You always hear the myths around the French people how they are not helpful and can be “snooty”, especially towards Americans. And, since Sylvie has been Americanized for the most part, she’s not a good example (I did say “for the most part”). So here are my observations after spending about a month in France:
– It’s true that they will appreciate any attempt for a foreigner to speak French and it was rare that I got an “attitude” when I didn’t attempt any.
– They speak their minds even if it’s not what you want to hear and it won’t be sugar-coated. If they don’t like something or they are not feeling good, they will say so and not give the stock “everything’s great”, or “I’m good, you?”. They give you the truthful answer.
– There is no small talk at store counters, especially at the busy boulangeries. Absolutely be ready to order what you want and have your money ready to hand over. Have either the exact change or very close to it. Having to change large bills is not appreciated.
– The customer service aspect in stores is mostly absent. Working is a necessity and bothering them with questions will usually earn you some drama (no charge) or a big shoulder shrug with eyes rolling.
– You must be an aggressive driver or you will not only get nowhere, but also an array of horns telling you to jump into the fray at the roundabouts (people need to get to the boulangerie before they close!). It was fairly rare I saw people calling or texting while driving – it just can’t be done. Most cars are stick shift, and even if you had an automatic, your concentration cannot lapse even for a second given the many narrow streets, roundabouts, and motorcycles weaving around traffic.
– French people love their food (and French food is very good), and they value quality over quantity. They enjoy long meals that involve several stages with a lively & engaging conversation over the course of no fewer than 2 hours, even in restaurants.
– Don’t assume if you’re waiting in line to get something that they will necessarily care who got there first. You must be on your toes or you may find the person who was behind you materialized in front of you.
– While there are rules and policies (like anywhere else), the French like to either bend them, or just not follow them if it doesn’t make sense.
– The police are not feared. You can ask them for directions and even get into very heated arguments with them without fear of violent reprisal (as we witnessed in Versailles).
-They always dress very nicely, even if it’s to go to the store around the corner.
That’s it for the silly blog on French people.