lundi 19 janvier 2015

No, the French are not rude but frenchy !

©Ooh la mom
When I was a child, my father's friend who came visiting told us how rude the French are. He said he asked a French man what time it was and he stopped, looked at his watch, and replied "You know, I bought this watch for myself. If you need to know what time it is, then buy yourself your own watch", then he walked away.

So even before I ever visited France, I believed that all French people are rude. It's the same thing when a non-nigerian has a bad experience with one or two Nigerians and then generalises that all Nigerians are bad. And each time he shares his experience with someone else who doesn't know any Nigerian, they tag all Nigerians as bad people.

One of the clichés of "French-bashing" includes that French people are rude, snobby and do not smile. On hearing this, you do not want to visit France and even if you decide to, maybe because you want to see the Eiffel Tower at least once, you go to France with the myth that they are rude and a closed mind. So you decide to have little or no contact with the French and if you do, you expect them to be rude and then you notice rudeness in all their gestures.

First let me say that most people who say the French are rude are people who have made up their mind that they are rude before actually visiting the country. And they often don't go past Paris thereby judging the whole of French people with the attitudes of Parisians. But France doesn't start and end in Paris.

If you decide to visit France, study or live there, it is important to learn French language basics and a bit about the French culture. Same thing if you want to visit a country whose language you do not speak and whose culture you do not know. If you do not understand the French culture, you'll think the French are arrogant.

In France, greetings are very important. Before you say anything, ask any question, always start with "Bonjour". French people will be nice to you if you start an interaction with a "Bonjour" or "Bonsoir" and nicer when you add a title, "Monsieur" if it's a man or "Madame" if it's a woman.

No need for a big wide smile. The French believe it hypocritical giving a big smile to a stranger. To us, we are being friendly, to them, it's hypocrisy. 

When you go into a shop, especially small ones like cafés, tabac, filling stations, épicerie, etc., always say "Bonjour" to the person you at the counter. No matter how absent minded you are, or how much in a hurry you are, never forget the magic words.

If you need help, and need to ask a shop attendant, always start with "Bonjour Monsieur or Madame". And before putting forward your question, start with "Excusez-moi" and end with "S'il vous plait". It is kind of strange that you have to excuse yourself as if you are disturbing but it's the French culture. In France, act like the French.

If you look around and do not find anything to buy, don't just leave, say "Merci, Au Revoir" on your way out. Same thing when you buy something.

When you board a bus, it is very important to say "Bonjour" to the driver and when you are descending say "Merci, Au Revoir". It's funny but the French people always say thank you to the driver and goodbye even though the ride is not free. You might see less of this in Paris because tourists often do not know this, but say this all the same to the bus driver and watch his countenance change.
You cannot stop a French man and just say "Excuse me, can you tell me where to find the cinema please?". Once your "Bonjour" is missing, be sure you will get a frowny face. Even if you don't speak French, always start with "Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?" which means in English "Good morning, do you speak English", then continue in English.

Your attempt to speak French does magic to a French man's heart. He will cheerfully reply you in the little English he can speak.

If you stop a French man and speak English to him, he is maybe going to pretend he doesn't. But most times, they are shy and terrified to speak English because they think they speak badly and have horrible accents.

French people hate to be hypocrites, they often like to say what they think but also they are reserved about certain topics which they might conisder to be intimate or private. They don't ask about people's age and salary. They avoid talking about religions and politics especially if they don't know you, and if they don't share same view. Asking a French man which party he supports or who is voted for is a "NO,NO". He will be as shocked as you would be if someone asked you what you HIV status is.

If you are having a conversation with a French man and he finds you boring, he won't tell you "oh really, that's interesting" when you are not. He won't pretend to like you if he doesn't.

They are not the types to smile from ear to ear when you walk into their shops to buy things and they won't tell you "hope to see you soon" when you are leaving.

Parisians deal with a lot of rude tourists from all over the world and it's normal that some of them are tired of tolerating strangers who do not respect their culture knowingly or unknowingly. You should see other cities outside Paris. The French who live in countryside/villages are the kindest and friendliest in the whole of France. The French living in the north of France is known to the French themselves as the warmest people of France, and Parisians as the coldest people.

Also do not forget that Paris is the most visited city in the world and that Parisians are maybe tired of tourists. Example, I live in the South of France and I can tell you I hate it during summer because there are a lot of tourists in town. I never get a place to seat in the bus or the train. And most times, I spend more time at the bus station because every bus that passes by is filled up and won't stop. During this time, people return home later than they normally do after work. All these things makes one wish for the end of summer so that tourists can return where they came from and life can continue normally.

Making private conversations public is seen in France as being indiscreet. For example, speaking loud on the telephone.

Tapping someone in the French culture is a "NO, NO". You cannot tap a French man, give him a big smile like you guys are buddies and then ask him a question without a "bonjour". We Nigerians wouldn't do that either because it's not our culture either.

The last time someone tapped me in Obalende, I had to touch my V to be sure it was still there.  I even thought about weeing on myself to be sure, it was functioning but I wasn't pressed. The first thing I did when I got home was to run into the toilet to see with my eyes.

Now you know that the French people don't go about smiling at total strangers. If you stop a French man to ask him a question and you give him a big smile, don't be surprised he doesn't return it or looks at you awkwardly. It's not their thing. They just don't know how to return a smile for no reason. They smile when they are happy, what's happy about being asked a question ?

If you find yourself in a discussion with a French person, here a few topics that interest them : what French dish you should try, a good bottle of wine you should taste, what pet he/she has, the name of the pet, the breed of his dog, a good restaurant you should visit etc.

Hope I have been able to help you understand a bit the French culture and way of life.

Also please remember that rude and polite people can be found in all countries of the world.

Here are a few polite terms you should know before your plane lands in France :

1. Bonjour/Bonsoir - Good morning/evening
2. S'il vous plait - Please
3. Excusez-moi - Excuse me
4. Je suis désolée - I am sorry
5. Merci - Thanks

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