ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Are the French Really That Rude?

Updated on January 27, 2011

The French are some of the most misunderstood people on the planet... and they like it that way - at least in my humble opinion. I spent most of my teenage years and a fair amount of my twenties living and traveling around France, and I think finally now I am qualified to speak on the subject - if only just.

Americans invariably talk about the rudeness of the French, their indifference to nearly everything - they are the kings of what Americans would refer to as the great blow-off. And to a certain extent, compared to American culture, those are accurate assessments. And I am a francophile admitting this! But keep in mind this simple question - if things weren't different, at least to some degree or another, why would you want to travel there? I mean honestly - we travel to experience different things, see new sights, meet people from different cultures, taste exotic cuisines, etc. Going to Europe and France in particular should be nothing akin to going to Disneyworld. Do we agree?

Okay, so when traveling to France remember: you are no longer in Minneapolis Gladys so don't expect things to be, well, American. And review the following cultural myths/observations and bits of advice - they will help you understand if not accept how the French view and treat American tourists.

Don't smile at everyone you meet. To a Frenchman nothing screams louder the phrase "naive American" than the omnipresent smile Americans - particularly Midwesterners - feel obligated to make once they make eye contact with anyone. France is full of Arab immigrants and smiling to strangers can be taken as an insult or a sexual come-on. At best, you will be perceived as a bit simple-minded.

Dont' make small-talk. Again, this is an American thingy that is pretty unique to our culture. French people do want to hear what you have to say, but make sure it's something of substance and not just a five minute dissertation on the weather.

Stores in Paris and other large cities make their living by selling - they don't care for window shoppers. Rental space in larger cities like Paris is extremely expensive. If you aren't truly interested in buying something, don't walk in the store and DON'T start to make pleasant conversation with the store help - they will, in no uncertain terms, let you know that if you aren't buying, you aren't welcome there. And remember this - cities like Paris are full of American tourists. These people know who you are - they see you coming from a mile away. Now if there is a sign above the door or in the window that says Entre Libre you are free to walk in and window shop. Entre Libre means "enter freely," or feel free to look around.

When traveling in the Paris Metro, be careful whom you buy from. Well I learned this one the hard way. People, mainly teenagers, hang around the subway tempting tourists with deals too good to be true. And these hucksters can be very aggressive. The old sales game is to approach a female tourist and ask them to hide a perfume bottle in their purse because the police are coming. Now this is obviously a scam, They figure that once you have the perfume in your possession, well it's ten times easier to sell it to you. And the perfume looks very genuine - the packaging is spot-on. What you don't know is that the expensive perfume has likely been dumped out and replaced with colored water or some other fluid. There are legitimate vendors in the Paris Metro. You will recognize them in their small kiosks - buy from them. It's a good deal safer and ultimately you will keep yourself out of trouble with the French police. And remember to bargain - in the Metro prices are rarely non-negotiable.

If you are invited to dinner at a private home, consider it an honor. Again, the French aren't much into niceties. So if you are invited to dinner at a French home, rest assured it is a genuine invitation. As a courtesy, be prepared to take the hostess some flowers and the host a bottle of wine. Even a wrapped dessert from a local pastisserie will go far in impressing your host.

When eating out in a restaurant, remember the tip is usually included in the price. You will note on French menus or on wall signs the term service compris.Simply put, this means the tip is included in the price of the meal. And along a similar vein, sales tax is included on all the store price tags. The marked price is all you are going to pay.

When visiting Paris, consider staying in hotels outside the city. As with any large city, Paris is surrounded by suburbs. In French they are called banlieu.These "little towns" offer hotel accommodations at reasonable prices. Trains run every hour into the city, and the money you will save will go a long way toward other things.

In summary, the French are a very private people. Once you break the ice you will find them to be very warm and genuine. And don't forget to brush-up on your French - a little goes a long ways and you will impress your new-found friends.


Other Cultural Articles by this Author:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Alhamora profile image


      7 years ago from North

      Very well written. One of my friend is a big fan of art films and to him Paris is the heaven.

    • rotl profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      Very helpful and fun to read. I've never been to France but hoping to soon. I must say, the few French people I have known in my life struck me as a bit arrogant, but I guess it's just a French thing.

    • France Travel Inf profile image

      France Travel Inf 

      8 years ago

      What a great hub! I invite you to post this as a travel tip on my website:


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)