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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.

SEE THE ARTICLE "HOW TO PACK FOR A 10-DAY TRIP TO EUROPE" AT: http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Pack-for-a-10-Day-Trip-to-Europe

Other Cultural Articles by this Author: http://hubpages.com/profile/DTR0005

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    • Alhamora profile image

      Alhamora 

      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

      rotl 

      7 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 

      7 years ago

      What a great hub! I invite you to post this as a travel tip on my website: http://www.france-travel-info.com/Travel-Tips.html

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