32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France

(Geof Cox) #1

Just read this article in The Local. Is anyone else irritated by these cultural comparisons (in books - and UK media too) that assume French culture is uniform? What they are usually comparing, in fact, is Paris with London, rather than any kind of ‘national’ culture. Here in central Brittany, for example, local drivers are so excessively polite and laid back that you don’t even have to step on a crossing for them to stop - you actually have to avoid standing on the pavement anywhere near a crossing or cars will stop just in case you might want to cross at some future time! (And we have crêperies everywhere that do serve all afternoon!)
The best book I know on France, by the way, is Graham Robb’s Discovery of France - precisely about how very diverse France really is - indeed that the whole ideas of ‘France’ and ‘the French’ are comparatively recent inventions…


(Jane Jones) #2

Yes it’s very “Paris”. It doesn’t offend me, just another example of very poor journalism. Presumably because the local doesn’t employ proper ones or pay proper rates, but just has people capable of turning out lists.

Can’t remember the last time I carried my passport with me…


(Elisabeth Morgan) #3

I agree with you Geof, France is so big, you can’t compare Parisien with Marseillais, Chti, Breton and Alsacien. And futhermore, rudeness is not linked to a nationality or else. People are individually (or not) stupid or rude. I don’t realy recognize France culture in this article, and I would say to non French people, stay as you are, natural, it’s when you are trying too much than people laugh at you (of course if the one in front of you are stupid or rude, or both ! :wink: ). I find the difference very charming !


(Bill Morgan) #4

Well thats a relief Pet :slightly_smiling_face: :heart:


(Dominic Best) #5

It seems to be written for Americans. I find America to be much more foreign than France despite the, alleged, shared language.

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(stella wood) #6

Mmm… Dominic… I have made it clear to my American friends… they do NOT speak English… they speak American… not the same thing by any means… :sunglasses::expressionless::roll_eyes::smirk::persevere:

:slightly_smiling_face::slightly_smiling_face: I know you said … “alleged shared language”…:relaxed:


(Véronique Langlands) #7

Books translated into French from English always have ‘traduit de l’americain’ or ‘de l’anglais (Nouvelle Zélande)’ or wherever if they are from a reputable publisher.

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(stella wood) #8

My daughter has to go to USA quite regularly for her work… and needed to take a course in American legal terms and phrases (that sort of thing)… to ensure she truly understood what they were saying/talking about… :wink::roll_eyes::relaxed::relaxed::relaxed:

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(Mary Wolcott) #9

So true, about being an American in Paris.

I read that article and thought it was helpful. I think that everyone starts somewhere, if that makes sense… By that I mean, those who are making mistakes while trying to do the ‘right’ things, are visible precisely because they are making mistakes. After seeing someone who is engaged in making such-and-such mistake, the observer might next say (to him-or-herself), “Ah that person is American.” Once a person has practiced, the repetition softens and corrects. Stereotypes, therefore, may occur due to observations made during that first trial and error time. I guess I’m suggesting that Americans do slip back into the masses and blend in, after trial and error has allowed us to figure it out. We all become un-noticeable, perhaps, after that initial phase. Perhaps then, we all might be speaking more of a cycle of learning/assimilation, rather than a nationality. Certainly though I can see how the mannerisms of Americans, while engaged in the learning process, may look very different from other nationalities given the difference in cultures… We all look pretty gawky while getting the hang of things. And then there’s me, the not exactly socially adept, slightly eccentric, well-meaning artist-type. Just by dint of my personality and approach to new experiences, I know I must look really silly when stepping up and trying to swim in uncharted waters. To boot, I’m a white, ambulatory (all extremities and fingers/toes intact and functioning), non-externally-scarred, woman. If I was otherwise, the options for bravely trying new things might be incredibly limited. As it is, my family doesn’t know what to make of me, with all of this courage doing the unthinkable: traveling and hopefully moving to France. They wouldn’t dare go through the learning process I’m going through. Then again, I’m an oldest sibling. Actual research about oldest siblings does suggest that in fact we do take such risks and look silly in order to try new things…


(Jane Williamson) #10

We have a copy of our passport with us at all times a d, of course, our french driving licences.
We had to accustom ourselves to carrying all the papers for the car when we go out.
We always ask each other, ‘Have you got the Papers?’


(Jane Jones) #11

@Jane_Williamson Yes we keep copies of car papers and driving licence in the glove box of the car, with a blank EU accident statement, but we never carry our passports or even a copy of them. Why would you? I have my carte vitale in my purse which is enough to prove my identity to a policeman, and no-one else is entitled to ask.


(stella wood) #12

For me… the most important thing to carry is my Carte Vitale.

I’ve a horror of having an accident and arriving at A&E without that all-important item.


(Stevie Cole) #13

It used to be clean underwear :slight_smile:


(Stevie Cole) #14

I can remember the last time I carried my passport in France.

A rumour flew around the village that Pres Macron was visiting. (A large number of armed police had suddenly appeared, so there had to be some explanation.) We all waited in the square, very excited, for the presidential motorcade. And waited.

Turned out it was some high tech trade forum.

Still, the armed police were pleasant when we were asking the m questions :slight_smile:


(stella wood) #15

In this heat… who wears underwear… :blush::blush:


(Geof Cox) #16

I usually have my carte vitale (it lives in my wallet) - but rarely any other ‘papers’. In nearly 40 years driving in France (and living here briefly in my 20s and for the last 6 years) I’ve only been stopped by the police once - and by complete chance I did have my driving license with me! I only take my passport if I’m going abroad, or to the hospital (where they do ask for proof of identity - though even then once when I forgot it they just said bring it next time!).
Perhaps we’re a bit spoilt in Brittany? - as I said before, the Bretons are pretty laid back in general…


(Mat Davies) #17

This was always bizarre advice… Just who was it that was going to rescue you!!!


(Bill Morgan) #18

They are Geoff, we are spoilt, great innit :+1: :slightly_smiling_face:


(Jane Williamson) #19

I always take my handbag, which has my passport, carte vitale and driving licence.
Plus loads of other vitally necessary stuff as well.

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(Bill Morgan) #20

:+1: :rofl: