So have you ever heard anyone complaining that the French are rude?

It has become a common stereotype, no?

The mystery is if there’s any truth to this myth or if it’s all blown out of proportions by the complainers among us.

Check out the article below to find out some answers triggered by this month’s events, and watch the video for some French  with no complaints! 🙂

(This week: the verb SE PLAINDRE – to complain)

The French may tend to be more politically incorrect, more intuitive and impulsive – they have Latin blood and they prove it in everything: art, la joie de vivre, cuisine, the entire Paris is a testament of their Latin blood in action.

Is that considered rude? By some standards, yes, by others, not so much.

Also, who are the tourists who complain? They are (mostly) of English language and (mainly) Americans, as the neighboring Brits know who they are dealing with, they have had their games on and off the field with the French and they are like the good brothers who like a good healthy fight every so often. They love to hate each other because secretly they admire each other the most.

I have talked about this subject in November of 2013, when Karen Fawcett from guest blogged on my website with this very topic “Are French rude?” stirring a huge discussion on Social Media and mainly on LinkedIn, where for months on end people would pitch in with their two cents adding up to 82 comments.

The most interesting were the comments coming from two French ladies, both expats, living in the US and NZ respectively. They couldn’t have had more different opinions. And this too proves the dramatic, passionate, Latin blood coming out through this thread.


“Well…lets ask ourselves 1 question, what is the definition of being rude?

* because you expect tourists to respect and be open-minded about another culture?

* because Parisians / French people cuss a lot..yes true I still do…I kept my good Parisians manners, but I cuss in French!

* because Paris is a busy city and people are always in a hurry and as a tourist you are everything except in a hurry

* because tourists (specifically from US) expect French people to speak English because making an effort to speak French is too hard for them ,because all they learn at school is that US People are the best and after all US saved the world and the France in 1945… and the world has to spoiled them for that???

Paris is dirty? well people deal with it , maybe you should travel more , or just stay home because trying to understand and open up to another culture is too hard so lets be honest just be a potato couch , drink sodas and stay home….

* because French restaurants serve smaller dishes and there is no “all you can eat”??

* because French people are sarcastic and many people do not understand the word or that kind of humor?

* because French tv shows naked people, bare boobs, naked butt?

* because the restrooms are dirty & small…well I agree but deal with it , I did for 28 years!!!

I could go like this for days , the only point I have is please be open-minded when you travel , be curious about other cultures, way of thinking , do your homework , learn couple words in French to show that you care & people will be more than happy to help you with a smile and never EXPECT OTHERS does not matter French, Americans, Chinese… to RESPECT YOU if you do no try to ADAPT yourself to ANOTHER CULTURE different from yours.

I love my heritage , my culture the fact that I am born in Paris , I lived there most of my life and now I live in beautiful Southern California (oh yes it is paradise) , I will not hide it I am spoiled now , immaculate streets , green grass (yes green not yellow) big cars (nope I drive a Smart car lol) big houses , huge bathrooms… , huge towels (yes tourists complain about that too!) when I go to Europe I fall in love again each time with Paris and with French people that I miss so much , they are moody , smell like an ashtray, cuss like crazy… but I will never ever get enough of them….”


“I have dual nationality – French and New Zealand. Compared to New Zealanders the French are arrogant, always negative and don’t have “attitude” … they are at their worst when they travel and get themselves a very unenviable reputation all over the world. They criticise freely and seem to cling to the “droits aquis” like a lifeline. Their behaviour is due, in my humble opinion, to the education system which never praises, only demands for better performance however good they are. No wonder they compensate once they are out of the reach of French jurisdiction and judgement! They become “les petits chefs” ready to push everyone else around – they get pushed around at home! I use “they” whereas I could say “we” because I now live in New Zealand…. what an amazing country where people don’t judge but have such a refreshing positive an attitude = here it is “I give you the benefit of the doubt”, as opposed to the French “I’ll notice you if you prove to me that you are worth my attention!” Yes. the French are rude.”

Most of the Americans speak to this along these lines:


“If anything Americans are rude. We leave the US then expect things to be the same when we get to Paris. The MacDo mentality. I’ve only ever witnessed fricative interactions in Paris when the visitor was being rude and demanding. The French cannot be rude as a matter of course. Politeness and social regard is built into their language and interaction. French is one of the few languages which still regard proper address with tu and vous whereas in the US it’s Bill, Bob or Suzy; a careless familiarity without regard. I think what we may be misinterpreting as rude is an unconscious response to the unwarranted familiarity which telegraphs a suggestion of subtle contempt. Let’s imagine a grocer who has been properly address his entire life; then an American shows up to the shop, “Hi, Pierre, can I get a couple’a frogs legs, two dozen snails and a cows tongue; and can you hurry, I’m double parked out there.” and his twelve year old daughter chimes in, “Yeah Pierre, we’re in a hurry.”

