Are the French Rude? 5 Reasons Americans Might Think So

The rude Frenchman is a classic trope that sometimes makes foreigners weary of traveling in France. It’s even one of the most Googled things about Parisians!


But some of the things foreigners find rude aren’t really personality traits – they’re simply cultural differences.

Here are five reasons you might perceive a well-meaning French person to be rude when they’re just being, well, French:

1. The French keep a distance with strangers

In America, a “neutral” face is a big smiling grin, but in France, that’s way too expressive. It’s simply not the culture to get too cozy with strangers and – as many American girls in Paris will tell you – what we consider to be a casual smile in the States is often interpreted as a sexual invitation abroad (no wonder French girls have the sexy pout down solid!)

A typical French person won’t talk to you for the first time as if you have known each other for a decade. On the flip side, a lack of pleasantries makes everything more genuine. There is almost no “Oh yeah, we should definitely have coffee… sometime!” and once you do make a French friend, they will be a loyal and true friend for life.

2. Good service in France means leaving you alone

In France, the object of dining is to lay claim to a great table and take up as much time in it as possible. A waiter coming to ask you if you’d like anything else every 10 minutes makes the French feel rushed and unwanted. Good service means being left alone.

In the States, we see this as lazy service. We’re used to 45 minute lunches and tables turning, so we wonder why the waiter is seemingly ignoring us. In reality, he’s simply trying to give you your table for as much time as a French person would want it.

So instead of getting frustrated at your server for being a “jerk,” slow down and take your time. It helps you get a good physique AND allows you to experience a French custom first-hand.

3. The French speak French

So before you say, “duh,” let me tell you a little story…

A friend of mine once told me how rude her French bus driver was when she asked him if he stopped at a popular intersection. I asked her, “did you ask him in French?” “Of course not, but he’s a bus driver, he’s supposed to speak English!”

Welllll, not exactly. American bus drivers are not expected to be well versed in every foreign language, and neither are French bus drivers. The truth is that he probably did understand the English, but was likely insulted that his native language wasn’t at least attempted.

You don’t really have to be fluent to get around well in France, but just be respectful and pull out a phrase book. Try. After stumbling a few times, the French person will likely stop you and respond in English (because they actually have a low tolerance for terrible French, once you’ve proven you tried).

Of course, the other issue with my friend’s bus driver experience was…

4. It’s your vacation, it’s their day-to-day

If you’re an American in France, you’re likely on vacation (if your daily job requires you to fly back and forth to Paris, then you can stop reading anyway because I hate you, you lucky butt, and you should promptly resign so I can steal your job).

If you ARE on vacation, you have a tendency to view everything with vacation eyes. You stop seeing time tables or maybe you have an even more rigid schedule of attractions to catch. You see European cities as full of landmarks and not full of bustling commerce.

But imagine, if you will, getting out of your car in [insert any American city] and getting asked directions to local venues by 5 people before you get to your office door. Pretty frustrating, right? Try 5 days a week and you might understand why some Parisians don’t give you the time of day.

Just be respectful of the fact that you’re the only one on vacation and try to seek out help from people for whom helping you might be their job – think policemen, metro employees, tourist offices, or even your dear friend Siri (she’ll even talk to you in English, though not very well).

5. French slang makes everything negative and understated

Was your food good? A French person would say it was “not bad.” The view gorgeous? “Not intolerable.” A good looking guy? He was “not ugly.” This is simply manner of speaking in French, but translates very negatively to an American who loves speaking in hyperbole.

Almost the opposite of the French, we Americans love to make everything an extreme. The food was good? We say it was “the best.” The view is not beautiful but “inspiring” and French guys are “literally the hottest ever.”

Cursing is also way more common in spoken French than spoken English – so don’t be surprised if a French person says “f*ck” more than you’re used to. They’re just translating directly from their French.

