Friday, April 13, 2012

Are French people really that rude?

I was reading a report the other day that said that in a survey of over 1,200 people that guess which country was declared the rudest for visitors? Yep, the old stereotype of French people being rude reared its ugly head. I was angry and didn't know where to start! I completely agree with the article's author that Parisians seem to be just as rude to each other as they are to visitors! But the part of the survey that bothered me most were the criteria used to judge a destination's 'friendliness' or 'rudeness'. Are you ready? The two main criteria were (1) how much the locals *smile* and (2) where were the people particularly 'unfriendly' (no criteria given as to what exactly constitutes 'unfriendly').
Rudeness, a stereotype- much like this guy

Why are these bad criteria to use? Well, anyone who's read a book on French culture such as 'French or Foe' by Polly Platt or 'Culture Shock: France' can tell you that no one in France walks down the street with a perma-grin, unless they want to be perceived as the village idiot!

As an aside, both of these are excellent books to read before travelling to France- once you know the French 'code', you'll find that the French are never rude...well, almost never (but that's the case anywhere).

As for 'particularly unfriendly', I can only assume that this means that someone yelled in English at a Parisian who then refused to help them, even if they probably did understand. I'm not making this up- I've seen tourists walk up to people in Paris and begin speaking English without so much as an 'Excuse me' or 'Hello'. Can you imagine? You're trying to live your life, going to or from work, and a visitor to your country stops you to babble in a foreign language without even trying to speak your language? And then gets mad at you. How would you react the 10th or so time this happened? That's what I thought!

So am I way off base? Is this a survey we should take seriously or is it completely invalid due to its criteria not being culturally specific? What have your experiences been?


  1. I had extremely generous encounters with french citizens, in paris, but more dramatically in small towns. I used French manners and did my best to speak the French I knew. In one town, two ladies who truly spoke no English, gave me a personal car tour around their village. In another tiny town, the postal worker (who also spoke no English) did us a big favor. She took our books to the neighboring town on the following Monday, to get them in the correct box and mail them to the states.

    1. I'm glad you said that- it's been my experience as well!