17 Reasons France May Not Be For You

Paris street scene photo

As someone who adores France and has come to appreciate its quirkiness and differences, I can tell you that isn’t always the case when I talk to people in both my real life and my Internet life.  I am still perplexed and disappointed when I run into people who tell me they don’t want to go to France because the French are rude.  Mind you when I press them, most times these people haven’t even GONE to France.  They had just heard it from a friend of a friend and so on and so on.

For the record, I have never been treated rudely in France.  In fact, I have many examples which serve as memories to the contrary.  But I also try my best to fit in, understand the culture and etiquette, smile and be positive.

Understandably, I’d like the RIGHT people to visit France.  Those who can appreciate all the wonderful gifts the country has to offer; the food, the culture, the jaw dropping scenery, and yes, the people.  Travelers who won’t be negative and won’t spread nasty rumors.  So I’ve decided to list some things you should consider before making the decision to travel to France, to help determine if it’s the right fit for you.

  1. The French sure do love their cigarettes.  If you don’t like cigarette smoke, France may not be for you.
  2. If you expect to be fussed and fawned over at dinner by wait staff who act like your new best friend and offer up their name, France may not be for you.
  3. And if you may become upset and impatient when said wait staff let you relax and enjoy your meal rather than shoving you out the door, France may not be for you.
  4. If you need to touch and riffle through all the merchandise when you’re shopping and you think the customer is always right, France may not be for you.
  5. If you expect the French to smile, hold the door for you (a complete stranger) and speak to you in English, France may not be for you.
  6. If you don’t like cheese - the smell of cheese, the taste of cheese. It’s a country of over 365 cheeses and if you can’t handle that much cheese, France may not be for you
  7. If you prefer Paris sidewalks to be free of doggie doo, France may not be for you.
  8. If you’re not big on etiquette, using your manners, or going out of your way to be polite in a foreign country, France may not be for you.
  9. If you like mega-sized portions and leftovers, France may not be for you.
  10. If you thing aloof, private and reserved translates to rude, France may not be for you.
  11. If you have no desire to learn a bit of the language or culture before you go, France may not be for you.
  12. If you’ll be highly offended when you try to speak your best French, but you’re answered back in English because your French isn’t good enough, France may not be for you.
  13. If you’ll throw a hissy fit when the classy resto you’ve been looking forward to dining in won’t serve you at 3:30 for lunch or 5:30 for dinner.  France has set hours for shopping, dining, banking and other services and if you can’t grasp that, France may not be for you.
  14. If you’ll be uncomfortable when Parisians blatantly stare at you while sizing you up on the Metro, especially if you’re dressed in a sweat suit, white sneakers and a fanny pack, France may not be for you.
  15. If you can’t sleep in anything less than a king sized bed or stay in a hotel room the size of a house, France may not be for you.
  16. If you might ask a waiter for a phone book to call the health department to report the women sitting at the next table in a bistro who’s dining companion is her dog, France may not be for you.
  17. If you’re not greeted with the same sense of urgency as you’re used to in other parts of the world (ie, the U.S.), France may not be for you.
If after reading this list, you’d still like to experience France (and if so, congratulations!), click here to see how I can assist with your planning or get in touch, I’d love to help!
  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    You really have to go somewhere to see if it is for you or not.. you cannot always go off others. I kept being told that Paris is expensive, WELL I went and found out for myself.. NOT only did I LOVE it… It was expensive… go and eat where the locals eat, not in the top tourist areas .. one street behind them and you find fab little places.

    I agree Anne, one must really go to find out for themselves, but my goal is to help people decide if it’s a good fit. And it can be expensive, but as you point out – there are hints and tricks to saving money.

  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    I’ll be in Paris next Friday for breakfast (and then for two weeks). It’s my second trip, and I can’t wait! Half the fun of travelling is that things are different to home – wherever home is. I don’t understand people who expect things to be the same wherever they go.

    Enjoy Paris again Karen. I don’t understand it either, but those who expect it to be the same should save their money and just stay home. ;)

  • User Gravatar
    Alexandra Korey
    August 28th, 2012

    replace the word FRANCE with ITALY and you’re good to go… Probably these rules apply to a lot of countries in the Med!

    Alexandra, I did a similar post about Italy and while I agree that some of them translate countrywide, there are certain differences I find, mainly in the gregarious nature of the Italians. I find them a bit warmer and welcoming.

  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    I’ve only been to Paris once, but would go back in a heartbeat and as many times as possible. Your list is spot – on. I don’t understand people who travel to distant places and expect it to be just like home.

