A first trip to France

Old Oct 16th, 2006, 01:14 PM
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A first trip to France

Hello! We want to travel to Paris (14 y.o., 4 y.o., and myself) but with no knowledge of anything French (language, food, customs, etc). With all the rumors you hear about the French (e.g. attitudes towards Americans), how doable is this idea - Especially for people/women of color? How about other cities/countries? Any help is greatly appreciated.
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 01:32 PM
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Many, many tourists go to France and speak no French at all and have a great time. The people in the tourist industry frequently speak English and when they don't, a little sign language can be helpful. In my several trips to France I have never encountered a negative attitude toward me because I was American. I have encountered many people eager to practice their English and to talk about their own trips to the US.

It would be helpful to learn a few words, and to know that the French start every spoken communication more formally than Americans. Instead of just asking a shopkeeper for something, you would first say, "Bonjour, Madame" or "Bonjour, Monsieur".
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 01:33 PM
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Decide where and when, buy your tickets, book your hotel room, and

... as they say, JUST DO IT!

Get yourself a guidbook and plop yourself down for a few hours in your local bookstore; you'll have plenty of information on language (you should learn a few basic words for any destination - hello, please, thank you, etc.); food is food, maybe by different names, but nothing all that unusual, even MickyDs, Starbucks; customs are generally universal. Your reading will provide much of what you need.

You will find many women with children of every hue!

Old Oct 16th, 2006, 03:07 PM
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The "Anti American Attitude" is more myth than reality, American media hype really.

I too was nervous my first trip to France because I had heard the same things, they hate Americans, they are rude, they refuse to speak English.

In the last 6 years we have traveled to France for 3 weeks every year. I have never been treated rudely by any French citizen. I have found the warmth of the welcome I received from my French hosts/hostesses to be overwhelming.

They are eager to share their beutiful country with visitors, all you have to do is show that you are interested and appreciate the beauty and culture that is France, and they will welcome you.

If they don't speak English it is not that they are refusing to, it's that they can't. They love language so much they are timid about speaking badly, "Americans speak too fast for us to understand" one man said to me when I replied I find that the French speak too quickly for me to understand, we both laughed and slowed down so we could communicate.

I would suggest that you listen to some French language learning tapes to at least learn how to be polite, please, thank you, hello, goodby, sorry, excuse me, that will go a long way to making you feel comfortable.
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 03:21 PM
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Agree with all of the above especially the do it! Having been to Paris many times, on my own, with family and with friends, I didn't ever have a problem being a "foreigner". A few words of the native language is often a useful too.

The real problems only arise when you are trying to learn the language while you are over there. What tends to happen, as is the case in most of the rest of Europe, once you try to talk to them in their own tongue, they will smile, notice how hard it is for you to speak the language and then proceed to talk very good English back to you. I find it quite infuriating sometimes, as I do actually like trying to communicate in other European languages, even though I have only a basic knowledge of them. All you really have to do is make an attempt and most Parisians will respond well to it.

Not being of colour myself I cant really answer that question to well. All I can do is try to put your mind at rest with the knowledge that Paris is a modern multicultural city.

Where customs and things are concerned the only one I would really watch out for while in Paris is; cue is only a sound that is similar to a letter of the alphabet to most French people. Not meaning to be offensive but there doesn't seem to be much order in getting a taxi, getting on or off of buses trains etc. With a small one and a teenager in toe you have to be quick to get your way.

I hope you do go for it, I know I fell in love with the city on my first visit and would go back any time.
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Old Oct 17th, 2006, 09:24 AM
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With all the rumors you hear about the French (e.g. attitudes towards Americans), how doable is this idea - Especially for people/women of color?

My wife is African-American and we have visited France several times (Normandy, Bourgogne, Alsace, Annecy, etc.)in the last few years including Paris.We have never encountered the slightest problem or issue and our French is extremely rudimentary if barely existent. You should not be worried about anything.

The only area we deliberately avoid are some regions of the eastern part of Germany.
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Old Oct 17th, 2006, 11:12 PM
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When I first went to Paris 30 years ago, the Parisian sentiment toward Americans did indeed seem indifferent or hostile, but no longer. And for women of color like us, respect for the culture and politeness go a long way in promoting goodwill. It truly is a grand city that should not be missed. Be brave and open minded! Have a wonderful time!
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Old Oct 18th, 2006, 01:13 AM
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Because of concerns similar to yours we put off traveling to France for a long time. It was a huge mistake. After traveling to many other places, we finally got around to visiting France. Our trip was for a thirty day visit. After Paris, we drove counter-clockwise around the country. It was one of the best trips we've ever had. At the end we realized that we had waited much too long to 'discover' France in person.

Do a little study before your trip including French manners and customs as well as learning about twenty words of French. You'll be very happy you did.
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Old Oct 18th, 2006, 07:11 AM
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You definitely do not need to speak French to enjoy being a tourist in Paris.

As for food and customs, simply get a guidebook, rent some French movies, or brush up like that. It's good to study up ahead of taking a trip to a new place anyway. Food is easy and does not need to be exotic if you don't want it to. There is fast food, italian food, sandwiches from bakeries, etc.

Paris is not all white. I know it shows my own ignorance, but it always surprised me to hear black people (this was in Switzerland and Paris) speaking French. Silly I know... of course that's what they'd be speaking.

I think the biggest challenge of it being "do-able" that I see in your post in traveling with a 4 year old.

bonne chance

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Old Oct 18th, 2006, 07:32 AM
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My wife and I are black and we have been to 20 countries in Europe, including France twice.

In fact, we are about to take our kids and my mother to France and Belgium in a few weeks

We have *never* had any issues with color or with being American (well, the Irish like to talk politics in bars, but that is it ).

We often talk about how we've encountered racism in our own country many times, but never while traveling.

Go to France, you'll have a good time. The average French guy is no different than the average American.

But...please try to learn a little French. It is best to learn please/thank you, a few numbers, yes/no, and a few polite phrases (Good Morning, for example) of any country you visit.

Bon Voyage!

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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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THANKS! I really appreciate the help and the info.
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