It was a summer day when I first came to France. The weather was fine and the drive from the airport to Paris was a sightseeing trip in itself. I knew France from what I’ve read about the country and the people. They were very good impressions: the history, the culture, the food, the excellent manners and the romance.
But those were first impressions, and alas, those impressions quickly vanished on my first trip to Paris. From one ghastly experience to another, I wondered how I could have had such a favourable impression of this great nation.
At the four-star hotel where I was staying, the receptionist said she wanted to check if I had settled my hotel bill before giving me a token to take my rented car out of their garage. First, I wasn’t checking out yet, so how could she assume that? Second, if it were a standard procedure, she need not announce it. And third, how can a four-star hotel employ such unprofessional people? I was so shocked, I became speechless and had to look for a chair to sit down and find my bearings. Where was I? At a seedy hotel?
Then I went to the bank to exchange Japanese yen to French francs. It was ten minutes to noon and both female tellers were engaged in conversation. I was polite and waited for them to finish. I knew they could see me waiting to be attended to in front of them. At twelve, they both stood up and told me to come back at 2:30pm. Tell me, where are the manners? It need not be excellent, but some form of it will do.
I collect stamps and inevitably during my trip, I found my way on a Thursday to a philately stall on the Marigny. I must have the words “cheat me” written on my forehead because when I came back to the hotel with my carefully chosen stamps, I opened the bag to find a worthless collection of Mariannes–the ordinary stamps you get from a tobacconist.
Thank goodness I left Paris and went down to the south of France. While there, I went to the hairdresser’s and the lady doing my hair was gregarious. She was telling me that the French people outside of Paris detest the Parisians because they are so rude, impolite and aggressive. You cannot imagine how relieved I was to hear that.
The French are never happy. They are always complaining. They absolutely have no idea what “service” means. They believe the world revolves around them. They want to work less for more, and the one thing on their mind is their coming vacation. They are one of the most xenophobic of Europeans, regarding foreigners especially North Africans, with extreme contempt. The French women are the most jealous people I have ever met. For all their romanticism, two out of three marriages end in divorce.
So if you have a good impression of France and do not want to be disillusioned, I would seriously advise you go to the countryside and skip Paris, the most visited city in the world. But if you must go, then see the city but avoid rubbing elbows with the Parisians. And if you really must have contact with those abominable people, then do as the Parisians do. Be rude, impolite and aggressive. You might be better treated than when well-mannered, polite and sympathetic.