Lifestyle & Belief

French President Hollande calls Japan's people 'Chinese' on Tokyo visit


French President Francois Hollande (L) is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) prior to their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo on June 7, 2013. Hollande went on to call the Japanese people 'Chinese' during a speech.



When you are an official head of state visiting a foreign country there are certain things that it is imperative to get right — and the name of your host's people is pretty high on that list.

French President Francois Hollande broke that cardinal rule during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he confused his Japanese hosts with the Chinese. 

Speaking in French, Hollande referred to the Algerian hostage crisis in January, in which 10 Japanese nationals died, saying he had "expressed the condolences of the French people to the Chinese people."

Hollande did not correct the error but it was noticed by at least one Japanese journalist with some knowledge of French.

A quick-thinking translator noticed the mistake immediately and fixed it in her real-time translation of the speech.

Hollande blamed the mistake on jet lag from his three-day trip.

"He is tired," was the explanation from Elysee officials to French journalists on the trip.

Hollande was recently on the receiving end of a similar gaffe when the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, referred to him as "Francois Mitterrand" (to be fair, also France's president, albeit from 1981 to 1995).

[View the story "Hollande is in good company" on Storify]