It may be easier than you think when it comes to learning how to make friends in France says Louise Denegre from Connecticut, USA as she shares one of her top tips…
The French are legendary for many things from haute couture to haute gourmet cuisine; pastries, bread, cheese and wine brought to the level of fine art; actual fine art; tangos by the Seine; the Eiffel Tower; the glamour of Paris; and the ancient charm of sleepy rural villages. In some parts of the world, the rumour is that the French are also legendary for rudeness, snobbery, and impatience with anyone not French, or any poor soul trying to speak French as a second language. I’ve lived in France and visit frequently, and I can attest to the true friendliness of the people, whether you speak like a native or barely remember your high school French. You just need to respect them, their culture and – their dogs!
If you want to take a short cut to a French man or woman’s heart, stop to politely and respectfully ask if you may take a photograph of his or her dog: “Desolé [Madame or Monsieur], mais est-ce que je peux prendre une photo de votre chien(ne)? Il/Elle est si beau/belle!”
This roughly translates as Excuse me, but may I take a photo of your dog? He/she is so handsome/beautiful! Then make a sincere fuss over canine cuteness, beauty, nobility, good behaviour, or any other admirable trait the pup possesses. The French are passionate about their dogs. Dogs are allowed routinely in restaurants (think Sex in the City when Carrie sits in a restaurant next to a spoiled pooch), buses, métro cars, markets and cafés. And they are generally surprisingly very well behaved, usually better than American dogs, and better than most young children, whether American or French.
I’ve met many adorable dogs in France and have tried out the “make friends with the French over a dog” theory. The French are palpably proud of the delight their canines bring to visitors, and that pride melts away some of their reserve – for it is reserve, usually, and not unfriendliness that some take it for. Of course, while petting an absolutely adorable little dog, smiles abound and can make for a fast bond.
Take a look at this Keeshond puppy. We couldn’t resist fawning over her in the market in Limours. She just wouldn’t stay still, so we were lucky to get even this shot. Later we learned that her owner, owner’s mother and grandmother owned the local shoe shop, and we made fast friends with them all. In fact, this is the shop that now supplies my company with Rondinaud slippers, so admiring this little puppy also led to a fun business deal and new friends to visit, and to have visit us.
Take a look at this monsieur’s pale green eyes! And his tongue matches the pink of Madame’s coat, although that was probably coincidental. With the French, however, maybe not – they are so fashion savvy. He was having a good time accompanying his mistress at the semi-weekly market in Limours, and was quite happy to have his picture taken.
And finally, one of the sweetest little friends we made. Perhaps he was a Bichon mix? His parents had brought him to have lunch with them at Le Vivier, a popular seafood restaurant in Quiberon, right on the ocean. He waited very patiently and politely until a table was ready, which must have been hard, surrounded by such delicious food.
The next time you travel anywhere, try asking politely if you can take a picture of someone’s adored little dog. At a minimum you’ll have some fun travel photos, and you may make some special friends – canine and human.
Louise Denegre blogs at MmeLouise and ParlezVousProvence
Top photo by photographer Rachel Hale, author of The French Dog