old salut!

Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

April 09, 2007

Impolitesse revisited

This site has now moved to Salut!

A good debate is just taking shape over at my Guardian Comment is Free slot, where I have returned to a favoured theme of rudeness and the French. Have your say, there or here.

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Marseille: easy to get lost, harder to be told to Get Lost - if you're polite

But those who have stuck with me from the Other Place, where I now languish in the sidings for archived foreign correspondents (along with, it has to be said, three valued former colleagues), will remember the impassioned discussion my thoughts on the subject aroused there.

They will also know my view that the French, by and large, get an unjustifiably bad press, accused without proper cause of being ruder than others. But then, not all the French agree with me in any case.

My occasional sparring partner Agnès Poirier thinks the French are guilty as charged. but adds that while she and her fellow Français and Françaises are rude, us Brits are hypocrites.

So when I make my case for not being beastly to the French, I am undermined by certain French people taking pride in their rudeness.

Pretty much the flip side of the debate, the subject that that got me going last time around, is the tyranny of the French insistence on a proper bonjour monsieur/madame at the start of any casual exchange.

Is it time for another discussion on that? These days, I rarely forget the need for such introductions, and I bonjoured away merrily, to good effect, a few times when I was lost in Marseille yesterday.

Mme Salut!, French but conditioned by long years spent in England, gets it wrong as often as she doesn't.

If you are far too polite to consider talking about rudeness, there is always the lure of yet another competition, over at (tonight) a somewhat jubilant Salut! Sunderland.

The core subject will be of no interest to many of you, of course, but I'd bet several of you would get the right answer to my question even without recourse to Google.

Some may even like my choice of prize - a copy of an unusual graphic novel, Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot, about which you can also read a little on that blog, and more here.

And just a few of you will take to the idea of a guest column, even though it has to be about football - note, not specifically Sunderland.

But then again.........

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This site has now moved to Salut!


At April 09, 2007 7:05 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Why should "a proper bonjour monsieur/madame at the start of any casual exchange" be regarded as tyranny? Should basic good manners not be second nature? The same practice holds sway in other European nations -- Italy, Germany and Spain, that I can quote from fairly recent experience. Are they politesse tyrants, too?
A simple greeting is both civilized and civilizing. My visit to London three months ago confirmed that many Brits veer between rude and bloody rude. Worse, they make as much a fetish of this as you appear to think the French (and, by extension, Italians, Spaniards, Germans etc.) make of basic courtesy. I know which I would choose.

At April 09, 2007 11:49 PM, Blogger Gigi said...

I love the South. I love Marseille The people there are garrulous, over-excited, loud, cheerful...but not rude. I think the French just say what they want to say without going all around the Wrekin like the British do. This straightforwardness can seem rude if you're not used to it, just as our efforts to be polite and not offend can seem like hypocrisy.

However, the woman I had on the phone the other day, from the CAF, was very very very rude...

At April 10, 2007 11:28 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

There are times when I'm thinking deeply about something. It could be trouble at home, or a complicated project, or part of my book, and my head is miles away.

If I go into a shop and forget to say hello, it's not because I'm being rude but because I'm not paying attention. I don't mind a cheerful hello to call me back to earth, but if I get a rebukeful hello, I never go back to that shop. It's as simple as that.

At April 11, 2007 6:15 PM, Blogger Halcyon said...

I must admit that I miss the French "rudeness" after making the move back to the States.

Not only am I back in the land of uber-Friendliness, I'm now living in the South. People here are REALLY friendly. Sometimes I even find it annoying. I would like to be able to just go in a shop, ask for help, get the item I want and leave. But here, conversation and help goes hand in hand and you usually end up either hearing someone else's life story or telling a story of your own. I did find it a bit charming in the beginning, but now it's a little frustrating. Southern hospitality is not all it's cracked up to be, in my opinion. Give me the French indifference any day!


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