On the Supposed Rudeness of the French
The rude Frenchman is one of our most cherished stereotypes, but I’m afraid that it is only very loosely based on reality.
In fact, if you speak their language and you know how to treat them, they’re just about the politest people in the world; they always say hello and goodbye, please and thank you, and generally seem more genuine about it.
I certainly wouldn’t call them the nicest people in the world; but very polite, very much not rude. Unless, of course, you really find a way to provoke them. I think of Americans in the South, who are normally both nice and polite- right until you and your yankee accent start talking smack about the Confederacy, the church, grits, or whatever it is they hold dear.
I saw an incredible counter example last weekend in Paris. We were eating lunch in a working-class neighborhood near the northern gates when an old woman fell crossing the street. The local French people leapt into action- one making sure she was alright, another stopping traffic, another picking up the groceries she’d dropped. I would have impressed to see such quick, competent kindness in the US; I was stunned to see it in Paris, purported to be the rudest city of France.
Glad to be wrong about this one!