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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 13th, 2013, 06:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,256
I'm so sorry that what should have been a wonderful experience had so many negatives. I wish you had found Fodor's before your trip rather than after it.

As a first time visitor most of the sights that interested you were likely where all the other tourists wanted to be also, putting you in the thick of the crowds. That was our first time experience when we went to Venice, so we went back a second time purposely avoiding the places that would be crowded. It makes such a difference when you can take yourself away from crowds for even part of the day when traveling in "high tourist season".

On one of our first trips to Paris, someone tried to reach into my husband's front pants pocket while he was waiting to enter the metro. It certainly was disturbing and since my husband still insists on keeping his wallet in his pants pocket, I now velcro closed one pocket in each of his travel pants for his wallet. He won't change a "bad habit" so I've had to do what gives me peace of mind when we visit a large city. It works for us and it is something I learned after a negative travel experience.

Please come back to Fodors and do a search before you take another trip to Europe. There is so much helpful information here to make anyone's travels rewarding rather than a disappointment. Deborah
DeborahAnn is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 07:04 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
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I think you'll find that Europeans tend to "ignore" lines a great deal more than people in the US.

And you can do a billion searches here and you'll find a lot of stories about pickpockets and just as many from people who said that they were never pickpocketed so I am not certain how much those stories really help other than to make people aware that the practice does go on.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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I do think that there are different customs and conventions in Europe when it comes to lining up. Americans most definitely take queueing up very seriously, whereas even in the most orderly European nations it's more of a lawless system of pushing forward. I always found that fascinating and have met many Americans who get quite frustrated by it.
Woyzeck is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 6,050
What is wrong with driving around with a gun in your car?

And what is wrong with Texas?

If this nice lady had a gun in her purse that iPhone thief wouldn't have gotten very far if she shot at him.

I am all for Texas justice. You want to steal my wallet? Here is a bullet for you.

As for rude Parisians, I would probably be rude, too, if I had to deal with tourists speaking English at me all day without even trying to speak a little French.

Imagine what waiters have to go through when American tourists only speak English and don't know anything about food, asking for nachos or chicken wings.

You have to take the good with the bad.

Thin, gun owner
Pepper_von_snoot is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 07:39 AM
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"I think you'll find that Europeans tend to "ignore" lines a great deal more than people in the US."

Southern Europeans maybe (in fact you can just about identify the country by how much they break the queue), but Northern Europeans never, try that in the UK and "if looks would kill".
bilboburgler is online now  
Jun 13th, 2013, 08:49 AM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 505
sorry to hear about your troubles in the city of lights. as others have pointed out Paris is a huge, busy place that can seem charming one minute and cold as a drunk beggar another. it seems like you heeded some advice by keeping valuables in the moneybelt where they stayed safe. unfortunately one can only take so much precaution and theives eventually compromise the soft targets. An iPhone/iPad and wallet are two of the most sought after items they are looking for. baggy or loose pants are a golden invitation for being robbed. There were times in Paris where i felt like my personal space was being violated. to deflect this i would immediately stand with my back to a wall and look directly at the person i felt was after something. As for the people i found Parisiens very polite and accomodating. I took it upon myself to learn some rudamentary French and i think this went a long way. my attempt at chit chat with cafe workers,hotel clerks, & ticket salesman was well received with smiles. A few locals assisted us with directions and information too. It's too bad that you had a different experience because i think it vindicates a naive American perception that "the French are rude" held by people that rarely travel outside the US if ever. I wonder if you'd be receptive to a repeat visit some time or if this was a bust that put too bad a taste in your mouths?
tailsock is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 08:49 AM
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Except in ski lift lines. On the slopes, the northern Europeans, including the British, are just as bad as the southern Europeans.
WeisserTee is online now  
Jun 13th, 2013, 08:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Seems like the OP had a simple case of culture shock. Many travelers return to Paris again and again and again and never manage to find any rude people there except maybe for other travelers.
Personally, I am another who has never felt unsafe in Paris, even though I am a solo traveler. However, without going into nasty details, the one time I was in Texas, I felt very unsafe indeed.
cynthia_booker is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 09:03 AM
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Weisser, you must be going to the wrong ski-slopes there queues? not where I go.
bilboburgler is online now  
Jun 13th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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As for rude Parisians, I would probably be rude, too, if I had to deal with tourists speaking English at me all day without even trying to speak a little French.

