• France's news in English
What happens when you dial a random French person
Photo: Pixabay

What happens when you dial a random French person

Oliver Gee · 19 Sep 2016, 16:29

Published: 19 Sep 2016 16:29 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
"Welcome to the French number. You're about to be connected to a random French person," an automated voice says, moments before somewhere in France, a random French person will (probably) start talking to you.
"I'm a random French person," confirms Guillaume from the 10th arrondissement of Paris, the first person The Local caught on Monday. 
"I like foie gras and truffles and I eat in a restaurant everyday. I can't cook either."
Guillaume is one of the 1,500 volunteers working for the French number, a concept aimed at promoting France to tourists by connecting them to what the company calls "a random French", (presumably after having translated français to just "French" rather than "French person" or even "Frenchy". Maybe purposefully.)
He was one of the many to offer a friendly word about France, its food, or its best hidden holiday getaways - and all in English.
One of the random French people at the other end of the line even kindly offered his private phone number in case any further questions cropped up. 
One of the questions they may get a lot is if France is safe right now, or at least that's one of the questions The Local France is frequently asked by potential visitors.
And all were quick to brush away any kind of terror concerns. 
"We have a proverb in France," said French-Moroccan Abde. 
"A fallen tree makes more noise than the sound of an entire forest growing. It's the same with the terror attacks. Constantly talking about it just gives it more importance." 
Another said that a terror attack was like a hurricane - "it shouldn't put you off visiting an entire country". 
Whether it's to allay fears it seems most of the French who signed up as volunteers want to give the truth about France and dispel any misconceptions people might have.
Frenchwoman Marie, in Bordeaux, said she signed up to the app to help amend what she considered to be a bad reputation among the French.
"I want to help improve the French reputation, there's this thought that we are all rude and angry, and that's definitely not the case," she said. 
She also recommended that the best place to meet French friends is via social media networks, especially Tinder. 
"Tinder is a social media channel in France like any other, just set your profile to say you're only looking for friends and you'll find them," she said.
Photo: Kaboompics
And as the phone number is linked to tourist chiefs Atout France, it was no surprise  that volunteers were quick to offer tips for the hidden treasures of France for tourists, including the pristine waters of alpine town Annecy in the Alps, the village of Saint Paul de Vence in the south, and the sandy beaches of Cabourg in Normandy. 
But the tourist connection doesn't mean the people you speak to will necessarily be the shining ambassador for France you had imagined. 
When asked for a hidden gem in France for a weekend getaway, a man in Valenciennes, northern France, suggested crossing the border and getting out.
"I would actually go to Belgium. And Brussels is better than Paris anyway, there are fewer tourists," he said.
One Parisian we spoke to suggested the French are less friendly due to the terror attacks and that France "is boring compared to the UK."
Story continues below…
"It isn't as vibrant so it's best to come as a couple or with some friends," he advised us.
Indeed, the French Number is still in its early stages, and not all the 1,500 volunteers appear to be on board just yet. 
Many seemed surprised when answering and many calls went through to voice mails, presumably because volunteers were at work.
One call went to a less-than-impressed Frenchman. 
When told we were calling for information about Paris, he said "Yeah, and...?" before eventually hanging up. 
It was a pleasure, however, to talk to the others.

Call the French number on +33 176 498 498 or read more about it here. 

Additional reporting by James Vasina
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Is Marks & Spencer to close Champs-Elysées store?
Photo: AFP

Is it goodbye to crumpets, jam, and English biscuits?

After Calais, France faces growing migrant crisis in Paris
Photo: AFP

While all the focus has been on the closure of the Jungle in Calais, France must deal with the thousands of migrants sleeping rough in Paris. And their numbers are growing.

Restaurant boss suspected of kidnapping Cannes millionaire
The Nice residence of the president of Cannes' Grand Hotel, Jacqueline Veyrac. Photo: AFP

A restaurant owner 'harbouring a grudge', apparently.

Le Thought du Jour
Vive le pont - The best thing about French public holidays
Photo: AFP

The UK might have guaranteed public holidays, but France has "les ponts".

What's on in France: Top things to do in November
Don't miss the chocolate fashion show in Lyon. Photo: Salon du chocolat

The autumn is in full swing in France, and there's plenty to do.

What Paris 'squalor pit' Gare du Nord will look like in future
All photos: Wilmotte et Assoicés

IN PICTURES: The universally accepted 'squalor pit of Europe' is finally getting a facelift.

Halloween: The ten spookiest spots in Paris
Is there really a ghost on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower? Photo: AFP

Read at your own peril.

Halloween holiday in France: Traffic nightmares and sun!
Photo: AFP

But it's great news for the country's beleaguered tourism industry.

French MPs vote to make Airbnb 'professionals' pay tax
Photo: AFP

Do you make a lot of money through Airbnb in France? You'll have to pay a share to the taxman in future.

France and Britain accused of abandoning Calais minors
Photo: AFP

Scores of young migrants are forced to sleep rough for a second night.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
How speaking French can really mess up your English
The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
jobs available