I’ve already mentioned a few times how much I loved Bordeaux and its surroundings, and how lovely encounters I’ve had with the french during my trips. But I’ve also mentioned that I’ve never been a big fan of France before and somehow the whole country has felt somewhat distant and cold to me. A place I had no interest in, thanks to all the prejudices. I’ve formed my prejudices gradually over the year, based mainly on different people’s opinions about France and the french. French people are often described as arrogant and rude, especially if you happen to be a foreigner in their country. And even more of that if you happen not to speak french. Quite often I’ve heard people from different countries saying that France would be a lovely place if there were not any french people around. Some people say french is the most beautiful language in the world. To me, it has also sounded horrible. So, needless to say, I’ve had somewhat negative prejudices towards the country for many years.
Before travelling to Bordeaux and Paris in October, I’ve only been to Paris once and had several layovers at Charles de Gaulle airport. The visit to Paris was good and I did not have any bad encounters with the french then nor did I have highly negative experiences what so ever while visiting the city of love. But somehow I thought that with all the bad things I had heard before, I must have been just lucky that time. What comes to Charles de Gaulle, I must have had two bad experience for each neutral one during my layovers there and I must admit that if there is any way to avoid that airport, I make sure I do not have to go there. If there is one airport I hate in the whole world, it is Charles de Gaulle. And that has helped significantly while forming my prejudices towards France and to make me think that France just might not be my cup of tea, at all. Based on everything I’ve hard about France and everything I’ve experienced at CDG, I’ve been sure that if I were to take myself out of the airport, I’d only face even more chaos, disorientation and bad experiences.
What I have now learned is that I’ve been so wrong. After two visits to France (outside the airport), all I can say is that my prejudices have been miserably wrong. Like I’ve already told in my previous posts, during my trips to France I’ve only had good service and friendly smiles, encountered extremely friendly people and gotten help every time I’ve needed it. This all happening while speaking only English while in the country. And to make things clear, I do not speak any french, the only words I’ve said in french are the usual hellos, thank yous and excuse me. So no, as long as you won’t don’t behave arrogantly your self and approach the people with a smile, despite all the prejudices, the french people won’t start spitting at you because you do not know their language. But they sure appreciate if you know even a few basic words, just like any other nation in the world.
The behavior and policies in France are often described as slightly unorganized and well.. chaotic. That being at least in many northern European countries where people often appreciate order and control over spontaneous behavior. My own experiences do not support this description either. It is true that many things are done slightly different than what, for example I’m used to back at home in the Nordics, but those are the kind of differences that really do not make a huge difference and are something that you just have to accept. There are cultural differences between all countries. But despite all the little differences, things worked well all the time. Okay, must admit that the public transport drivers and/or dustmen were on strike on three different days during the week I was in France, but I still did not notice any problems because of it, and I did use public transport every day. Days were ordinary as they would be in any European country, traffic was smooth and the streets clean.
Even though I can’t say that Paris is my favorite city in the world, I still must say that I can not come up with a single example that based on my experiences in France, would support the prejudices I had before. Of course it is possible that many people have had bad encounters with french people or have been frustrated with how things work in France, but let me ask you, have you never had such experiences in your home country? After these two trips to France, I can not help but confess that my prejudices have been badly wrong before and I have nothing but good to speak of France and the french people in general.
Pictures in this post are randomly selected photos from my trip to Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion and Paris in October.