Would you shoot them too Thin? LOL
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 09:53 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
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As one or two posters above have indicated, the iphone "hits" are directed at both locals and tourists. One of the reasons Metro stops are targeted is that people, no matter what their country of origin, take out their phones there to check messages, consult maps, etc upon entering or leaving the station.

Think about it: a few moments watching at a station can earn the thief quite a bit of cash in a day.

As to culture...
The observation that there are so many regional differences in the US in manners is well taken. I always think of Parisians (who are different in so many ways from the rest of the French), as the French version of New Yorkers, especially since their city is also "invaded" by country-bumpkin FRENCH tourists as well as international tourists.

I remember my typically fast-walking New Yorker daughter becoming angry trying to get to work uptown when her path would be blocked by a horde of very sweet but very slow moving MidWest tourists.

And not every Paris waiter is the same in attitude, just as no NY waiter is the same in attitude. I'd say the, "Hi, my name is Robert, and I am delighted to be your server tonight" is probably rare in Paris, but you certainly can find the same supercilious waiters, the same "mom" type cafe workers, and the same efficient, pragmatic and abrupt waiters throughout the city.

I am not from NY and quite frankly, the city gets to me after a few days because it can be overwhelming to the senses (Paris is actually easier for me). But the same random acts of kindness I have experienced in New York I also have experienced in supposedly "cold" Paris. When I left my purse with passport on a Metro train and ran to the desk for help, the so-called "unfriendly" French desk clerk moved heaven and earth to get it back for me. My younger daughter used her last dime to find her friend in a sketchy Paris neighborhood, and the taxi driver GAVE her money because he was so worried about her.

So I feel bad that your experience was so negative.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I too had a poor experience in paris nearly 10 years ago with my daughter and granddaughter. Rude people, aggressive 3rd world beggars and a general feeling of not being welcome. The city itself is lovely but we were so soured that we haven't returned since then. It sounds like not much has changed for the better so we made the right decision to avoid Paris.
Bambi is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 10:57 AM
Join Date: May 2013
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Not sure what to say... We go to Paris twice a year... And every trip we comment that no one in Europe treats us as well as the French. That said, I study French passionately. And even tho I am not great, my efforts get us bonus points.

Queuing... Whatever. I live in Budapest and each day getting on the tram is like a reenactment of the fall of Saigon. But the Hungarians are very nice to us. So I forgive them their queuing indiscretions.
centraleurope is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 10:58 AM
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"I am all for Texas justice. You want to steal my wallet? Here is a bullet for you."

Wow! Physical violence for a property theft...that's uncivilized.

"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?)"

Being direct is not rude. New Yorkers are direct.

"I remember my typically fast-walking New Yorker daughter becoming angry trying to get to work uptown when her path would be blocked by a horde of very sweet but very slow moving MidWest tourists."