When traveling in France, it’s important to remember that some of what we perceive to be personality traits are just different ways of speaking or cultural peculiarities. For an interesting role-reversal, read some of these translated tips French people give each other about American culture peculiarities! They’ll make you think twice about things like urinals…

What are your experiences with cultural differences when staying abroad? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. allison b-t says:

    i had a great time in france and only encountered one rude person … and i totally understood his attitude later when i realized i tried asking what time his restaurant opened in a mixture of french and spanish. ooops! that’s on me for taking too many foreign languages and not using any of them often- i’m surprised i didn’t throw some german in for good measure! overall, it probably helped that i can pronounce french pretty decently for an american. i always tried french first and people would usually answer me in english and it was all hunky dory.

    • Dennis says:

      The French will actually appreciate you’re trying to speak their language in France, no matter if you mix it up. So the rude person was probably just… rude. If you’re ever in Holland, just stick to English because almost everyone will understand you. And Dutch isn’t the easiest language for Americans, or other English speaking people.

      • Emily Grossman says:

        That’s great advice, Dennis! Cool tidbit about Holland, too!

      • Daniel says:

        Mon francais est terrible, that phrase literally solved the constant rudeness i experienced in Paris…

        I grasp the concept of why it would be upsetting that a language isnt used in the country of origin but dont pretend you dont speak english thats just douchey and totally contradictive to their self professed direct ‘i dont care’ french persona.

        I am a brit and we have a lot more reservation than the US and the french but i would probably say that we do have some traits in common with the french which is why we call them out on their deliberate abbrasion, they are rude for the sake of it, still france is that brother or relative that you clash with but secretly love and admire, a french person would likely never admit to their secret love for the english, theyre too busy doing the ‘french’ thing for that…

        I have a bunch of stories but the one i still laugh about today was when a friend and i were at train station in paris and we were queuein to speak to the ticket person on the desk, as we were waiting the person who was being served from the ticket person ( who was behind a glass window in lovked in officw) had some disageement with the customer and threw the mic stormed out of the office and attacked the customer, this was at his job and i bet he wasnt fired me and my friend were both gobsmacked and in histerics

    • bern says:

      No excusaes fdor french people they are not only stinky but
      embittered if ypou dont believe ask a hpotelier they the worse people to make revievws nothing make them happy always looking fro something to talk bad about it

    • yushiro says:

      I am in France this week and the very first person I spoke to outside of my hotel, was the rudest fucking bitch I’ve ever seen that had a job, The metro information center.

      “Well if you you’re NOT sure what type of ticket you want, I DON’T KNOW what else I can do for you”.

      “JUST go OVER THERE to the ticket machine, it’s all in English”
      [I go to ticket machine. It has 6 different options from day passes, to selecting zones, to leaving from this station only, to bus]

      The whole time she was huffing and puffing and about to have a stroke.

      And I’m just watching her doing things I’ve never seen a human being do. Like rolling her eyes to the point her entire eyes turn white. Smacking her lips. Closing her eyes then also rolling her eyes while raising eyebrows. I swear, this kind of behavior was just so amusing for me to watch. How do parents raise children like this? In London, I want to say that they were the exact opposite. Very helpful, everywhere you go. Classy.

      • Denise says:

        I agree. If you try to speak French, they hate you, and if you use your own language, they hate you. We travelled to Paris to financially support them after their tragedies in 2015.
        Leave Paris and head south to the countryside. The villagers are delightful, very unlike their disgusting Parisian countrymen.

  2. Indigo says:

    One of the reasons the French unpleasant

    France is the world’s leading tourist destination.
    France has welcomed 83 million visitors in 2013.
    The French population is 66 million people

    Imagine the USA (315 million inhabitants) receiving 396 million tourists! what a shock to the American people.
    Well this is what happens to the French.

    So please! when you make a request, be kind! !
    Because you may be the tenth in an hour, which is a request for information!

    and perhaps that French is not working in tourism!
    Of course he must answer politely, but it must be tiring when it is repeated everyday.

    The immense majority of Americans back good memories of their stay in France. The bad reputation of the French population resembles the “French-bashing” of some type of media (unfortunately)!

    Seriously! there is no more unpleasant people in France than in the rest of the world!

    The French would there be a different genetic code from the rest of humanity?

