(asked by Nicolette from California)

I was in a relationship with a French guy. The relationship was very good here in CA. So, he invited me to France to spend Christmas with his family, meet his parents, etc. I was excited about this, and accepted.
I arrived to meet a very wealthy family.
During my seven week stay (in their secondary house) I was invited into the big house for 2 meals with them, a lunch on my 5th day there, and the Christmas meal.
That pretty much sums it up for social time with his family.
There were no conversations with me. I stayed for five weeks after Christmas.
I may have taken this personally if they had come to know me AT ALL, but that didn’t happen. (…) So, basically, I want to know if this was a cultural “norm” for this social class in France. Was this a cultural difference? What should I know here? Any cultural explanation you can give on this topic is greatly appreciated.

Well Nicolette…
First, let me tell you that this behavior is not normal and is pretty rude actually. I don’t know of any French family that would do that. Usually, when a French person has a foreign boyfriend/girlfriend, and when there’s no racism issue crawling its way into the situation, the French family is pretty excited to meet them and to share with them whatever it is they have to share (that’s usually a lot of food, some local sight-seeing and a bunch of stories, although this will vary from family to family).

You could have offended them, but if they met you only on your fifth day and barely interacted with you, I doubt that it comes from that.
There may be an issue with their son. Maybe he offended them one way or the other and you were the collateral damage in the story. Still, seven weeks is a long time.

Now, as you mentioned it, there’s the social class issue. Those people are wealthy and wealthy people live under different social rules in France (and sometimes even legal ones), not only in France, I know.
Maybe they were from an aristocratic background, and those people tend to be extremely homogamous. It could have been their way of telling you (and their son) that you’re not of their rank, are not part of the family and never will be.

Or maybe they were used to their son bringing back his new trophy foreign girlfriend every year or so, and they couldn’t care less about you, knowing that once you’re gone, they’ll never see you again. However, even if that was the case, not interacting with you was rude.

Maybe it’s something else entirely, but it’s true that the aristocracy and the upper bourgeoisie in France don’t like to mingle with people “below” them, they don’t feel the need to respect them, nor to be polite with them (in their eyes, they’re not rude, you’re just undeserving of their politeness).

In other words, not pleasant people that you don’t want to meet, unfortunately, they’re the ones controlling the country.

Now, it could be something I’m missing, but I doubt it.

Anybody here has any other suggestion to what it could have been?
Or if anybody from the upper layers of French society reads this and feels that it’s not beneath them to comment on this plebeian blog, I’d like to know their opinion.


pixel What’s wrong with those people?

9 Responses to “What’s wrong with those people?”

  1. It is extremely rude. I had gone to visit my (now ex) boyfriend last year. His parents went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. They were very friendly to me, offering suggestions of things I should go and see while I was visiting, trying to pack picnic lunches. It was really very amazing. I had not expected that level of hospitality. Even after the visit his parents would keep in contact with me through email.

    But everyone is different. It could be exactly as you say. Or it could be that the parents really preferred Nicolette’s boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend and did not even want to meet Nicolette in the first place. They may have felt their son was imposing this woman on them and decided to be rude about it. That’s a good way for them to lose a son if they intend to make a life together.

    • Yes, it could be anything really.
      But the main point of this post is that a “normal” experience in such a situation is what you experienced, not what Nicolette did.

  2. Perhaps the “hosts” were imposters! People who were afraid that if they spoke, rancid bones of mendacity would fly from their mouths, killing everyone in the room.
    The two guests were obviously homeless and penniless, forced to say for seven weeks on someone’s estate during the Christmas season.

    That’s my take on the situation.

  3. It was,indeed a most rude thing. I would just want to ask Nicolette if she was introduced to the family by him as “the” girlfriend or not. Was this explicit, never mentioned in public or did she just suppose they knew ? . Because maybe , just maybe, he did not tell his family the exact nature of his relationship with her ( for many reasons which,if true, would not make him a honorable gentleman but that ,sadly, men sometimes do ) and presented the situation as a visit from a person he knew accross the ocean to whom he returned a favour by invinting her to stay at his place when visiting France … So, there is a (small) chance the family had no exact idea who she was ( or who she thought she was) and thought they were fine with 2 dinners and some superficial conversation because she was just an acquaintance that happens to be in France … If this is the truth, than he is the real jerk.

  4. When I was in France, I asked a question about the aristocracy - I wanted to know if you could tell if someone was from that social class simply by listening to their accent, the way you can in England. I was treated to a hilarious imitation of an ‘aristo’, which made it clear that the accent of the person I had been curious about was not that one - I think now that he had just been speaking v-er-y c-lear-ly to an anglophone rather than it being a question of social class or region. My (middle class) friends also said that the main interest in the upper class family that they knew (due to having worked for them) was frustration that the patriarch hadn’t died yet. They were annoyed at the old man for continuing to live, because they were anxious to inherit! My friends shook their heads and laughed. I would sum up their attitude as “those are crazy people who don’t know how to enjoy life”…with maybe a bit of “imagine having such a lousy moral sense!”
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