Comments on the French disposition

Mar 1st, 2001, 08:10 AM
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Comments on the French disposition

I don't understand some of the negative attitudes concerning the people of France. People can be friendly, courteous, offensive and or disagreeable. In my opinion, these are human traits rather than cultural characteristics. I have found that I tend to be treated in the same manner that I conduct myself. Any thoughts?
Mar 1st, 2001, 08:38 AM
Steve Mueller
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Brace yourself for at least a dozen posts imploring people to ignore your thread. "Do we have to discuss this again?", etc. I can hear it already...

I think that the negative attitude you mention is founded in several, easily identifiable, things:

First, in the opinion of many tourists (not just Americans), the French (particularly Parisians) are noticeably rude, or at least unfriendly, when compared to citizens of neighboring countries such as Germany or Belgium. To many, the French come across as pathetically insecure.

Second, the disarry of French society as manifest in the tendency to strike at the drop of a hat, their inability to defend themselves militarily, the myriad of legislative measures designed to control so many minute aspects of society.

Third, some people don't like the French because they seem politically arrogant. Examples include the recent testing of thermonuclear weapons, the Rainbow Warrior incident, attempts interfere with German reunification and to bar the UK from the European Union, etc.

Although I have not directly experienced the rudeness that the French are so notorious for, I have heard firsthand accounts that the Golden Rule, which you alluded to in your post, applies throughout Europe with the obvious exception of France. Attempts to greet someone in French are often rudely rebuffed. If you don't do things exactly the way that they do (e.g., putting ketchup on fries rather than mayonaisse), you are ridiculed. The list goes on.

Decide for yourself. And don't take what we say seriously enough to change your plans. Although we do have genuine disagreements on this subject, some of us just love to argue with one another.
Mar 1st, 2001, 08:53 AM
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Steve, enjoyed your feedback. You mentioned Belgium - I lived in Brussels and of all the cities in Europe I have been to - Brussels was the most difficult. Of course I was dealing with the hassels of everyday living but us expats use to refer to "the layers of difficulty". It was the only place I encountered rudeness "post offices and communes especially" but loved the city in spite of. Have too many wonderful memories of Paris to see it maligned. Think I will still live by the Golden Rule. If people are tired of this conversation I guess I will find myself in the back 200 or so.
Mar 1st, 2001, 08:55 AM
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I had a french boyfriend once who had moved to London to get away from the arrogant french.

He went into great detail as to why he thought the french were quite cold and arrogant, traits he recognised in himself and tried to resist. He explained that they were a fiercely proud, patriotic nation who had never quite recovered from the loss of empire. While the British tended to joke about their former powers and the loss of them, the French struggled to believe that they weren't the influential power they once were. This manifests itslef in dislike for any nation that is (or seems to be) more powerful, wealthy or influential. That's why they dislike Americans, Germans and British.

We British have always thought that we were the biggest ebemies of the French because we've been fighting with them for about 1000 years. However my Spanish neighbour has always maintained that THEY are France's biggest enemies. So it looks like the French don't have many friends at all.

Having said that, I work with 2 French people and they're lovely. But maybe that's because they moved to England
Mar 1st, 2001, 09:34 AM
Steve Mueller
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I'm envious of the fact that you were able to live in Brussels, which is one of my favorite European cities. I've always had a great time in Brussels, but have only been there as a tourist. Having lived in Japan for a year, I can testify that living in a foreign country is never easy. Although the language barrier in Japan was exceptionally high, I suspect living in any non-English-speaking foreign country would be difficult.
Mar 1st, 2001, 10:06 AM
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Steve, I think any difficulties come from being "out of comfort zone". Having said that, I would move back to Brussels, or anywhere else, in a heartbeat. My nephew is currently living in Japen. He is very much out of his comfort zone. We just all have different tolerance levels. Brussels is one of the prettiest cities I have seen - can see why you love it. Hope you can return soon. Bye
Mar 1st, 2001, 11:18 AM
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Went to Paris with my parents and often took separate cabs. Each time my mom said the cabbie was rude and I always found my cabbie nice.

I think my mom was the rude one and the cabbie reacted to her. Once I heard her yelling "NO ENGLISH>>>ENGLISH" to a person trying to help her. I am sure the person thought that my mom was too rude and changed her mind about trying to help her.