    We’ve heard that Parisians are rude – we did not encounter one! In fact, everyone was helpful and polite. My daughter said it might have been because we weren’t schlepping around the beautiful city dressed like we were ready to clean out the cellar – ha!

    Looks like we’re in the same camp Deb. I’m so glad your experience in Paris was a positive one. Maybe if we collectively share our experiences we can quash that ‘rude’ myth, once and for all!
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  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    I’ve been to France twice now. I like it, I don’t love it. Spain and Italy have captured my heart much more…

    I know the feeling Andi. In fact, when asked which I prefer, I usually say ” I love France, but I’m IN LOVE with Italy” ;)
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    Linda Hugues
    August 28th, 2012

    Great post!! So true. I love France, and I understand that the French see things differently than I do, so I adjust. I love trying to speak and understand French, so I stumble through and I find I usually get a positive response. I prefer eating dinner earlier than the French, so my husband and I choose the creperies and bistros, that serve all day. For me, France is worth the effort.

    Thanks Linda. I love your attitude and I’m glad you find France worth the effort. As you might guess, I do too ;)

  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    GREAT list — and thanks for not sugar-coating it! I’m an American who now lives outside Paris and who has had an ongoing love affair with France for years. But ALSO important for people to remember is that we travel to experience what’s different about other cultures — not to find everything “just like it is” back home. Hopefully that’ll make their trips more enjoyable — and bearable — when things don’t happen exactly as you’d expect.

    Variety is the spice of life, non?

    Thanks for the sage words. I totally agree with you. Not everyone appreciates my tough love approach, but I’m glad you do!

  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    Have you thought about adding ‘If you are small-minded and want everything just the way it is back home, then travel might not be for you?’ Just a suggestion ;o)

    Well, I don’t know if I’ve thought about using those EXACT words Liv, but I appreciate your suggestion ;)
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  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    Thank you so much for posting this!!! As a student of the French language and culture for many years, I find it quite offensive when someone–who typically has never been to France, says they dont ever want to go there because they are smelly and rude. They could not be more wrong. And their assumptions are so off based! We dont appreciate it when other countries assume the States are like “Baywatch”. When will we ever learn to check our stereotypes? Again, thanks for posting this!

    You make such a good point about us not liking it when people stereotype our culture, Kate. And I really do hate to hear such generalizations when people have NO experience with a place at all. Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way.

  • User Gravatar
    August 28th, 2012

    I am taking my 6th trip to Paris next month…I love everything about that city including all the quirks you write about! True, it did take me a few visits to adapt to their way of life, but now nothing makes me happier than when I am in France. Thanks for the great post and chuckle!

    You’re welcome Andrea. It was a somewhat serious post, but it was intended to be humorous too ;) Keep on enjoying Paris!

  • User Gravatar
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
    August 28th, 2012

    Loved this post! You really covered all the complaints I hear about France. One of my favorite things about France is the fact you can actually sit and dine without being pushed out the door! I too have more stories of kindness than the rude ones.

    Thanks Debbie! I’m so glad France has been good to you as well:) It’s nice just just take the time to relax during a meal.
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    Elissa Shaw
    August 28th, 2012

    This is classic! While some of those things I can’t stand, they will never keep me from loving and going to France.

    I’m so glad to hear it Elissa! I’m not really a fan of cigarette smoke, but like you, it won’t keep me away. Not for a second!

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    Loulou in France
    August 29th, 2012

    Yes! To every single point you’ve made.
    I’ll be sharing this for sure!

    Merci Madame Loulou ;)

  • User Gravatar
    Amy Welborn
    August 29th, 2012

    Thank you for this! I am leaving for two months in France in about 10 days (gulp) – it will be my first visit. (Been to Italy 4X, never France). I confess that this list gives me hope (except for the cigs) – as a reserved, private person, this sounds…pretty good to me. I might just feel at home. (Must be the fact that I’m half French-Canadian…perhaps.)

    I bet you will feel at home Amy! I hope you have a wonderful trip. Two months is a good long time to immerse and enjoy yourself.
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  • User Gravatar
    August 29th, 2012

    Agree with all your comments about “France might not be for you.” I always tell people who are traveling: If you want it to be like home, STAY HOME – you’ll be much happier. But if you want to experience travel, be open; be willing to do some research; be willing to learn some phrases in another language (especially for France – it is always much appreciated) and be willing to fit in. Otherwise, no, you won’t enjoy it. Thanks for the article!

