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Just home from 8 days in Paris--Pickpockets threat--Rude French people

Just home from 8 days in Paris--Pickpockets threat--Rude French people

Jun 12th, 2013, 08:34 PM
  #1  
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Just home from 8 days in Paris--Pickpockets threat--Rude French people

We just came home from 8 days in Paris. While the city is beautiful, gorgeous monuments, cathedrals, gardens, and museums are fabulous, our trip was sadly interrupted by pick pockets twice. My husband and I were very careful to leave passports, credit cards, driver licenses and large cash amounts in our hidden money belts, and everything was perfectly safe there. But the problem is, I placed my iPhone 5 in my coat pocket for just a second and was distracted with the ticket slot in the metro near the Arc de Triumphe. Obviously, a thief was watching and as soon as I passed through the revolving gate, I felt a hand in my coat pocket and a large man ran away with my iPhone. The second time, my husband had his wallet in his front pants pocket (he does wear loose pants) and he never even knew when the wallet was taken with about a hundred Euros. Even though we loved our hotel, the food, the tours, the cathedrals, museums, we found the people very rude. Often, French people cut in lines, and the restaurant waiters and waitresses are very cold and even rude. Once while standing in line at at the Eiffel Tower, a beautiful young, very pregnant woman rudely told my husband to "Wait and step back!" While she proceed to get 2 tickets to the top of the tower for herself and her husband. I thought, "Wow, this is a baby's mother! what kind of example will she set for her child?" I realize Paris is a very large city, and maybe it is just the large city people everywhere, but we found French people very cold and rude. The streets are very crowded and we never did really feel safe.We were sure glad to get home to Texas. (My husband and I are in our late sixties and probably look older than most tourists, but I wonder if that made us easy targets for pickpockets and people cutting in lines)
AbileneGram is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 08:43 PM
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I had the exact opposite. My husband and I found the French extremely kind and helpful. We saw many pickpockets/scammers in Paris, but nobody bothered us for more than a few seconds. Those that tried we just said "No" and walked away. I am sorry that you had things stolen, but they watch your every move- always zip, button and conceal-no matter what- And TRY and look like you know what you are doing and where you are going. I hope you'd be willing to give Paris another chance! I can't wait to go back.
Vivi004 is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 08:57 PM
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Sorry to hear of your experiences. We recently spent over 2 months in Paris and never experienced any of the issues you did. It is a shame that they happen. We found that cultural differences certainly exist, but on a person to person basis, people were as friendly and helpful as anywhere in the States if not more so.
We were staying in a non touristy area among the working class from all parts of the world. But I don't think that made much of a difference as we felt the Parisians we met in the tourist areas were just as friendly.
We too are in our 60s and never felt unsafe; perhaps our conclusions about Paris are based upon our own cultural differences that exist in the States, rather than the cultural differences that exist between two countries? Just a thought.
giro is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 09:16 PM
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I've been to Paris four times (most recently last month), and I've never felt unsafe. To be honest, I am often carrying thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment with me (not to mention my wallet) when I'm traveling so I guess I've gotten used to paying extremely close attention to my possessions. On the Metro, I keep my hand near my wallet pocket; sometimes I do it after I get back to the US, too, when I'm on a train or something, out of habit. Anyway, no one's successfully tried to pickpocket me (to my knowledge). It's true that I'm a tall, fairly big guy - maybe potential thieves would rather try to rip off someone smaller.

Paris is a big city, and people in big cities do tend to seem rude and abrupt sometimes to people not used to big cities. (Ever been to New York City?) I feel self-conscious when I'm in Europe because I don't speak any language besides English, so I tend to give leeway to the locals when I interact with them in English and the very few local words I know - and smile, that seems to help. I really haven't encountered too many rude people. But, most of the people I encounter in Europe are in the tourist industry or in public transit (train station agents, etc.) and I don't really expect them to be more than polite as they do their jobs.

So, I'm sorry you were pickpocketed and robbed and met rude Parisians, but I have had very different experiences on my visits to Paris. I think it's a lovely city and would recommend it to anyone.

I do think if you visit smaller towns say up in Normandy, you would have a very different experience.
Andrew is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 09:52 PM
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I am sorry you got stuff stolen.. I do think being older and distracted put you at a disadvantage.. having your phone in your hands for people to see, then putting in your pocket , well of course any pickpocket watching saw you .. just so you know it would happen to a local too, they are not just picking on tourists.. Still it sucks to lose your things. I never travel with gadgets myself as I know I would be distracted if I had to worry about them.

I however do not feel unsafe in Paris and I have visited solo as a middle aged woman, and have visited alone with my children, perhaps its your age and the feeling of everything being different that made you feel unsafe.. remember pickpockets as a rule operate under stealth, they are not mugging you or shooting, you, , something that does happen in Texas a lot more then France dear,, and frankly, a lot more then in Canada.. I feel less safe in States when I visit.

As for coldness, I really think you expected it to be like home, you probably didn't follow the social cues.. and also , they simply not like you are used to,, its not normal there to be smiling and acting like the waiter is your best friend, its not coldness, its polite formality, but I can see how you may perceive it differently.. It is a shame that you cannot accept other nationalities as being different and just decide to label them as bad and rude.. says a bit more about you then them.
justineparis is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 09:53 PM
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I'm reading "The Sweet Life in Paris" - a memoir by American food blogger David Lebovitz - and happen to be in the chapter "Lines are for other People." The gist of it is ...yes, Parisians cut lines. But as he so succinctly points out "I wonder why when we travel outside the United States we expect people to behave like Americans -- even in their own country."
amy_torres_sd is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 10:11 PM
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My cousin had her iPhone picked from her coat pocket in Paris about 2 weeks ago. Two young women approached her with a clipboard holding (apparently) some sort of petition. As one held up the clipboard close to my cousin's body, chattering away in French, the other was lifting the iPhone out of her pocket. When they "realized" my cousin doesn't speak French, they quickly said "Pardonnez-moi" and moved on (even more quickly) before cousin realized her phone was gone.
Jean is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 11:01 PM
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What is a line (or a queue)? What Americans consider as a queue may contain too much separation and seen as a break in the queue to the French and others. In the US, even if I step back 2 meters away from the end of the queue, people often start queuing up behind me and I have to tell them I am not in the queue. In Tokyo, I would need to be practically breathing on the neck of person in front to show I am in the queue. It was possible that there was a cutting of line for OP even using the Paris behavior. I think one take away from visiting foreign countries is to be amused that what we have held as given is not so solid as we have thought in other cultures.
greg is offline  
Jun 12th, 2013, 11:15 PM
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Greg that is funny you mention that, here in Canada we are obsessively polite liner ups, I was standing at least 10 feet from entrance to fitting rooms in a store waiting for my daughter last week. People kept lining up behind me.. or asking me if I was in line before they would walk in front of me to entrance. I was 10-12 feet away for goodness sake,.lol I was just trying to stay close enough for dd to pop her head out and be able to call me over , but I had to keep moving farther away ...
justineparis is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:06 AM
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In France, normally, when you see a pregnant woman in a line, you let her go first. She may even hold a special "carte de priorité" giving her the right to skip the line (and the right to seat in the metro or in the bus). The beutiful pregnant woman you mention probably thought that your husband was very rude.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:32 AM
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She may have thought that she had priority, but there's no excuse for rudeness on her part either. The pickpockets are an unfortunate part of life in most big cities and they tend to gravitate to crowded touristy places.

However, I lived in Paris for a year in the 60's and found that unless you knew them , Parisians do tend to be abrupt as they go about their business. Nothing's changed then.
Rubicund is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:40 AM
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I was taken aback the first time a pregnant woman cut in line at IKEA, never mind she was pushing a cart with a good 100 kilos of building supplies.

I thought a "pardonnez-moi" would not have been amiss but just got a shove and a glare.

It's the right thing to do, particularly giving up bus or metro seats, but common courtesy extends both ways.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 02:59 AM
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I am in your age group, been to Paris twice alone & did not experience any pickpockets or scams. Out of curiosity, did you address shopkeepers, restaurant personnel, etc. with Bonjour, merci, etc.? French folks are much more amenable when small common curtesies are observed.
Rhea58 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 03:52 AM
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Sorry you didn't have a good time. You ran into a cultural clash.

The French are much more polite and much less "friendly" than Americans. People in Texas are generally gracious and friendly, and the ladies smile a lot. In France, people rarely smile on the street or in shops and are usually quite formal when serving you. That is why you always greet the staff in a restaurant or shop when you come in and why you always say good bye, good day, whatever, when you leave. It is polite.

