I understand most people believe the stereotype that the French are rude; people always have some shocking story of how poorly they were treated in Paris. However, I can’t say I’ve had too many offensive experiences thankfully. Is it because I can speak a good amount of their native language? Perhaps, or perhaps I just understand the French and their customs better than most.
I always have to readjust my attitude when I arrive here, which I think everyone should do. When you are in another country, you should try to understand the differences and accept them. Then try to fit in. Really. Just try. You have chosen to visit another place, so why would you expect it to be the same as home? And in fact, why the hell would you want it to be? It begs the question: why don’t you just stay home then?
That said, the French, while somewhat cool and indifferent at times are extremely polite in a formal, old-fashioned sort of way. You always walk into a shop, look around and say your greetings. Not just to the shopkeeper, but all the other folks waiting for their bread. It’s considered rude to just start demanding your goods without the courtesy of saying hello first and acknowledging that person’s very existence. I think it is a rather delightful and pleasant custom. It’s so civilized and it makes everyone—and I mean everyone—human. Imagine that.
Every day there is an elderly gentleman who walks his two dogs from the village up the long road to the caveau; every day no matter sun nor sleet nor mistral. And every day you must say hello. Even if you simply slow the car down and wave, you must acknowledge him. OK, I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t feel like getting into a long discussion about the weather or how I really shouldn’t go too far on my bike if I am alone—c'est très dangereux. But I’d still rather this polite conversation with a man I don’t really know over the dreaded averting of eyes, shuffling quickly as you can to ignore this rapidly approaching stranger. As a result, Monsieur is no longer a stranger to me, he is part of village life and life in France. I am happy to stop, say hello and be anything but rude. How French indeed!