care. Also, even though many French/Europeans do speak English, we have and use a lot of slang and don't realize it. My parents came to visit me while I was living in France and we were at a hotel, I heard my dad ask the front desk man where we could "grab a bite to eat" the guy looked puzzled and said he didn't know. Many people might assume he just didn't want to answer the question and give a rec. I went over and explained to him that we were wondering if he could recommend a restaurant that he enjoyed where we could have dinner. The light bulb went off, and he happily pointed us to a great spot. Need to use a bathroom and ask where to find a McDonalds? and the French "pretend" not to understand? They truly don't, ask where is the McDo is (pronounced MacDough) and they can point you in the right direction.
The only people who I referred to as "all in on it" were the airport employees.
Merci Bets! (and to Kent for bumping the question)
"It depends on the way one interprets rudeness and one's own sensitivities to social situations"...Briliantly said Fred! ...Vanessa makes really good points as well!
Well, that means what you would consider or look upon as rude behaviour or response I may not thanks to my own interpretation, insensitivity, or even denseness. Maybe one's perception of rudeness is more important than the truth since that perception, justified or not, is going to be the determining factor as to the way that person is going to view and form conclusions on les francais.
In my three trips to Paris I've experienced this so called rudeness once. In a café near Trocodero we had ordered beer and were just hanging-out. Our waiter was awesome until "they" arrived. Here we were, two middle-aged dudes from Detroit in competition with four very young, attractive, female Japanese tourists for the waiter's attention. With all the shy smiles and eye-fluttering from the girls I could have passed-out in front of the waiter and he wouldn't have noticed. It took a lot of hand waving to get the check. In a way I don't blame him.
to answer norma's question to me (one page back) first yes, i knew better than to expect 'typical' american (and often annoying) friendly service at restaurants. so that wasn't it. i think what really bothered me was how rude they were about the language. and by this i don't mean that they refused to speak english-i'm not one of the people who expects them to. we tried-very very hard-to speak french. was it perfect? no, of course not, though i did take french for six years in school, and studied my little rs phrase book for months before we left (as did my husband) and most of them (waiters) pretended to not even understand what we were saying when we tried, in french, to order, say, water (my husband was a pro at asking for a carafe of tap water!) they would look at us, confused, and then say something else we didn't understand, which would result in lots of gesturing etc. and some places, when asked if they spoke english (in french of course) we would get a NO reply-in darn near a perfect english accent. which i took to mean 'yes, i do, but i don't plan to speak it to you'. they were also always very much in a hurry, and generally...grumbly? for lack of a much better word! we were there at the end of july, right before lots of people took off on vaction, so perhaps that is the reason for it (in fact, my worst meal ever was the night of july 31st, hours before half of our neighborhood threw their empty bottles in the street and took off for the beach). and yes, i agree with someone who said that you don't go to france for the politeness. i just don't like being in a city full of grumbly people! so to jamaica i will go-or, if in europe, back to amsterdam, where people are VERY friendly.
Generalizations are always dangerous, but as this topic begs for it, I'll indulge. It's been a good bit of time since I was in Paris, but my experience was that people on the street were very friendly. In fact, several folks went out of their way to be helpful. Once or twice they made my experience in such a lovely city even better. So I cannot say Parisians are rude. However, service people of all sorts (hotel, airport staff, wait staff) were often and indifferent to my needs as a customer and were outright rude at worst. They often acted pissed off to have to bother with a customer. Of course, this based on an American's perspective [INVALID] but what's wrong with that? If Parisians find American service workers generally overzealous that's fair enough and I can live with it. We all have a POV based on our own experiences and cultures and there's nothing wrong with that. Having said that, it's called the SERVICE industry for a reason. IMHO, being igrnored or brushed off is unacceptable no matter where you are. I'm going to disagree with another poster and say that service workers ARE paid to be friendly. They're paid to behave in way that encourages spending. "Attitude" doesn't do that. I'm sure there are many excellent (based on my US standard) Parisian service workers... I just didn't encounter many. No complaints, though, I let my tourist dollars do the talking and be picky about where I go and what I do. I won't avoid Paris but I keep shopping to a minimum.
The first time we went to Paris, I really didn't know what to expect. We had heard the stories of the rude Parisians, but were pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully friendly the people were. With one exception (a young woman behind the counter at a bakery) everyone we met was just wonderful. The only time I have been treated really, really rudely by a French-speaking person was in Montreal. I made the mistake of asking a bus driver a question in English. He slammed the door in my face and drove off without a reply.
