Apparently the French are regarded as RUDE by many tourists.
What could be behind this perceived rudeness?
Could something be lost in translation?
I would like to post my point of view as a French person regarding this topic.
This perceived rudeness could be due to our FORMALITY in greeting. In some countries, people are less formal, in others more so. In some countries you can just go up to somebody and say Hi and start talking to them. Not in France. If you do this, we are taken aback by your forthrightness. We may think you are the rude one and we will appear FROSTY. You will think it is RUDENESS on our part, but for us, the opposite is true: you are the one at fault as you didn't use our formal greetings. YOU were rude.
This is something that many tourists may not know about us, but in France, we are very formal in how we meet and greet. It will always be Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle, Docteur, Maître etc.
For instance, you could know your neighbour for years but still call them Monsieur et Madame Dupont. In the UK, you call somebody by their FIRST NAME more or less straight away. You can't do this in France, unless you're very close, or if, and when, they tell you that you can call them by their first name. Not before. Never assume that you can.
We also SHAKE people's hands when we introduce ourselves and when we meet them even when we know them. It will be: "Bonjour Monsieur Dupont, comment allez-vous?" and you will shake hands.
You chat and, after your conversation, you will shake hands again and say: "Bon, au revoir Monsieur Dupont" ou "A bientôt Monsieur Dupont".
We also take time to make FRIENDS, more so in the North of France than in the South. When my husband and I lived in Mexico and met Canadian and US expats, we noticed how open, friendly and inviting they were. On the first day of meeting them, they would invite us to their home, for a drink, a meal, for parties. This does not happen here in France. We need time to get to know you. After months of knowing you, you may be invited for a coffee or we may ask you in for a coffee if you are already at the door and chatting. After a while of knowing you, you may be invited for an aperitif. Only if you are good friends or colleagues will you be invited for a meal. You see, for the French, friendships pass through defined and recognised STAGES.
There are BOUNDARIES that we observe in France, and it may be a European thing. I noticed in the USA for instance, people come up to you, they ask you personal questions, they want to know you better straight away. In France, it is too much too soon. We feel interrogated. So, if you do this in France, you will be met with a frostiness that you may misinterpret as rudeness. In fact, we are just shocked that you would be so DIRECT.
However, we can be direct too, as per the article mentioned above. You will notice that the French are much QUIETER than people you are used to in your own country, especially the British. Young French children sit down in the restaurant and eat quietly, no shouting and screaming. We like our peace and quiet. Yes we do. Of course, we will appear frosty to you if you come in, talking and joking, shouting and laughing at the top of your lungs and start spoiling our good time. I know many French people who will sit and not say anything to you but will shake their heads in disapproval, if you are foreign (different language). However, they may say something to a French person.
In France, we can be very DIRECT as regards what we wear. For instance, you will be told in no uncertain terms by your family members, friends or colleagues that what you are wearing is not appropriate or your look is less than well put together. We have a favourite expression for this: "s'habiller comme un as de pique" ('to dress like an ace of spades'). It's normal for us and we expect it. French people will look at what you wear in the street and may comment on your OUTFIT as they walk by.
We are also direct as regards WEIGHT. You may be told that you have been putting on weight, one way or another, subtly or directly, but you will be told.
In conversations, relating to POLITICS for instance, it is customary to state our opinion. It is customary to say if you agree or disagree too. But, it is NOT customary to stop being friends just because they have a different opinion to you. Is this perhaps, because our friendships take longer to form and thus are more valued and resilient?
So yes, we French can appear rude or heaven forbid non-PC to many. But this is how we interact with each other in France. If we change, it will no longer be us. We will all be and act like everybody else in the world. And is it not the differences that make us travel to other countries and appreciate other cultures?
Vive la différence, I say! ??️ ?
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I'm Marie-Anne Lecoeur Amazon best-selling author and founder of The French Chic Academy.
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