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the rudest people in the world.



As many of you know, Aurel and I were back in the States to do a small wedding ceremony for the folks who couldn't make it to France last year. Before I get into the loveliness that is getting married in a duck pond and having an intimate dinner at a bistro in a historical village, I have a little tale that I thought some of you would appreciate.

While the wedding was small with only 30 guests, we still wanted the touches of a traditional wedding and had offered guest favors, tables splashed with gorgeous blush pink peonies, garden green place cards, and printed programs and menus. The week leading up to the wedding turned out to be less of a vacation and more running around to secure these details for our second big day. 

Once our menu was locked down, we ran to get them professionally printed at chain print shop near a mall on Long Island. We entered the printing store and discussed with the clerk what we wanted done. When she realized it was going to be a bigger job than a simple photo copy as we handed her our USB key, she welcomed us to the back office to discuss further. In the back office, there were other employees and because Aurel is French and I have lived in Paris for many years now, we made the point to make eye contact with all three employees to say hello. They looked up from their work and grunted hello.

"We don't have to do that here," I nudged Aurélien, honoring our pact to speak on English when we are on American soil, "No one cares, especially on Long Island."

"Okay," he accepted, "No hello on Long Island."

"What do you mean?" a woman with bleached yellow hair and big teeth who was sitting across the counter asked, "We say hello here."

I really didn't want to kick off the uber-snotty "Well in Paris..." (so Blue Jasmine, right?) but she appeared to be genuinely interested and even a bit offended, so I did it.

"In Paris," I explained, "It's a cultural expectation to acknowledge staff and employees in a store."

"Well!" She scoffed, "Isn't that interesting coming from the Fah-rench-a?!"

She somehow added two more syllables to the word French, clearly for effect. Aurel and I both nodded and smiled, knowing what she was hinting at and turned to the clerk who was helping us, waiting for our heavy documents to load up.

"I mean," she continued, "I find that very interesting coming from the French!"

Again, we nodded and smiled. I may have even shrugged at this point, but our body language clearly read that we got what she was laying down and were not interested in pursuing it any further.

"Wanna know why I say that?" She asked.

"Well," I muttered without conviction.

"Because the French are guilty for being the rudest people in the world!"

And she went and did it. She clearly couldn't resist. Only on Long Island. I swear, it's the water.

"But are they?" I indulged her. Clearly I couldn't resist either.

"Oh come on!" She said, "They are just awful people! I can't stand them."

"Yeah, well" I nodded, and with a thumb pointing to Aurel said, "He's French."

"Bonjour, guilty as charged." Aurel responded with his hands up. 

Her coworkers all nodded their heads in laughter, as did we, because really, who makes blanket statements about any culture like that anymore? The French are rude? What is this, the 80s? Several days later when we picked up our prints, the same Judgey Jan employee was there. I made a point not to say hello, Aurélien on the other hand approached her and gave her the double French bises and said to her, "Not all French are rude, ma belle."

Just like she was dumbfounded when I informed her that Aurel was French, she stood frozen in her little printer's smock making incoherent noises to somehow make sense of what had happened. She'll be talking about forever when the Frenchman came into her shop and kissed her. Maybe this is what it will take to change her view on the French. They say, if you can reach just one person....

Wedding and New York recap to come soon! 
So, how is everyone?

24 comments:

  1. I love it!:) So easy to make blanket statements about other cultures and so human, but you're right: you can't put all your eggs in the same basket:) What's rude in one country or even situation might not be in another. Moral transgressions also vary from one socio-cultural context to the next, even within the same city.

    If you want to see a funny movie about bigots and racists, I recommend "Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au bon Dieu?":) What could be seen as an endless string of racist jokes and blanket statements is in reality a huge dig at the Front national's voter base:) As you must have noticed, contrary to appearances, the French are quite capable of making fun of themselves:)

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    1. I heard that film is funny in a slapstick sort of way. I always like to challenge myself with French comedies because I find that I don't always get the humor here, which makes sense because I'm not French. But I'll for sure check it out to see if I have advanced in understanding the humor here! My friends all got a kick out of the film. Should be fun! Thanks for the reco!

