"Service in France comes in extremes: It's either brilliant or
very bad. Some shopkeepers and staff are heroically helpful, as though their
lives depended on finding the eyeglass frames that best suit your face or the
Camembert that is perfectly ripe for your dinner party tonight. But often very
little is accomplished unless you are willing and able to put up a fight.
"'...Il faut râler,'
Frédéric tells me all the time, which basically means you've got to make a
scene. 'If you're too nice no one will respect you.'
"This is a novel concept. Too nice.
But he's right. The French are not impressed by anything as banal as niceness.
Smile sweetly at a waiter as you site down and chances are you'll be treated
with contempt. On the other hand, an air of assured superiority--preferably
enhanced by a smart suit--will usually be rewarded with professional deference
and prompt service."
Almost French: Love and a New Life