We New York natives understand hordes of tourists...who wouldn't want to visit the greatest city in the world!? Were lucky to live here and understand their awe
Margaretlb is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:04 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
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Is it the case the pregnant women have the right to move to the front of the queue? Just want to know so I can avoid any problems.
MaisonPlague is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:19 PM
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My wife and I have been to Paris six times and are going back again next year. The behavior you experienced can certainly ruin a trip, but please don't condemn the whole city or country based on your trip. We have found speaking just a few words of French will open a lot of doors and change the native's attitude toward you in a hurry. There is and always will be petty crime in Europe. As long as there are tourists with lots of money and thieves who want it, there will be the type of crime you experienced. The trick is to not make it easy for the thieves by placing a phone, wallet or purse where it can be easily taken.About eight years ago I read several articles about pickpockets in Paris, especially Gypsies (since I usually plan our trips at least a year in advance, I have a lot of time to read).The article described one method during which two young gypsy girls rush you and distract you. One gets right in your face and the other picks your pocket while you're distracted. A month or so after I read the article, we were off to Paris. The first day there my wife was a little tired from the long flight and decided to take a nap. I was too excited to be back in Paris so I went for a walk while she slept. A couple of blocks from the Louvre two young girls rushed me, the older one yelling Mon Papa, Mon Papa, Mon Papa. Since I thought it unlikely that I was her Papa and because I remembered the article, I immediately started screaming back at them with every cuss word I could think of. This initially worked and they backed off. Unfortunately, they were undeterred. In the next block they came back with the Mon Papa, Mon Papa. I turned around and screamed at them again. This time I think they figured that I was crazy and might be dangerous so they went off in search of an easier mark. That was the trip that I first started taking naps with my wife in Paris. Actually, I don't want to scare people out of coming to Paris. But do take precautions. I travel with my passport and most of my euros in a money belt. I carry my phone in a zippered pocket. Even with those safeguards, I am certainly not fooling myself into thinking I couldn't be a victim. If your situation occurred to me, I would probably think I am an idiot, but I would still love Paris.
bumper is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:20 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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I have visited Paris several times, and with very few exceptions I have found the Parisians to be very nice. I do make an effort to speak French, and remember to greet people and thank them when I leave. They are decidedly nicer on our repeat visits to their restaurants or shops, but that is not very different from home in the USA.

Our last visit was two years ago, and no one tried to steal from us. A young man pushing a baby carriage stopped us in the Marais last trip. Once I realized that he wanted money, I suddenly did not "compris" what he was saying...and we walked away.

There was a true "nut case" in the tax refund office on the Champs Elysees in the Starbucks building, but he was almost amusing. He reminded us of a Seinfeld show.

We try to be careful about our belongings, which may have helped. We're returning this summer, and this time will be more watchful with iPhones and avoid people with petitions. I hope the OP will give Paris another chance. It is such a wonderful city.
cybertraveler is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:23 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 228
I find the French to be very gracious, if formal. From the OPs description of the events at the Eiffel Tower, I infer that the couple did not arrive at the window and place their order chop-chop, but rather arrived at the window and for the first time looked at the pricing options. I really don't see how someone could say "stand back" otherwise, since the order would have already been placed immediately on arrival at the window.

As for the pickpockets, I've avoided them so far. I've always wanted to rig a booby-trapped wallet by placing razor blades at the edges of a woman's wallet so that anyone who grabs it would get a nasty cut. Then ride the subway with her purse partially open and see what happens. I've read online of a few people doing this, and it's reportedly great fun.
FHurdle is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:29 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 2,505
Is it the case the pregnant women have the right to move to the front of the queue? Just want to know so I can avoid any problems.

Even if she does not have the "right" i.e. does not hold a "carte de priorité" and wave it into your face, it is common courtesy to let a pregnant woman jump the queue or to give her your seat in the metro or the bus. Don't you do it at home?
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:31 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,587
The theft of iPhones in New York City is so common that it has gotten named. It's called Apple Picking.

Living in New York and having traveled around, my wife and I had 3.5 pickpocketing episodes: My wife's wallet from her purse in NYC, her home town, my wallet on the Metro in Paris (got it back by yelling "PickPocket" and pointing at the guy who removed the cash and dropped the wallet), a foiled attempt in the Metro (I kept my hand on my wallet in the pocket and resisted the shoves without grabbing the pole), and a half attempt on a Rome bus by keeping my hand in my pocket while the big lady barged out of the bus and the little old lady found that my daybag has a jammed zipper.

It isn't Paris, it's cities.
AJPeabody is online now  

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