A waiter fired for being “aggressive, rude and disrespectful” claims that there was nothing wrong with his behaviour… he was just being “French”. Deserved or not, France’s reputation for producing surly waiters who eye customers with suspicion, indeed disdain, is known the world over and has stood the test of time.
Now one waiter has taken that idea to another level by appearing to claim that a grumpy “garcon” is a cherished French national trait, not a sign of unprofessional conduct.
Guillaume Rey, who worked at a restaurant in Vancouver, British Columb.ia, filed a complaint with the state’s human rights tribunal against his former employer, saying he was a victim of “discrimination against my culture”.
The restaurant, run by Cara Operations, accused Mr Rey of breaching its code of conduct. It argued that he persisted in unacceptably rude behaviour despite verbal and written performance reviews and that it had no option but to fire him.
Mr Rey said his employer was being culturally colour blind as the French approach just “tends to be more direct and expressive”. His “direct, honest and professional personality” was, he said, drummed into him at French hospitality school and he was simply following its guidelines.
The restaurant and its parent company had attempted to quash the complaint but Devyn Cousineau, a tribunal member, denied the request, ruling that the case required deeper examination at an as yet unscheduled hearing.
The outcome remains far from certain, however. “Mr Rey will have to explain what it is about his French heritage that would result in behaviour that people misinterpret as violating workplace standards of acceptable conduct,” she wrote in her decision.
Julien Mainguy, of BC Talents, which helps French-speaking workers from Europe integrate in Canada, told CBC: “It’s a non-conflict culture, particularly in the professional area. Most of the French-speaking people from Europe, they tend to be very direct.”
So aware are French authorities of their country’s reputation for rudeness, in 2015 the tourist board launched a multi-million-euro drive to improve their “difficult relationship with service and by extension our relation to others”.
Laurent Fabius, then the foreign minister, conceded that France was suffering from a “welcome deficit”, meaning that foreign visitors were 30 per cent less satisfied with their stays in France than in other countries.
In 2013, the Paris Tourist Board distributed a “politeness manual” for workers. Three years earlier, it paid for “smile ambassadors” at the city’s main attractions – to little result.
In this case, however, there is a twist to the habitual stereotype as it appears Mr Rey was far ruder to his colleagues than to his customers. In fact, he received “great feedback from guests” and was praised for being “very friendly and professional”.
The Daily Telegraph
See also: Don’t hate the French for being rude
See also: The 10 worst things to do in Paris