Are the French really rude?

I’m considering taking a trip to France but I’m somewhat concerned about the stereotype of the French as being rude. Is there much basis for this thinking? I’ve also heard that Parisians specifically are rude even by French standards.

What’s the Straight Dope? I’m sure that there are rude people wherever you go. Does France have more than their fair share?

Never been to France but I got to know a group of about 8-10 French exchange students some years ago. They were actually the friendliest of the bunch (there were also students from Norway, Germany, England, and some other European countries). Very approachable, outgoing, and open-minded.

Small sample, I know. But just saying: they can’t all be bad.

My ex-wife grew up in France, in the suburbs of Paris. She was of the opinion that only the Parisians were rude. Of course, her friend from Provence insisted that people from the Parisian suburbs were ruder. And some of her friends from one or another of the arrondissements claimed that only people from the tonier sections of Paris were rude.

My theory is that there’s one guy living in Paris that’s the rudest of all.

All aboard, next stop, stereotype city.

I guess if your first line includes words like “cheese” and “monkeys” they might be, though probably they’d reply in French, which might put you at a disadvantage.

I’ve heard somewhere that New Yorkers specifically are rude even by US standards.

And even if that was true, would that stop you visiting New York?

I’ve been to France. I thought I spoke French until I got there.

People in Paris can be a bit rude, or perhaps a bit intolerant of tourists. Their reputation is a bit exaggerated though. It’s not like every single person on the streets is going to shout a rude comment at you. There are plenty of nice folks there as well. I personally didn’t think Paris was really that much worse than someplace like Washington DC or New York City. Yeah, you’ve got a lot of people in a hurry and they get a bit snippy if you get in their way, but overall it’s not bad.

Outside of Paris everyone I met was absolutely wonderful. They were all smiles and were more than willing to help some stupid American like me work through the language difficulties. I can see where folks might say that Parisians are rude, but you definitely can’t say that for all French folk. Overall they are a very friendly bunch.

No, I have never found the French - or even Parisians - to be rude. In fact, I have found Parisians to be downright accommodating. My knowledge of French is minuscule, and the times I’ve been in Paris I’ve been amazed at the number of people who would willingly speak English to help me out when I needed it.

I’m not even saying this in a contrarian kind of way to make a statement about stereotypes not being true: based on my personal experience, I can’t even see what the stereotype is based on.

I’ve met a handful of French people in the US, and all were snotty and arrogant. Then I spent a week in London and a week in Paris. Every Parisian I came in contact with was charming and polite…and extremely accommodating.

Londoners? Most were nice, but there was a large obnoxious contingent.


I was in France last October. The people were extremely friendly (even in Paris). If you ask people if they speak English, they’ll gladly switch to it, for instance, and they were all very helpful.

I can get by with my high school French, but that wasn’t necessary. I do think they like it if you try to speak French to them, but my parents (who were along) had the same reactions when they’d go up to people on the street and ask them, “Do you know English?” My mother especially liked to ask people directions and other information – in English – and they were alway happy to oblige.

I can’t think of any instance where anyone was rude (the closest was a waiter in Bayeux who seems a bit testy, but no more so than anyone who’s having a bad day). I can, however, think of some delightful exchanges:

The woman outside the Louvre who started chatting with me too fast for me to catch on. I said in French, “I’m American and I don’t speak French well”; she replied, “You speak very well” and switched to English.

The old man in St. Lo who spent about five minutes telling us about the area in French.

The owner of a restaurant in Harcourt, who treated us (and all his customers) as though we were long-lost friends.

The people in a small village where we stopped to get directions. We just went into a shop and asked if anyone spoke English. Several there did not, but one did and was perfectly helpful.

As long as you’re polite and friendly, the French will be the same.

ETA: I felt the same as RunswithScissors. In London, the people were generally nice to us, but they were much nicer in France.

I pretty much agree with this. In particular, I remember one night when some friends and I accidentally went to the wrong train platform (for some reason, the Paris Metro and national train line will be based out of the same station but will have different names for that station) and we were completely baffled because we didn’t know about that little idiosyncrasy. A young French woman noticed us discussing our issue amongst ourselves and took it upon herself to find out where we needed to go and lead us directly there. Along the way, one of our friends had trouble with his ticket at the gate and she convinced the person at the ticket counter to let him through. I couldn’t imagine a nicer person - we thanked her, she said “You’re welcome” and went on her way.

I spent three weeks in France last summer. We traveled all over the country including a week in Paris. I did not find the French rude at all. As a matter of fact I found nearly all French people quite delightful. Many spoke very good English and went out of their way to be helpful and kind to us.

Then again I’m from NYC originally so perhaps my bar is for rudeness is a bit lower.


