In the US as well as in the UK, I hear complaints that the French are rude—particularly Parisians in the service industries, such as restaurant waiters.

On the other side, Parisians sometimes make the same complaint of the tourists who come to town—and there are a lot of them.

In any society some people are nicer than others, and even the sunniest among us have bad days.  But as a general rule, I have found the French people to be very pleasant, and generally exceptionally courteous.  So where is this coming from?

I’ve been watching the interactions of French and English-speaking people to try to understand where this misunderstanding starts, and I’ve concluded that it really begins with, “Hello.”  Or rather, “Bonjour.”  But it takes a bit of explanation to understand why.

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