July 3rd, 2013
09:30 AM ET

Paris gets some lessons on manners

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The world's most visited city this year is not Paris. Paris would like to be number one, since tourism is a huge contributor to the French economy. So the City of Lights is taking on its problem with urgency.

The Parisian Chamber of Commerce has started a campaign on the Web and in printed pamphlets called "Do you speak tourist?" And it's targeted at taxi drivers, shopkeepers and restaurant and hotel workers. It offers suggestions on how to conduct polite conversation with foreigners.

It's also chock-full of advice on what certain nationalities prefer. It claims that Brits like to be called by their first names, Brazilians like Wi-Fi and the Japanese wait until they are back home to make criticisms. These are all national stereotypes, of course. But I wonder how most people would characterize the French? Maybe as being a bit rude or stand-offish, right? And that's exactly why Paris had to institute this “get friendly” program in the first place.

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  1. drennok

    because india has 1 billion people so of course its there the most visited

    July 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The French love challenges! If a foreigner speaks better and more cultivated French than they do, he will find them slack-jawed.

    July 7, 2013 at 4:25 am | Reply
  3. Melanie

    Nevertheless the criticism on the French, USA would benefit with partnering with France on world-wide global politics. USA lost many grounds, because it partnered with 'wrong friends', such as S.Korea or China.

    July 8, 2013 at 3:42 am | Reply
    • Mike

      Melanie: I know the USA is the biggest kid on the block, but not everything is about us. If you want to hate us, do so. Just don't make every international issue ABOUT us. The French were rude and pompous before the USA was a country. Focus on whatever third-world country you are from, invest in your infrastructure and schools, then after you've done everything you can do to improve yourselves you can blame the USA.

      July 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  4. A Thomas - Australia

    I was visiting Paris some years ago and almost asked a gendarme for directions as he wore a lapel which said ENGLISH SPOKEN Fortunately an american got to him first and said "pardon me, do you speak english?" With a wide sneer he replied "Why, can't you speak French". The american laughed it off. I walked away in disgust!

    July 8, 2013 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  5. Rick McDaniel

    De Gaull taught the French to be unfriendly to foreign visitors, and they have been now, ever since.

    July 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  6. Lawrence Leyba

    Most French people that I have had contact with are arrogant, rude, and ill mannered to anyone who does not speak French. While Paris is truly a beautiful city, We have purposely avoided France when traveling throughout the world on vacations. Bottom line, we vote against the French with our dollars!

    July 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  7. Claudius_II

    Just returned from 3 weeks in France (June 2013). Had to go for the Cannes ceremony and then went to Arles, Bordeaux, Paris, Albert (i.e. The Somme: WW-I battlefield) and Versailles in addition to Cannes. Uniformly the French were extremely nice, polite, and helpful. I heard the French were rude to non-French speaking Americans but we didn't experience this at all. They couldn't have been nicer.

    French coin dealers were a bit rude, but I've found that's true of old coin dealers everywhere.

    July 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Reply
  8. David Martinez

    I like to visit and spend my money in places in which I feel welcomed. Ivy perception is that Paris in general does not welcome visitors. Good luck with the campaign but it might take decades.

    July 10, 2013 at 10:08 am | Reply
  9. Dennis Patrickson

    Parlez vous Souflet?

    July 10, 2013 at 11:00 am | Reply
  10. Marco

    But then Americans not know in what world they entered. The Western Union keeps together in the NATO alliance. The French are not rude, they are friendly, enjoy best food, have great wines, nice scenery (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), great life style, ... Americans should put the French language in the education system. La Liberté éclairant le monde was a present to the United States from the people in France.

    July 10, 2013 at 11:14 am | Reply
  11. Joe

    Most of the french people I've met have been very nice, certainly as nice as most Americans. Parisians can be brusque, but so can New Yorkers. It's a big city and it wasn't constructed by Walt Disney for tourists' enjoyment. I've witnessed many Americans behaving as if France were their amusement park, rude beyond embarrassment and totally oblivious of the offense they gave. Of course, it helps to know when you are giving offense. If you don't say your bonjour to the clerk, and just walk around the store without speaking, ogling the merchandise, well that's rude by French standards, and any guide book will tell you that. I love visiting France on the rare occasions I get a chance to, and certainly recommend it, despite a few natural awkward moments between cultures.

    July 10, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  12. tessie may

    My husband and I were unlucky enough to land in Paris in mid December 2009-just as the huge snowflakes began to fall. What was supposed to be a one night break from London turned into long airport lines, a visit to the bus station(the last stop on the Metro-Gallieni). I quickly learned what Londres-annul meant! Eurostar actually broke down, trapping people for 10 hours and we were stuck in the most expensive area of Paris with our baggage still in London at our hotel there. In some ways it was a nightmare and massively expensive and I cried all the way home, as I felt our fist visit to Paris had been so stressful and did not get to see London at all. Looking back, it was one of the most magical trips we have ever had. You haven't lived until you have shopped on the Champs Elysee on the Saturday before Christmas. What I remember: Snowball fights with French kids in the Tuileries, chestnuts on a grill outside the Louvre, meandering through Paris with very few tourists around, kicking through the snow. Our hotel staff made calls and stayed on hold forever to try and get us back to London t allow us time to spend in Paris (instead of endlessly ringing phones which were never answered). They and most shopkeepers and cafes were extremely helpful and friendly. BUT...as American, we had already prepared by knowing that you always try French first, never just grab an item but instead indicate it and the shopkeeper will get it, indicate discreetly that you want the check-the French will linger over supper for hours, don't expect a waiter to make small talk with you but your glass is always full and they anticipate your needs. It was both magical and frustrating. We had wanted to make it back to have a "re-do" but, alas, a terminal cancer diagnosis has made that unlikely. So tourists who don't expect to behave as they do in the states and have a less loud and straightforward way of interacting should do fine. Act like an ass and expect everyone to do things as you are used to them in your home country and you may not get very friendly service. Treat locals with a bit more formality than you do here and you will get a very warm reception.

    July 10, 2013 at 11:30 pm | Reply

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