Why Is Customer Service in Paris So Rude?

Why is customer service in Paris so horribly rude? It may have roots in the French Revolution (they really do take the égalité part of the national motto "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" seriously).

Emma Jane Kirby of BBC News discovers first-hand that the customer isn't always right in Paris:

The fact is Parisians employed in any service industry simply do not buy into the Anglo Saxon maxim, "He who pays the piper calls the tune."

The revolution of 1789 has burned the notion of equality deep into the French psyche and a proud Parisian finds it abhorrently degrading to act subserviently.

This Sunday, a Parisian friend of mine waited in line at the fruit and vegetable stall of his local market. When it was his turn to be served, he asked the seller for a kilo of leeks. "They're at the other end of the stall," snapped the vendor waspishly. "Take a bit of exercise and get them yourself."

There is no mistaking the undertone, "I'm not your slave."

Link (Photo: AFP)


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Hi,
I am English, married to a French girl and have lived in Paris and the deep French countryside twelve years with two daughters. These dudes are absolutely correct; my dear hosts are utterly unworkable permanently pre-emptively aggressive, prickly and impolite.
The way I see it (and live it) is to remember the French are an introverted family with their own rules. For a start linguistically and culturally they don’t actually talk to each other as much as the Anglo-Saxons because they don’t need to. They have roles and all is understood. Thus they freeze-up with the Anglo Saxon ingenuous curiosity they simply cannot understand individualism nor the idea that you talk to learn. The French are taught not to be curious about other culturesor subjects that they didn’t study-look at tin-tin cartoons and a thousand other popular culture ideas of other nations. So why this is so?
For a start they never had a Dr Johnson to say ‘The last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism’. They are obsessed with warm feelings of patrie, hexagone ; la territoire, La france etc-they are the chosen race and it’s true few nations have built a Chambord, had a Poussin, Bizet or a Commune- or invented the GV or aspirin-but what the French don’t realise is that they are still a feudal state the state is bigger than them and dictatorships and control freakery and serious oppression (that still exists in offices and factories everywhere daily ) built those wonderful gifts to humanity. Don’t forget paternalism the great macho ‘s like Renault, Michelin and de gaule were giving noblesse oblige to you worker peasants………..
Having lived in Arab countries, Japan, and south America, I have no doubt the French are in a class of their own in rudeness and like to be thought of as so. They are actually proud that they are rude because they are the chosen race anyway.
Working with them as opposed to smiling at them as a tourist you will realise they have far less respect for the individual and it’s largely because they are protecting their borders but also the fear is inspired by the great paternal figures to keep the populace in place.but also with so many similar Catholic paternal countries around them they fear the united colours of Benneton syndrome – a pan-European dilution.

If you watch the national news on TV any night you will have at least five nationalistic jingoistic stories every. They are obsessed with themselves as a race . Count the number of times the word ‘France’ is mentioned any night of the week –self-obsession is incredible.
About workers and service in France –everybody has a very small role or function in France a. that is the way they are educated-Deductive teaching makes them think in straight lines. Anything new or strange is an insult because it upsets the rules. Above all there is massive hierarchy pressure and they are citizens –not people.
Check out E.T.Hall on high context laconic societies and low context international societies to really find out why the French are so nasty. This done, you can understand why they are quite so vitriolic with the planet earth!
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Just got back from Paris. On our last day, we went to the Musee d'Orsay (the hotel concierge didn't bother to tell us the Louvre is closed on Tuesday.) I am a middle-aged woman and after a week in Paris I could barely walk. In the Tuillieries, which is basically a park, we came upon what looked like a snack stand surrounded by a sea of tables and chairs. We bought ice cream and water at the counter and sat at one of the tables near a fetid pond. We were almost finished with our snack and resting my bruised feet, when a waiter appeared at our table and yelled at us in French. We gathered we were not allowed to have "take-away" at one of the dozens of empty tables affiliated with the snack stand. We "chatted" with him for awhile and he became more and more enraged and grabbed our table and began tipping it. This to very tired women who were about to leave anyway. I don't care about French vs. American vs. Antarctican: I am human, and a tired lady should not be accosted!
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Smile, please, thank you go a long way whether in France, Germany, Japan or the US. I am simply amazed at the arrogance my fellow Americans dish out when traveling abroad (and in the US).
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Bottom line is, if you choose to work in a service industry, by definition, you are a "servant". This doesn't mean you, as a person, are beneath your customer or have to be a slave, but it does mean you have to do YOUR JOB and provide service.

Unfortunately, central Paris seems to be one big tourist trap now. A beautiful city wasted on the current generation of French youth who have an intense, unfounded sense of entitlement.

It surprises me that the French government spends nearly 1.5 billion Euro a year to export their culture to other countries yet they have such disdain for outsiders visiting their country or speaking their language.
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In France we don't have a 'customer oriented' culture. It's an understatement. Then you also have that Revolution/Commune rooted culture where the employee wellness is more important than the one of the customer (well, in the eyes of the employees of course, not the bosses' :) )
Rule of thumb : the closest you to Paris (big cities effect) or tourist traps the lower the service.
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