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Forum Rocket French French Culture and Travel Why do some say the French are not polite?

Why do some say the French are not polite?


S'imagine vous prominade dans les DES chaussures de les Francaise. un million ou' beaucoup de tourists de'cente sur leur favourite les gens de l'endroit. Aussi, poser use question continueliement, parley vous Anglais? Non easy! Once some locals at a little town in the South Island of New Zealand told me they hated tourist season when tens of thousands would take over their favorite places.Beverley R


Well,it is quite understandable that although tourism is very important to France and especially to Paris, some people get tired to the constant flow of tourists year after year. In French, no matter how humble your skills are, you get better service, it is worth studying :)

I have never visited anywhere else than in Paris (and going there also this autumn), but I would like to go to somewhere east France to see and walk some beautiful mountains. I bet there is a lot less tourism there too. 


Hi Jaako/Beverly - I have spent a bit of time in Paris over the years and there is no doubt that even a hearty "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur" upon entering a store can help break the ice. And of course there should be a mandatory "Au revoir Madame/Monsieur" upon leaving. In saying that Paris is a tourist trap so, like any other highly touristy destination, it can have poor customer service.

I have just returned from the South of France and the level of English was much lower than in Paris, which is to be expected. However, it was fantastic for practicing/using French!


I find the comments regarding non-politeness in France to be interesting.  Two years ago when I was in Paris, I only found a disregard for politeness in one store, and I think they just didn’t want to deal with somebody who barely knew the language, and who certainly didn’t know the words for the thing she wanted to purchase.  Often people went out of their way to be helpful.

I stayed at a small hotel in Montmartre, and when I returned at the end of the day, it felt like I was going home; they were so nice.  I asked my travel agent to book me in the same hotel for the two nights I have in Paris on my 2016 trip.
That said, it’s my habit to use all of the polite words, including saying “Thank you” when I leave a store, especially if I didn’t purchase anything.  If we get into this habit at home, it will be second nature when in France.
I plan to visit the south of France in July, 2016, so I’ll see how people are there.  Hopefully, my French will be up to the challenge.  I don’t learn other languages very easily and French is progressing quite slowly.

toru e

Like Jason, I've also found the PACA region (Provence and Côte d'Azur) to be more laid back. They're willing talk to you all day long and not make you feel as though you're wasting their time. In the farmer's market in Cannes, I was talking to this lady selling fruits for half an hour, asking how the French prepare different fruits and veggies. It all started when I mistook quince for a giant pear. :D

And I know it sounds like hype, but I do find the French spoken in the Loire Valley region to be more "pure" in the sense of less Anglicisms and slurring of words together. If anyone's looking to develop his/her oral comprehension, I highly recommend visiting any of the many beautiful towns there, like Tours, Amboise or Saumur.

Paris, to me, is like New York (my hometown), so its more multicultural than "typical" French and I avoid going there if I can. I use the other regional airports like Toulouse, Nice, Strasbourg, and now Marseille (next week) to get to other cities and get a more "local experience" with the culture.

One thing that I've noticed is that as Anglophones, we always say, "Excuse me..." when we approach someone, then start asking our question, and the French person almost always looks taken aback when this happens. It may sound polite to us, but to the French, it comes off as a bit forward. So I agree that even if your French is not up to snuff, always start with «Bonjour !» when you approach someone, even if you switch to English to ask the question.


Great observations Torusan!


If I may again add my two cents worth:  I just returned home from a 2-weeks trip to Provence, France, ending my trip in Paris.  During my trip I saw that the French like to greet and be greeted.  I walked into a store and immediately heard Bonjour Madame.  I saw them greet each other when they met.  I only experienced politeness toward me.  When I was on the metro, younger people regularly offered their seat to me as an older woman.  I have no complaints at all and loved my trip.

Yesterday I made two observations that may have some bearing on why we English speakers think the French aren't polite.

First:  I was at the ticket counter and after I purchased my tickets the man behind me stepped up and asked (it sounded more like a demand), Do you speak English?  Receiving an affirmative answer, the man then stated that he wanted to go to the Arc de Triomphe (or whatever he called it in English).  About this time I left.  The man gave no polite introduction in either English or French; furthermore, his demeanor was strong and demanding.  The man's accent told me he was likely from England.

Second:  About a half hour later, I'd left the metro station near  Cathédrale Notre Dame when a young man approached me and immediately asked me Do you speak English?  Again, there was no polite greeting, just dig right in and get down to business.  His accent told me that he was likely American, and he later told me he was from California.

Do we expect the French, or anybody else, to be polite to us when we aren't polite to them?  How difficult is it to learn a few basic French polite expressions?   Maybe the percieved lack of politeness, is the French simply giving back to us what they receive from us.


Diana, totally agree with you. I am French by the way. When you travel in a country, have at least the decency to know a few words or sentences in the native language. Most of the people will help you if you show respect.


I´ve been to Paris many times (former flight attendant) and was always treated graciously. One time I wanted to go to the Moulin Rouge and got lost, I asked directions to a nice lady with my broken french and could not understand her answers, so she walked me to the it.  I always tried to communicate in French. I find it extremely rude to visit another country and no put the effort to learn some of the language. 


I agree.  I spend my summers in Burgundy and the people are unfailingly polite and also kind to me.  They never rush me when I'm trying to speak French, they don't look around or roll their eyes or fidget; they just look at me patiently until I get my sentence(s) out, and then they answer as helpfully as they can.  Lovely people. 


I have been to France a few times (and will return for the Ryder Cup in 2018) and I think it is very helpful to be able to speak French...not mandatory, but very helpful.  I always start out a conversation in French and most of the time am able to complete it, albeit at a rather slower pace than what the normal French person would speak.   I think most French people love when Americans try to speak French and are very accommodating.  Many do speak English and will often switch the conversation to English to (as many French people have told me) to practice their English.  My wife does not speak the first word of French and just would start a conversation in English.  There were times that was ok, but other times she got an icy stare.  I tried to help her at least say "Je ne parle pas la francais.  Est-ce que vous parlez l'anglais?"  But she had little interest in even  learning that phrase.  So most of the time, I did the talking.

By the way, the same is true in Germany for the most part (obviously German instead of French).

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