For years I’ve been denying the French are rude. People simply don’t understand cultural differences. Tourists who come to France should remember they’re guests. It’s their responsibility to learn about French culture and mores, before making grand pronouncements that they’re not well treated as soon as they land on Gallic soil.
There have been times I’ve nearly waged battle over what I believe to be massive misperceptions. Some people assume I’m a representative of the French Government’s tourist office since my mantra has been: smile, shake hands, say “bonjour” and “merci” and don’t assume your being here and spending money entitles you to jump to the front of the line.
The analogy I’ve made is Parisians tend to be like people who live and work in Manhattan and don’t necessarily make nice-nice to strangers—you know, the ones who look lost and ask for directions, in a foreign language no less, about how to travel from the lower East Side to the upper West Side without changing subway lines.
Imagine my upset when the results of a telephone poll conducted by the CSA (France’s Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel) of 1000 French adults, who live outside of Paris, were made public.
The findings were devastating. But there had to be a reason. It was a sample of those who were willing to take the time to answer the questions, undoubtedly because others were too busy. How many times have you said no to a telemarketer or a survey-taker because you had other things on your plate—like dinner? I’m skeptical of the results, but here they are:
Parisians were found to be: arrogant, aggressive, snobbish, flirtatious, chauvinistic, feel they’re superior to people who live outside of Paris, and—dig this, Lotharios who hang out on the Champs-Élysées picking up women. It didn’t mention whether or not women were guilty of picking up men.
Thank goodness, “Marianne,” a political magazine ran an editorial alongside these findings. It was quick to say Parisians are under substantially more stress than people who live in other parts of France. Many have longer commutes to their jobs, work longer hours and, if the truth be told, they tend to be unpleasant to one another.
In addition, Parisians may have tourist fatigue since the city is a major tourist destination. Among the French, people from Brittany frequent Paris more than people from other parts of the country.
In spite of the fact that I constantly defend the French, Parisians are different from residents from other parts of France. When I split my time between Paris and Provence, I was constantly irritated by how long it took me to accomplish the most mundane things. I’d go into town to buy newspapers, bread and a few other things and it would invariably be a two-hour foray when I was in the country.
Why did people want to discuss everything and anything? I’d look behind me (when I finally got to the counter) and wonder whether or not these conversations were really necessary.
If I ran into a neighbor, it was considered rude if we didn’t stop for a coffee or a pastis. If I had a drink at 11 a.m., well, so much for the rest of the day. What I had to remember was that many of our neighbors were retired and that’s precisely the reason they settled in Provence. They were doing what they loved, and bless them. But I wasn’t into planting gardens (that was my husband’s passion) and please please, let me get home so I could access my passion Bonjour Paris.
As someone who loves to travel, we all have to learn that people march to their own drummers and at different paces. No matter where you go, rhythms are different.
When I spend time in Washington, DC, my pace slows down compared to Paris. Another thing I’ve learned is that no matter where I am, taxi drivers tend to be rude. It may be because they’re tired from having to fight traffic, busy listening to the radio and invariably are carrying on phone conversations— rarely these days in a language I understand.
My question (I’m ducking) is do you find Parisian rude? If you do, how could they change their behavior to make you more comfortable? Most people (and certainly ones in the hospitality industry) speak English. What can tourists learn from Parisians?
© Paris New Media, LLC