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Commentary: What French can learn from Australians

HOST INTRO: It took a broken bicycle chain for Gregoire Molle to appreciate how friendly Australians are… And realize his fellow French people had to catch up.

That day, my friend Rodolfo and I loaded up our sleeping bags and went off by bike to the Hot Springs. Rodolfo had already been to the Springs, and he couldn’t be more enthusiastic telling to me how relaxing it was to get into these warm pools of water. Definitely worth a fifty-mile bike ride, he told me.

It was cloudy when we left Melbourne, a big city in the south of Australia. We biked along the sea, the wind blowing in our face. Rodolfo seemed to ride effortlessly; I was wishing I had spent more time at the gym.

About half way there, in the middle of a highway, the chain of my bike broke. It didn’t only came off; it literally broke. It was 5pm, on a Saturday, and all the bike stores we called were closing.

We were about to start a miserable walk to the closest city, when a car pulled over. Inside, was a couple and a young child. They offered to take us to the city They even drove us to two hardware stores, hoping we’d find a new chain. No luck. The man who gave us the ride said, “Let me call my friend.” It turned out his friend had a bike bicycle he wasn’t using, and he was willing to break his own chain to repair mine. After offering us a beer, obviously. Aussie hospitality, mate!

This couple took Australia’s legendary niceness to a whole other level. And there may be some truth to the stereotype. I recently found out there is a thing called the World Giving Index, it’s kind of a good guy indicator. It ranks countries based on how often their citizens help strangers, volunteer, and give money to charities. Australia is usually in the top ten. United States was first last year.

But I am French. Well, France, ranked near the bottom. Even Google agrees: when you start typing “Why are French…” in the search bar, Google suggests you ask why are French so rude. That’s something I heard a lot. I didn’t really get it before going to Australia. I thought we were just a bit proud. Back in the day, we used to be a superpower, sacrebleu! So obviously, if you, tourists, don’t say a few words in French when asking for directions, chances are we won’t stop to help. Plus, we have work to do, while you’re enjoying your holiday, ok? Oh wait… Maybe we are kind of rude.

Back to Australia, I experienced a very different mindset. This Australian couple, who picked my friend and me up… It was past seven pm when we were done repairing my bike. Night was falling, so they drove us almost 30 miles to the camp where we wanted to rest… and they gave us their business card, just in case we encountered any trouble when coming back from the Hot Springs. We asked them: “What were you up to today before you picked us up?” They said they were on their way to the beach with their young child. It was supposed to be their first family trip since he was born. It became an afternoon with a couple of helpless foreigners. BACK ACCOUNCE: Gregoire Molle promises to speak English to tourists back home… But he’ll proudly keep his outrageous French accent.

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