supamanu's blog


By: supamanu on October 6, 2006 - 1:02am

Well, Norway doesn't show up in the 'Select a country' drop-down...


Anyway, Lee, about 5-6 years ago I did a sailing trip arounf Lofoten, one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Sailing in themiddle of the night with the midnight sun lighting our way. We sailed straight from Tromso to Vaeroy, amojst the very tip, and then made our way back slowly through the archipelago. Beautiful and desolate. Hardly encoutered a soul. If you get a chance to stop at Svolvaer, there's is a little bar just as you enter the harbour that serves FREE fiskesoup at ungodly hours in the summer (no one really sleeps anyway), subdued ambiance, smoke, beer, the lost world. If you plan to stop by Stavanger do let me know I have a couple of really good friends you can hang out with.



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You see, the thing about France is...

By: supamanu on November 9, 2005 - 12:51am everywhere else, you have to start by not passing judgement based on YOUR paradigm of "how the world oughta be".

Warning: I am french. You might think I am biased, and you'd probably be right. Technically though I have spent more than half my life living outside of france, so I consider myself pretty broad minded and open to self criticism.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me share with you my own view of "les francais", hoping that it will make your trip to france (assuming you are going there) all the more enjoyable. 

 First myth. The french aren't just "rude" to tourists. I also experience that apparent rudeness. Here I'm not talking about stock standard rudeness - that exists the world over, and particularly in big, busy cities like Paris where a lot of people can struggle with day to day existance and being nice is low on their list of priorities.

The "rudeness" I'm talking about is what you experience at that first interaction in a cafe, a shop, on the sidewalk etc.

The best way to put it is like this. The french don't believe that they should  treat you in any special way because (a) you're a tourist and (b) you are spending money in their cafe/shop/country. The notion of 'customer service' is still in its infancy back home. YOU and the cafe waiter are on equal terms. Simple. The fact that your tip contributes to his wellbeing is more or less a given, his job, that's what I'm paid to do. So he will treat you like any stranger. And in france, that often starts with a bit of distance, testing you.

I can't begin to explain how many places I've been to where after a few tense words I found the 'hook' that turned a cold face into a warm smile, a hand laid on my shoulder, good hearted banter and a firm handshake at the end of the evening. There is no recipe for the 'hook', other than treating people respectfully and politely, acknowledging that they may have very good reasons for having a bad day, and being genuinely interested in who they are, and not what they do.

So here's my tip for the day. If you want to be pampered and 'yes sir right away' then I can think of a 100 better places to go than france. If you are ready to shed your pre-conceptions, take the rough with the smooth and treat people as equals even when they don't return the favour, I think you will experience a people that can surprise you, interest you, and treat you with a real kindness that will make your trip memorable.

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