Those gruff Parisians...

Aug 20th, 2013, 04:15 PM
  #1  
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Those gruff Parisians...

When the Paris tourism board is promoting kindness and hospitality to its visitors, you know this problem is not just a stereotype. But with the extraordinary rise in street crime against tourists, maybe this will have some impact? I'm dubious.

From the Front Page online:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/wo...nchman.html?hp
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 04:26 PM
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I had to laugh when I read this. We have had only one really bad experience with rude waitstaff in Paris and it was at Brasserie de L'Isle St-Louis.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 04:48 PM
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I lived in Paris for two years and have visited countless times since and have yet to encounter a rude person, much less waitstaff . . granted, the waitstaff do not plop in a chair at your table and say "Hi . . I'm Fluffy . . I'll be your waitress tonite" . . Nor do they stop by the table every 3 minutes saying "Is everything excellent??" . . They do their job and allow the patron to enjoy the experience.

Frankly, they ruin you for the American experience . .
Rich is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 04:53 PM
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Happy, I'm surprised, I Had a wonderful time there sitting outside while a jazz group performed on the bridge and my waiter was very friendly, chatted with me.
cigalechanta is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 04:58 PM
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Thing is, if you were brought up in France where smiling is reserved for intimacy, where using more words than necessary is impolite (wasting the other's time), the only proper way to interact with somebody you don't know and meet in a professional setting is to be serious, brief, and to the point.

Americans misread this, constantly. Besides, how would you feel if you're busy while the umpteenth American today thinks it's cute or funny to practise his/her heavily mangled three words of French on you, expecting you to smile and be thrilled?

It's a cultural thing - and not only in France, for example go try the smiling American thing in Russia with people you don't know and you get the Siberian Cold treatment.
michelhuebeli is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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"go try the smiling American thing in Russia...and you get the Siberian Cold treatment"

I would hope one could always find more warmth in France, since it is a much warmer climate (with glorious food).
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 05:33 PM
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I don't know if it is me that has changed or Paris, but I don't encounter rudeness much there any more. Some shop keeper can be a little cold, but if you go in to a shop a few times, they will warm up to you. At least that has been my experience.

I've seen customers behave extremely badly in cafes and restaurants and wait staffs that just deal with it with the same straight face they have with everyone. They must have insane reserves of patience.
rialtogrl is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 06:36 PM
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Some things never change. For many decades, maybe a century, New Yorkers have led the way in identifying Parisian rudeness. New Yorkers!
Southam is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 06:43 PM
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rudeness is cultural in differences.
Here in Boston, I can go into a boutique, pick up a sweater to see how it looks. In Paris, that is rude, you ask the saleslady to show you.
cigalechanta is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 06:55 PM
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I agree with the comments. During our month-long visit this past June we encountered no rudeness and no street crime, and we spent a lot of time in cafes, restaurants, stores, Metro stations, etc. away from the usual tourist areas. There are cultural differences in interpersonal style, but seldom a rude intent. BTW, as far back as 1999 on our way in from the airport (before we started using the RER) we saw a billboard saying that France benefits from visitors, so please be nice to them. The awareness that strangers often misperceive French behavior is not new.
d_claude_bear is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 07:06 PM
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I'm sure there are some gruff/rude wait staff and shop staff in Paris - but in my many trips there I have come across only one person who was difficult. (This was in a hotel in which we were holding a meeting and I reported the person to the meetings manager and they assigned another person. Perhaps he was just having a bad day - or he may have had a problem with working for a younger, female client.

However, there are definite differences in behavior in shops and restaurants from the US - and americans who come in without the appropriate greetings and expecting waitstaff to be bouncy madly grinning bambi - versus a professional waiter - may be put off (for no reason).
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 07:08 PM
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That's a really silly campaign that no French person is going to pay any attention to.
StCirq is online now  
Aug 20th, 2013, 07:38 PM
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I have only encountered one rude person in Paris and I accept partial responsibility for that encounter.

