Is it Lying?: A cross-cultural perspective
Is lying reprehensible?Our colleague in Paris, Jean Taquet, writes:
The American media reports quite often about whether their government is lying. It seems that this issue is being raised with every American president lately and is being presented as an issue of national concern.
I am quite certain that there must be as much if not more lying from the government in France as in the USA. However, the French people have a different relationship to truth and lies. Where the American people see only two options (something is either true or false), French people see three options: true, somewhat true, and false, and they expect the second to be the most common. I have always had problems explaining this to my American clients who get into difficult situations because of this phenomenon. Whether the French individual has tried to be misleading or not makes very little difference. What matters is correcting the damage done as a result.
What's in a question?
The only way I have found to help my clients with this sensitive issue is to explain how to ask questions in France. Unlike in the USA, where asking a single question will elicit ample information from a salesperson or office clerk, in France, a question is understood in a narrow way, with the assumption that you know everything else there is to know about the topic.
The solution is simply to continue to ask questions very politely until you get enough of the big picture. Relying purely on the answer to one question in France is the best way to have a miserable time. Here is a very recent illustration: One of my clients went alone to get information about the status of a performing artist who wants to work in France. There are actually two options for this artist, yet this client was only told about one because his question did not directly ask for information about other options.
A Survival Kit for Paris