France welcomes 83m foreign tourists per year. According to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, it’s by some distance the most visited country in the world. (Spain comes second, China third, with the USA in fourth place.)
Do our Gallic cousins to get ticked off by a constant stream of Nikon cameras and Bermuda shorts?
According to a survey by airline comparison website Skycanner, I’m afraid they do. Some 20% of the 1,600 voters surveyed, claimed that France was the rudest nation on earth. Russia comes second, with Britain and Germany in third and fourth with 10% each. Those back-slapping Aussies and Kiwis came bottom of the list. Yeah, throw another shrimp on the barbie guys.
But those statistics don’t tell the whole story.
Firstly, over 50% of the Skycanner survey’s respondents were British. This is nation that claims to abhor garlic, snails and socialism, yet who spent a mammoth 82m nights in France in 2012. Only Germans stayed longer, but probably drank a lot less.
Secondly, waiters in Paris are not like waiters on the French Riviera. Commenting on the same statistics, Forbes magazine’s Andrew Bender says: “In France’s defence, I’ve always found Parisians to be just as rude to each other as they are to foreigners.”
Thirdly, it’s the language. According to Place Garibaldi café owner Alex Bianchi: “Although this is changing, older generations still don’t speak much English. So when someone asks them a question in rapid English them, they are simply confused, not offended.
Bianchi claims it’s also a question of etiquette. “When you enter a bakery, shop or bar anywhere in France you must first say ‘bonjour’. Not doing so is a far bigger crime than not speaking French!”
Friendly or not, one final stat speaks volumes. Tourism makes up a massive 7.3% of French GDP. That should put a smile on any Frenchman’s face.