Are the French nice to tourists?

France is a country that the rest of the world can't get enough of, tourism is king. But what about the French people?

Is it true then? The French are grumpy, impolite, impatient, distant? Or is it a myth, a feeling of lost and badly rescued tourists? If France is a popular destination, the French suffer from a calamitous reputation. Are these criticisms deserved?
 

Are frenchies as infrequent as they are said to be?

Judging an entire country is risky, but we can try to see a little more clearly.

In the North or the South of France, mentalities and the art of living are very different, so it is not easy to generalise. There is of course also the generational factor, between teenagers and thirty-somethings, there is a margin and attitudes are not the same. The professional aspect is not to be neglected, a retired person does not have the same rhythms of life at all as working parents. Finally, the cultural diversity in France is such that it is really difficult to draw conclusions. The generations of immigrants, whether European or from other continents, have a great influence on mentalities and codes of conduct. Having said that, here are a few thoughts on the possible sources of this bad reputation.

  • The French generally have a very fast-paced (and often tight) working life which leaves little time for spontaneous encounters. As a French person, this is something I notice a lot. In France, you work and go home quickly, or join your circle of friends, your favourite hobby. In many other countries, mentalities are different, the natives are less reluctant to spend time with a stranger.
  • It is not easy in France to integrate a group of friends, even if you are French. This makes the despair of many foreign students who have to make do with a circle of other foreign students. As far as cultural enrichment is concerned, we do better.
  • Getting together, spending time with friends in France is not always spontaneous. The schedule is often full, and to organise a small party you sometimes have to wait a few weeks. This leaves even less room to spend time with a newcomer.
  • The question of languages is really crucial. Inviting a foreigner who does not speak the language of Molière means risking playing translator all evening (if you are qualified). It is difficult to ask a group to speak only English all evening, it is an effort to speak a foreign language. Having said that, France is no exception, I have rarely seen groups, wherever they come from, make an effort to speak French for their visitors, even if they master the language.
  • In tourist areas, visitors mostly have contacts with professionals who consider them no better than a sheep whose wool has to be sheared, but that’s the way it is all over the world. On the exchange side, it will therefore be necessary to be satisfied with the financial aspect. Should all Egyptians be judged against those met in Luxor, champions of scams and tourist harassment? Fortunately not! It is the same with the 67 million French people who do not deserve all these recriminations.
  • It is often this industrial side of tourism in France which disappoints the visitors : exorbitant prices, mediocre service, stress, crowds, long queues? The experience of a tourist who has confined himself to the major tourist attractions (Paris-Nice in 3 days) is likely to be very average. The experience therefore has nothing to do with the French in general.
  • 90 million tourists a year is 90 million potential reasons to complain. If France had as many visitors as Sudan (5500 in 2017) the reputation of the French would certainly be less criticised.
  •  67 million French people see 90 million foreigners arrive in their country, their motorways, their parking spaces. These visitors sometimes have requirements and expectations that would suit an amusement park more than a country. That’s a lot, even for the nicest frenchy.

However, on the ground, the feeling of the visitors towards the French is not bad, it is even rather positive!

 
When I meet people who have visited France, I invariably ask them what they thought of my country. Unanimously and in all sincerity, the feedback is positive.
Outside the areas taken over by tour operators, French people will undoubtedly be more patient and more inclined to contact foreigners who want to get to know each other. And the prices will be much more reasonable.
There is no perfect country in this world, France is no exception. In France you will meet fools, rude, arrogant people and nice one like everywhere else… but no more than anywhere else.

 

The French don’t speak English, is this true or false? 

 

Everywhere I go, I hear the same old criticism: the French don’t know English, worse, they don’t want to speak the language of Shakespeare.

 
  • It’s all relative! 1 French person out of 5 speaks fluent English. And in case you don’t find this representative, you should know that only 9% of our British neighbours are fluent in French (and only 6% in a second foreign language).
  • Bad foreign language skills are also the fault of the national education system! It is very true that speaking a foreign language was the least of the concerns of students and their teachers in 1980. This has changed a lot since then, but learning methods are still just as boring: a lot of theory and little practice. 
  • The reputation of the arrogant Frenchy who refuses to speak English, is it true? No, it’s even well outdated. No more arrogant in any case than Americans who demand to be understood far far away from their country. 
  • Why should the French be obliged to speak English? What I find strange is that when I find myself in another country where English is not widely spoken, such as South America for example, the natives and foreigners I meet there find it quite normal that I start speaking Spanish. It’s up to me to make the effort. Why doesn’t this type of requirement apply to France?
  • The answer is that French is a difficult language. Well, no more than English for a Frenchman! French is not Uzbek, it is nevertheless a very widespread language, more than 300 million speakers in the world!
  • To speak English with an accent, for a Frenchman, is to speak in a ridiculous way! French is a “soft” language and that’s why it embodies love and diplomacy. So putting hysterical accents everywhere, no thanks. The French surely prefer speak english in songs!

The cultures of the world are all worth discovering!

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