Sunday, August 8, 2010

Frenchie No English

My job affords me a constant opportunity to peruse the myriad flavors of tourists here in San Francisco.

I've had customers from Alabama, Mississippi, Michigan, D.C., Oregon, England, Brasil, Spain, Germany, New York, Florida, Russia, Italy, and many more. They've been uber-religious Mormonites to avid football/soccer fans to families "on holiday" to tour buses full of senior citizens. They all had quirks. They all had some sort of style. Some were really nice... and some were very mean.

But perhaps the worst and most hypocritical of all my customers are those from France.

I ask my European readers (meaning you Mira!) to give me their opinion on this. Are the French really rude? Do they regularly refuse to speak the language of the country they're in? To not even make an effort at it? Do French people have some sort of extremely large stick up their ass that makes them treat even the nicest retail assistant like some unwanted pest in their quest to get high-quality items at prices that would make an Indian beggar cry?

Seriously, when I went to France I at least made the effort to speak French. I was often told it's polite to attempt to know the language, learn a few phrases so you don't seem like this tourist that must be pandered to. More importantly, I was told -- by other French people I know -- that the French in particular have a thing about that.

And yet at my work they speak no English! They can't even say "I don't understand". They don't even speak Spanish (which is just strange since it's a pretty common language too). However, I have my suspicions... They understand me well enough when I ask, "No English?" And smile widely. Like that'll help.

Many of them just refuse speak English, but often enough once they decide they want something all of a sudden they're a regular fucking lexicon of perfectly accented King's English! It's as if they expect to be treated like they're on vacation in France! It makes me want to grab Froggie by the nose and douse 'em in a combination of old escargot and pigeon carcasses.

But anyways...

So, yeah, that's my rant about French customers, who most of my coworkers won't even try selling to because they're such d-bags to us. And because they won't speak English.

Feel free to share your experience with French people.


6 footnotes:

Imola said...

We all complain about stereotypes..yet there is one that we still refuse to let go of: The Frenchman! Could it be because it's true? :))

Zek J Evets said...

i have no idea if it's true, because i doubt i'll ever have the opportunity to meet all the frenchmen (and frenchwomen) in the world to compare/contrast.

however, for the purposes of my job: french tourists = suck.

Mira said...

Not sure what to say here. My experience with French people is positive. But those were French people in France- not sure how they behave as tourists.

On the other hand, they are very, very proud of their culture and their language. On the other hand, people of England were their historical enemies, and not so long time ago, French, not English, was considered to be lingua franca. I guess French didn't get the memo about things being changed these days.

So yes, they expect you to learn French, at least a bit, and many are less than happy to hear you speak English with them. The problem is, French is extremely difficult to learn (I know what I'm talking about!- After 12 years of learning it, I am still unable to say even the basic things).

So yes, basically, French people like their language and although they know English is considered universal language these days, they have a problem accepting the fact.

On the other hand, it's like I don't understand their feelings. Just think about it. It's so "natural" to expect people to know English everywhere you go, and it's expected for them to know English as well. Nobody sees that as a privilege any more, you know, taking the actual effort to learn a foreign language in order to communicate with other people. Some people even laugh at other's bad accents and what not (while being completely unable/uninterested to learn any foreign language).

But as people, they are ok (dare to say, great)- well, those I've met at least.

PS-If you ask me, I vote for English, for the sole reason it's so much easier to learn (at least basic communication). Granted, I am a bad language student, but French is extremely difficult. (All I can after 12 years of learning is to understand written text).

Mira said...

And on the other hand, I used "on the other hand" way too much in my last comment. :P

Anonymous said...

I don't know any French people (seriously, zero), though a good number of my friends in high school studied French and decided to major/minor in it in college.


I vote for Spanish as the easiest language to pick up, mostly because the grammar follows a concrete pattern and the pronounciation is phonetic. Plus I've taught English to Spanish speakers for 3 years and it is so difficult to do! :-)

Zek J Evets said...

@mira: it's not that they can't be proud of their language/culture/heritage/whatever, it's that they seem to think the rules of being a good tourist don't apply to them. yet (and i stress that yet) they expect us -- meaning americans, and possibly canadians -- to speak french when we visit france, and to be immensely apologetic/nice during our stay.

the dichotomy just makes me a little bit peeved!

but i still like french people.

and yes, you did use that phrase a lot, haha ; )

@jasmin: in san francisco, you will meet a lot of french people. they are EVERYWHERE! seriously though, i know tons just by accident.