Your views on American tourist’s claim that France is ‘isolating’

We asked for feedback after her video about a negative experience in Lyon went viral

The American’s comments whilst visiting Lyon (above) sparked fierce debate online
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France may be the world’s biggest tourist destination, with recent figures revealing over 100 million visitors in 2023, but it seems not everyone returns home with fond memories.

One American visitor to Lyon recently went viral after posting a video on social media platform TikTok, claiming that the city – and by extension France – was an ‘isolating’ place to visit. She said the locals made her ‘feel bad’ for not speaking French.

In a previous video she complained that when she arrived on New Year’s Day most restaurants in the city were closed.

You can see both videos below:

@realphdfoodie Solo traveling in France is such an isolating experience. Do not recommend for solo travelers and people who do not speak French. #france #lyon #lyonfrance #lyonfrance #solotraveler #solofemaletraveler #solotravelwoman #frenchculture #frenchcultureshock #fyp #fypシ ♬ original sound - RealPhDFoodie
@realphdfoodie Arrived in Lyon France on NYE trying to find dinner. I thought I was going to eat escargot and foie gras tonight. #lyon #france #lyonfrance #lyonfrance #nyedinner #nye2023 #frenchcultureshock #fyp #fypシ ♬ original sound - RealPhDFoodie

The first video has received over 6.7 million views, and we asked Connexion readers for their view on her comments.

You gave a variety of responses, some of which we share below.

‘France is not Disneyland’

The general consensus from viewers of the original video – particularly from those who are French or live in France – is that the woman’s comments were inaccurate.

Many readers agreed – C.W. called her “Arrogant…culturally ignorant” for not learning basic pleasantries in the language, such as saying ‘bonjour’ when entering a shop.

L.H. said she needed to “do some research” before visiting the country. “Famous restaurants need reservations…places in France are closed on holidays,” she added.

J.P. said it was “a pity” the woman decided to make the video; “Travelling in another country requires patience and an open mind to the differences in culture. The French are much more private than Americans. She really cannot expect to make ‘friends’ in five days.”

S.B. believes the woman may have been “watching too much Emily in Paris” and needs “a reality check” on French customs.

“The bottom line is that if you come to France expecting it to be like the United States, you will of course be disappointed,” said G.B., who first travelled solo around France as a young woman at a similar age as the original poster, before moving here permanently.

“Most of my experiences travelling alone in France over forty years now have been lovely…frankly, many more people in France speak English than people in the US speak French. I found French people generally very welcoming and helpful, especially in the smaller cities and towns.”

“France is not Disneyland,” she concluded.

Read more: Indifference from French shop assistants is not the same as rudeness

Language barrier not such an issue

A number of readers highlighted the woman’s complaints about French people not speaking English.

E.H. called her a “whinger” that needs to “learn a modicum of French”, which would improve her experience on holiday.

However, some told us that despite being in similar situations with their French skills, politeness and the desire to make an attempt goes a long way.

“When I arrived [I could only speak] Scottish school French -- a language unknown in the Hexagon,” joked J.F.

“But a bit of effort, some smiling and an element of humility have made me able to communicate with French people and to make them my friends.”

Other readers with limited French also said they have had mostly positive experiences in the country.

“The only time that I was berated and refused [service] because I couldn't speak French was in the north-east of the country,” said P.W., who has been visiting the country for 16 years.

“Otherwise the majority will help me blunder through…for which I am very grateful.”

“I live in Marseille each year for about 3 months and cannot emphasise enough how friendly the people are,” said M.M.

“I do not speak French but people are so willing to help,” she added, before taking umbrage with the poster’s complaints about restaurants being closed.

“Most restaurants in the US are closed on New Year. Workers need a break… she is [being] ridiculous.”

“My wife and I have a language skill level of about 0.1 out of 10, but we tried our best and found people helpful and willing to engage with us wherever we went,” said D.B.

“We were extremely impressed with how welcome everyone made us feel,” he added.

Are the French really ‘rude’?

The woman’s comments on the French being ‘rude’ and ‘impolite’ mirrors many traditional tourist complaints about France from tourists.

However, lots of our readers were quick to point out this is not always the reality.

Alongside the comments about praising the French people’s patience with those who struggle with the language, D.B. adds how elusive this ‘rude’ stereotype can be.

“We were in search of the ‘rude French person,’ but never found one,” he said.

“I arrived in France nearly 20 years ago and felt welcome and at home from the start,” said M.C.

“Short-stay visitors might benefit from an effort to learn something of the culture and customs of France before they set out on their journey, rather than expect to be welcomed with open arms and spoon-fed ‘culture’,” he added.

For some, Paris retains its reputation as being brusque, but “people are rude in every big city,” said S.O., who said that outside of the capital she finds France is “a friendly country” where she is always “treated well.”

Read more: French people are not rude, just direct

Some defended comments

Despite the majority of people disagreeing, some readers did side with the American poster.

She may have been confused because “the US is much friendlier on the surface,” and it can be difficult to adapt, said J.C.

“In some respects, she is right,” said B.S.

“When I lived in France, I did feel that a lot, although not all, interaction with locals was a little chilly,” she said, although she added that American friendliness can be “over the top… fake.”

“The difference [between the US and France] is that a solo traveller is never alone in America,” said R.W.

“I have been profoundly grateful for American friendliness and hospitality. That is how American culture works.”

“France caters for the French only,” said H.F., “Signs are usually in French only. Everything is closed on Mondays. Visitors are not welcome.”

“I think that the French are somewhat insulated from the rest of the world - they are not 'generally' well travelled and do not readily embrace anything that is not French,” said J.W.

“Unfortunately if you do not speak French, you are unlikely to be treated warmly and even if you do, you will always be 'other',” he added.

Your views

Let us know about your experiences of France, either as a solo traveller or as one who lives here, via

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