France: Are the French Really that Rude?

Nick Watt dislikes the French, but he still travels to France to answer an age old question: "Are the French really that rude?" France is home to beautiful people, beautiful countryside, great food, great wine, and a proud history of culture and art. Maybe it's this sophistication that makes them arrogant. Yet, for some reason the French have a reputation for having a bad attitude abroad. After landing in Paris, Nick is surprised to discover that none of the locals are acting rude or arrogant, save a cab driver or two. He visits St. Petersburg, a "hip" neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris, and joins a few young guys for a game of pétanque, a beloved French lawn game similar to bocce or lawn bowling. The boys tell Nick that it's not the French who are rude, but rather Parisians giving the whole country a bad name. Turns out their from Normandy. Determined to test their theory, Nick decides to venture outside of the capital city. However, before he can leave the city of lights, Nick has an appointment with a little known law enforcement team. Known as "urine savage"-"wild urine" in English¬-public urination has become such a problem in Paris that volunteers from the police force patrol the streets, handing out fines to pee-pee perpetrators. After only a few minutes on patrol, Nick's theory that the "rude French" stereotype may be a byproduct of sophistication is quickly proven wrong. The next morning Nick meets up with Ben Barnier, a French journalist and a former colleague from Nick's days in London. Together they catch the Train à Grande Vitesse¬-"very fast train" in English-and head down south to the port city of Marseille. There they meet surprisingly non-rude French action film actors André Ferrer and Chris Tomneer, who help Nick understand what gives Marseille a more laid back atmosphere than Paris. Later that day, Nick and Ben meet Franky Zapatta, a former professional jet-ski pilot turned inventor, who generously lets the boys test drive his latest creations: water-powered jet-boots and a jet-board. It's the perfect opportunity for Ben to show off his French rude miserable self. He doesn't. Noting the friendliness of Marseille, Nick and Ben decide to drive to Cannes by way of Provence in what Nick refers to as "possibly the worst car ever built"-the Citroën 2CV, France's answer to the VW Beetle. Once in Cannes, home to the famed Cannes International Film Festival, Nick and Ben ask to check out the most expensive suite in Europe at the Hotel Martinez. Original Picassos in the bathroom, baby elephants on demand-the staff at Hotel Martinez pride themselves on catering to every whim of their guests. The hotel staff oblige, not rude at all. Nick and Ben hit the boardwalk to buy hats and observe the glamourous locals. Along the way they happen upon a statue of Henry Brougham-a Scottish Lord who moved to Cannes and invited his wealthy European friends to visit, thus founding the modern tourism industry. Still determined to have at least on encounter with a rude Frenchman, Nick tries to get bad service at a restaurant but has no luck. In a last ditch effort to find some evidence to support his theory of the "rude French," Nick returns to Paris and asks busy commuters for directions. Asking only the most annoying questions he can think of-"where am I?" and "where is the Eifel Tower?"¬-Nick is surprised to find that the commuters not only stop, but help him navigate the complicated Paris Metro. Rude French? Maybe not.

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