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  2. Wow it sounds like your husband is absolutely amazing. Good for him for taking the high road. I probably would have just been rude

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    1. Hi Lauren,

      Yeah, he wasn't offended at all. He thought it funny, especially the woman because she thought she was being so clever and original. That was the funniest part. You could practically see her patting herself on the back.

      Thanks for dropping a comment. : )

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  3. I think I've encountered some of her relatives here in Texas ;)

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    1. Oh, I bet you have stories. Heading over to see what's going on with you. Hi!!

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  4. My wife and I spent three weeks in Paris last July, not only did we encounter not one rude person, we found everyone we interacted with to be kind and helpful. And we did not stick to the tourists spots, lovely city and fantastic people.

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    1. Hi Rob, Nice to hear from you! I'm not surprised that you had a pleasant experience in July. I was having lunch with a marketing director of a museum here and he told me about 10 years ago the ministry of French tourism spent a lot of time and money reshaping their tourism industry to appear more welcoming and to obliterate the idea that the French are rude.

      Part of the reason the city isn't so quick to clip and ban "love locks" that are damaging the city's bridges is because they don't want to turn tourists off. Meanwhile, it's completely banned in Rome...ah, the Italians!

      Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit!

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  5. Hey- new reader, new poster here! I am done with grad school for the semester and my kids are in school all day for another few weeks. So yes, I drank wine and read pretty much your entire blog over two days. Don't judge :) I love your ability to tell a great story.

    This is hilarious and awesome! I'm a born and bred NY'er (born in Brooklyn, raised in Staten Island, now live in Florida) and have been to Paris 3 times- with a 4th trip this summer planned. Coming from NY, where rude people are quite abundant, I was prepared to experience it in France. It NEVER happened! And every time I hear of someone who experiences rudeness in Paris, when I dig deeper into how it happened, its generally as a result of the "Ugly American" syndrome (too loud, not observing local customs etc, not even bothering to learn how to say even very basic things in French).
    So they only have themselves to blame IMO.

    Anyway, just wanted to comment and let you know how much I love this blog!

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    1. Hi Kerry! Welcome and thank you for leaving a comment! No judgement! I packed in a lot of juicy tales here that go perfectly with a glass of wine. You've done well. : )

      When we're in NY, especially out on Long Island, we met some really rude people and then some really kind people. Calling the French rude is an old cliché, and in the case of this woman, saying it made her feel more worldly.

      Congratulations on completing grad school. Enjoy your summer now! Thank you for reading.

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    2. What cracks me up the most are NY'ers (ike LI'ers and SI'ers) who think they are so cosmopolitan.....they think that living in the suburb of a large city makes them more worldly by association. And those who think that way are the MOST provincial people I've ever met in my life, lol. People are people everywhere in the world. There are kind ones and douchebags. You just need to actually meet them before you judge them, French, American, or whatever.

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  6. He handled that really well. Maybe he has changed her way of thinking now... It's always kind of cool to think that people might just be open to learning new things about the world.

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    1. Hi Marina,

      Maybe so. Or maybe she's now telling people that all French people are perverts. I'm thinking the latter. She didn't seem terribly open to change. What can you do? : )

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  7. I love this post. The sheer amount of times I've had people ask me about France and then say with a crinkled nose: "But what are the French like...?" And look genuinely surprised when I say: "Generally? lovely actually. You get the occasional arsehole but hey, same in ever place right?" Don't get me wrong, there are many French customs that annoy me but the one things I noticed when I got back to the UK from France was just how unfriendly people were compared to the French! I love how Aurel reacted.

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    1. Hi Anna!

      Exactly! Rude people are everywhere! We can't pawn it all onto the French. It seems a bit unfair! So I happened to be at my grandmother's house when news about the Hollande affair scandal broke and she kept looking at me with a raised eyebrow, like, see? They all cheat. So if they're not rude, they are overly friendly with women who aren't their wives! You can't win!

