Do the French Hate the English?

the image is of a French flag and a UK flag

There’s a commonly held opinion that the French people actively dislike the English, and that this often affects English-language speakers from other countries. This general dislike is said to be especially so of the Parisiennes.

At least, that’s what I’d been told.

Yet, in the three weeks I was in France, that simply wasn’t my experience.

You don’t believe me? Let me share a few examples with you.

When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport and were trying to find the commuter train to Paris, several people helped us, including a railway official. You might argue that, since he deals with lots of confused tourists, that his job requires him to be helpful. But a friend of mine had the opposite experience in the same environment.

Then, as we negotiated our way through a maze-like station to catch the Metro that would take us to the place we were staying, a young guy offered to carry our luggage so Craig could assist me. As South Africans we were naturally hesitant. So, with a typically Gallic shrug, he offered to assist me instead, leaving Craig to carry the bags. Which is what we did.

It seemed like there were always people willing to assist me off a train or a Metro. Serving staff in restaurants were hospitable and friendly. And the people we met as we visited the various tourist sites on our list were approachable and willing to assist. In fact, I can’t think of a single person on the trip who was less than friendly.

On one occasion we were helped by an elderly gentleman who couldn’t speak a word of English. He guided me through a Metro station onto a train, climbed on and travelled with us. He assisted me to the next train and again travelled with us for a few stops. Then he said goodbye in French, climbed off the train and headed back the way we’d come.

I don’t know whether it helped that Craig and I are able to say a few words in French – we try to do so for any country we visit. Or whether my blindness played a role in making people feel more welcoming and willing to assist.

But, whatever the reason, I certainly found the French people to be charming and hospitable – nothing like what we’d been led to believe. And I’ll be happy to say so anytime I hear someone mentioning how unfriendly the French people are.


  1. Glad you also experienced that. As an Australian I am ashamed to say I avoided Paris on my first visit when I was much younger in the early 90s and toured the beautiful countryside instead, largely due to this reputation and my cowardice.
    In October 2018, my husband and I returned to France, this time solely to see Paris. Every person we met, no matter where was friendly, kind and helpful. We tried to speak the little French we knew when we could but everyone really went out of their way for us.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience of Paris, Dawn. I’m so glad you discovered the same thing that I did! And thank you for the comment

  2. My wife and I were uniformly treated with courtesy by the French people when we visited Paris in 2001, especially at the hotel where stayed, the Hotel du Champ de Mars. While neither of us speak French, I attempted to learn a little “emergency” French which helped. I had one experience with an elderly lady, impeccably dressed, who tried to help me find a store I was searching for. She spoke no English, and my French was no help. After a couple of minutes, she gave a Gallic shrug and departed. I turned around and there was the store. I shall never forget her courteous efforts to help a lost American. Viva la France and the French people.

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