    Thank you for the comment Carolyn. It’s nice to meet like-minded travelers ;)

  • User Gravatar
    August 29th, 2012

    What a great post! We haven’t been to France just yet, but to be honest, it is things like those in this list that make it even more worth visiting. Well, ok, maybe not the cigarette smoke, but I’ll deal. Love #3. It was the same when we lived in Brazil and we miss that. It makes it so difficult to dine out now that we are back in the States.

    I love that you view the list as an exciting opportunity for a visit. Sounds to me like you’d enjoy France very much. Put it on your bucket list Lori :)
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  • User Gravatar
    August 29th, 2012

    Here’s my golden rule: If you expect France (or any travel destination) to be exactly like it is at home, France (or any other travel destination) may not be for you. In fact, nothing except home may be for you. Why travel at all if you don’t want to experience new things? (And yes, middle-aged American couple screaming at the waiter in the Parisian restaurant that you want your sauce on the side, I’m talking to you!)

    Ugh. *eyeroll* Bob, sounds like you know the type and have seen the bad behavior. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed it, and I’m embarrassed for them. And for me too honestly. That old saying – you get what you give is so true. If you act rude and foolish, you’re going to get rude treatment in return.

  • User Gravatar
    August 29th, 2012

    Hi! I loved reading your article, even though I m french and live in Paris! I do think Parisians are quite rude and selfish-it strikes me after a year spent in a small town in England. I guess it is the case for most capital cities, it is a jungle. However I’d like to point out that Paris is not France!!! And there are a lot more to french people than just Parisians! Smaller cities in France are much more friendly and full of much more helpful and caring people….. So Paris is a beautiful city but if you have time, get out of there and meet other french people, other than rude selfish parisians who think they are above the rest of France! Take care X

    Thanks Lil. I didn’t find Parisians to be rude, just different, but I’ve only traveled there, I haven’t lived there as you have – so I’m sure you have a much different perspective. Perhaps they aren’t quite as warm as folks in the French countryside, or other areas of France, but as you point out – it is a big capital city and people are busy going about their day. People should definitely explore ALL of France.

  • User Gravatar
    August 29th, 2012

    I’m always treated warmly when I’m in France, and so far, every time I meet someone who’s had a bad experience it’s because they didn’t even know enough to offer up a bon jour or a merci. I’m amazed at the number of people who travel without doing a single bit of research on their destination.

    I too am amazed Will. I think the reserach leads to a deeper appreciation and understanding of a place. Not to mention it gets me excited for the trip! :)

  • User Gravatar
    Chris Tyle
    August 29th, 2012

    Great stuff, LouLou. I read through your whole series on becoming a citizen and moving to France permanently. Excellent.

    I have had so many great experiences in France, and very few difficult ones – and those were only on my first visit ca. 1995, and were due to my lack of knowledge. The more you visit – the more you learn, IF you’re paying attention!

    I think people worry about the smoking, but on my last few visits there’s been a very marked decline.

    Paying attention and learning are important Chris. I’m happy to hear you’ve had great experiences and that the smoke is declining. That’s a big one for me. Not a fan, but it won’t stop me from visiting!

  • User Gravatar
    August 29th, 2012

    I was never treated badly or rudely in France the first several times I visited (Paris, Tours, Caen.) I speak fairly fluent French and did my best to make myself understood, etc. But when my husband and I were robbed in Aix en Provence we went to the police dept. to report it and the officer who was “helping” us was so rude to us, talking to us and shaking her head: “les Anglais!” (I’m American.) I tried very hard to answer her questions, etc. but she had it out for me from the start. Then we went to a restaurant and the waiter was impatient and rude. We left the country days earlier than planned. All that being said, I love France and will return as soon as possible.

    So sorry to hear of your terrible experience Cathy, but I am happy to hear you still love France and plan to return one day.

  • User Gravatar
    August 30th, 2012

    This post makes me want to go back to France so much. I want to go live there for awhile, but how to do that as a U.S. citizen I still have to figure out.

    Well, that’s a tough question Phaydra. There are many expat sites that can help. None come to mind right now, but goggle is your friend!

  • User Gravatar
    Jonathan Robinson
    August 30th, 2012

    In all big cities people can be rude. Paris is no exception. But there are lots of nice folks in Paris who can be very helpful. Americans need to keep one thing in mind ,if you want to ask a French man for some information ALWAYS begin by saying “bon jour”. I have been living in France since 1984 and at times I still forget to do this. It drives the French crazy. They consider it the hight of rudeness to not say bon jour before posing a question. Remember this and you will enjoy your visit to France. Where I live in the loire Valley there are so many venues to see and experience that the region has been given the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE status. I cannot understand why Americans are not flooding into this region.

