What words just came to your mind?
Before you read further, take minute to let the various nouns and adjectives flow freely.
If you’re an American, there’s a good chance some of the negative words that just popped in and out of your mind were ones like arrogant, lazy, coward, dirty, anti-American, socialist (maybe even communist?), hairy and rude.
Now, I’m sure words like food, wine, fashion, Eiffel Tower, romance, cheese, art, tradition and maybe even fries came up as well.
But, for now we’re going to take a look at the role these negative descriptors play into France’s – specifically Paris’ – tourism industry.
Big surprise to me and maybe to you as well: Turns out, there are actually tourist manuals that help educate the Paris-hesitant traveler on how to “cop” the Parisian attitude.
Yes. It’s true…you too can now be as rude as some deem the French to be!
According to tourist agency, Gadling.com, “Parisians are well known for their rudeness to tourists and other foreigners. This has always been very frustrating, however, to the Regional Tourism Committee of Paris whose job it is to attract foreign visitors to the French capital. They’ve discovered over the years, however, that many tourists simply don’t want to go to Paris and be accosted by this legendary rudeness.”
So, several years ago, the Committee launched a “tongue and cheek advertising campaign [that] could best be described as an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach,” according to an article on ScienceDirect.com. The article’s author goes on to criticize the campaign saying, “Such an approach is so, well…French,” and asks, “When, exactly, did the lowest common denominator become ‘best practice?'”
The campaign is directed toward Brits who’ve turned to other tourist destinations where they can more pleasantly spend their spare pounds.
While offensive to some, some heavy-hitters in the tourism industry have welcomed the humorously helpful travel tips through the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.
Fodor’s, for example, says, “The Web site, created as a marketing tool by a cheeky French tourist agency, is a clever attempt to make light of the quirks and tics that have come to characterize our friends across the Atlantic.”
Here are some examples of “Parisianisms” that can help you cope and blend in with the stereotypically rude culture:
1. The Pout: “Start by looking bored, then pucker your lips and shake your head slowly for impact.”
2. The Shrug: “Stick out your lower lips, and then reaise your eyebrows and shoulders simultaneously.” (See Image Above)
3. The indicator that someone should shut up (a.k.a. “tait-toi!”): “Hold your hand in the shape of an ