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For English Speaking Tourists - Some Great Advice!

For English Speaking Tourists - Some Great Advice!

Oct 7th, 2003, 09:43 AM
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For English Speaking Tourists - Some Great Advice!

I saw this article on CNN today and I thought it gave some great advice for those of us who don't speak a million languages. I know that next time, I won't let my fear of mangling French stop me from being gracious.

Kath is offline  
Oct 7th, 2003, 11:36 AM
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Thanks for the link, Kath.

From the article: "My accent was probably awful, but as we say in the United States, it's the thought that counts, and the simple fact that I tried to speak French first endeared me to nearly everyone."

Since I'm not fluent in any European language (my German is passable, but will hardly win any applause) I always try to initiate every conversation by asking someone, in their language, if they speak English.
capo is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 03:19 PM
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Hi Kath, nice article, more travelers should heed it's advice. I have mangled both the Italian & French languages on several occasions and met the nicest people by doing so!
Margie is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 03:49 PM
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Haven't had a chance to read the article yet. And after 6 years of French lessons ,, too many years ago, my French is very poor!

I take it one step further than cappo. First apologozing for not speaking French.

Je suis désolé. Je ne parle pas français, vous parle anglais ?

I'm sory, I do not speak French, do you speak English?
jody is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 06:20 PM
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Just got back from 16 days in France last night, and I wish half the English-speaking tourists I encountered had read this article. Some things I overheard while there:

In one of those wonderful La Vaissaillerie stores in Paris, an American woman, with no introduction, to the shop owner: "Hey, do you sell those napkin holders in sets?" Shop owner had NO idea what she was saying, asked a colleague who presumably spoke better English, but even she couldn't figure it out. American woman, frustrated, says it louder: "Do you sell them IN SETS, LIKE SIX OR A DOZEN?" I couldn't stand it, so I translated for the shop owner, who very graciously said "we sell them individually, with the prices as marked, so six or twelve will be six or twelve times the price marked," which I relayed to the American woman, who said to me, as though I was the guilty party (and I should add with no thank you at all for acting as intermediary), "Well, they oughta have a discount for a big purchase, and ask her if I can get them in a box." When I told her there was no discount, and no box, she tossed a dozen napkin holders on the counter and said to the woman, in English, "How typical. If you don't have a box, at least wrap them nicely for me."
In La Récréation, the restaurant in Les Arches that Michael Sanders wrote the book "From Here You Can't See Paris" about, a young American couple came in and were seated a few minutes after we were. When the waitress went to their table to ask if they wanted an apéritif, they didn't understand, but immediately said "Can you translate the menu for us?" La Récré is a small restaurant - maybe 10 tables - with a menu that has five items in each of three categories - entrées, plâts, and desserts. There were two waitresses. The one assigned to the Americans' table spent almost 10 minutes translating in great detail every single item on the menu for this couple, while several tables waited for service. Not only did this couple need everything translated, they had innumerable questions, and wanted to chat with the waitress - when the waitress described what a "fondant de chocolat" was, the husband went on and on about how he knew all about "fondue," which the waitress tried to tell him was not at all the same, but he insisted he knew "all about fondue." Of course, they were loud enough that everyone in the small, quiet restaurant could hear everything they said.
At La Terrasse café on the Place Ecole Militaire, a British couple sits down and says "Hello, I'd like a beer and she'd like a Coke" to the waiter before he even has a chance to say "Bonjour." Not even a moment's hesitation before they launched into English.
In the Etam store on the rue de Rivoli, an American woman goes to the cashier and with no introduction says "Can I pay in dollars for this stuff?"

You really have to wonder. I know most tourists don't speak much or any of the language of the countries they visit, but is it too much to ask for them to show some basic politesse? It really doesn't take much effort to be a good tourist, just a basic appreciation that you are in foreign territory and need to display some simple manners, as you are a guest.
StCirq is online now  
Oct 8th, 2003, 07:31 PM
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StCirq: "Hear! hear!" as they say in England!

