By Paul Clement

Photo by Peter Kasprzyk on Unsplash 

I think there was probably only one word going through the mind of our taxi driver as he let us off in front of our hotel in Paris… “Idiots!”

I’m pretty sure that this incompetent duo of a Polish blonde and a long-haired Canadian had either provided him with comedy for the next week or pissed him off for the entire day. Maybe both! He had spent most of the drive shaking his head, rolling his eyes and saying things like “Merde… Touristes!”

But why all the hostility from our francophone cabbie?

Well, if you put any stock in what a lot of people (most of whom have never been to France) will tell you, it’s because French people are rude! It seems they have some kind of secret agenda to ruin everyone’s vacations with their unfriendly ways. Many English speaking Canadians (most of whom have never been to Quebec) say the same about Quebecois people.

The funny thing is that I have now been to France three times in my life and Quebec four times and I have never found any of this to be the case. Sure, you might meet the occasional jerk, but that can happen anywhere and I’ve met just as many jerks in Edmonton, Toronto, Krakow or Rybnik as I have in any Francophone city.

To understand why this taxi driver was so grumpy, we have to go back to the moment we got in his cab and he asked me a very simple question: Where are you going? The following conversation did not help to improve his mood:

Paul: Hotel Victor Hugo.
Cabbie: Avenue Victor Hugo?
Paul: Non. Hotel Victor Hugo.
Cabbie: Quelle address?
Paul: Ummm… Je ne sais pas!
Cabbie: Merde!

So our driver had to pull to the side of the road and call his dispatcher to look up the address of our hotel. This was way back in 2006, before everyone had a smartphone to find an address.

Seriously, unless you’re staying in a big hotel like the airport Hilton or Marriott, what kind of moron doesn’t have his hotel’s address with him when he travels? Paul Clement… that’s who!

Hey! What is that thing??? It’s the Arc de Triomphe!
Photo by Madalena Veloso on Unsplash

But then, as we neared our hotel, ideally located just a couple blocks from the Champs-Elysees, my girlfriend at the time, Agnieszka, asked a question that showed she was the perfect match for a guy like me. She looked out the window and asked: Qu’est-ce que c’est?

It’s possible that our cabbie had been thinking “Why is this attractive and intelligent young Polish girl traveling with this Canadian idiot who doesn’t even know where his hotel is?”

Well, Agnieszka’s question changed all that, because the answer was simple and obvious: L’Arc de Triomphe!

Two years later, these two genius travelers would get married!

***A special note: To be fair to Agnieszka (and because I don’t want to sleep on the sofa tonight), I should point out that she knew what the Arc de Triomphe looked like, but thought that there might be other arcs in the city and didn’t expect to see it so close.


incompetent – this means that you don’t have the skills to do something well.

e.g. We hired a new assistant at work, but he was completely incompetent.

to piss someone off – This is kind of a “bad word,” so don’t use it around your grandmother! It means to make someone annoyed or angry.

e.g. I know that Susan tries to be a good person, but she really pisses me off when she talks about herself all the time.
e.g. Don’t take George’s things without asking him first. It pisses him off.

hostility – When you really don’t like someone and you don’t try to hide it, we say that you are hostile towards that person. Hostility is the noun of hostile.

e.g. I don’t know what I should do about Ian. I am always nice to him, but every time I’m around him, I feel a lot of hostility from him.

cabbie – cab is another word for a taxi and a cabbie is another word for a taxi driver.

to put stock in something – This means that we trust or believe something.

e.g. I wouldn’t put much stock in what Elizabeth tells you. She lies all the time!

to find something to be the case – This means that in your experience, you see that something is true.

e.g. People told me that it’s cold in Canada and after two winters here, I really find that to be the case.

jerk – When someone is rude and generally not a good person, we call them a jerk.

e.g. Ken is nice, but his brother is a real jerk.

grumpy – When someone is not in a good mood and doesn’t want to talk to anyone, we can say that they are grumpy.

e.g. My sister is so grumpy in the morning before she has her first cup of coffee!

dispatcher – The verb to dispatch means to send something out. Most taxi drivers have a dispatcher, a person who takes calls from people who want a taxi and then sends the taxi to get them.

way – We can sometimes use the word way to mean far or a lot.

e.g. He is way taller than is sister. (a lot taller) 
e.g. She is sitting way over there(far away)
e.g. My grandfather was born way back in 1937. (a long time ago)

moron – another word for idiot.

block – In English, we generally measure the distance between two streets in the city as a block. We often use this when talking about how far away something is.

e.g. To get to the museum, you have to walk straight that way for two blocks, then turn right and it’s about four or five more blocks.

Do you understand?

1. Why was our taxi driver in a bad mood?
a) Because he was French.
b) Because he thought we were stupid.
c) Because we told him to go to the wrong hotel.

2. What would be the best way to describe what I think about French people’s attitudes?
a) They are pretty much the same as Canadian and Polish people’s attitudes.
b) They are really rude and hard to get along with.
c) They are much friendlier and easier to get along with than Polish people.

3. How did our taxi driver finally find our hotel?
a) He called someone for help.
b) He drove to Victor Hugo Avenue and drove until he found the hotel.
c) He used his smartphone.

4. What would be the best way to describe Agnieszka and me when we arrived in Paris?
a) grumpy and hostile
b) surprised at our cabbie’s bad mood
c) unprepared and uninformed

5. Our hotel was not close to…
a) the airport
b) the Champs-Elysees
c) the Arc de Triomphe