The undisputed capital of romance, Paris remains one of the world’s most visited cities and yet Parisians have long endured a reputation for rudeness when it comes to dealing with the 29 million visitors who flock there each year. And with tourism accounting for one in ten jobs in the capital and surrounding region, not to mention the allure of friendlier and equally attractive yet significantly cheaper cities in which to enjoy a few days away, it’s without doubt an unwelcome stereotype.
Together with the Paris Ile-de-France tourist board, the Paris Chamber of Commerce has come out with its etiquette guns blazing and launched a charm offensive, producing a six-page booklet entitled “Do you Speak Touriste?”.
Designed specifically for those holding the dubious honour of being the capital’s worst culprits for incivility – hoteliers, taxi drivers, shop assistants and restaurant staff – and offering country-by-country advice on how to deal with tourists from overseas, the guide contains greetings in eight different languages and addresses the spending habits and cultural codes of the main international visitors to Paris.
The Japanese, for example, are recognised as the biggest spenders, Britons spend more than Americans whilst the cash-strapped Spaniards love a freebie (and expect you to speak their language).
Other pearls of wisdom suggest that Britons like to be called by their first name, seek a mixture of authenticity and “relaxedness”, appreciate architecture and traditional gastronomy and expect staff to be friendly and smiling.
Moving on, Brazilians are “easily tactile” and expect a “poetic experience” whilst the Japanese are “discreet but demanding”. The Chinese meanwhile are “fervent shoppers” and have “an idealised and romantic view of Paris” whilst Italians are “impatient tourists” but should be shaken by the hand.
And what of the French themselves? “Particularly demanding” suggests the guide. Let’s hope therefore that the 30,000 guides being distributed have the desired effect!