    If one thinks! it would be incredible that the entire French population is silly!

    If the French was so bad, there would not be so many tourists in France!

    • Erik says:

      You are wrong!!!
      French are IN YOUR FACE everyday in NYC.
      And the stereotype is correct, shower already, really!
      (uhm, you should be showering now).
      I get the stats point!
      Lets dig….so lets say (these are # from swedish consulate so not 100%),
      At any given day there are close to 100000 french tourist in NYC.
      How do they manage to really piss everybody off so much?
      (yes its the body smell problem, but that is not it) they are RUDE!
      Frenchies, you really have to learn manners, because…… all of those tourist you are bragging about. We won’t come back. You can only milk the Louvre so far. Paris…..?????
      Beirut is the same, except nicer!
      Got it?
      Good (we really don’t care, stay in your country, make good movies, just dont travel)!!!

      • laure says:

        Erik, have you ever been to Paris once in your life? Can you speak French, at least have you even tried? Your post is rude, racist and simply prove you’ve certainly not travel that much to even dawn compare Paris to Beirut!??

        • David says:

          Though I think Erik’s comment is ridiculous and rude, how does that make it racist? Too many people toss the word “racist” around to describe too many different types of behavior. I grew up in Georgia… I know exactly what a racist is and Erik is just a smart@ss…

        • Napoléon says:

          J’ai vécu à Paris est je confirme que cette ville pue la pisse de clodo.
          I lived in Paris and I can tell you this city stinks tramps’ piss everywhere.

      • Denise says:

        I agree, and why don’t they shower?
        The biggest problem with French tourists in my country is their cruelty to rare small animals.
        Two men set fire to a small mammal, and even laughed about it in court.
        They have no respect for other cultures, they are very insular, and now, most unwelcome as workers and as touristes.

  3. That’s a great post! I mean the media continues to blow up the myth (CNN published a terrible piece about 2 month ago with lots of people commenting and agreeing on how rude/arrogant/even racisist the French are)…It pisses me off as a foreigner living in France, speaking bad French and traveling a lot around the country…and experienced NO BAD attitude towards me.

    This bus driver situation – I read hundreds of variations already. And I still can’t get why people think he is obliged to speak English?! What’s so suprising about that. Try speaking to a Russian or Indonesian bus driver in English. He won’t be much helpful either…

    Shared this post via Twitter and hope this stupid myth will finally disappears for good!

    • tourist says:

      Why expected or obliged to speak English?! because English is statistically the main business language around the world and even French cannot deny that fact. It is not my first language by the way, it is a second language to me. Not being able or doesn’t want to use English can be tolerated, but the rudeness that in 90% of situations comes with is the special thing that Parisians have.

      bus driver situation : In Russia and Indonesia even if he/she doesn’t know the language he will not treat you rudely just because you spoke in English, this is the difference !!!!!! added to that the fact that he/she most probably understood what u said which makes his/her behavior in fact extra rude compared to other non-english speaking countries

      • Djidiouf says:

        “Why expected or obliged to speak English?! because English is statistically the main business language around the world”

        Yeah, we all know that but the bus driver is not a receptionist in a hostel or a vendor in a shop. In France, his only task is to drive his bus and respects an accurate schedule in the nightmare of Paris’ traffic. Remember that in France, driving in big cities can really be stressful so with a chronometer in mind, it’s horrible.
        And as it was said early by another visitor, bus driver is not a job which requires a lot of education so for most of them, they don’t know English language.

        Here in France, a lot of people are willing to help other people. Just ask politely, be nice and you can try some word in French. After all, when we go in a foreign country, it’s nice to saw that part too, trying to speak some words in that language and be understandable. It’s not a question about the overwhelming presence of English in the world, it’s about having our language not ignored. We will answer you in English as often as it’s possible.

      • Alexis says:

        Hey tourist, we know that English language is one of the most important today. But just ask “do you speak English ?” to a French man before asking him something. And he will be proud to answer you speaking english or at least trying.
        It is speaking English without asking “Do you speak English” that is INCREDIBLY rude. Its always better when efforts come from both sides. A Frenchman from Bristol, UK.

