Rude people exist everywhere. However according to the internet you’d likely believe they’re all hauled up here in France (or more specifically in the French capital Paris).
It’s not uncommon to hear people discussing the “Rude French” and a quick google search will (as of publishing this) give you around 23,000,000 results for the simple query: “Why Are The French So Rude”. So are the French really as rude as the internet would have you believe?
Of course not!
Look, you may have been to a cafe in Paris and suffered from what you would call rudeness or bad service, but the same could happen in London, Barcelona, Manchester, Venice – in fact, just about anywhere. Why is it only the French that carry such a stigma?
The French aren’t rude it’s all about PERCEPTION!
Us, in the English mother tongue speaking world have a tendency to skirt around a conversation.
You probably say things like:
“Excuse me, do you mind if I can I just borrow a moment of your time…”
When a simple “excuse me” would suffice
“I’m really sorry, I was so busy this morning I rushed out the house without even thinking to pack a pen, is it OK if I borrow one of yours?”
When “Can I borrow a pen?” is more than enough.
Being direct isn’t rude.
And the French, are very much direct.
Different countries, have different cultures, different ways of wording things and different perceptions of what’s rude and what isn’t.
*Fun Fact: did You know, in South Korea and Japan, it’s actually rude to tip. Seriously, something we find the complete contrast of rude, is impolite.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
(How can the French be rude with a motto like this?)
Something you’ll notice in France is a difference in hierarchy and in France equality comes first. Liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) is the national motto in France. It means a lot in this country and shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, being/feeling equal in France is a lot more important than money. The French will treat a toilet cleaner the same as they would treat a banker, with respect as their equal .If you treat a French person as if they are below you, then you only have yourself to blame for the rude attitude you might receive.
The fact of the matter is, the French aren’t rude
you probably just don’t understand the rules of French conversation
Since living here, one of the most important conversational rules I’ve learnt is
You probably learnt Bonjour in primary school, but maybe you don’t say it all that often?
The French greeting (translated to: Good Day) should be the first word out of your mouth when initiating any conversation in French. Unless you’re speaking in the evening or at night and then it should be “Bonsoir” (Good Evening). Us Brits have a tendency to head straight for the “parlez-vous anglais?” without even a greeting.
I imagine a waiter in the UK would be slightly irked too if the first words out of a diner’s mouth was “Do You Speak ……”.
Seriously, before you say anything, give a greeting – wait for a greeting and then ask your question.
A simple Hello, and a bit of politeness, goes a long way.
The second rule of French conversation?
Always try speaking a little French
It’s no challenge to pick yourself up a phrase book, listen to an audio book or even get in a quick lesson before visiting somewhere new. Just picking up the basics to get you by on “Holiday French” is going to help you out majorly – and you’ll probably notice the service is a little better too. I’ve always found a smile and an apology for my bad French goes a long way.
So how can you better your language skills?
As many of you know, I’m currently studying French here in Montpellier at the Paul Valery Universitie. I’m on the level A1, which is the beginners course in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL). But for those of you just visiting for a holiday, or who don’t have access to courses like that, here are a few tools I’ve used to help me over the last few months:
I remember this handy little site from my school days. It’s basic, GCSE level French and really good for beginners wanting to learn a few bits and bobs. I do find the video tutorials really juvenile – But what do you expect from a course aimed at kids?
This Audiobook is so fab, I had to buy the book too. Pauls way of explaining French makes it feel so easy and effortless. It’s a long Audiobook, but due to the language difference it’s probably not wise to listen to it in double time. If you already have audible this is a great way to spend your monthly credit – if not? Then I definitely recommend you try Audible for free and get it.
Like the Audio, Pauls book is easy and effortless. The book has a slightly different structure to the audio book but it’s still easy to follow. Perfect for teaching the grammar basics and learning that bit of holiday French before you arrive.
Everyone loves a handy app. I’ve used Duolingo for years (inconsistently) and I’ve always felt like it’s helped. However, now I’m in school – I’m not so sure if it was as useful as I thought? I definitely think it’s a great tool for revision help, but maybe not so much the learning.
My aunt bought this for us as a leaving present and I can honestly say it’s been fantastic. It’s part dictionary, part phrasebook and even part grammar – which makes it a perfect mini book to carry around in your touristic bumbag (yes I have a bumbag…)
One of the most popular French language learning tools – though I really struggle to get on with it. I know repetition is good for your brain and it’s a way of learning, but I find it mind numbingly boring. I’ve included it in the list, because who’s to say you’ll feel the same…
This website is your life saver. If you’re ever stuck conjugating verbs – you need this in your bookmarks
Only just started using this website/app combo, still not too sure if it’s helping or if I even like it, but anything’s worth a shot?
Just for fun:
I’ve recently found this English comedian who is very popular here in France, here’s one of his videos discussing the French language difficulties!
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