Particularly at lunch, the waiter will pretty well expect you to have made up your mind before you sit down, one of the reasons why they post menu boards outside. He (they are about 80% men) will not have time to explain the dishes to you because one waiter will handle two to three times as many tables as he would in the US. If you violated any of these rules, they will think YOU were rude. Neither of you meant to be rude, but you have different customs and expectations.

Cell phone theft is now 50% of all theft in San Francisco, and cell phone thefts are up 40% in New York City in the last year (PC World). Boston has seen a number of cell phone and tablet muggings near the universities and hospitals this spring. I live in a resort and could steal 10 phones and tablets a day during the season if I weren't an honest person. The easiest is kids who leave them visible in the mesh outer pockets of their back packs, but plenty of people leave them on the table in restaurants and even on the seats of unlocked cars with the windows down. Apparently they think because it is picturesque and they are on vacation, no one will steal their stuff.

The Metro near the Arc de Triomphe is Metro Line 1, which is famous for pickpockets. We have written about it often on here. You are not the first person whom the thief has seen dropping something valuable, whether a camera or a phone or a wallet in her/his pocket. He was ready, you weren't, partly because you were anxious about using a means of transportation that you are unlikely to have at home in Texas, but mostly because this is what he does for a living. My very first mobile phone was stolen from my pocket on the MBTA Red Line in Boston because I made the mistake of letting the lanyard hang out so I could retrieve it more easily. Well, someone else also retrieved it easily, and I never saw it again.

We are at least your age and just got back from Paris without anything happening to us that was in any way negative. Give it another chance! But learn more about how to have a good experience before you go. I just learned this trip that people in shops don't want you to put your money into their hands. They want you to put the money in a little tray, and they will put your change there. That is very different from the US where most store clerks would be impatient with you if they had to pick up the money. So what is good manners in one place is not in another. But it is their country, and we have to do it their way. It is interesting to learn about the differences, and it keeps us young at heart even when we are taking Advil twice a day for the aching joints!
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 03:58 AM
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Rhea asks a very good question. Did you address those personnel politely? I found when I did I was also treated politely in return...I travel solo and love big cities such as Paris since single travelers are accepted better than in rural or smaller towns.
SusieQQ is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 04:06 AM
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I agree with the above posters about the safety and politeness of the French. If you are annoyed by people cutting in line then never go to Italy as the Italians are worse than the French. They ignore all lines and sidle into the middle of the line. I was watching this one time in a museum line and decided to adapt to their culture and do the same.

I never found the streets crowded in Paris. There are certain popular tourist areas where there are lots of people but they are tourists, like yourself.

I bet you didn't see people driving around with guns in Paris as you might in Texas. That would certainly frighten me.
adrienne is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 05:17 AM
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^^^I bet you didn't see people driving around with guns in Paris as you might in Texas. That would certainly frighten me.^^^

Wonderful line!
nyse is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 05:34 AM
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A solo trip to Paris for me, in my 50's. I encountered what I thought cold and abrupt behavior from a counter lady at a pastry shop. The second time she saw me she was as friendly as could be! Was I enjoying Paris? How long was I staying?
I rhink they think since you're only a moment in their busy lives ... if they are working ... they is no need for false feeling. Now, a second time? They may make you a regular AND therefore part of their lives.
As to the queues... my first time to Paris with a friend. She butted in line at a sandwich shop. All the people were quietly in line waiting their turn.. boy did they give her what for. I grabbed her and placed her beside me at the back of the line. I remember hissing, what are you doing? You wouldn't do that back home would you? Noooo...sorry.
sueciv is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 05:37 AM
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It's all relative. I am originally from New York. I find the people in Paris friendly. I live in Massachusetts now. When my daughter was stuck in Texas overnight because of flight delays she told me people there are much nicer than we are. She was shocked.
Nikki is online now  
Jun 13th, 2013, 06:07 AM
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I hear you AbileneGran. I've been going to Paris every year for at least twenty years but I've encountered one pickpocket too many- twice in three days last year. I always say Bonjour, Merci and au revoir.
I love the city so much I'll probably be back but not this year. And that pregnant lady was just rude!
Micheline is offline  

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