I’ve been to France, years ago, and I didn’t find most of the people I met to be rude. Most were quite pleasant, polite, and helpful. A few were not, but I suppose that’s true of any place.

I did use my French while I was there, which may have made things easier; and was able to hold my own in conversations in cafes and such. However, I still remember the woman at the store who, when I asked for a pack of cigarettes (in French), basically threw them at me, calling me (in French) a “fucking foreigner.” But she was the exception. Still, as I said, her reaction was rare.

Try to learn a few words and phrases before you go. Even if you mangle them, your efforts will go a long way towards smoothing over any friction with most of the locals. Bonne chance et bon voyage!

I’ve been to France quite a few times, including several trips to Paris, and I’ve never found them to be exceptionally rude. Sometimes a bit abrupt, but usually perfectly friendly.

I’ve never been to France, and don’t speak French. But my longtime girlfriend is a French citizen.

My take: compared to most Americans, the French value discreetness and formality. They think it’s rude to shout across a distance or smile ear-to-ear at a stranger. We think we’re being friendly/casual, they think we’re rude. And we end up thinking that they’re the rude ones.

My fraction of a Euro, hashed out over many a conversation.

Only the ones on scooters. And probably only if you hog up the entire little French road with your Chrysler 300. . .

At least that’s my experience.

Do you speak French with a German accent? If so, you may well be treated differently, at least initially, primarily by the older people. I speak from experience here. They really opened up when they found that I was English and had learned to speak French in Alsace-Lorraine (NE France, traded between France and Germany).

I’ve been to France a few times, and Paris for a day. On the whole, I found the service to be more friendly than in the UK. I have heard that the French will quickly take offence if you are not polite yourself, the expectation is that the customer will treat them with respect (and quite right too).

On a more personal level, I’ve met some friendly French people, who have gone out of their way to be friendly towards me.

I’ve never found the French to be particularly rude; I lived in Paris for 3 years and now live down south. You will get occasional rude people - usually in touristy parts of town - who are just fed up of dealing with the thousands and thousands of people visiting their town, many of whom don’t speak any French, who do the usual tourist things that can get on the nerves of those who live there. But that’s the same in any part of the world that gets lots of tourists, and more so, of course, for big cities like Paris (or London, or New York, or Rome, or anywhere…)

It certainly shouldn’t be a consideration that would stop you coming to visit! If you speak French, so much the better - you may find that people switch into English anyway, particularly younger people; they don’t mean to imply your French is crap, they’re just trying to make life easier for you, generally speaking - but even if you don’t speak French, it’s not a problem. You’ll get a better reception if you can learn a few phrases though. And say bonjour monsieur (or madame) when you go into shops - particularly outside of Paris. You’d be amazed how much friendlier people are when you conform to what they see as polite behaviour, which isn’t necessarily the same as your own standards.

I don’t really have many first-hand experiences with the French, but I remember most people me and my family met during a trip to France in the early 2000’s being very obnoxious and unwilling to speak English.

This is, of course, only a few memories from a trip I made when I was something like 12 years old. So I really wouldn’t want to judge the French from them. :stuck_out_tongue:

OP checking back in. What concerns me the most is that I don’t speak French at all. I could pick up Rosetta Stone or something like it and that might help or it might make me look ignorant. I suppose that much of the basis of my fear stems from a man that I once knew and respected who told me “The French won’t like you if you don’t speak with a French accent. Parisians won’t like you if you don’t speak French with a Parisian accent.” From what I’ve read here, that seems to be greatly blown out of proportion.

My biggest experience travelling was spending 8 weeks in China right after graduating from high school in 1981. The people there couldn’t believe it when we made any attempt at all to speak Chinese. When we did, they completely fawned over us. Only once did someone speak to me in Chinese first.

I’m also concerned about not knowing the culture. I never would have known that smiling at a stranger would be considered rude. I thought it was the universal symbol for friendliness.

Like I said, my mother would go up to French people on the street to ask directions and first ask, “Do you speak English?” And they always would try to do their best to help.

I didn’t notice any big cultural issues. As long as you’re respectful, it should be OK.

I doesn’t hurt to know a few words. “Pardon” – pronounced “par-DOH(n)” with a nasal sound that barely pronounces the N (listen when you get there) – is very useful (it means “excuse me*”). “Bonjour” is also worth remembering. “Merci” (Mehr-see – thanks) is essential. Those three will smooth things over nicely.

Usually, the French love to be able to practice their English (if they speak it – some older people or those outside the cities may not). It’s probably the same in much of Europe – I ran into a group of Germans asking me for directions in French. I started talking in French, but when they realized I was American, they switched to English easily.

*One amusing moment for me was when a person said “Excusez-moi” to me. It was toward the end of the visit and I knew immediately he was an American (he switched to English to speak to his frields).