We were waiting in line to enter the catacombs and we were next in line. As my husband and I entered I looked around to get my bearings for a second. Not having anyone to follow I was figuring out what to do when apparently the man at the turnstile was waiting for my greeting. I was distracted and actually didn't even see him.

I greeted the ticket agent, purchased our tickets and proceeded to hand them to the 'turnstile' guy. I smiled at him. He would not take my tickets. He just sat there, glaring at me. I tried to go through and he wouldn't release the turnstile. I was at a loss as to what was happening.

My husband told me that I had not yet said bonjour to him. After saying, 'bonjour' and smiling, he proceeded to let me through, but still glared at me. Boy, talk about a stickler for custom.

As a side note: I 'bonjoured and merci beau couped' my way all over Paris, and darn it if the first time I was distracted from doing so I was called on it, and rather harshly to I might add.

I think his reaction was a little extreme. Apparently smiling in no way alleviates you from the requisite 'bonjour', so don't even try it!
michele_d is offline  
Aug 20th, 2013, 09:10 PM
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Of the many encounters we've had in France on our two short visits there, we encountered only 1 rude French person. I think that's ok and probably better than average in a month of travelling.
cathies is online now  
Aug 20th, 2013, 10:24 PM
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Another slow news day at the New York Times, but as we say c'est de bonne guerre for rival cities to continue to perpetrate such myths.

What would be news would be if the tourist board distributed brochures to arriving tourists telling them how to act rather than the reverse. "Be nice to tourists" is a common campaign which has been done sporadically for decades as a propaganda maneuver to please the francophobes.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 20th, 2013, 11:48 PM
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Some incidents that might have thrown someone not quite on the same wavelength:

- at the Jean Moulin museum at Montparnasse, the (efficiant but not effusively smiling) desk assistant let me leave my day bag with her. When I went back for it she just looked at me blankly and said (in French) "Oh that? I've sold it."

- at a café near the Marmottan, I stopped for cup of coffee, only it was getting near lunchtime, so I asked if they'd room (it was nowhere near busy, but it looked like the kind of place that might book up for lunches): the waiter surveyed the room with a magnificent sweep and said gruffly "No, full" - before breaking into a broad smile.
PatrickLondon is online now  
Aug 21st, 2013, 02:03 AM
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The British, it advises, want to be called by their first names.>>

if this is the quality of the information being given out, I don't give the campaign much of a chance of success.

if only people who don't know me would STOP calling me by my first name. I like the formality of France.

and Paris is NOT France - many french people also find parisiens stuck up and stand-offish.
annhig is online now  
Aug 21st, 2013, 03:14 AM
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I remember that when the Japanese first began to travel en masse to Europe, it was the Japanese government that gave them brochures on how to behave in order to avoid a certain amount of embarassment that had already begun. One of the instructions was "do not take off your clothes on the train." Apparently, back in those days the Japanese were in the habit taking off their outer apparel and sitting in their underwear on long train trips. Since there was no TGV back then, quite a few routes qualified as "long train trips." They were also advised that nudity in hotel corridors was frowned on.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 21st, 2013, 04:34 AM
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"The British, it advises, want to be called by their first names" well spotted Annhig

What planet? Some of the (imported) coffee shops even want me to give them my name but that is just marketing speak working. "Don't tell him Pike" I hear at the back.

No, some Brits like it. I tend to get "Sir" and feel elevated by the word, if a trifle guilty.
bilboburgler is online now  
Aug 21st, 2013, 07:05 AM
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"many french people also find parisiens stuck up and stand-offish"

I know several Paris-born business owners who travel internationally for their companies. The things they tell me about their Parisian employees.

She may be negative and cynical at times, but perhaps StCirq is correct when she writes, "no French person is going to pay any attention."

But if unemployment continues to rise, and more young people can't find jobs, it's difficult to know what message of hope will get through.

On travel boards like these, I have to laugh at the posters who write, "Of the many encounters we've had in France on our two short visits there, we encountered only 1 rude French person." For many tourists who romanticize about Paris, these are official metrics.
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