The French Aren’t Rude, They’re Just Fake

After a long and tumultuous relationship followed by an even longer and more tumultuous breakup, my best friend of ten years decided the best way to heal was to get as far away from the guy as possible. So, she went to France.

I was excited for her. She had never really traveled outside of the United States and what better way to mend the heart and soul than to get a new perspective on life in a new place? So, when i was able to catch her on Instagram during her travels, I was excited to find out how it was going. I fully expected a breathless and detailed description of how awesome the food was, how hot the guys were, and how amazing the architecture was. I even anticipated a joke about how she wasn’t coming back.

Instead, her response was tepid and reeking of defeat. “Honestly, I just want to go home. I feel so out of place here. The people aren’t friendly. They’re rude and i feel like I’m just a bother to everyone. I miss the United States.”

Now, a little background about my friend. She’s this bubbly blonde from Salt Lake City who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s ultra sweet, ultra polite, and ultra kind. She’s also charmingly naive in many ways and sees the world through rose-colored glasses. So, while my spirit sunk at her candid response, I wasn’t exactly surprised. After all, the French are kind of known to be dicks, right?

Here’s the thing though – they aren’t. Europeans in general have this collective reputation of being arrogant, cold, and rude (at least when compared to the vivacious and friendly persona most Americans are taught to put on). But most of those stereotypes have more to do with America’s impulse to be fake than Europe’s need to be friendly.

I remember a few years back reading an article by an Irishman who spent 12 years of his life literally just traveling the world. That means he spent 4,380 days immersed in various cultures – studying native mannerisms, habits, and interactions. At the completion of his “world tour” he had concluded that – while he loved and appreciated America – we surpassed every other country in terms of insincerity. The problem wasn’t that other countries were rude; the problem was that we were fake.

And if you really think about it, that makes sense. We as Americans are taught at a very young age to always smile, always say hi, always ask how someone is doing, and always respond back “i’m well, thank you.” We are taught to always hug our relatives and to hide any adverse emotion like frustration, anger, sadness, or fear. Should we go off-script, our parents reprimand us for not being polite.

But Americans are almost the only country that instills these idiosyncrasies as measures of kindness and friendliness. If the cashier or the server or the store clerk doesn’t immediately have a shit-eating grin on their face and ask us how we are, we immediately ride them off as rude. And believe me – I get it. I do, too. i was in customer service in one form or the other throughout my twenties and you’re damn right I want a big ol’ smile and “howdy do” with my order. Thank you very much.

And that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see people smile and acknowledge your presence, but just understand that not all cultures think these social norms are necessary or sincere. This is particularly true with people like the French who are notoriously known for being cold. That’s largely a culture misunderstanding, not a character defect.

It’s simple really. If you’re having a rough day, you aren’t obligated to smile. If someone asks you how you are and you aren’t good, don’t say you’re great. If you don’t feel like hugging someone, you have the right to self-autonomy. If you don’t know someone, there is absolutely no reason to act like they are your best friend. While the French and other European cultures may initially come across as aloof, once they get to know you, they are some of the kindess people you will meet.

As Americans, we have a tendency to think that when we visit other countries, the people of that region should mirror our social norms. It probably subconsciously comes from the “American is #1” soundbite we’ve been fed for decades. But it’s important to remember that it is not the job of indigenous people to cater their lifestyle or interactions to the standards we set forth for our own culture. It’s perfectly fine to not agree with the ways of another country. What’s not okay to expect them to change in order to make YOU feel comfortable.

Once I explained all of this to my friend, she ended up really enjoying her trip. Once she realized that she was projecting her own insecurities and expectations onto the people of a country she had chosen to visit, she learned to accept that not everyone has a giant, cheesy smile plastered on their face at any given moment.

But when they do, you know it’s real and authentic. And that’s the difference.

8 comments

  1. David W

    Uh… title is wrong… complete opposite of what the article says. Should be “French aren’t rude, they’re just NOT fake” or “ WE’RE just fake.”

  2. BUD

    Wonderful advice, but you also need to direct this same advice to the Mexicans, muslims, etc. that come to AMERICA and do not try to assimilate to our way of living. Why would they display the Mexican flag or any other and throw our flag on the ground in protest of not getting enough FREE STUFF from us and forming their own communities and in the case of the muslims trying to establish their sharia law. Especially in terms of the migrants invading our border by the thousands and expecting us to take care of them. By the way we do more for the criminal migrants then we do for our own AMERICAN poor countrymen. Free welfare, free education, etc, etc, etc.
    They should be smiling ( more like laughing at us and taking advantage of our AMERICAN kindness and acceptance) Oh well I may be going off on a tangent here but I will not change my AMERICAN upbringing and I will smile and hug and be polite as I see fit. I would never think of moving to another country and not learning their language and “demanding” that they make everything available to me in English on all important documents, etc.

  3. BUD

    Well I left a nice somewhat long comment but of course you chose to censor it and not show it. I expected as much from you. I see that if someone does not agree with your way of thinking then you just do not entertain someone else’s thoughts. Kind of sounds like Russia, or the middle east, etc. Maybe you are the one that should move elsewhere out of our United States of America if you don’t like our way of living.

  4. Porfidia Caputto

    Well the french wont be around for too much linger wirh all the muslims breeding with their women and killing them snd raping their women. Wirh multiple wives they are already outbreeding the french. And the only time muslims are “ peaceful or moderate “ is when they are outnumbered once they have more muslims than french they will continue to i introduce shariah law
    And start killing everyone. FRANCE IS DOOMED. EUROPE IS ALSO DOOMED because the Queen of England has sold her native people out. Almost like what happened to native Americans only worse. They will go extinct as a race and their culture will dissolve and be snuffed out by muslim rapefugees “immigration with out assimilation is called IMVASION” bobby Jindal
    #DeplorableCalabrese

  5. Christopher

    What a load of crap. The French ARE ugly. Germans belligerent. The English arrogant. The Spanish are always mad. The Greeks are never bearing gifts, only lazy graft. Thank God, the Italians are lovers. Not much else, but at least lovers.

    Good ol’ USA heartland. Fly over states. Come on home Honey.

  6. Dennis Schaefer

    Sadly, many Americans are willingly, or stupidly, blind to the history lessons right in front of their faces. [Of course, I do realize that the products of modern Pavlov-dog “education” are hopelessly misinformed, ignorant of real history, and incapable of rational and discriminating thought-processes.] French civilization and culture were among the absolutely brightest achievements of the human race, but, with the French pusillanimous (a.k.a. “liberal”) neglect of border control, and the consequent disasterous influx of hordes of the (for once let’s be honest) least desirable, and most unassimiable people on the planet, they have tragically relegated themselves to the inevitable status of a “has-been” country. What a shame for them, and for the future of civilization!
    (“Truth does not conform itself according to our ability to stomach it”…Flannery O’Connor).

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