Are the french cold, rude and arrogant ?

I read that Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson all three have reasons to dislike the French (or at least, the parisians) : cold, unsmiling, unfriendly and rude, but sometimes also too polite and too uptight. I’d like to explain this to the americans who’d like to understand what is true or not in here1.


First of all, I must say that the three actresses are right, but they should know that nobody will ever hate the French as much as the French already do hate themselves. The French are able to love their country only in a very peculiar case : when the bad remarks come from strangers. It’s not only that we can’t bear bad opinions, we also think we deserve adulatory comments for anything we are. On french TV, for instance, it’s always quite embarrassing to see the show host asking his guests from abroad to say how much they love France, French (both people and language), French food2, French cities, French manners, French humor, etc. The French hate themselves but they want to be loved. Or something of that kind. And they feel very concerned when they are mocked in american talk-shows.
But apart for that national problem of self-esteem (from here it seems Americas has its own), I can’t say if the French are rude. I’m juste sure that in those matters, they are very different from the Americans, from the British, from the Scandinavians, from the Chinese, from the Japanese, from the Slavians, and even from close neighbour people like the Swiss or the Belgians3.

I love my garden but it’s not the neatest you could imagine. Yet it is a « jardin à la Française », designed as Versailles gardens.

The first time some genuine americans came to my house — a couple of people of my parent’s age —, I could’t decide if they were on drugs, if they were mad people, or if they were laughing at us. They went to us in our lame and dirty suburban train, running across a quite sad lanscape, to arrive in our ruined house and see our savage garden (okay, I’m exagerating a bit). They seemed mad to me because they were shouting stuff like « marvelous ! », « beautiful ! », « wonderful ! ». It was loud, quite agressive, I felt a bit insulted, in a way. Would I’ve been the guest, I’d have only said something like : « oh, you have a cat », « your flowers don’t seem in a great health » or « you must pay a huge insurance, with that terrible roof ». That would have been more appropriate, honnest and, therefore, polite.
But time passed, and I met other americans. I noticed they where not all alike, depending of their age but also of the city where they came from, but also, I discovered their outrageous politeness was not mockery at all, but not exactly sincere either : it’s just the way they do.

« If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all » : this sentence is actualy not possible to be literally translated in French. The words exist, but the idea is meaningless : why would one say something nice if he doesn’t deply mean it ?

An american friend from a small midwest county told once a saying her mother engraved in her brain : « If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all »4. This saying is quite impossible to understand for a regular French : in the movie Bambi, where it is said by the rabbit Thumper, the french translation is « If you only have mean things to say, then keep your tongue ». It’s quite different, isn’t it ? Another friend, who grew up in San Francisco, once told me that people from his city were all nice, and the umpleasant persons like himself (he’s of course not) had no choice but to flee to France. The Americans are quite positive people, I guess, while the French are dubious, cynical, and negative like if such an attitude could prevent them against som evil eye curse.
What is disturbing when someone from one culture has contacts with someone from a different culture, is how hard it is to understand the communication codes that matter : is a friendship deep or superficial ? Is a compliment sincere or just conventionnal ? Is the person laughing with you or at you ? Is the person depressed or despising ? Is the smile truthful or faked ?

The answer to all these questions comes with experience, but I guess that the French actualy are arrogant assholes. Anyways don’t get impressed, the french are used to criticize a lot, it’s no big deal. And remember we make the best cheese and wine — and that’s why I couldn’t move anywhere else myself.
And some people are nice.