  4. Cate says:

    Amen! I wish that more people understood this. I am tired of people coming back from France and complaining that the French are rude!

  5. jimmy says:

    I have spent a lot of time cycling in france – crossed the country about 4 times from different directions. I have accrued a reasonable amount of french and ask if they speak english in french, before speaking to them in english! I find the french helpful and polite – they do not carve me up on my bicycle, they do not rip me off in hotels or cafes and they do not treat me badly because I am english – there might be a tradition of friction between the french and the english, but I am yet to find it in my travels.

    I suspect it is about respect. I am polite when I deal with them and try not to make unreasonable demands.

    I have a number of english friends who have moved to france who echo my remarks.

    I have however found some extremely brash foreign travellers in France who are very loud and very demanding – they assume that if you speak english slowly and loudly that the foreign jonnies will understand you and jump to it mighty quick – please keep them away from me, spoil things for me

    york uk

  6. Guys don’t try to excuse the French arrogancy.They are extremelly rude and don’t have any respect for your country. They are really very arrogant and i have no respect for them.

    • Bung says:

      Agreed. Ive been a tour guid in both hawaii and the mainland united states. 90% of french tourists have been rude, short, and with a lack of any courtesy. I work in the hotel business now and its still the same. Ever since the paris attacks have been happening however, most of my french tourists have been significantly more nice. Why? Cause you all are getting attacked again and will require U.S. + foreign help again? This is mearly a speculation about the sudden change of attitude, but very rarely have a might a genuinely respectable french person. Trying to think open mindedly, neutrally, and understanding their culture is different…but in human nature, universally, I would fail this student in the arts of how to be human.

  7. lana says:

    I am an American living in France and find it extremely rude when people expect the French to speak English!! People even come into my shop and instead of attempting to say, ” Bonjour!” They either say nothing forcing me to say Bonjour and I get a lousy, “hello”! in return. It grates me. I see why the french are rude to Americans.

  8. Christina says:

    Americans complain all the time about foreigners not speaking English! Why should we expect any different when visiting another country?

  9. Limon sims says:

    Language difference has nothing to do with it. I have 2 french housemates and they are so arrogant and never even tries to see someone else’s point of view. They bitch about everything under the sun that’s wrong with the house or other roomates. It’s like how you would expect people to act when government has collapsed and there is anarchy; pure selfishness

    • Charlotte says:

      I am a French living in UK. I am very happy to read this article because it is what I try to tell everytime. So many English told me that they had bad experiences in France, that French were rude and didn’t make effort to speak English. But in France, most of people just almost don’t speak English. I think our education system is very bad for English and if people don’t have to opportunity to go long-time abroad, they don’t learn English. How can you blame them!?
      Then I think indeed there are some cultural differences that British and American don’t understand. French are generally less extreme in their expression but they also tend to say more what they really think. I also have this cultural problem in the other direction: I feel that British politeness is a kind of hypocrisy. Yes sometimes it is a problem for me because I am not used to say amazing for everything even when it is very basic or absolutly not amazing. But I know that is a question of education and habit so I have to get use to that and accept it. By the same way, American and British have to understand and accept that French need maybe more time to be very friendly and that they are more franc in their feelings. When you travel, you are there to discover a culture and that is a part of French culture. In one sense, if you are not able to open your mind and tolerate that British and American way to think are not the norm, why do you go abroad??

  10. Laszlo says:

    French people are not only rude and arrogant, if you compare the reaction of a French man/woman to any other nationalities, French will act like psychopaths way too often. They ll scream at you in any possible situation about their rights and your rights while obviously trying to ignore your actual rights. Any sane European or American will think they’re awkward about almost everything and anyone saying the lazy arrogant angry French is just a stereotype is either one of them or lying. They’re exactly that. Look at their economical tendencies. And look at the rising number of crime, it’s because they’re both chasing all foreigners in madness with their attitude and too lazy and dumb to step up any efficient security efforts. And we could go on.

