There’s an interesting relationship between America and France. Both cultures harbor a measure of disdain one for the other, though nobody is completely sure why. In America, the idea that a Frenchman is an unpatriotic snob of an intellectual is the better part of the stereotype, with baguette-toting accordion players urinating in the streets as the worst. Even though I never looked down on them, my idea of the French was afflicted by this stereotype – until I moved there.
I found that the French are an amazingly hospitable and loving people. They’ll help a friend in a pinch, and even after not having talked to many of them for several years, they still remember me and welcome me to their homes with open arms. I found that when asking for directions or language help, I was almost always cordially aided. Their food is amazing and they use it as a great gift to show their friends how much they care for them, and spend hours doing it, sincerely enjoying their company. I was helped in every situation I needed and was received with hospitality – after I figured out how to speak to them.
You see, as Americans, we are generally a little louder, a little wilder, and a little more ready to talk to random people without any formal invitation than the French are. We often check out at the grocery store without first asking how the employee’s day is going. We often fail to thank people, we yell a lot more readily and generally talk louder, and we expect things out of people without remembering that it is in their own goodwill that they are even helping us. For these reasons, it’s the French that see us as rude. Towards the beginning of my stay, I once stepped onto a bus and immediately asked the driver for a ticket. He looked at me strangely, and said “Good day.” I said “thanks,” and then asked him for the tickets again. He again greeted me with the same gesture and it clicked – I greeted him “good day” as well. He smiled, proceeded to give me a ticket, and wished me a good rest of the day. I did to him as well. You see, the French are generally very polite, friendly, and hospitable – they just expect a little more out of people.
Granted, it’s always tricky to generalize any group of people. All I am saying is that from my own personal experience of living and working among them, I grew to love them. While America is better in some ways, it’s time that we kept an open mind and realized that France has a wealth in people that don’t deserve to be criticized. That is to say, I believe that French people are wonderful.