I once heard someone say that the French are a hard people to know. I mean, to really know. Sure, they’ll give directions, advice, and recommendations to tourists. They may even take you into their house to offer you a meal. But the French are significantly closed in many ways. That is, unless they are with other French. I am an english speaking person living in France. My french is very much “school french”, and not practical french. Therefore, I can explain myself, express myself well enough to get by but I remain relatively lost in a pure French setting. When the french speak amongst themselves, they speak too quickly and use too much slang. Sometimes, there will be one or two who slow down for me; or who will explain things every once in awhile. But for the most part, Il s’en fiche!
Some French are more open than others of course. The more open, understanding, and accomodating ones are predominantly the ones who have travelled. It is important to understand that there are many french who have never left France. They don’t completely understand the world around them. They look inward. But the ones who have travelled outside the country, a number I would peg at less than 50%, understand that the world is not French.
It is true that within France, you have a diverse country full of rich culture, great food, gorgeous countryside, dynamic cities, and a climate that offers a little bit of everything. You could argue that of all countries, France seems to have it all. The south, the north, the east, and the west are all very different. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the french are sometimes resistant to learning even a little bit of english. Simply because they don’t need to. They have everything that they need where they are.
The common explanation put forth is that they are arrogant. In love with themselves and their language. Perhaps it is a little of both. But it seems to me that France puts forth the least amount of effort towards learning english than any other European country. And even some Asian states. The reason why is a whole other story.