Mike,, that was kind of funny, but of course not right,, but hey, seems like something that could happen anywhere. As a middle aged woman I can assure you a table of pretty little 20 yrs olds can certainly keep a waiter preoccupied, and far to busy to check on the table of "old ladies" .. LOL
I have been resistant to replying to this thread, but what the heck, I'll add my 2 cents worth. I love Paris and have not found "Parisians" to rude. Have I had encounters with rude waiters/service people? Sure. But I have lived my entire life in the SF Bay Area and had my share of rude waiters. I think that snarky waiters abound in metroplitan areas. It seems bizarre to judge the entire city based on their waiters. Another thing to keep in mind, when comparing French waiters to American waiters, is that you are subisdizing the income of American waiters. They are, most often, paid at or near minimum wage and need to rely on your tips to earn a decent living. This is not the case in Europe. And while that doesn't excuse rude behavior, it can explain why American waiters are nicer! .............EDIT - I do not mean to insult waiters, but in an area where the denisty of restaurants is so much higher, the likelihood of having a snarky waiter is increased... Most of my experiences in the bay area, like Paris, have been great...
Also, I would like to respond to Tracy's statement - "we tried-very very hard-to speak french. was it perfect? no, of course not, though i did take french for six years in school, and studied my little rs phrase book for months before we left (as did my husband) and most of them (waiters) pretended to not even understand what we were saying when we tried".....I have family in France, as well as several friends who are native-born French. And often times the truth is - They honestly don't understand your French! I say things that I think sounds right and my cousin will look at me with a confused expression on her face. She is not being rude, she honestly doesn't understand what I am saying. When she figures it out, she tries to correct me, and we have a good laugh over it. The same is true of one of my coworkes, who is from Paris. So, maybe these waiters are pretending not to understand, or maybe they honestly don't understand you...
Regarding Tracy's statement about waiters that wouldn't speak English and ignored her attempts at French, I also studied French in college, and I have had no big trouble communicating. Sometimes, I won't know certain words, or understand an answer, but it doesn't seem to bother them. If I don't understand, they switch to English if they can, or I ask them to repeat what they said more slowly. I have always found that, if you make an honest effort to use your French, people treat you with respect. That is not to say that there are no rude people in France, or people in the service industries who are impatient with tourists. It's the same here in San Francisco. We have lots of foreign tourists, many who don't speak English very well. While San Franciscans are in general very welcoming and helpful, you will find those who are not. Like, I can give bus drivers as an example. Some are very helpful, which others are extremely rude to anyone asking a question.
Linda writes: "So, maybe these waiters are pretending not to understand, or maybe they honestly don't understand you" That is a possibility. French is the most difficult Latin-based language for Americans to pronounce. Spanish and Italian are much easier to at least achieve a pronunciation that can be understood by most people. And, the French tend to be rather sensitive about "mangled" French. Tracy, the fact that you mention you use an RS phrase book would tend to make me believe that, while you have studied French before, you are not very comfortable with it on the whole. If you could take some language classes, focusing on pronunciation, I think you would be surprised at the results on your next trip to France.
I think Tyler (post immediately above) is onto something, something that's not often mentioned here when the subject of speaking French to native speakers comes up: that with French, unlike Spanish or Italian, it's possible for you to think you're speaking it but for a native speaker to not understand you, because of your accent (or lack of it).
I sure hope the world doesn't judge San Francisco based on the Muni drivers :) I'm pretty sure my life-long loathing of public transit originated from my experiences on BART, MUNI and AC transit
I agree with you on the topic of Muni, don't have enough experience with various lines on AC but know it can be undesirable, to put it mildy, ie., the pits at times. BART seems to be the only civilised part of public transit here.
Saying "Parisians are Rude" is the same things as saying "San Franciscans are Rude" based on a bad experience with a muni driver...It's a ridiculous generalization...and both are untrue.
Generalizations are crazy. But isn't it possible that a kernel of truth lies somewhere in the mix? I've heard Europeans say Americans are fat, loud, and too Amera-centric. Is that true? I dunno - either way the assertion doesn't bother me a bit. And to be fair, my guess is that the average American does weigh more than the average Frenchman. So there's an element of truth hidden somewhere floating in the background from which a stereotype is born. Bias is built-in everywhere. I think it's interesting to hear different opinions based on our own life experiences and bias... and nothing for folks to get riled up over.
When I started the topic, I thought people might enjoy sounding off about this subject, which comes up here regularly, so I thought, why not air this out. But I didn't think the topic would get 90+ posts! I feel Paris and France are worth putting up with the French (just kidding). Who was it that said: Paris is a wonderful place, what a pity that it's inhabited by Parisians. And someone else said: Only a few are privileged to be Parisians. Thanks to everyone who has posted on this thread!
As some have said, they are no more rude than others in a large city. Try approaching a New Yorker and speak German to see how much help you get.
...and the "Culture Shock" series (France, Italy, Germany...).
Sorry to be late to this thread. It's absolutely true that we think we're speaking passable French and the French just don't understand. I've had at least two instances where I was asked to write out a key word because they were just not getting it. If they were rude, I would have just been brushed off but in both instances, they went the extra step to try to help me. One more comment: one post mentioned not getting smiles from French service people. Since when does not smiling equal rude behavior?
