Saturday, July 2, 2011

The French Have a Reputation

The French Have a Reputation

Many a time we heard how rude the French are, how arrogant or pompous. So far, after 2 days in Beauvoir and several in Paris, we’ve only met two that we didn’t like and many that we did.

We were told that the key to the French is to attempt to speak their language rather than force yours upon them as if it is the only option. In a short space of time, this mindset has helped us pick up a lot of French words. Having arrived knowing ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, we can’t have a conversation or anything like that but we can generally express what we want in bits and pieces.

Nowhere was this more effective than the campsite in Beauvoir. After the lovely man at the gas station in Cotentin, and the fairytale ride to Beauvoir, we were on great terms with France. The owners of Camping Aux Pommiers spoke varying degrees of English but even the ones that spoke none took our attempts at French in good humour and taught us new words.

Without friends and colleagues to chatter with, Courts has taken to making friends with every person we pass. Sometimes this works for the best, such as when he didn’t realize there was a park light on the bike and our new friends jump started us. Sometimes it means people with zero understanding of English end up showing him round the extensions they’re building at camp and making him promise to write postcards. For me, I’m friendly and I’ll chatter with them, but I find it hard to keep up a full conversation with strangers.

All over Beauvoir and Mont St Michel, people appreciated our attempts at French or at least understood that we were tourists and did their best to help us. The only rude person we encountered wasn’t even rude really, she ran a restaurant next door to camp and was very abrupt and reluctant to serve us. We persisted (hunger will do that) and eventually all was well. Not much of a point to the horrible French!

Since then, we met many friendly and helpful people on our journey from Beauvoir to Paris, all helping us find our way. Again there has only been one rude person – the cashier at the train station. We were attempting to communicate in broken French and she asked what nationality we were. We replied “Nouveau Zealand” and she snapped back “Then speak ENGLISH!!” and turned away.

If I were to write about every rude person in any other country, the list would be just as long if not longer. Maybe we’ve had a good run, maybe it helps that people can’t resist being friends with Courtney, but so far, so good. We’re loving France and it’s people.

Penelope_nz's Beauvoir, France photoset Penelope_nz's Beauvoir, France photoset