*Published April 1, 2015
Ahh Paris… Just the mention of its name brings up images of sophisticated people in sidewalk cafés surrounded by elegance. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and one of the most visited tourist destinations.
The Parisians, however, have a long-held reputation for being rude. Personally, I don’t find them to be any more or less rude than any other city dwellers, and feel that their bad reputation is often caused by cultural misunderstandings.
Nevertheless, the stereotype persists, and with 30 million tourists per year, Paris is trying to improve its friendliness rating. In recent years, the Tourism Department has sent manuals to those who work in establishments frequented by tourists to help them be more sensitive to the cultural differences that give Paris, and the Parisians, a bad rap. So if you are planning a trip to Paris this summer you might notice some significant changes.
Those who work in the tourist trade have been given training to help them identify different nationalities (mostly by observing clothing styles) and then to react accordingly.
For example, when Americans enter a restaurant, they must be allowed to choose their own seats. They should be given a menu in their native tongue, and they should receive the speedy service to which they are accustomed. In addition, the waiters are required to smile and to give the customer whatever they ask for.
They’re no longer allowed to say “No, you can’t have that wine with that meal – it just doesn’t go”. The waiters have been instructed to simply smile and tolerate their client’s bad taste. Then as soon as the last bite is swallowed, they are to present the bill. There are, of course, similar instructions according to the preferences of fourteen other nationalities.
Shop-keepers are to greet tourists with a warm smile and a friendly greeting in whatever language the tourists speak. If they happen to be in the middle of a conversation with one of their colleagues when a customer approaches to ask a question, they are to put their conversation on hold and respond to the client – even if it means walking all the way across the room to show something to the customer. These new regulations only apply to foreign tourists, so of course, the clerks can still be rude to their fellow Frenchmen.
The Department of Tourism, not completely convinced their countrymen will comply, has put a system in place to make sure these new rules are followed. Each shop, restaurant and touristic site will be stocked with a stack of denunciation cards near the entry. If a tourist does not receive acceptable service he simply takes one of these cards, jots down his complaint, and turns it in to the local Tourist Office. If an establishment receives three complaints the owner will be fined 100 Euros. Since this could be very costly to the business owner, we expect these rules to be strictly enforced.
As an added bonus for the tourists, no transportation strikes will be allowed during the peak tourist season. So it looks like visiting Paris, everyone’s second country as Thomas Jefferson said, will be even more enjoyable this year.
Happy April Fool’s Day! or Poisson d’avril! (April Fish!) as they say in France.
*While it is true that Paris is trying to repair its reputation for rudeness, the rest is reported in the spirit of April 1st. (It’s a joke.) It’s common in France for newspapers and television to invent a news story as an April Fool joke.
If you would like to know more about the April 1st jokes in France, and why they are called April fish see: April Fool or April Fish?
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