There are plenty of awful stereotypes about people from different countries. According to Max, Americans are all overweight, the British are uptight and can’t cook, and Germans have too many rules. When I asked him if he was aware of stereotypes of the French, he simply replied, “We’re too awesome?”
No, I informed him, people think that the French are rude and snobbish.
“What!” he responded, “but la politesse (politeness) is so important to us!”
I’d like to believe that most stereotypes of French people is based on tourist experiences in Paris. True, Parisians don’t go out of their way to speak English or welcome foreigners into their city. But a similar distinction would be if all foreigners believed that every American acted like a New Yorker.
My experiences living in rural and southern France have only shown how friendly, welcoming, and polite they can be. The people who work in our local library, boulangerie, hair salon, restaurant, and convenience store all go out of their way to say hello, ask about recent vacations, and mention that they know your landlord. In my opinion, you haven’t seen the true French politesse until, as I experienced today, a 4-year-old neighbor on a tricycle takes their pacifier out to say “Bonjour!”