I learned by watching my mom that the people who think the natives are rude are actually doing something to offend the native of the country that they are visiting.
Mar 1st, 2001, 11:56 AM
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I lived in the outskirts of Paris for three years and found that whenever I was beginning to despair (because I very firmly agree with Marilyn's first post) some lovely person would restore my faith - especially Monsieur Lotz who repaired our cars and would draw pictures to explain things to me (I wish they would do that in England!). And also the people who ran the swimming club my son went to - they invited me to go along on the coach with them to watch some championships. And also the lady at the vehicle testing centre who spent ages explaining the meaning of "trop de jeu" - she'd make a wonderful teacher. And also ... and also....
Mar 1st, 2001, 04:07 PM
wes fowler
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Here's what a Frenchman had to say about his fellow countrymen:

In his book length essay “Les Taxis de la Marne” Jean Dutourd speaks of his countrymen’s favorite weaknesses as quoted by Janet Flanner in her Paris Journal 1956-1964. Those weaknesses "are their narcissism, their lack of faith, their egotism, their frivolous anarchy, their individualism that constantly drives them to nonconformism, their false myth of their “glorious defeat” (since defeat without an adjective would be unbearable to their pride) and their concurrent rival myth of French panache".

This, after all is a nation whose intellectual elite debated the sex of the motor car for over two weeks before finally ruling that it’s a he rather than a she, thus un bel auto rather than une belle auto.

Mar 3rd, 2001, 08:58 AM
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We returned from a trip in November and traveled to Nice, Marseille, Paris, Normandy, Villedieux des Poeles, Mont St Michel, Samur and Chartres. We met some of the nicest people and found the French to be very hospitable. Whoever said that if you just make a small effort to speak the language the French will be very gracious was absolutely correct. I even tried to pick easier words that I'd be less likely to butcher. They were often amused by my attempts (but not in a mean way)and were then very helpful. We even met a gentlemen (probably in his 70's) in Normandy who gave us a private tour of a church he looked after and then invited to his home (a charming 200 yr old manor house) to have a drink (where we sipped red wine for a while while he shared some history with us and even mapped out our trip to Mt St Michel including a stop in a very quaint town (Villedieux des Poeles) that we would not have know to go to! (a great place for copper). That is one extreme example but we encountered wonderful people on every leg of our trip. We'd go back in a second! Also I'd be gald to provide any info on any of the above mentioned cities if anyone needs it.
Mar 3rd, 2001, 11:05 AM
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Just a few gross overgeneralizations based on superficial travel experiences: Compared to other nationalities, I found the French to be
1. exceptionally polite
2. somewhat formal and ritualistic in their courtesies
3. a little reserved
4. opinionated

I guess the times when I was there the really rude ones must have been on vacation disguising themselves as Americans.
Mar 3rd, 2001, 11:24 AM
Jim Rosenberg
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The French have a lot to be proud of and that is what they are. But the infamous French arrogance? Personally, I think that more than anything else, it is simply an outdated stereotype. Americans may smile more, but we have our own ways of being brisk, superficial and at times, as rude and "in your face" as anywhere on earth. Where the French start with "Bonjour" and end with "S'il vous plait", we cut to the chase and we're on our way. Too many people are willing to treat service people like pond scum and then they wonder why things don't go so well or the places they go can't find competent help. I agree with those who cite the Golden Rule. It works everywhere and it certainly does in France. People of France sometimes have different priorities in their lives than people here in the U.S. We share some very important values, too. C'est la vie.
Mar 3rd, 2001, 01:35 PM
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I feel you generally get what you give. I have traveled every year to Paris for many years and have never been treated poorly except when I was mistaken as German. I have seen German tourists berated on museum lines by French people and ignored in restaurants - it doesn't help that they travel in groups and are dropped off en masse although there is nothing wrong with that, it just makes them obvious.

My most telling experience about the "ugly American tourist" was while getting on an Air France flight back to the US when a Frenchman tried to cut in the line. A group of American tourists told him to get back in line because he was virtually on American soil now (well justified but extremely rude). On the plane, this group displayed the most obnoxious behaviour, loud and roudy. When the pilot announced that the plane was ready to land at JFK they all stood up and clapped. I hope they never go back.
Mar 3rd, 2001, 01:42 PM
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I confess that most of the French drive me crazy. They are wearying and eventually become tiresome. I wish I didn't feel that way and, sure, there were a few that we got to know and, yes, that seems to open some kind of door,... but during our two+ years in France, we found them to be very much in line with Wes's quote from Dutourd. That's an excellent description and far more precise than what I've seen in other discussions of this frequent topic here at Fodor's.
They are just so very insecure, but then I always wonder if it just looks that way to me because I look through the lenses of my own culture; it's a delicate thing to sort out.
And, hey! They've got the masculine "auto", but they've also got the feminine "voiture" so I guess I "entre ma voiture et sort mon auto" like it does a sex change while I'm riding in it? I had this Grande Ecole colleague who tried to defend and justify the whole gender thing. Talk about lame! Of all the annoying french folks, the Grande Ecole types are the worst.

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