An American living in Paris is going viral after clearing up a major cultural misunderstanding.
The breakdown comes thanks to a TikToker named @thrivinginparis, who frequently posts about her experience living abroad. In a recent video, she responded to a comment about why Americans sometimes perceive French people as being “rude.”
Her video is the latest entry in a massive trend on TikTok, in which users post insights they’ve gained after moving to a new country.
In one video, a New Zealander shared her big hangup with American taxes. In another, an American shared her surprise over the way British people greet one another. And, in a hilarious entry, a TikToker living in France showed how one grocery store perceives “American” cuisine.
In @thrivinginparis’s video, the TikToker began by observing that, in her experience, French people are actually “obsessed” with being polite.
“In my opinion,” she went on, “this perception of French rudeness is actually rooted in a lack of understanding or awareness of the savoir vivre (the knowledge of customs and manners associated with living elegantly and fashionable society) or the codes of conduct that dictate French behavior.”
Some of these codes of conduct are completely “invisible” to outsiders, @thrivinginparis says. As a result, Americans might actually be violating these customs without knowing.
“You may be surprised to hear that maybe you were the rude one,” she adds.
For example, @thrivinginparis says, if you’re lost in Paris and you approach a French person saying, “Excuse me?” or, “Can I ask you a question?” you may come off as disrespectful.
“Because you forgot the magic word, which is bonjour (good day), or bonsoir (good evening), if it’s after 6 p.m.,” she says.
In America, it’s common practice to start a conversation with something like “Excuse me?” But in France, that one greeting could make all the difference.
TikTok users were fascinated by @thrivinginparis’s explanation. Many agreed that when traveling to a foreign country, it’s all about being informed.
“Not one person in Paris was rude to us,” one user wrote. “We learned some very basic etiquette and a few French phrases on the plane over. You get what you give.”
“Some French won’t even respond if you don’t say bonjour,” another user agreed. “Some will repeat bonjour until you get the hint.”
“I spent eight days in Paris several years ago with my two young children, and the only rude people I encountered were other Americans,” another wrote.