Less-than-perfect things about France


Today, I created new category What surprises me in France with a content for everything else which come to my attention in this beautiful country.
Good or Bad.

I would like to speak about rather a sensitive topic- which is a behaviour of French people.
Please be aware that I’m married to a French guy and my new family is french as well and I do not write it lightly. This is just my personal- and subjective opinion.

Story no.1

A few days ago we went to a grand french shop where you can buy stuff for DIY to have a look & get an advice due we are going to refurbished our home.
(I’ve asked my husband to speak because I thought that in terms of technical details, is better if native speaks with native).
Anyway, we found a guy and politely asked him for a help.
His attitude was negative but he replied to our questions.
We asked for a quotation and in order to do it we needed to provide our address-so my husband said “Allee Fantin Latour“..and he started to laugh and said” which kind of street is that? I have never heard such strange name before“.. My husband spelt that for him but he still did not catch it and he started to complain about how strange streets names are in France.
I was surprised because he was French!
Then, the second guy from shop’s customer service, (I think he tried to defend us or just make it situation easier) replied (pretending, copying African accent of his college): “Well yeah, this is France, you don’t have only Rue des Platanes.”
And then our guy started to speak about some previous customer who had ( in his opinion) strange address: “rue de Eglise” (Church street)

(Seriously? Is Church Street a strange or funny name for a street? Or I just lost my sense of humour?)

Personally, I wanted to tell him that Fantin Latour was a French painter who was also born in this city. So, if I know that, what the hell he doesn’t? What he did at school? Well fine, arts is not his thing but why he doesn’t even know how to write it??

I spent years working in customer service environment for Polish, German, Swiss, Austrian, English, US and Irish customers in many countries and I haven’t seen such incompetency, disregard and unappropriated behaviour from customer service.

Finally, we have received our quotation but the whole situation left some kind of bad taste to me and I choose to use service from another company.
Two days later, having a coffee with one of my foreigner’s friends I told her story above, just as a bad example of customer service. How big was my surprise when she told me similar stories!

Story no.2
My Australian colleague went to a tea shop and asks for a strong black tea. The seller, ask her which kind of black tea so she said: ” I’m not a specialist here but maybe Earl Grey?”
And then seller started to laugh and asked:” from which part of the world you came from that you even don’t know that Earl Grey is not a strong tea??

I found it very rude.
Hey seller, it is an appropriate way to reply in this way to your potential customer? Do you care about your shop? Do you???

Finally, she didn’t buy any tea’s. She just left the shop.

But the worst story is yet to come. I heard from my Indian colleague.

Story no.3
She had an appointment/interview in Prefecture ( kind of council department) in order to prolongate her visa. She studied here, she speaks French very well. During the interview, they asked her about some everyday habits (or something like that) and she said: “I like yoghurt” (in French is yaourt).
Lady from visa department started to laugh and ask her to repeat word “yaourt” few times, telling her that she pronounces this one in a very funny way.
This same lady she called her colleague and when second women arrived, she asked her again to repeat “yaourt” and then they laughed again!
At the end, she said:” I’m sorry, we do not make fun of you, just your accent is funny, don’t be offended”.

How the hell she cannot be offended??
I was -just to listen to this history. My colleague said nothing (she felt offended) because she needed that visa.

But how low level of customer service in public institution represents these people?? How they can dare behave like this?
Do I have to remind that all those institutions are from our taxes! This lady’s salary comes from our taxes too!

Now, I’m thinking that no wonder that whole world thinks that french people are rude and I, a foreigner I was trying to defend them many times and fought with accusations.

I know, that 3 bad examples cannot say that whole France is against foreigners and all people are mean & rude. I realise that.
I met lots of very nice people here, and I believe is more good than bad people.

However, I can also see that lack or poor relations with customers is a significant problem in France. Lack of culture? It is really hard to say. But is bad for french PR. And bad for business.
Sometimes I think that French people don’t see the big picture. It is going to be bad for them if they don’t change their attitude & behaviour.

And You, what do you think?



2 thoughts on “Less-than-perfect things about France

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