The French put a high value on being polite. In France, like every culture, there is an understood code of conduct and etiquette that is expected of everyone.
Part of what makes a culture or community is the fact that we do share a common set of rules for behavior. Throughout the world, those respective rules are taught to each of us from the time we are born and throughout our childhood. As adults, we are expected to know them and abide by them. They are ingrained in all of us.
The thing to remember is that etiquette and manners are not universal. Each country and culture has their own set. Sure, there tends to be enough overlap from culture to culture that we can find commonality, but it’s important to remember that what is considered polite and what is considered rude is subjective and cultural.
Sadly, too often we hear an American complain that the French are rude. Firstly, that’s a pretty broad and unfair assessment of “The French” as a whole. Secondly, when you travel to France why would you expect them to act like Americans?
Bare in mind that when the French encounter visitors that don’t appear to know or respect their version of etiquette, then they can be confused or offended by our behavior. This Gawker article, and the related image, illustrate how exasperated the French can become with the rudeness of tourists.
It boils down to a misunderstanding of how we each view the world and the importance of realizing that we should all follow the cardinal rule: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Below are a few books that I can recommend if you are visiting France. Whether it’s your first visit or your a frequently visitor, you’re sure to learn something interesting and helpful.
Taking a little time to learn about the culture and etiquette of the place you are visiting will go a long way toward helping ensure that you have the most positive experience possible.