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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is: Are the French really as snobby as they seem?
This is a common stereotype, especially in the U.S. But it's actually more complex than it seems.
A lot of Americans and other tourists think the French are stuck up because it seems like they refuse to make small talk, especially in a foreign language.
Actually, silence is socially acceptable in French culture and some other European countries, especially among strangers. In American culture, it's common for strangers to make small talk, but in France it's a little less common, especially in foreign languages. But, why?
One reason is that being educated is really important in French culture, and people are worried about making grammatical mistakes.
Another reason is that many people remain close to a famous idiom La Vieille France, which means, “The Old France.” It is commonly used in conversation and is core part of the educational beliefs in France. French people are traditionally not used to talking to strangers and like to keep a distance. It’s part of the culture. Small talk can be seen as an intrusion into someone’s private life.
A final reason may be that French people are just really busy with their life and prefer listening to music or using their cellphones than talking to strangers. Although this may be the same in many other places, it is particularly prevalent in France.
French people may also seem stuck up because of the social faux pas that foreigners make when they visit France. Here are some insider tips for French learners, who may visit France in the future.
Many tourists who visit France want to see famous sites. However, some may have not done research or really taken in the significance of these historical places. When a French person sees tourists traveling in big groups who stop at a site for ten minutes, take a few pictures and then leave, they feel as if the tourists are not really appreciating the culture. Our advice is to do some research on the places you want to visit before you go. That way, you can show your respect not only to French people, but to their culture, as well.
Here is another thing to be careful of if you have been studying French. Garçon is a famous expression used to call waiters in French. It literally means “boy,” which is actually quite rude. In the U.S., there is still the impression that French speakers use the word Garçon. If you use this word, the waiter might be really offended, and not give you great customer service. Nowadays French speakers simply get the attention of the staff with excusez-moi, “excuse me,” or simply s’il vous plait, meaning “please”. So please use that instead when you are at a restaurant in France.
So just because the French don't talk as much as foreigners expect them to, that doesn't mean they're rude or stuck-up.
That’s it for this lesson! If you have any more questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
A bientôt, see you soon!