  1. Please do excuse my english expression, I didn’t really go to school and I didn’t have a chance to practice this language for decades. And it’s not a way of talking. []
  2. In a little France guide for the american businessmen, I read that Americans where quite disturbed about how endless are french meals, and the fact that people don’t only eat, at a restaurant, but also casually discuss business. In american movies, I already saw people talking business while eating, but it seems the french way (or mediterranean way) is quite different. []
  3. I mean the ones who speak French… Who feel like beeing extremely different from the people of their country that don’t use French. []
  4. She also told me once that she felt in love with her French husband in England, admiring how non-conformist he was : cheating in files, beeing quite rude, etc. — but once she came to live in France, she discovered that her sweetheart was not an admirably over confident free mind but just some french guy. []

29 réflexions au sujet de « Are the french cold, rude and arrogant ? »

  1. « If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” : this sentence is actualy not possible to be literally translated in French. The words exist, but the idea is meaningless

    > vous n’auriez pas légèrement tendance à être de mauvaise foi?? Chez moi la phrase de Bambi se traduit
    « Si tu n’as rien de gentil à dire, il vaut mieux te taire » – et c’est une expression courante.

    Vous dites également en note que vous n’avez pas pratiqué l’anglais depuis des décennies alors que vous avez traduit il y a 3 ou 4 ans un roman que j’ai vu en librairie > là aussi je ne comprends pas bien…

    1. Bien sûr que je force le trait, j’essaie d’être rigolo. Cependant, vous pouvez voir les sous-titres du DVD de Bambi dans cette page même.
      Ensuite, traduire depuis l’anglais, ça consiste avant tout à écrire en Français. Comme lecteur, et sur des forums, etc., je pratique un peu l’anglais mais je ne parle anglais à personne, la dernière fois que je me suis rendu en Grande-Bretagne, c’est en 1986.

    2. I keep finding these explanations based on cultural differences of why the french are not rude and they basically say in many words that the visitor is the rude one or the one who doesn’t understand them and their culture.

      The solution is very simple. Visit anywhere else. I’ve I felt welcome as a visitor everywhere except from France.

    3. No – you are all indeed ass-holes!!!!

      Just paid 120 Euros for a so-so dinner. My French isn’t very good but my money is. Waiter didn’t even try. The hotel has « International » in it’s name. All international contracts are usually written and signed in English and the dollar is the defining currency. I USED TO LOVE France and the French – no more. Great culture but don’t delude yourselves. You were liberated in WW2 . Don’t forget it. Now don’t call me an ugly American. I’m not. But not another French person will ever be rude to me again without fully understanding what my response is.

      Oh, and by the way, I can can cook and a lot of the plates being served are in no way superior to much.

      Frank Porter

  2. « Pour le Français, quelqu’un qui sourit tout le temps est ou bien un simplet, ou bien un hypocrite, ou bien un américain »
    Paraphrase de quelque chose que j’ai lu chez Jean-Benoît Nadeau, un écrivain québécois qui a écrit deux livres sur la France pour tenter d’expliquer aux Américains, entre autre, pourquoi les Français ne sourient pas.

  3. French are mean and deeply racist people but worse than this they are all depressed and mental. Only depressed people are nasty, happy people are not nasty , france is a depressing country to live because the system is horrible, for everything from buying a car to getting a job to renting a flat, the entire system is awful and such a difficult controlling system has turned the people into a race of mean, selfish, cold, intolerant, inflexible and rude people.

    France is no longer even good to visit, the racism and nastiness is ten times more after the attacks and its a really intolerant place now. Btw, I am an Asian (not muslim) and a multi millionaire , I behave respectfully and dress nicely everywhere but still I faced rudeness and hatred in France lately. Sad because it was a country i loved visiting for the food and wine mostly and having a relaxed holiday but now its just too intolerant and hate filled , I cannot go waste money on such hating places. French people are truly horrible and they should come down to earth if they want their country to survive in a globalised world.

