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Why are French people rude..? Project “Friendly” continue in Paris

“I am rude. We’re all rude to each other, all the time. It’s the spirit of the city…”

RUDE PARIS: Arrogance is a gift of God, but don´t misuse it. Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way, but also a fight against bad reputation. Ten years ago, the tourist leaders of Paris made a safari guide to teach hospitality staff how to cope with the group they are paid to serve. It didn´t help – so here we go again. Why are French people so rude.

Typical French Chef at a bistro, this one with a smile.

The guide “Do You Speak Touriste?” was result of Paris bad reputation for rudeness, bad manners, or simply “l’impolitesse” in French. It didn´t help, and in 2023 they published more advice on how to best welcome French and international tourists. And included, more troublingly for the locals, how to be pleasant to them. In other words. It´s time to be nice!

Rude in French

After giving the waiters, cabbies, and shop workers two months to practice their smiles, an international reporter put the charm offensive to the test. Here are some service she got in Paris.

The first stop is lunch at Chez Francis, beside the Pont de l’Alma.
The waiter greets us with a scowl. “Why are you sitting ’ere?” he says. “I cannot serve you ’ere. Sit zere.” This is rude in French.
We move. What the waiter doesn’t know is that I speak French. Fluently, so when le connard tells his colleague he’s moved the two idiots from round the corner to a table more convenient to him, I understand.

Guests at a bistro in central Paris
Guests at a bistro in central Paris

The coffee order

Our test pilot and her friend continue to a bar off the Rue Sant-Gilles. There the owner collapsed when she orders a Cafè Noir and an espresso.
“Zey are exactly the same sing”, he burst out.
He shakes his head and storms off, mumbling something that might have been “idiot”.

The next day our test pilot and her friend sit down for lunch at a bistro in Saint-Honorè. She tries to order a cheese sandwich for her friend, explaining she is vegetarian.
“Vegetarian..?”, cries the waiter. Two men looked up, staring at the carrot-cruncher with a blend of horror and disgust. Mademoiselle´s sandwich arrive s on a chipped plate garnished with a look that says: “Eat that, freak”.

THE FOOD: Served with a view restaurant in Paris.
THE FOOD: Served with a view restaurant in Paris.

Tourist guides

Waiters in Paris are well known as unfriendly, in particular if you don´t speak Friends – I mean almost perfect French. But there is actually another group that is dreadful.

“Museum and gallery staff are the worst”, said tour guide Pierre Galland. “They couldn´t care less if visitors come or not. They are public-sector workers and have a job for life.”
Paris charm is in its surliness. Some Parisienne deliver service but refuse to roll over and let tourists tickle its tummy. This looks like an arrogance born of great beauty. Bad service is still part of Paris’ charm.

Bonjour - not easy to say
Bonjour – not easy to say

I cannot understand

I´m ordering our lunch in French so perfectly phrased, so beautifully enounced and inflected, that Larousse would have been hard pressed to find fault. The waiter stares at me over his pad. I stare back. He raises his pen. I push back my chair. A leaf falls and somewhere a bell tolls.
“Zorry, I cannot understand you. Can we try in English?”

It is some historic over Parisians. The city has been besieged and occupied leaving Parisians with distrust of foreigners and belief that tomorrow will always be worse than today. But beyond that, they see the world at large as hostile.

French stereotypes

France has their stereotypes, like eating snails, holding a baguette, don´t smile too much, and never be enthusiastic. They are honest and frank, wit and provocative humor.

“The goal is to fight against a bad reputation and improve the quality of the welcome in Paris,” say the officials. Always. The story of welcoming Paris to continue…

Unfriendly waiters in Paris are nothing new. Six years ago, we published a similar story. The difference: The old one was more unpleasant.

We shouldn’t take it personally, a friend told. “I was born here, and they are rude to me, too. I am rude back. We’re all rude to each other, all the time. It’s the spirit of the city, like drunkenness in London or robbery in Rome. You want people to be nice..? Go to Disney World.”

“Project Friendly” was set out in Paris, where smiling cost extra. This plan contines! France is also selected the rudest country in the World.

Bluebell Girls at Lido, a dance troupe celebrates seven decades of performing at the theatre.
Bluebell Girls at Lido, a dance troupe celebrates seven decades of performing at the theatre.

Facts about Paris

Population: 2,2 million. Capital of France.
Paris is one of the most popular cities among travelers. Known as the “City of Light” or the “City of Love”. Paris captures the hearts of millions ever year.

Eiffel Tower has 1,665 steps to reach the top – unless you take the elevator! 
The main bell of the Notre Dame Cathedral is named Emmanuel and weighs over 13 tonnes.
It’s believed that Paris only has one stop sign in the entire city.
There are 6,100 rues – or streets – in Paris; the shortest one, Rue des Degrés, is just 5.75 metres long and can be found in the 2nd arrondissement.

The Louvre is the world’s most extensive art gallery and museum, it has over 38,000 pieces of art within its walls, including the most famous painting ever, the Mona Lisa.
City of dogs. There are more than 300,000 dogs living in Paris – or one dog for every 7 Parisians.

The first “Bloody Mary” cocktail was made in Paris – at the Ritz Hotel. Made for the novelist Ernest Hemingway, of vodka mixed with tomato juice.
The Parisian Kiss. This is a typical way of greeting friends and loved ones. It´s a kiss on both cheeks, from left moving to the right. A common way of saying hello and goodbye.

No wonder Tom Cruise did a request for becoming an honorary citizen of Paris. But the local government blocked that move because of his affiliation with Scientology.

The Rule: French people believe saying “Bonjour” when approach a stranger is a universal rule of politesse. At least saying “Hello”. That is not the case. If you fail to say bonjour, you have been rude and they are offended, and will react offensive to you. This happens to tourists in France not knowing this rule.

UNFRIENDLY PARIS. VIVE LA DIFFERENCE

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya online travel magazine. Meeting people for engaging stories. I´m off to uncover the best strategies for long life living. This is part of my venture “Around the World in 80 Lanes” – about travel, run sprint, staying fit! I just want a tiny slice of adventures to feel alive, and then excited to return home.

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