      Aurel surprised me with his response too. He just went and did it. Even I was stunned! That woman will never be the same!

      Thanks for commenting!

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  8. Hi Ella, first time reader/ commenter. Can I just add a random side track into this comment roll- I love your blog- hilarious, no really! Man, I have Polish parents and live in Australia, and some of the things I see/ experience/ 'taste' whilst overseas (especially) in Poland is so shockingly similar. Your family/ husband/ life sounds both wonderful, eventful and stressful and I look forward to more posts. Paris and NYC, the dream right ;-) Have you considered novel writing??

    Ah yes, the cultural stereotypes are still alive and kicking, even in this post-mod, multicultural world. I guess it's, in some part, ignorance and then again some people just can't help but be annoying.

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    1. Hi Kasia,

      Thank you so much and welcome! I'm sure you have fantastic stories yourself! How often to find yourself in Poland? That's a country I would really like to see. There is a Polish restaurant in my neighborhood that I need to check out. I get intimidated because it's small, it's mostly regulars and I wouldn't know what to order. I think I'm just going to do it! Wish me luck.

      I am in the process of writing a book with new stories (I only recycled 4 from the blog). I will keep you all posted about its progress. It's like giving birth this thing!

      Thank you again for stopping by and dropping a note!!

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  9. Wow, people! In Spain, it is also considered common courtesy to say hello open entering a shop, and I do it here. Not that I like it or consider it better, but it's just what you do. I am glad that people don't have a stereotype of the Spanish as rude, though. The "worst" stereotype is that they are just like Mexicans, and I only dislike that because it's just untrue and ignorant.

    Also, the hello thing. Here (in Spain) we must say it upon entering an elevator (but only if it is an elevator in our apartment/office building) as well as when entering/exiting the gym locker room ... awkward, if you ask me, as people often do so in various stages of undress.

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    1. You have to say hello in the gym locker room?!! Wha??? I can't even imagine. Other than that, the greetings customs are similar here. We say hello to neighbors in the hall/elevator and in shops.

      Who would actually say that the Spanish are just like Mexicans? That doesn't even make any sense. I am part Mexican and am scratching my head at this. Culturally, I grew up Italian but when I was in Spain, I saw no similarities between the two. Night and day.

      Thanks for your comment, Kaley!

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  10. wowee..feel like I'm late to the party..and so many new commentors...

    the only real rudeness I've ever encountered in Paris is the line butting...I mean it's just rude...but other than that most people were lovely...rudeness is everywhere..

    can't wait to hear about wedding 2.0...love the sound of the peonies...my favourites.

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    1. Hi Deb! Yes, so many new commenters! It's been lovely. I'm trying to keep up with the blog but am being stretched as I revise my manuscript and participate in memoir class...and the wedding! Will post photos soon. It really was so lovely, simple...and drama free! Who would have thought? I hope you're well! xo.

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  11. Hi! I'm a new commentator :) What an odd encounter. Good for you guys for just laughing it off. I mean, has she even been to France? Actually, when I moved here I really didn't know that hello/goodbye was so common. It really caught me off guard when every single person leaving the changing room at my dance class would say goodbye. We didn't talk at all during the class, but there were always 30 hellos and goodbyes.

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  12. Haha - wow - what a team! You two handled that situation so well, and with such class! Aurel is such a cutie! Mad kudos to him and his English language skills!

    That said; I feel bad you had to go through that back home. I've yet to revisit Long Island since leaving to France - and this aspect makes me dread it. Just talking to my "country bumpkin" family on the phone is painful enough. I dunno if it's the water or what...

    You know, as I'm someone who grew up in LI, and I know exactly that woman's attitude and accent -- I just know this mentality so well! My own bro spews out hatred about the French, even if my sweet Frenchman is nearby! So effed up!

    Anyway, so excited to hear more about your wedding! I'm off to read the latest post... :)

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  13. Ahh, I missed all this when I was away (funnily enough, close enough to wave as I flew via JFK to Pittsburgh). May I admit I got a bit saccharined out there? I kind of missed our snarky (okay, rude) shopkeepers lol

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