  4. The french are like they are.You have to lick their asses to get the simplest things. Bonjour Madame, Mousieur. Je veux un pain riche integral.No nous n’avons pas. Dommage,merci et adieau. If they are rude walk away from them. Vouvoyer people avoid them say you are im a hurry. Tutoyer people are more laid back and easy. If they are drunk avoid them. If you are
    a pescetarian ore an ovolactovegitarian do not expect any service. If you are a cyclist you can take your bike on the train so you reach the border faster. In reality many tourists pass through france to go to a neighbour country. The god thing with France is nobody really cares about you if you are a foreigner. It is easy most things if you don’t expect them to be friendly or warm. Do your own thing. If you don’t like french food eat chinese or something else or do your own cooking. A lot of french people are not so mainstream so they are less formal and cold.Show them you are independent you don »t care a shit about their politics and their ethno centrical world. You have your own goals. If you are francophile and francophone you will proberbly like France. They are like they are and why bother. I prefer Spain, nice people, not too stressed,tolerant and not too formal and cold.

    1. Fuck the French. I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. Love Spain, Italy, Greece, etc. . . Napoleon was the only noteworthy figure and he was Corsican. DeGaulle was Eisenhowers royal pain in the ass. He commaned NOTHING, and the Vichy did what they wanted.

      It’s a Second World country, and English is the language of commerce thoughout the world. Fuck ’em and their fries.

  5. IF it’s true that the French are rude to tourists (especially Americans), perhaps the time is ripe that they be given a « friendly » reminder that the « Yanks » were SO LOVED (in EVERY sense of the word) when they pulled their fat out of TWO fires, and that, if it weren’t for them, their Eiffel Tower would now be a « Kraut in the Box » and they would be speaking Deutsche, NOT French.

  6. Maybe the french are not into anglo-saxon economic hustling? Or huckstering, or endless war mongering? Perhaps, they place much greater value on real books, cultural, art, music, literature rather than sport/enorme breasts/tushies/and celebrity gossip? Perhaps, they think narcopathic phone diddling/fiddling is not as important as real authentic friends? Maybe they have school standards, and manners ? Other than economic hustling and war mongering–what exactly was the american’s purpose of life/narrative?

    1. Si tu étais née dans un pays voisin de la France, tu serais totalement d’accord avec cet article.
      Hélas,ta position de défense des francais est simplement due à ton lieu de naissance.
      Ne remarque tu pas que dans les commentaires, tous les touristes de tous les pays du monde s’accordent à dire que les francais sont les gens les plus antipathiques qu’ils aient jamais rencontrés?Pourquoi es-tu incapable de te remettre en cause?J’ai personnellement voyagé dans de nombreux pays et rencontré des gens de dizaines de nationalités différentes et j’ai remarqué que ces derniers étaient en générale extrêmement sympathiques.Hélas,le seul peuple civilisé que j’ai trouvé antipathique est de très loin le peuple français.Les critiques faits par des touristes(notamment les américains)à l’égard des français sont totalement objectifs.Pourquoi ces derniers ne se plaignent-t-ils jamais des allemands,des espagnols,des italiens ou des britanniques?.Il s’avère malheureusement que le seul peuple qui dérange en terme de manque de gentillesse est bien le peuple français.Je pense qu’il serait temps de se remettre en cause et d’écouter les plaintes faites par le reste du monde.En effet,je pense que le peuple français doit apprendre à être plus sympathique et plus humble.Une fois cela réglé,de nombreux problèmes disparaiteront.En effet,une société de citoyens sympathiques est aussi une société heureuse et si vous n’êtes pas convaincu de cela,allez visiter les pays scandinaves où la population est l’une plus sympathique du monde et aussi l’une des plus épanouies du monde (comme par hasard).Malheureusement,la population francaise est la plus dépressive du monde civilisé et cela est la conséquence directe de son manque de gentillesse et de sa froideur.

