Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Back To London

Paris, Gare du Nord, 5pm. We are queuing at the Paul boulangerie in the Eurostar terminal. We want to buy some bread and French pastries before going back home after after a quick trip to visit family. It is now or never, because our Eurostar is leaving in 20 minutes, and the boarding has already started. There are 3 or 4 persons before us. It should be fine.

As it turns out, I spoke too soon. It isn’t fine. I had forgotten about Gallic service. Silly old me. Basically, the two young shop assistants couldn’t care less about their clients. They don’t hurry up, they keep chatting to each other, and they are taking their own sweet time. They are in their late teens, maybe 20. I am not very good at guessing ages anyway; I only know that they would consider me to be old.



One of the assistants eventually serves the next client, a young woman. There is something about her which mesmerises him. He keeps looking intensely at her face. She is about the same age than him and has long, blonde hair. He is totally under her charm. She asks for a few pains au chocolat. He gives her some free chouquettes, carefully wrapped in a brown paper bag. She can’t find her purse to pay. He tells her to go to the end of the till, and dutifully follows her. He patiently waits for her to empty her bag; and tries to get her to look back at him. She eventually finds her purse, but doesn’t have any cash. She leaves the lovingly-prepared bag on the till. The shop assistant seems sad, and gazes at her. I am getting angrier by the minute. Surely he isn’t getting paid to hit on girls while he is working. There is also something strangely sickening in watching this lazy guy being struck by love. Or lust. I don’t care, I just want my bread.

He doesn’t move, and doesn’t seem to want to serve the two Japanese girls standing right in front of him; his colleague is fighting with the coffee machine. I will not be able to get my bread if I want to catch my train. I leave empty-handed and head back to London. How did I put up with Gallic service when I was in France? I can’t remember. What about you, how do you put up with bad service?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London
  • How infuriating! It happens everywhere even in the orderly US. If I’m in a hurry like you and leave empty-handed I’d definitely say something about their lousy service.

    • It hadn’t happened to me for quite some time. That said, it used to happen from time to time in France. Well, nothing changed much, really!

  • Poor you 🙁 It must be a shock to the system. Britain has customer care, whereas France has customer scare. Things are better in France than they used to be, though – apart from the Pit Bull who works at our local supermarket, who snarls at everyone and waves her badge in their faces. The Prefecture now treat foreign visitors like human beings, too – when I first went there for my carte de séjour in 1991, we were herded like cattle by stoney-faced policemen with muzzled Rottweilers. Things are getting better, honest! Have a lovely Christmas, and eat a mince pie for this nostalgic Brit in France.

    • I have had far too many pies…I wonder how you can survive without them in France. I just love them!

  • I think you missed the title. It wasn’t to be “Gallic Service” but “Galling Service”!

    • Ah ah…I wonder if it was ‘service’ at all, actually!

  • Ugh. I would be irate, especially when it involves me getting my food!

    • I was quite mad…I am used to having such a good service in London!

  • I like Roy’s comment. Funny. Poor service is a huge pet peeve of mine. I have been known to speak up from the back of a line to please hurry up. Also given the op I will tell management. Not so much to be a bitch but to help them and their business. I would certainly want to be told if one of my employees was being a slack-A**

    • Way to go! I usually shut up and go elsewhere. How very British of me!

  • When I have to catch a train, I make myself understand that I don’t need any of these things you can buy in the shops at the last minute. Bad service makes me grumpy and I don’t want to feel grumpy and stressed all the way home! I was disappointed when I went to Pret a Manger in Paris, I love it in London but the Paris one was terrible. I’m not quite sure why though….

    Have a lovely Christmas!

    • Well, let’s just say that customer service doesn’t seem to have reached France just yet.

  • I had just heard something on the radio not too long ago about how people perceived to be extremely attractvie get stuff for free. I doubted it’s validity until I read your story…

  • It happens in Canada, but rarely in the US.