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The French Reputation analysis by Russell Snyder CAdFE's member

Russell Snyder is an American-Finnish journalist who presently lives in Estonia. He has traveled extensively, but his favorite destination has been France. Russell has recently joined CA(d)Fe and enjoys the warm atmosphere of our community. He is happy to help dispel the myth that the French are arrogant and impolite…although he is a bit skeptical about waiters and officials.

1. The French-German Club in Frankfurt. He organized a bike trip. 2.His workmate Bertrand who invited him to stay at his house in Paris. 3. At Club Med we put on shows for the tourists.
1. The French-German Club in Frankfurt. He organized a bike trip. 2.His workmate Bertrand who invited him to stay at his house in Paris. 3. At Club Med we put on shows for the tourists.

The French have a reputation of being arrogant and impolite. In fact, I just saw a list on social media ranking the Top Ten Rudest Countries. Who do you think was number 1? Yes, you guessed it. However, it seems many of these so-called experts on rudeness have never really spend much time in France, or have only been to Paris…or have judged a whole nation by its waiters.


I remember my first trip to Europe in the 1970s. On advice from people (who had never set foot in France), I decided to quickly pass through the land of the croissant. As it happened, I met a nice French girl on my way up north. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours talking on the train, and before getting off, she invited me to her home. How could I refuse.


After my adventures in northern Europe, I traveled to the city of Lille and set off to discover the small town of Lys-lez-lannoy. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English, but some kind people helped me get to the railway station. I got off the train in the city of Roubaix, and people pointed me in the right direction. “C’est là bas!” I must have looked confused because one man decided he’d better just take me there by car. He parked the car at the address I’d given him, and didn’t drive away until he saw me entering the house.


I had originally planned to spend a few hours talking with Thérèse, and then go back to Lille to find the Youth Hostel. But her parents insisted I spend a couple of days with their family. So during that time, whenever Therese wasn’t there, I had no common language with her family. Nevertheless, we communicated (at least I thought so). I had no idea what I was eating or drinking, but everything tasted delicious.


The next year, I hitchhiked around Europe for six months. I spent a lot of time traveling in France. Although I met some rude waiters, unhelpful officials and ill- mannered people, I found most of the French to be sympathetic or at least tolerant. And I was grateful to the locals who were proud of their city, and gave me good advice or showed me around.


Back in Los Angeles, after my remarkable journey, I took some courses in French. Upon graduation, I obtained student permission to work in France. After finding several unsuitable jobs In Paris, I got an internship at a ski resort in the Alps. It was part of the famous Club Med chain. Besides the sports activities, the emphasis at the club was socializing with other visitors and staff. consequently, I learned a lot about French society, food, sports, hobbies, politics, music, family life, and much more. Later I chose to do another internship in Guadeloupe.


Since then, I have always looked for French cultural activities wherever I lived. In Frankfurt, Germany joined the French-German club and actively participated in their events (they even asked me to organize a California wine and cheese evening). In Helsinki as a journalist, I was sent to seminars and press trips in France. For example, imagine four inexperienced Nordic journalists sailing a houseboat on the Loire River. We somehow survived.


Now that I live in Tallinn, I’ve attended information events, wine tastings and films sponsored by the French embassy. And even better, I’ve joined CA(d)FE which is a French business club. So far, I have greatly enjoyed the club’s company visits, seminars, social activities, charity evenings, food events and even pétanque games. The members are very friendly; and English, French, and Estonian are all spoken freely.


So in conclusion, If you want to find rude and arrogant French people, you’ll easily encounter them. But I encourage you to go a bit further and find the lively people behind a rich culture and a fascinating history.


Russell Snyder for CAdFE

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