    I agree, a polite greeting is a must. And careful what you wih for on the Loire Valley flooding Jonathan ;)

  • User Gravatar
    August 30th, 2012

    Funny story…..I was fortunate enough to have spent a month in Paris this past summer…my first time. After being there for a few days, my gay BFF and I slipped into a small soap, candle, lotion boutique while holding our Starbucks grande coffee. Rather than greet us with a pleasant “Bonjour”, the woman behind the counter scowled at our American coffee. She did not appear friendly nor interested in us…just interested in telling us her opinion of Starbucks. Her demeanor was drab. She did not smile as she was telling us about the soaps she made or while she was wrapping what we had purchased. I can see how some people would consider this to be rude, but I did not look at it that way. She asked why we were in Paris. I explained that my husband works in Africa and we decided to meet in Paris. He would be arriving in a couple of weeks. She looked a bit confused. Her eyes pointing to my friend, “Who is he?”.

    “Oh, he’s my boyfriend.” I said jokingly.

    At that very split second her demeanor changed. With a grin from ear to ear she exclaimed, “Congratulations!!!!”. She smiled. I think even laughed. She said some other things, but I was so shocked by her sudden change, I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She approved of me!

    Love that city!!

    Funny story indeed, Rhonda :) Thanks for sharing it!

  • User Gravatar
    August 30th, 2012

    Hi there,

    You probably know it, but most French people consider the American way of life as a low end one. Poor taste, poor culture/language, poor health/food… you name it.

    To them, you can’t beat the French touch, even in your wildest dreams, or maybe in another life. :)

    A good reminder to read the locals is to understand France remains the #1 tourists destination. That’s simply why they often show no need at all to be gentle, polite or care about anything to grab your dollars. You’re just a walking wallet, and they usually enjoy making you feel that way.

    Their motto is basic and universal: dear tourist, speak French, queue in silence, pay a lot a lot a lot, rince and repeat!
    They know that even if “France may not be for you”, you’ll come anyway.

    I’m of course french. Nobody’s perfect. :)

    Funny stuff Zaaland. I think we Americans could adopt a few pages from France’s rule book on culture and a healthy lifestyle. I love France’s concept of buying fresh foods, drinking good amounts of wine, leisurely dining, and the laid-back lifestyle in general. We would be a much healthier, happier nation if we did!

  • User Gravatar
    August 30th, 2012

    Just wanted to say that if French people answer in English it may be beacuse they grab the opportunity to actually speak in English and show that some French can do it :)
    Thael, from Paris, obviously ;)

    Thanks, Thael from Paris ;) That’s a great point!

  • User Gravatar
    September 3rd, 2012

    You forgot: “If you’re not Caucasian, be prepared to hear a lot of racial slurs and insults”.
    I adore Paris: lived there for several years, but I have to say that although I miss Paris a lot, I certainly do not miss the people. (I’m Asian, btw.)

    Glad you liked Paris, but sorry to read your comment Suzy. I only speak from my experience as a traveler. I’m sure your experience as a resident is very different than someone just passing through. Thanks for sharing!

  • User Gravatar
    September 6th, 2012

    Years ago I travelled with a friend to Morocco and she spent most of her travel budget on “European” food because the local food seemed strange and she wasn’t sure if it was safe to eat. If you travel, no matter where, you have to be prepared for things to be different. If you don’t want to go out of your comfort zone – stay at home, you’ll be happier!

    By the way, where is La Friterie (in your picture at the top of the page) I can’t seem to be able to place it near Rue Mouffetard?

    Thanks for your thoughts Katharine. La Friterie is in the 5th, across from Notre Dame. In the same general area as the Shakespere & Co. bookstore.

  • User Gravatar
    September 7th, 2012

    My first trip to Paris from the US was not great. My subsequent visits over once I had lived in the UK for a while were fab. You get used to a slower place of things like meals and once you understand the culture, it’s quite nice. Paris is one of my fave cities, but the French ARE quirky. Parisians are just like anyone else though in a big city, but I have never had anyone be rude to me in Paris (even if my French is completely awful!)

    It is the most amazing place to visit and explore. I never get tired of it. Hubby and I are over next week in an apartment this time. I can’t wait to go to some of the lovely markets and eat some gorgeous food. Great post! x Steph

    Thanks Steph! I think you nailed it with the description of *quirky*. But that doesn’t have to mean negative or rude.

