I often criticize the Italians for being rude and downright obnoxious, primarily to tourists, on whom, ironically, they rely for their livelihood. When I mention this to other Americans, they often tell me that while this is true, the French are much worse, many of them having recently been in France.
Today while having lunch at a cafÃ© in Campo Santa Margherita, I observed the Italian waitress be unbelievably rude to some French tourists. The cafÃ© is called the Orange CafÃ©, and can be identified by the orange chairs outside. One of the waitresses there is particularly unfriendly, and should thank God she does not rely on tips. She is so unfriendly that I usually will not go there if I see her. Her manner is unpleasant and rude, and she is clearly quite unhappy in her chosen profession. I don’t know her name, and don’t care to know it.
Today, being Sunday, our usual haunt, Imagina CafÃ©, where the waiters are very pleasant and helpful, was closed. We therefore chose the Orange CafÃ© because they have some decent light fare for lunch. They were obviously having some sort of kitchen issue, as it was taking a coon’s age to get any food. Next to us was a table of Frenchmen who apparently had ordered some food before we got there. There was another table of French on the other side of us who ordered at the same time we did.
After a reasonable length of time had passed with no sign of the food, one of the French from the first group signaled the waitress herein above mentioned, and asked about the order. The waitress, after ignoring the woman for an appropriately rude length of time, told her that this was a bar, not a restaurant.
Ah, well, even I, who had eaten there dozens of times in the past three years, had been fooled. I was fooled by the fact that they served complete meals, by the fact that there was a fairly extensive menu, and by the fact that the menu said it was restaurant. I was offended, although the remark was not directed to me, and although the victims were French.
Finally their food came, and then my food came. I ate, finished, and paid, all before the other French people got their food. I felt bad for all of them. But not for long. I shortly saw the humor in it, and had to laugh out loud, even while sitting at the table between the two groups of French.
Most tourists will tell you that, when in France, they are treated like something to be scraped off the bottom of ones shoe. The French, when in Venice, are a pain in the ass. They sit on bridges (don’t do that, it is horribly obnoxious), and I have had French people ask me for directions to a place I knew, as it is about a two minute walk from my house, but they refused to believe my directions, and went off in the wrong direction. Okay, fine, I could give a rat’s ass. But the rudeness and obnoxiousness of it go beyond the pale. So, when these people at the Orange CafÃ© were treated like shit, I was happy to see them get some of their own medicine. And I’m not even sure they understood how rude the waitress was–she made her comment in English, and as anyone who has been to France knows, they don’t speak English. It only goes to show that if you live long enough, you will see justice done.
As an aside, I have to add that one should not generalize about a people. I gave a photography tour to some French people the other day, and they were delightful. In my experience, though, they were the exception.