The first thing to know about the French is that the drinking age is 16 and is never, ever enforced. In fact, French mothers have been known to mix a bit of wine with baby’s formula to begin the path to maturity.
It appears to work because the only drunks I’ve ever seen in Paris were over-the-edge hooligans from countries where pints outsell happy meals.
The French thing was actually explained best by a French sociologist. It turns out that French “yoooot” are raised to believe that people who smile are simple-minded people or, as the French say ‘imbeciles”. French kids on the soccer field who smile a lot are teased for the habit.
So here we come, all smiles, grinning from ear-to-ear, wearing our sweats and our John Deere caps, and they think we’re imbeciles. It is not rudeness. It is just culture. They have one – we don’t.
The French don’t react well to questions. They think that people ought to do their homework before visiting a country. You will notice that most of the French tourists you see in Vegas, for example, know how to say “is that for an hour or all night” in English.
While the French do not handle questions well, they do love to solve problems. Asking them to help you solve a problem appeals to the not far under the surface French ego. So it’s best to begin each conversation by stating first that you “have a problem.” Watch how quickly the French come to your aid. You will soon forget about the rudeness myth, unless of course you smile while speaking.