    • Carlos says:

      Your ignorance is very strong.
      You think French look like psychopaths ? It’s funny, because I worked in many touristic places around the world, and in almost every country I lived, everyone tend to say English-speakers are very hysterical in any situation.
      But contrary to you, I’m more intelligent. I don’t spend my time writing comments about “how english-speakers look stupid”, because I know there are cultural differences in comportments.
      French are chasing foreigners ? Another proof of your ignorance. Did you know that the prime minister is a Spaniard, became French when he was 19 ? Or that the minister of culture is from Korea ? They have also minister from Germany, Canada etc. Can you tell me which other countries allows that ?

    • Bulldozer says:

      No, we ARE rude.

      Don’t make articles like that. I wish the worst (and genuine) possible image of French people could be given to foreigners.

      There already are too many fucking tourists visiting Paris each year. They don’t know how to dress, they always look so lost, they attract crime into the city, AND THEY WALK SO FUCKING SLOWLY !

      Do not come, we hate you.

      • mo says:

        Well you have obviously confirmed this stereotype in 3.5 seconds, yes it is obvious that French people are mean and rude but they really need to try to change. It’s so inappropriate and umGodly to behave that way. I am unfortunately French :(

      • watch, some Americans will not tolerate YOUR PEOPLE. If it want for your tourists, you would be broke.

      • Smita says:

        I am sorry you feel that way. I always though the rudeness of Parisians was a hypothetical construct of the western media.

        I was a blundering, pestering tourist in Paris last summer, asked directions of over a hundred people but did not receive a single rude answer. In fact most people went out of their way to explain the route maps and trains schedule to me. A lovely young couple (God Bless them) even let me use their pass when I messed up my tickets. I could quote dozens of incidents of kindness I experienced in Paris. It is a beautiful, wonderful city and I would love to visit again. (I promise to dress better next time 😀

    • Paul says:

      ahah, an american guy with a 3.8 homicide rate complies about the rising number of crime in France. “and too lazy and dumb to step up any efficient security efforts” so funny. Just keep in mind that even Liberia as a lower crime rate than USA.

      A french guy.

  11. Stéphane says:

    Well, I think the rudness of Parisian people in general is real, because there wouldn’t be so many remarks about it if it weren’t !
    I must admit that Parisian people can sometimes be rude among themselves.

    It comes from the fact that in France unlike the in the North of Europe, efficiency and welcomeness is not highly valued. Further more, Paris concentrates too many activities compared to the other ereas of France. Also, the educational system is too academic, and is not work oriented. The french ruling class is not measuring up to its tasks, in general, and does not show the exemple neither…

    Yet if you happen to travel to other french big cities outside Paris, or at the countryside, the people tend to be much friendlier than in Paris, and will help you willingly !

    I understand the points of view of some people, and feel sorry for them ! I think it is a shame for us French people, being one of the most visited country in Europe, but I would like to recommend to come to our country, not especially only to Paris…There are numerous hidden gems everywhere throughout France (as everywhere else in Europe), especially big cities such as Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Nancy, Montpellier, Bordeaux…etc…which have nothing indeed to envy to the capital city.

    I hope that the readers will understand my english…

  12. Thomas says:

    Well…. if you’re coming to France you know what to expect. You don’t like it then you don’t come. As simple as that. There are hundreds of beautiful countries you can go to. France is just one of them. The fact of beeing a rebel is part of the French culture. It’s part of the history. It’s somehow something romantic. That’s why France is respected and loved. It’s a country that lives and survives with gutts. You don’t like that. You don’t come. But then don’t venerate French clothes food and wine. France is just one country among hundreds. It has its own culture and history. Same for the French. And I’m French so I’m not bashing.

    • John Wayne says:

      Ridiculous statement. You can’t afford to be a rebel when everybody kicks your ass. Every French national should know english since we always save your ass. At the very least you guys should be able to sing the USA National Anthem and to say HELP !!!

  13. Bulldozer says:

    No, we ARE rude.

    Don’t make articles like that. I wish the worst (and genuine) possible image of French people could be given to foreigners.

    There already are too many fucking tourists visiting Paris each year. They don’t know how to dress, they always look so lost, they attract crime into the city, AND THEY WALK SO FUCKING SLOWLY !

    Do not come, we hate you.

  14. Bill Rabara says:

    So essentially, we should accept that rudeness is a part of French culture. It’s s a way of life. My uber liberal cousin with great eagerness and excitement visited France years ago. Culture shock. He was blown away the by the extent of truthfulness to the stereotype. His desire to revisit France is nil.

  15. Tim says:

    I have never been to France. But I have been traveling abroad now since May 2015, over 8 months. The Caribbean, South America, Central America, and now New Zealand. Without exception, the French tourists have been the rudest people I have ever met. They have no concept of “taking your turn” in line, they consistantly barge to the front; here in New Zealand it has been the worst. They cut in line and look at you like you are low class scum. The hotel managers here have told me how impossible it is to please their French guests as well. Honestly if I had done this trip when I was 30 there would be a lot of French citizens with broken noses. No, I won’t be spending my tourist money in France.

    • bob84 says:

      Yeah same story all the time,you’ve never been here so what you talk about……broken noses??

      Come over here and we’ll show you really about what is a broken nose..French tourist are not better nor as bad as Anglo Saxons..ask the Greeks and the Thais what they think really genuinely…they’ll tell you about some French behavior……

      Went to Greece saw some English girls pissing on themselves drunk to death…fights on the streets..always the same people…anything you wanna teach us?

      Waiting for you to break my nose i’m in my 50’s …my nose still stands.

  16. bob84 says:

    After reading so much crap i’m in awe!
    Americans trying to give the French some lessons of “savoir vivre”.

    I would have one recommendation for American tourist traveling France is “stay home,go to Disneyland or some other places you fancy”,we don’t need you over here…..

    France is a country you embrace of course with its flaws,this country has contributed so much to the rest of the world…and merely not asking anything else than to stay quiet on the side.
    I lived 4 years in the US and was so glad to be back over here,back to genuine relationships,away from the mercantile US crap, and surely away from this ignorance.

    Americans are ignorant of any values except the ones they’re fed with since childhood.

    Lesson to this Americans ,you can f**ck off (because this is your language) we don’t need you,in fact nobody needs you . Stay home you’ll spare us from from your ever longing crap.
    You are rude people,you think every part of the world is an extension of the US…but it is none nobody likes you……time to question yourself huh?

    The French don’t give a sh*t about you because there ‘s no need..simple as this…

    And don’t give your ever long story about the liberation of France during world war 2,the Russians liberated Europe and suffered a lot more casualties than the US,and they don’t whine..or ask for any consideration..or any type of remembrance….

    Do us a favor stay home,eat all your poisonous food make sure to keep it all for yourself….really the entire world doe’s not need you……..

    In fact my message was that, we don’t care what you think about us whether you like us or not..because we just not simply live on the same planet..that’s all…

    • John Wayne says:

      Bullshit you Frenchies are cowards you need America more than any other country in the world. Do yourself a favor and go check on youtube the video of a black Frenchman being kicked out of the Paris Metro by 5 English Hooligans….you cowards let than happen. No way that happens in America, we would send those bastards home on a body bag. Spare all of us your bullshit you guys are cowards and your biggest contribution to the world is the white flag.

  17. bob84 says:

    We value things in this country that you have no idea about….too complicated maybe….so please spare us from your comments…there’s really no need…..

  18. Ioana says:

    I’ve lived in Paris and worked at a french traveling agency. From my experience, I can assure you that most of the french tourists, no matter where they go, they expect that everyone will speak french. They don’t make any effort whatsoever to talk in english or other language. So, they are the last people that should be offended when a tourist asked them a question in English. I understand that french people are different, and sometimes misunderstood, but they certanly have flaws. Your article denies any kind of bad behavior by calling it ” french” ir cultural difference. I’m not afraid to point out the flaws of my country. I know what my people are capable of. So, a litlle bit more of authenticity and selfawareness, ne fait pas du mal.


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