How to annoy the French
If you really want to annoy the French just mention you're a vegetarian or practise your poor French with them, says French native Morgane Croissant.
It doesn't usually take much to enrage a French person; we are a hot-blooded people. And be warned: When we get annoyed, 'oulala', our levels of arrogance and smugness just go through the roof. We get so furious that we stuff ourselves on baguettes and stinky cheese while preparing our next move — probably some kind of angry protest.
Does this sound like a fun way to spend your time in the most romantic country in the world? If so, go ahead, follow these tips and push our buttons. Here is a guide on what not to do in France.
1. Assume my dad’s got a mistress
Sorry to disappoint but no he doesn’t. Let’s make things clear and crack this myth: French people, men and women alike, don’t get into committed relationships to better cheat on their partners. And just so you know, people are just as unfaithful everywhere else as they are in France, and it’s no more socially acceptable here.
That being said, I’m fairly sure the news last year of our president riding on a scooter around Paris, like some hormone-filled pizza delivery boy, to meet his hot French mistress, doesn’t help our reputation.
2. Assume we’re all from Paris
Every time I go to France for a visit and return to Canada, there’s always someone who asks: “How was your stay in Paris?”
“I didn’t go to Paris.”
“Oh, I thought you were going to visit your family in France…?”
“I did. We live about 450 kilometres from Paris. It’s a five-hour drive.”
There are 65.7 million people living in France, and guess what? They aren’t all from Paris. Some of us (about 63 million) are spread around the rest of country, where the grass in much greener (at least we know what grass looks like).
Nothing makes a French person madder than being mistaken for a Parisian — we hate them, or, to be more precise, we hate their lifestyle, the way they drive, their rudeness, and most of all, we hate the fact that they think we are all peasants.
3. Tell us how easy we have it
Yes, we like strikes, and yes, we like protests. We thoroughly enjoy spending hours in the streets fighting for our rights. On those special days, we take our kids with us and chant for the decapitation by guillotine of some members of our government. Calling us whiners or a bunch of angry socialists won’t change a thing, because we enjoy making signs and blocking public buildings for weeks on end.
Now if you want to annoy us, tell us how easy we have it. Tell us you wish you had (almost) free education in your homeland. Tell us you’d like to have the same wonderful healthcare system, while mentioning how ridiculous our constant complaints sound to your ears.
These advantages didn’t just land in our laps, and they won’t just land in yours.
4. Suggest there are other cuisines worth trying in the world
French food is highly praised all over the world, and this is well-deserved — have you ever been to a French bakery? We’re very proud of our food and maybe a little xenophobic when other cuisines are mentioned or, inexplicably, attempt to steal our gold medal title.
My dad: “What do you eat in Canada anyways?”
Me: “Lots of good stuff. I made a carrot cake the other day. It was very good.”
My dad: “A cake with carrots? What the hell, can’t they use chocolate like everybody else.”
Me: “They do that too.” (I’ll wait for a while before mentioning kale chips.)
5. Mention you’re a vegetarian
The French still have not incorporated this fascinating word into their language.
“Do you eat fish?”
“No, fish is an animal, and I don’t eat animals.”
After looking you up and down to find evidence of early dementia, “Well what do you eat then?”
A good way to not end up being despised for eternity or denounced to the French immigration agency for immediate deportation is to shrug your shoulders and pretend you just don’t eat. Definitely don’t mention tofu, or that will be the end of you.
You’ll also have to deal with the consequences of your confession for the rest of your stay — you’ll be grilled on the topic of the very questionable ethics and practicality of the strange cult you belong to, and you’ll only be served green beans and boiled potatoes, at best.
6. Practice your poor language skills with us
So, you studied French in high school and have barely spoken the language since then (about 10 years), but when you meet one of us, you can’t help but start reciting a long string of poorly pronounced words:
You mean well. You either want to be helpful by talking to me in my native language, or you just want to connect with me in some mysterious way. The thing is, I do speak English, and my English seems to be a lot better than your French, so we should stick to that vernacular before I nod off.
Also, don’t start blaming me for the difficulties you encountered years ago with French grammar. If you can’t use the subjunctive properly, remember that I didn’t come up with the language and that, just like you, I’m a victim of the language’s crazy arbitrary rules.
Morgane was born and raised in France, and is a lead producer and contributing editor for Matador Network. She enjoys reading fiction and drinking coffee – activities that usually take place simultaneously. She is also a passionate environmentalist and a staunch feminist.
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