The French Aren't Rude, They're Misunderstood
3 min read
“Parisians are rude, dislike tourists, and hate Americans.” The words-of-warning I heard from friends and family before my first trip to Paris, France in 2015. I’m not one to get my feathers ruffled, but had my head on swivel and toes on tippy as I exited the Boeing 757 into the land of Paris. Sort of expecting an Ed Debevic's iconic, caricature-rude waitstaff to greet me at every turn. But that’s not what happened on this trip, nor is it what happened my other three trips to Paris.
I’ve interviewed over a dozen local Parisians and here’s what they’ve got to say: “We don’t hate tourists or Americans.” Parisians are direct, do not sugar-coat things, often a bit more straight-faced and docile than Americans, and are openly disgusted by ignorance and ill-mannered people.
Let’s put ourselves into the fitted shoes of a local. Paris receives around 89 million tourists every year. They get a massive rush of new explorers every single day, and a memorable percentage of those travelers are impolite. The world has given Paris a reputation for “rude”, but attitude is typically only dispensed [read: deserved] when people on the receiving-end are inconsiderate or pig-headed. Not all tourists who go to Paris are bad, only a small—but loud—percentage. These are also the same type of people who post mean reviews on Yelp!, Angie’s List, and Google business. And it’s these tourists who have spread the negative reputation of Parisians.
Some say perceived French “snobbery” historically began around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Western-want and neo-industrial changes have largely removed authentic artisan quality, in exchange for speed, quantity, and consistency—while in tandem stripping cultures, practices, rituals, and traditions. France is a very old country, with a very old culture. France’s product output is on an ivory tower for all the world to measure as cream of the crop (just look at their top-of-the-line wine, cheese, and fashion production).
What I have found so heartwarming and admirable about the French, is their silent pact as a whole, to defend quality and values. This may mean push-back on new thinking and outside policies. They do not want to water-down what makes France, France—their essence. Like adding ice cubes to a rich glass of Bordeaux.
Catching up with dear friends over a cigarette after work, biting into the warm almond filling of a freshly baked croissant, the unfolding of a large picnic blanket with the breeze at your back as you watch the sunset with family, and the serotonin release as one sips a glass of Beaujolais at a brasserie surrounded by laughter. This is the real France. These petit precious moments make France remarkable, timeless, and the third most popular tourist destination in the world.
The French do not act out of fear or hate, but out of love and hope. Love of brotherhood and traditions—to protect their integrity and quality of life. And the hope to provide access to these values for their children and grandchildren before the modern world swoops it all away…Holding on desperately like a mother standing in rapid flood waters with baby clutched in hands, high above her head. I see this humanity and desperate love every time I go to France. And if that’s not something to admire, then I don’t know what is.