Why did I come back to this topic today?

Because this month, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius launched a multi-million Euro campaign aimed at encouraging the French, in particular those in the service industry, to be warmer to tourists. He said: “To put it diplomatically, we have room for improvement here. When we come up against a foreign tourist, we are all ambassadors for France.”

Reactions took many shapes and came on many mediums. The most interesting to me was the video published by HuffPost Live with Ben McPartland (Country Editor, The Local France), Fred Finn (Guinness Book of World Records Holder, World’s Most Travelled Man), Jo Piazza (Managing Editor, Yahoo Travel), and Zoe Reyners (Co-Founder & CEO, Katch & Reyners) which is very interesting to watch, and also to see how the opinions that you read earlier in this article are mirrored by the panel.

What I noticed as a silver lining in all the articles and interviews, including the comments in Social Media, was that the one thing that would turn around this situation would be if the tourists would attempt to use the French language even if just a little. The intention would be applauded by the locals, they’d feel respected and they’ll respect the tourists right back.

cafe politeness

What I also experience is that people are afraid to try to speak in French – not only are they scared to embarrass themselves in French in Paris, but they are also embarrassed to try to speak with me, as their French Language Coach. When I offer conversation lessons, sometimes people tell me “oh, no, I’m not yet ready to try, my French is very poor.” as if the prerequisite to start learning a language is to be already good at speaking it.

It shocks me (and I’d appreciate your help here) that most people dream for their entire life to learn to speak French and to go to France, yet when they are facing their first French lesson they are completely frozen, afraid to feel stupid.

The way I see it is this: if you don’t feel embarrassed by your headache when you go to the doctor to fix it, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about your level of French in front of the “French language doctor” – me – when you try to learn it. And I’m sure this happens to other tutors and language coaches too.

So the truth is somewhere in the middle: between the French who feel that they are not respected by tourists who don’t attempt to speak even a little French, and the tourists who are paralyzed at the idea that they will make a fool of themselves if they tried.

I am convinced that Hell is paved with good intentions, and while the French and the tourists have both their great intentions, playing it safe in their comfort zone, M. Laurent Fabius is spending millions of Euros making Paris a little less French.


This article is featured in The Huffington Post and New York in French.




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Now it is your turn!

Tell us in the comments below, did you ever find that people were rude to you in France?

À la prochaine,


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Llyane Stanfield is a Parisian French language coach, and founder of the J’Ouellette® French Method – an organic method using techniques that are employed by the world’s finest linguists. She travels between Toronto, New York and Paris, while teaching French via Skype in more than 15 countries. She is French language coach for busy traveling professionals, and has produced an unprecedented Intensive Program and PARISIAN FRENCH PRONUNCIATION MASTER CLASS, as well as other visual and teaching materials. She now spends a large portion of her time in Paris, where she also organizes an bi-annual FRENCH IMMERSION RETREAT (the only 1:1 of the kind in the World). Her unique methods produce a quantum leap in confidence and pronunciation, and a short session with her is the perfect start to brush up your French (whatever your level!) at the start of your Paris trip.

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Are the French rude to the American tourists?

9 thoughts on “Are the French rude to the American tourists?

  • June 24, 2015 at 11:29 am

    I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation…I am a serious Francophile who rents an apt. in Paris for several weeks a year (someday it’ll be longer!) and have many French amies…I do agree that English speaking visitors-Americans in particular (I’m an American by birth but French by lineage and in my “soul”. I’m also a New Yorker) are horrific when it comes to expecting everyone to speak English and cater to their needs…they don’t seem to get that they’re guests in someone else’s “home” and that they should make even a minimal effort to learn several words or phrases, and to remain open to experiences. Why bother to travel if you want everything to be the same as it is “back home”? I see it all the time in NYC, where I live-tourists (usually other Americans) are soooo relieved to see the same crappy chain restos they have in the mall in their hometown…I think the French are amazing, warm, generous and always helpful. They trump Americans in this way.