Money doesn't begat graciousness

Thanks for telling the stories. We all need reminders now and then!

jason888 is offline  
Oct 8th, 2003, 10:10 PM
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We're leaving for our first trip to Paris in 2 weeks, and I really appreciated the heads up on the CNN article.
I printed it out and will take it with me, along with my rusty high school French and the "useful phrases" at the back of the Fodor's guide.
And St. Cirq, thank you for your description of those ugly Americans -- it's a good lesson in manners for those who may forget theirs.
Sheila946 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2003, 04:18 AM
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Sorry, Sheila, but not all of them were "ugly Americans". I believe one couple was British. It's easy to pick on Americans but I've seen boorish behavior from Germans, Japanese and others.
bettyk is offline  
Oct 9th, 2003, 04:28 AM
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Are American tourists the only ones who are consistently "ugly" or are they simply the loudest and the ones with the most money to spend? And when they do spend it do they suddenly seem a little less "ugly"????
Oct 9th, 2003, 04:36 AM
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Kath - thanks for the article.

StCirq - your stories just make me roll my eyes. But of course, those people are probably boorish at home too!

15 years ago, I went to Paris with my parents and sister. I was in college, and had taken a little French in high school, so whenever we needed information, had to talk to someone about getting tickets, ordering etc, I was charged with starting the conversation with a polite greeting in French. People responded so great to us because of it.

I, too, try to learn basic phrases before I travel. So, along with my decent Spanish and rudimentary French, I can say a few polite phrases in Italian, German (which worked in Prague too, since I didn't know any Czech when I went there), Greek, and Dutch.

I think it is common courtesy, as the article so nicely points out.
kaudrey is offline  
Oct 9th, 2003, 08:29 AM
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So says the Mirror...

BRITS are the rudest, worst behaved and least adventurous holidaymakers in the world - and Germans the best.

Tourist offices placed us bottom of 24 countries, a survey said yesterday.

In contrast those sunbed bandits from Germany ranked highest for behaviour and their attempts to speak the local language. Dermot Halpin, boss of online travel service Expedia which conducted the survey, said: "Much as it pains me to say it, the Germans deserve the best sunbeds.

"British holidaymakers are some of the most widely travelled in the world. But that doesn't mean we're good at it." Expedia questioned tourist offices in 17 popular destinations worldwide. Britons were worst for rudeness, followed by Russians and Canadians.

They were also worst for their behaviour, learning the language and enthusiasm to try local delicacies.

Next on the bottom of the list were the Israelis, Irish and Indians. At the top, the Germans were followed by Americans, Japanese, Italians and French.

Americans were the most polite and most generous tippers and Italians the most adventurous eaters.

The Foreign Office said: "A lot of our tourists are no worse than other nationals. Look how well behaved they were at the World Cup in Japan."
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Oct 9th, 2003, 08:37 AM
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I don't think the point was WHO is rude, the point was EVERYONE should try to be polite and learn some phrases in the local language when traveling (remember who the guest is!). Anyway, St. Criq's comments were a great example of how boorish people can be - I rank those people up there with the ones who climbed all over "Winged Victory" for a photo op last time I was at the Louvre.

Kath's article is a nice reminder for everyone - be polite, and don't be afraid to try the language!
Margie is offline  
Oct 9th, 2003, 08:50 AM
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Unfortunately, I must confess that the classic cliche of the loud American tourist shouting directly in English to the French attendant is now being replaced by the reality of British wek-enders in Paris talking (not loudly, unless they are drunk) directly in English to the French attendant. It might be language darwinism, or more prosaically the fact that now learning a foreign language is not compulsory any more in British secondary schools. Moreover, and it might be a good side of the current political chill between our two countries, American tourists I have seen recently in Paris are exquisite, well behaved people, they are the ones who braved main stream brain washing in the States and dared set foot in this hostile country ! On the other hand, the rise of low cost airlines and the - now eroded - strength of the pound vs the euro has prompted a new breed of British week-enders, usually youngish, who just consider Paris like another Amsterdam or Ibiza: a place where you can get pissed on the cheap, even if people do talk funny, but, what the hell, we just go on speaking English to them.
Oct 9th, 2003, 09:06 AM
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Being a Brit it pains me to admit that a lot of my fellow countrymen (and women) are a major pain in the ass when abroad and should probably not be let out of the country without an escort. Being slightly selfish, it also means that there is a growing resentment against those that are actually there to see the place and behave.

StCirq, doesn't it make you despair sometimes? Don't these people have parents or similar to teach them even the basics of manners?
Ah well, more of the joys of travelling!(?)
matthew is offline  
Oct 9th, 2003, 09:10 AM
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Kath - Good article, I also have the normal stunted UK ability with languages so a useful approach for me.
matthew is offline  

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