The French – Sometimes They Get a Bad Rap!

March 11th, 2012

People love to complain about the French.  Sometimes tourists feel that the French are being rude or arrogant when they refuse to respond to your French because they don’t like it when tourists massacre their language (and sometimes this is probably the case).  But in my experience, sometimes this is more to help you out or expedite things.  Or sometimes it’s a generous gift…

The other night I was huddled under my umbrella in front of a theatre before a play, waiting for a friend to arrive, when a man approached me and asked for directions to FNAC (in French of course which means he didn’t see me as a tourist!), a well-known bookstore.  It wasn’t a particularly easy route to explain so it took a bit of time.  At the end, he switched to English and told me with a smile and some effort that I ‘practiced very good French’.  And I thanked him  graciously in English.  The French are so perfectionist when it comes to language yet he risked embarrassment to extend himself to me and compliment me (in fact, my French is better than his English even though my accent will forever mark me as an anglophone!).

New to France I would have been frustrated to be marked as an anglophone.  And frustrated, maybe even offended by this switch to English.   I would not have interpreted this either as a compliment or as an attempt to make me feel comfortable.  But I’m less testy now and this little 2 minute interaction, standing in the wind and rain of approaching night, made my evening!

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