  • June 24, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    In late 2011 I spent a month in France staying in Paris, Champagne, Loire Valley, Dordogne and on the Cote d’azur. In all that time I only found one person standoffish and that was in a very small town above Cannes and the lady was in her late 50’s so was not taught English as part of her education. Before my trip, I spent 9 months listening to French Cd’s for tourists so that I could start a conversation in French before explaining my french was limited & ‘je suis Australienne’ seemed to make a huge difference. I have been complimented by waiters in Paris on my ability to order in French.
    When others complain about the french, I like to ask them how they would feel if a french tourist visiting this country were to walk into your work place and start speaking french to you and expect you to understand them.
    Every time I travel, I have noticed that the British and Americans expect things to be just like it is at home (no matter the country) and they appear very arrogant to me. (I am American by birth).
    When travelling to another country, I like to see how people live in that country and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I expected everyone to be just like me. I love the diversity this world offers and the challenge to connect with others in their own culture.

  • June 26, 2015 at 9:28 am

    I found that when I visited Paris, and I was still a schollgirl at the time, if I made any attempt to speak French, no matter how pathetic, the locals were really friendly and encouraging and opened up well to me.
    I’m not sure what it would have been like if I hadn’t made that gesture.
    I am Irish, not american, but I don’t think that made a difference.

    My only issue on my trip was trying to find vegetarian food, which wasn’t that easy back in the early 1990s in Paris, but even then, I didn’t starve and even if people were bemused by my vegetarianisn, they were still friendly and helpful.

  • July 30, 2015 at 3:11 am

    Our first trip to Paris was in 1975 on our honeymoon! I fell in love with the city & the French people…I found that my attempts to speak their native language (based on 4 years of high school French) was very much appreciated & we even encountered a very generous man in the Metro, who gave us one of his tickets when he realized that my husband’s ticket would not get him through the turnstyle! We also learned that fromage is enjoyed AFTER dinner, and NOT before, like in the U.S.
    We vowed to return someday, and have been fortunate to be able to revisit my favorite city in the world 3 times in the past 10 years, once with our adult children!

    Whenever I hear people say that the French people are rude, I relay my stories & experiences that contradict that very notion and I say: “Viva la France”!

  • July 30, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I was just in Paris for a week and Normandy/BrittanyLoire Valley for a week. I majored in French in college, was an exchange student for a term while in college, in Hyeres on the Cote d’Azur, but my last trip to France prior to this past June, was 14 years ago. I understand French and can speak it, but it had been so long since I had really spoken French, and I was afraid I had forgotten so much (which, surprisingly, was not the case, although my accent has become very American). My point is this, as you mentioned in the article, I was almost embarrassed to use my French, and I honestly don’t know why. Maybe embarrassed isn’t the right word…shy to use it? I did use it, and when I did, I felt good that I had, although it wasn’t perfect; however, everyone was very helpful, and then would speak to me in English, almost as if they either wanted to help me, or because they wanted to show me that they knew English. I think, for me, though, my main problem was hearing someone speak. I am a little hard of hearing in one ear, and when they would speak fast, I wouldn’t hear/understand what they were saying, it sounded like a blur sometimes. When I asked them to repeat, or asked what was said, they would take it as me not understanding the French, not that I didn’t hear, and then would speak English to me.

    Language aside, I didn’t meet one rude French person. It was the opposite. Everyone was so nice, helpful, friendly. I really enjoyed my trip to France and the people were just great. Each time I have been, although few and far between, that has been the case. I already want to go back!

  • July 30, 2015 at 11:14 am

    I found the French to be lovely and friendly. All the other Americans I know who reported that “The French were sooooooo rude” also happen to be some of the most arrogant, demanding, unpleasant people I know.
    Be kind and polite and realize you’re in somebody else’s country and you will be well-received wherever you go. Nationality has nothing to do with it.

  • July 30, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I am an American lady who has been blessed with the great opportunity to travel to France many times throughout my life. When I go, I fall back on my meager three years of French taught to me almost fifty years ago in high school in all my travels, I’ve only had two incidents with what I conciidered rrudeness, and I firmly believe that it had NOTHING to do with nationality. The French are lovely people.

  • June 25, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    In South of France I’ve found so many rude people (i’m italian but not that kind of italian, very warm and sometimes noisy, I’m a very discrete person), I have to say it’s not only Paris
    French people are very friendly and kind each other, more than in Italy or Spain, but sadly if you’re a stranger you’re no more an human being for them
    it’s so sad and I think there’s no excuse to spread some kindness and positivity all around you, no?


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