Truth or Fiction: Are Parisians Rude to Tourists?EUROPE, SERIES, STAFF, TIPS&SECRETS — By Estrella Azul on April 13, 2012 at 01:13
By staff writer Estrella Azul. Photos Copyright © Estrella Azul.
Paris is swarming with tourists!
I did my research before leaving and read several articles on different websites. This one here, Why Paris Sucks by Bellanda in Paris, about how the city can and does suck sometimes, is the funniest.
Given all of the above, I had some preconceived notions on what Paris and my trip overall would be like. I love that I was proven wrong!
As opposed to all my friends telling me so (mostly repeated from hearsay), and the universal warning about French people’s resentment towards visitors, I must take this opportunity to state that all the locals I spoke to were very sweet and willing to help.
I told you already how I had to take a bus from Beauvais-Tillé Airport to arrive at Porte Maillot, Paris. From there I took the metro to my hotel.
After coming up from the metro, and while keeping my eagerness to explore in check, I asked for directions. That’s when one lady confused me for a Parisian (within 2 hours of my arrival). I had correctly pronounced the street name I was asking about and she started talking to me in hurried French—until she realized what my confused stare meant. She immediately switched to faulty English and made sure I understood which way I needed to turn: just a little bit to the right because the street I was on turned into the one I was looking for.
(Even with looking at a map, the streets in Paris can get a bit confusing.)
Interestingly, I never had to ask for directions again while walking through Paris.
Before leaving, I had especially heard about waiters being impatient with tourists. Having now experienced dining in Paris, I imagine that to be on account of how busy all the restaurants are and how they don’t have large staff. However, for me at least, there were no problems. I had lunch and dinner in different establishments each time, and everyone spoke English.
There was one Asian waiter who was the sweetest: he even let me combine a different meal than what the fixed menu offered. It was in Paris that I had some of the best mushroom sauce (my waiter’s recommendation) and fish that I’ve ever tasted!
As I had previously bought my metro ticket from a ticket booth, a very nice young woman guided me through buying my ticket from a machine when I was heading to catch my flight home. With the machine being set to French by default, I simply couldn’t figure out which buttons I had to push to switch it to English.
Inside the metro, it was a bit tricky to figure out on my own (the signs there are all in French), so an elderly French couple helped me figure out which platform I should stand on to face the right direction for where I was heading.
These are my positive experiences. However, some people aren’t as lucky.
When I recently discovered one of my friends has also visited Paris, I had her e-mail me a few thoughts detailing Parisian’s attitude towards her as a tourist.
She found the information boards and signs unhelpful, as most of them are only in French. Some people, when asked for directions, simply said “I don’t speak English” and turned their backs.
The well-done steak she ordered was only cooked to medium. While it was still before closing time, a guard at the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery sent her and her friends out of the place when they had only a few more meters to reach a grave site they wanted to see. When they missed the metro and were trying to call a taxi, upon answering they could only “speak” to a recorded voice.
But they also found some helpful Parisians, like a man who was willing to help them out and call a cab. Like a woman with her kids that they met on Champs-Elysees who was interested in the languages they spoke and asked how to say different things in Hungarian. And like the baker near the Bagneux metro station who taught them some pronunciation.
Paris is so beautiful; one can’t help but fall in love with it at first sight. But what made me fall in love with the city—even more than its breathtaking sights and the charming merry-go-rounds—was the locals. Because, the truth is, Parisians carry a great love for their city and it’s their over-protective nature towards the last secrets of Paris from 30 million tourists a year that might come off as rudeness.
It really depends on one’s luck. There are people unwilling to help anyone. There are people like that everywhere in the world! Naturally, you may come across Parisians who have had a tough day at work, who are tired and impatient.
I believe it’s always best to try and use a few of your rusty French sentences: it truly goes a long way with locals. And it only works to your benefit to be patient and kind when asking for directions, ordering dinner, buying a book or whatever you need assistance with.
Since we ourselves aren’t continuously in a bright and sunny mood, could we really expect anyone else to be?
Now let me turn to you, dear readers, and ask: Have you been to Paris? What are your impressions? Are Parisians rude to tourists?
Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.