  • User Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012

    This is funny!

    I feel like a lot could be applied to NYC though but in general I would replace France with Paris.

    This city sure has charm, eh? Haha! Definitely takes going somewhere to see if you fit, that’s for sure. But if you don’t like cheese you’ll miss out not tasting some here!!

    Indeed. And I never had I cheese I didn’t like Meg – so France is a perfect fit for me :)

  • User Gravatar
    September 9th, 2012

    I love this! It’s spot on. I didn’t find the French to be rude either; quite the contrary. As long as you try to speak French, they appreciate the effort. I hate it when tourists travel abroad and just expect everyone to speak English. I had a waiter in Paris who I was trying to communicate with in my very limited French, for which I apologized, and he, after asking where I was from (U.S.), said “At least you are trying, most Americans don’t even bother.” Very telling! And I absolutely love that they allow dogs in restaurants…my doggie would be a very happy boy in France! :)

    Thanks for sharing that story Charity. It is ridiculous to expect everyone to speak English – it’s France, a different country for goodness sakes! I’m glad you are one that makes the effort.
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    rochelle fay
    September 29th, 2012

    Went to Paris in 1962, right after I saw “Breathless.” Along with “American in Paris”, American films gave such an unrealistic view.
    I was really disapointed. Enjoyed it more on succeding trips. Some people made it very clear they hated Americans. Including the police. In Illiers, a teeny village with only one attraction, the house of Proust’s aunt, the woman in charge wouldn’t let me enter because she only gave 2 tours a day and I had missed it. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to understand anyway and I could figure out a small house and she was paid to be there for visiters until closing time. A sympathetic French person intervened. but she was adament. Also, as an older person than most of you, France’s unique complicity with the Nazzi’s was always in the back of my mind. I never could afford the good rests., so in Paris I ate at the Alliance Francaise a lot. This said, there remains much I want to see there and I hope to return. I go out of my way to talk to tourists–I live a few blocks from Venice beach and pier in California, so in the summer there are tons. I go out of my way to be nice and friendly with them, starting conversations, because I remember the people who were kind to me in France and elsewhere. bon soir.

    Thanks for sharing your story Rochelle! I’m sure the local tourists appreciate your kindness.

  • User Gravatar
    December 27th, 2013

    This is my first time to your site and this is a great blog. I’ve been several times to different parts of France and I LOVE it. I’m an American and always try to fit into the culture I’m in. I think that definitely helps with the way locals interact with you. When traveling to other countries I have found that the most obnoxious people are always Americans! (The ones who aren’t trying to fit in, that is.)

    Thanks for popping by Rayni! I’m happy you love France and by trying to fit in, I’m sure you have a much better experience.
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    Sam Lakin
    October 31st, 2014

    In some respects the French are a great people; I’ve lived in France for a few months, and have visited L’Hexagon pretty much every year. Wherever I’ve been the French are more than happy to let you practice your french, but likewise are really happy to practice their English. You don’t feel like you’re being forced out of the door at restaurants (unlike in some places in the UK) and the public transport is excellent (the TGV makes travelling a pleasure). However, there are some factors which drive me crazy. For one, they will literally blow cigarette smoke in your face, and not even think twice about doing it. They also don’t wait for you to get off of the tram or bus before trying to get on themselves, creating a massive crush every time the doors open. If you’re one of those people who likes things doing when they should be done, France probably isn’t for you either. You have to be persistent to the point that they want to murder you before they’ll bother doing anything for you when it needs doing.

    They are great people Sam, at least the ones I know. I can totally relate to the non-orderly fashion of trains and metro queing ;)

  • User Gravatar
    February 18th, 2015

    Totally agree with Suzy. Apart from frequent racist insults, it is also important to mention “If you are not happy to be treated like animals at the visa department and other local authorities, France is not for you.”, “If you are not open to selfishness and pretentiousness, France is not for you.” and “If you are astonished to see people peeing on the street or within the metro station, France(‘s capital) is not for you, and “If you are offended if some drunks harass you verbally on your race and follow you, France is not for you.” Lastly, “If you do not agree with the French that France is the best country, France is not for you.”

    It sounds like France is definitely NOT for you TT ;)

  • User Gravatar
    Leo Darnell
    August 11th, 2015

    I’ve learned new things reading this about France. I actually love France and its beautiful scenery but sometimes, it’s the People that I dont like.

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