Everyone tells you the French are rude. Especially the Parisians, they say. They are haughty, brusque, rude and unfriendly, and you should just be prepared to handle their attitude towards foreign visitors, if you want to enjoy beautiful France. Well, they are right about France being beautiful, but wrong about all the rest. Let me tell you why.
This is no scientific survey of millions of travelers to France. Far from it. My conclusion is based on critical first hand observation by my family of four on our most recent trip there. France, including Paris and Cannes, is beautiful, and friendly, and fashionable, expensive and crowded, but not rude or unfriendly.
It started when we landed and were greeted by friendly policemen at the gate who quickly glanced at our passports and let us into the airport. We were directed to the immigration officers by elegantly dressed airport workers. Passports stamped and we made our way to baggage claim in minutes. No long lines. Our bags arrived promptly and we had free carts to use for carrying our bags to the car.
Our driver greeted us, was curious about our flight and we had a lovely conversation on world travel and Paris as we made our way to the hotel. When our driver got to the hotel, he offered to take us to the bank when he learned we had not stopped at the currency exchange. He did this even though he was already paid and he was only contracted to take us to the hotel. What generosity!
We arrived early in the morning, and Nathalie greeted us at the front desk. It was way too early for check in, but she offered us breakfast, kept our bags, and gave us maps and directions. She promised to send us a text as soon as the rooms became available.
Paris was cool and a little cloudy that day. We decided on a bus and walking tour. At one stop, as we waited to change for another bus line, we saw the vaunted agriculture workers preparing for a rally. They built several bonfires, had dozens of people preparing sandwiches of Parisian bread, cheese, and large chunks of steak. They offered to us and any other bystanders wine, cheese, grilled meat and sandwiches. It was a festive occasion.
We wondered what had happened to the rude, unfriendly French? Sadly, as we took taxis, stood in line, visited museums, and everything else we did for the next ten days, we could not find the rude French.
Do we think that the French are rude? I suppose, some people in France are rude to visitors, or at least, short with them. This is no different than any other busy tourist city. Wouldn’t you be if you were rushing to work and having to maneuver around millions of hopelessly lost and sometimes difficult tourists? If anything, we found many of our fellow travelers to be rude as they pushed, sometimes disregarded lines, stepped into photographs, and generally acted without a care for others. Paris and France, has many beautiful sites and experiences to offer. And so, it is very attractive to visitors. Until this year, Paris was the most visited place on earth annually.
While in France, we read about a program by the French government which aimed at getting the French businesses and workers to be more visitor aware. It seemed like the French government had heard the frequent saying that the French are rude, and were combating that perception programatically. The intent was to make the French more friendly. Pamphlets provided friendlier phrases and guidance on how to interact with the many outsiders. The program was either a really great investment, or a complete waste of money. Our experience suggests that the program either had a dramatic impact on French friendliness, in a short time, or was completely unnecessary!
The French are rude? Our family has to say emphatically from our recent experience, Mais non!
What have you heard of France? What has been your experience?