Blue Birds Adventures

The Slow Travel Experience

The French are so rude! Debunking Stereotypes

During our 17 years living in the UK, we often heard a common complaint about the French, especially those from Paris. Many people believe that even if Parisians can speak English, they choose not to. This has led to a widespread view that the French are rude. This idea is so common that many people visiting France for the first time expect it to be true. The stereotype suggests that not only will the French refuse to speak English, but they might also ignore or even scold you for not speaking their language well.

After spending over 3 months exploring the charming streets of Paris, the historic castles of Strasbourg, the vineyards of Bordeaux, the spiritual sanctity of Lourdes, and countless other towns and cities across France, we have found this stereotype to be far from the truth. In fact, our experiences have painted a completely different picture of the French people—one that’s warm, friendly, and welcoming.

The Power of Connection

During our travels, we had a memorable visit to one of the Chateaux in the Loire Valley (Chateau de Villesavin) that perfectly illustrates the importance of making a connection. The young lady at the counter, Matilde, seemed downcast when we first saw her. Despite our limited French, we approached her with a warm smile and greeted her in her language, asking her name and how she was. This small effort brought an immediate change in her demeanour. She brightened up and helped us with her basic English whenever we stumbled over French words. Matilde became our guide, showing us around the estate and sharing stories. It felt like we had our private tour, and it turned into a delightful encounter.

We discovered that the perceived ‘rudeness’ of the French could often be navigated by making an effort to connect with them in their language. In every city or town we visited, we tried to learn and use basic French phrases. Yes, there were moments when our attempts resulted in laughter due to our funny mispronunciations, but it didn’t discourage us. If anything, it seemed to make us more likeable to the locals, who appreciated our efforts and were more than willing to help us with the language.

What may come across as rudeness is often just a difference in culture. The French deeply cherish their language, and making an effort to learn and use even a few phrases in French demonstrates respect for their culture. This approach can lead to warmer interactions and deeper connections with the locals.

Breaking the Ice with Humour

A little humour can go a long way, especially when you’re trying to bridge a language gap. Our journey was filled with instances where a poorly constructed sentence or an incorrectly used word had the French in splits. Far from being offended, they seemed to enjoy the comic relief. These were the moments that broke the ice and allowed for more genuine interactions.

Making an Impact

On one occasion, we found ourselves in a charming restaurant in a small town in southwestern France. We took a seat outside, and as we looked around, we realized we were the only outsiders there – the other tables were filled with locals engaged in lively French conversations. This was one of our first trips to France, and our command of the language was limited, to put it mildly.

French lesson at the restaurant

In our predicament, we decided to call upon our dear friend Charlie, a French-speaking Belgian with an infectious charm. Charlie assisted us by sending voice messages with phrases for ordering food, asking for the bill, and other useful expressions. As we played these messages aloud and then attempted to replicate them to our waitress, the locals at the nearby tables overheard us and started smiling, and then cheering us on. Our waitress, who spoke Spanish, managed to understand our mix of French and Spanish. The atmosphere was electric.

What started as a struggle turned into a fun and engaging language lesson. The locals began asking us where we were from, and who we were, and even started offering us advice and tips for mastering French.

Travelling, as we’ve come to understand, is not just about exploring new places. It’s about immersing oneself in new cultures, engaging with new people, and weaving a network of diverse relationships. Each destination leaves a mark on us, just as we leave an imprint on it. By going the extra mile to communicate in the local language, we found that we could positively influence our encounters. We were more than just transient tourists; we were travellers, actively participating in and appreciating the local culture.

Expand your comfort zone

Our experience in France has taught us that stereotypes often do not hold up under scrutiny. The French are warm and friendly when approached with respect and good humour. So, the next time you’re planning a trip, remember to pack a few local phrases along with your essentials. You’ll be surprised at the doors they can open.

Remember, the world is full of friends waiting to be met. All it takes is a bit of effort, a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and a hearty laugh at your own expense. Happy travelling!

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