      1. @Saad : Ne remarque tu pas que dans les commentaires, tous les touristes de tous les pays du monde s’accordent à dire que les francais sont les gens les plus antipathiques qu’ils aient jamais rencontrés? –> ceux qui prennent le temps de s’exprimer ici en tout cas.
        Le décalage culturel crée des malentendus, mais ceux-ci se dissipent avec le temps. J’ai bien aimé cet article : Why the French don’t show excitement, par une étasunienne. On y lit entre autres le fossé qui sépare les deux cultures en matière d’enthousiasme apparent : American Matt Jenner lived in France for several years and is bilingual. For him, it is not necessarily a matter of the French not being able to express their excitement, but rather that English speakers – and Americans in particular – tend to go overboard. The American public, he says, has been trained “to have a fake, almost cartoonish view on life, in which superficial excitement and false happiness are the norm.” By comparison, he notes, in France, “excitement is typically shown only when it is truly meant.”

  7. What you’re basically saying that majority of French people are just paranoid. When someone is just being polite, then he’s mocking you. Take some pills and chill out. Stop being so rude to tourists and people. You’re changing Paris into a f*****g nightmare for the rest of the world. Be f*****g grateful you ignorar lot, tourists pay you damn bills!!!! Appreciate it and show some courtesy and respect.

  8. It’s so true, I am french, live in France and I hate it, I was lucky to go to North America many times . I havent been outside France since March. When I can i am going to london, I like British people. I can comfirm Frenchs are rude , arrogant especially Parisians, cold ! They mostly don’t like Americans , the richs too, do not speak english loud here they will hate you, i’ve been insulted once, spoke english here. My husband is not native from France . I think Frenchs are the worst people in Europe ( I’ve visited 15 europeans countries). And the last , they are horrible drivers.

  9. This year (2018) was my first, and last visit to Paris. The sites were extraordinary, the people were extraordinarily rude and foul tempered. I paid my respects to my idol Jim Morrison and I’m out.

  10. Some of my loveliest, most welcoming experiences in France have been in the provinces, notably the South snd far from Paris. Closer one gets to Italy and Spain, warmer attitudes become. But overall, compared to the Spaniards and the Italians, the French appear overwhelmingly stuffy, arrogant, distant and judgmental/mocking. Their secret Achilles heel…the French wish that French was still the language of international culture and commerce. It is not. Relatively few French speak excellent English and many are *terrified* of being judged for their poor accent or grammar. So, if a French person is being mocking or belittling, just pretend (slightly mockingly) that you don’t understand a *word* of their English and watch the arrogance melt away. Cheers !

  11. I live in Nice and the French, or rather Nicoise, are some of the most vile people I’ve come across (I’ve lived in 3 other European countries). Their arrogance and stupidity, combined, make them actually quite dangerous, especially when they get behind the wheel of a car. I will be leaving here soon, and won’t be return. Pigs, absolute pigs.

  12. I don’t like French either.

    So uptight, they don’t help you, they cherry pick if you don’t speak correctly their language (even if you have good intentions to learn, they expect perfection from you). God, I dispise them a lot!

    They seem all the time moody and negative but I guess they chose their own system with sooo much beuracracy and all.
    So this is the outcome maybe, maybe because their system is so hard, it had an impact on the mood of people…
    So they reap what they sow.

    Fuck them, unless they change their system, they will be more and more miserable. I don’t care, from my part, I can watch them go mad and not do a tiny thing for them to help them. Fuck them.

    1. Hah! Another cheerleader of that orange Nazi maniac open its loud fake mouth! Look at that, the typical, « they don’t share my customs so they must be genocided  » mindset. We all saw that with native Americans. Just shoot your schoolmates and lose against Vietnam Iraq and Afghanistan unarmed civilians one more time, just to realize how the entire world wish your pathetic nation to go down

  13. I live in Paris since 2017 and I am looking forward to go back to Ireland, where I lived before. Too racists, arrogants, hypocrites… They hate others and hate themselves.

  14. I love France. I love French people, food, and culture. I am American. I feel welcome in your country and I want you to feel welcome in mine!

    Any one that has a problem with other people needs to look in the mirror first! Fix your own defects before you expect others to respect you!

    1. @Cheddar C. : it seems to me that you don’t know very well french cheeses, wich is odd, considering your IP adress is located in France (but in britanny, the only quite cheeseless place of France)

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