Yes, it appears to be rude. But the thing is, these folks were looking for change in the wrong place. In America you can ask a supermarket cashier to open her drawer and break a bill for you. In France, you can't. You have to go to the [poorly-named, one must admit] Customer Service desk, situated near the entrance to the supermarket, to get change. That's where you go to get an item refunded or exchanged as well. Not the checkout lady. But because the supermarket setup looks the same as in America, we expect the people working in the French supermarket setup to have the same job functions as back home.
This is always a source of frustration when traveling, and especially so when traveling to Paris because Parisians are by nature not warm and cuddly to Anyone Different, nor are they information-sharers. So when we (Americans) go to, say, the French hairdresser and expect to have our hair shampooed before it is cut, because that is normal procedure in our country and we find out that that will cost extra (as will the cream rinse and the styling and blow dry after the cut), we think how odd. The place looks the same but the people don't act the same.
When I first moved to Paris, there were a million things that appeared similar to what I knew in America but which tripped me up until I learned the new cultural code of operations. The neighborhood café...I didn't realize, until a waiter told me so, that there was a three-layer price scale in that place: cheapest at the counter, mid-level seated indoors, and most expensive if seated outside. Where I came from, all prices/seats were equal in a coffee shop. So the first time I paid more for my coffee when sitting out in the sun compared with the cost the previous day when I had sipped it at the counter, I complained loudly to the waiter that he had overcharged me. His reaction was not customer-friendly. But it was I, in my cafe-price-scheme cultural ignorance, who was at fault.
|In France they don't serve you water automatically when you sit down.|
But they will serve it to you automatically when you order ice cream.