Good point Grier,, unfortunately because we North Americans expect a certain type of behaviour here,, we can forget that in other cultures its not the same. Here I will smile and say hello to strangers walking down the street. Its quite normal here, and we mostly all do it,, but in many places in the world they would think you are a bit daft if you did that.
There is a wonderful book (title: French or Foe?) that was written to enlighten the non-French about many of the idiosyncracies of the French (sorry I don't remember the author). It is delightful, a very funny read, and full of interesting and very reliable insights. One quotation I remember from reading it is this: in France, "walking down the street with an idiotic grin on your face and saying hello to people you don't know, are signs of senility!" :)
There is a wonderful book, both funny and enlightening, "French or Foe". And in the first chapter, the author talks about smiling. French people don't smile at strangers. They are not being rude, it's just not customary. The book's a great read; should be required reading before visiting Paris! EDIT - Too funny! We must have been responding at the same time... The author is Polly Platt.
Wow, Linda. We both posted about that book almost simultaneously. I agree it should be required reading before traveling to France.
Author is Polly Plat I think.
What do you define as rude?
EDIT: No I don't think they are. Having just returned from a trip this was my experience: One rude breakfast waiter in Paris over a period of 4 days, otherwise no issues in Paris that I can recollect (and I cannot speak any French, although I do the bonjour and merci etc). HOWEVER I probably struck somebody rude in almost every place I went to. One polite vs one rude postal offical in Cologne. A rude ferry ticket seller in Varenna. A rude ticket seller at Milan Central, and yes I've struck rude service people here in my hometown. As someone else has posted what is a the definition of rudeness. Where I live people are considered rude if they block the aisle in the supermarket, and yet in other places no one would even think of this as an issue. The rudeness I struck from this waiter was his manner, and it was the sort that meant I would not return to the establishment again, and certainly wouldn't recommend it to others, but we had an entertaining time in the restaurant and the food was okay. Maybe his manner wouldn't have offended other people . . .
James, that's ridiculous. Do you think women who travel to France only deal with French men? Do you think the French men we deal with are only after one thing?
Yes - some Parisians are rude! :o) But can you generalize? NO! I believe that everywhere you go some people are rude - sometimes, in some situations - but more people are mostly nice. And I believe that's the case in Paris. I lived for years in New York City - another place with a bad rep for rudeness, and have some incredibly fond memories of kindness from strangers. I've travelled extensively in Paris, and ditto. From the folks who have bellied up next to me in bars - to the wonderful cab driver who helped me with vocabulary and prasied my French accent on the way to Montmartre - to the guy who had just opened his own pub and was keen to tell us all about the beers and ask how American pubs were different - to the stellar group of ex-pats at the Highlander (right at the end of the Pnt Neuf - highly recommended) - to the guy at the front desk at l'Hotel Hameau who won't let me speak English, and corrects my pronunciation - to the waiters at Cafe le Passy who let us become part-time "regulars" for morning coffee - to the adorable man and his wife who make sandwiches at an ice cream shop near St. Merry - Paris is simply stuffed with friendly, jovial, kind, outgoing, the-opposite-of-rude people. Tip: don't come off as a know-it-all, culturally vulgar, better-than-thou American, and you'll get a better reception.
Just got back from a week in Paris and thougt 99% of the peaple were great. Train station attendants and bus drivers were helpful as were almost all of the hotel, cafe and bakery workers. The rudest person I encountered was a woman who cut me in line in Printempts then ordered the woman around in broken French and got frustrated when she didnt understand her. Oh, and she was German!
Grier - Not just ridiculous, but if you browse back through the thread, he's wrong...
Over 100 replies to this topic in 2 weeks! plus I've received numerous PM's on it. Thank you to each of you for sharing your thoughts on this - it seems that the Helpline can be what we make it, and can be a place for sharing not only bus schedules but even for sharing insights and inspirations about things European. * * * ¶ If I can sum up, most thought we shouldn't indulge in ethnic stereotypes and that cultural differences can be interesting, not intimidating. It was said that travel broadens us, or ought to. And that although we may not always understand the French, they, and Paris, are worth the trouble. And that they may see us in the same way, or not think about us much at all, as we're (alas) just tourists, visitors to their special part of the world. Maybe this is what travel is about? It's not just EuroLand, but a place that many of us came from, however far back we have to trace that.
Oh by the way, the results: The consensus is that Parisians are not really rude, they're just different from us. They have some expectations of us, too: they'd like us to make an effort to speak in their language, with a best accent we can muster (otherwise we may think we're speaking French but really aren't), and observe their politeness phrases when we're over there. The French have done a few things for Western Civilization: the Impressionists, some of our theories of democracy, some of the greatest cathedrals in the world, etc, etc), they even left their imprint on parts of North America: the Quebec Canadians know this stuff, but what about New Orleans and St. Louis? It's a different culture - is ours automatically better because it's different? No, of course not.
Yes, Parisians are rude. As are people from London, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Moscow....hmmmm...come to think of it, there are rude people every where! In fact, everyone on this board is rude.....at one time or another. Just like every other person in the world. Including me.