French Get Manual to Combat Rudeness

Eiffel TowerLet’s face it, the French have a reputation for being rude. And nowhere is it more prominent than in Paris.

Whether it’s true or not, and I lean towards the not, too many tourists have complained about the French being  unhelpful, impolite and unable to speak any other language except “le francais.” That has the French authorities worried.

France is the most visited destination for foreign tourists in the world. Last year, some 29 million foreigners visited Paris alone. One out of every ten Parisians makes their living off of tourism. Officials fear some tourists might skip Paris to visit more friendly cities.

To combat the stereotype or perhaps reality in some cases, tourism officials have come up with a new six page guide titled: “Do you speak Touriste?”

Inside is information on how to greet people in eight languages, advice on spending habits, as well as cultural differences of various countries.  They learn that the British like to be called by their first name,  Americans like to be assured on prices,  and Italians like a firm handshake.

Thirty thousand copies are being handed out to waiters, taxi drivers,  shop keepers and anyone else who may come into contact with tourists.

Will it work…on va voir? But then, to me, that Parisian attitude is part of the city’s charm.

Do you think the French are rude?

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7 Responses to French Get Manual to Combat Rudeness

  1. Frank T. says:

    I’ve never found that reputation to be accurate, either in Paris or Provence which are the areas I’ve visited. But then I make a habit to say hello, goodbye and thank you in French. That’s pretty much the limit of my language skills. Fortunately, most of the people I’ve dealt with speak at least a little English with the only exceptions being a rural gas station and the Marseille airport gift shop.

    I think the French get exasperated when tourists don’t take the trouble to learn a little bit about their way of life. I was sitting alone at a restaurant in Avignon chatting with the waitress (in English) when a member of our museum tour group came over and asked me where the tip went on their dinner check. We explained that the service was included (service compris was printed on the check) but that they could leave a small additional cash tip if they liked the service provided. When they went back to their table the waitress leaned over and exclaimed “Hah, these Americans!” I’m not sure what nationality she thought I was.

  2. kbob says:

    I don’t think the French or the Parisians are rude in general, but I have had more rudeness incidents in France than anywhere else I’ve traveled. And I used to speak decent French, so it wasn’t caused by a total lack of the language. It happens mostly in very touristy areas; even slightly off the beaten track the French seem to be fine. Even in Paris I’ve been treated pretty well, except for a few occasions in very touristy spots. I did once walk out of a restaurant in Paris after awful service (we’d had a drink but our food hadn’t come yet). Saw the waiter on the way out, and he didn’t say anything or try to stop us.

    I think the reputation comes from the combination of tons of tourists, many of whom have no clue about French or France, and a very strong sense of national identity, which makes some people not happy to be dealing with tourists.

    I used to work with a fellow in Paris who was originally Russian; his family had emigrated to Paris in 1917 after the Bolshevik revolution, so they’d been there for quite a while, and were completely French. He’d been born in France (as had his parents), was a French citizen, educated there, etc. But he told me he still didn’t fit in — people treated him normally until they found out his family was Russian, and then they treated him like he was an outsider.

  3. Kinkora says:

    There are rude people everywhere but I don’t think the French are any more rude than any other group. We’ve traveled throughout France and spent time in some very untouristy spots. My impression is that the French are much more reserved than Americans and sometimes I think Americans mistake that for rudeness. On our last trip we were exiting the train station and we saw an older French woman trying to get her bag up the stairs. My husband immediately stepped up to help her with her bag. She was very surprised and very grateful – to us that just seemed “what you do” but I don’t think that is as common in France. We weren’t the only people on the stairs and no one else had stopped to offer assistance. Some would think this rude, but I really think it stems from simply being more reserved and not intruding into another’s business.

  4. Larry says:

    I’ve been to the French Riviera and experienced rudeness from several business people, the “civilians” I met were as friendly and helpful as any other nationality. I decided the business people had the wrong occupation.

  5. Tarquin says:

    The British like to be called by their first name?
    Is that even true?

    • hayley says:

      Depends on the context really, I wouldn’t say it’s true in general though (I’m British). I’d invite someone to call me by my first name if I wanted them to, I’d expect to be called Madam (or possibly Miss) by a stranger initially.

  6. KF says:

    I have not had a problem with the French being rude with the exception of one occasion when trying to get tickets at the Pompidou. Maybe it was because I traveling with my parents and my mom told us to pack dressier things and we really tried not to stand out as ‘tourists’ behavior-wise. It also helped my dad and sister knew some French and the rest of us knew a couple words (my high school Latin came in handy for reading). We did try to at least start off conversations in French and people usually switched to English (or there was the international language of gesturing). Two events stick out in my mind, however – both times we had gone for dinner to little neighborhood restaurants. In the first, our waiter didn’t speak much English, but grabbed a friend who drinking at the bar to translate. In the second case, our waiter again spoke very little English, but really wanted to make sure we knew what we were ordering, to the point of showing us various dishes. As we were getting ready to leave, a group of loud American businessman came in and our waiter promptly forgot any English he knew.