Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Why are the French rude and judgemental?

At least the weather was nice... I can't say the same for some people we met...

Let's not make a sweeping statement here, not ALL French people are rude and arrogant, but interestingly, that's how we are perceived by a good majority of foreigners.

I'm just back from a week in South of France, where we stayed with a couple of Irish and American friends. I was looking forward to that trip so much, and in terms of weather, landscape, food and wine, it certainly didn't disappoint.

But when it came to interactions with other French people, I was a bit baffled. Maybe it's because I knew I wanted to write about the subject so I paid more attention to the bad stuff than the good. Or maybe there actually is more negativity in France and I noticed it because even though I am French, I was a tourist over there.

So let's see what happened, and you might understand what I'm trying to explain. On the second day, we took a trip up the mountains. As soon as we arrived I took the kids to the toilets, and of course the queue for the women's was big. There was no one in the men's. I queued for a little bit but then I saw a woman coming out of the men's bathroom with a boy, and I thought "Well, that's a good idea. I'll take my son there and my friend's daughter will stay in the queue for the ladies. We should be out at the same time." As soon as I made my way to the gents, the woman who just came out of there looked at me and the conversation went a bit like that:

Woman: You can't go there, it's for men
Me: Well, he's a boy. And you just came out of there
Woman: Yes, but we were just trying to make the ladies queue smaller. You can't go there.
Me: So what? He wants to go the toilets, he's a boy. I don't see the problem

I went in anyway, but I heard a big sigh and whispers. My problem with this is, why did she care so much about me going into the men's toilets? It didn't affect her personally, so why criticizing when she did exactly same thing? I still don't get it.

Our trip to the supermarket was a bit of an experience as well. When my son had a minor tantrum because he wanted a toy, there were customers looking at us, and trust me, their face told a thousand words. I tried not to pay attention, but I couldn't help but I really felt judged. I won't even get into the impatience of customers behind us when I was translating the different types of ham to my Irish friend!

The funniest (or saddest, but we decided to laugh about it) was when my American friend went to the supermarket to buy bread. As he took the last 3 baguettes on the shelf, a woman kicked him in the shin. One of the baguettes fell, she grabbed it and left. Only in France you'd see someone fight for a baguette!!

When I came back to Ireland, I discussed the "incidents" with a few French friends, and they felt the same way. One of them told me she was stopped in a supermarket by a stranger who was looking inside her trolley, and told her "You must be well-off considering how full it is". Seriously? Since when people comment on other people's shopping?

This whole judgemental attitude reminds me of the day me and my husband went to buy alcohol for my birthday party. As we were choosing some bottles, an old couple told Fabrice that he shouldn't drink alcohol because it was the Ramadan. First of all, he's not Muslim, but even if he was, and he wanted to buy alcohol, so what? Why should they comment on it?

As a tourist in an unknown place, I really felt some negativity. But thankfully, it wasn't from everybody. We also met nice people in the village and overall , we had a wonderful stay (the wine helped a lot!). Still, I felt a bit bad for my friends. I speak French so I could defend myself, but what happens when you don't speak the language? They tried to speak a bit a French and made efforts, but somehow I'm not surprised foreign tourists think the French are rude.

I've never felt that in Ireland. Nobody has ever commented on my shopping trolley. Customers have helped or sympathised when my kids were misbehaving. On the whole, Irish people don't really care about other's actions when it doesn't affect them personally.

I want to think all of these examples could have happened in other countries. After all, there are ***holes everywhere. But yet, a part of me thinks it really is a French "thing" and it bugs me. Maybe the Irish in me is starting to take over...

What are your thoughts about this? Do you think I'm over reacting about French people being rude and judgemental?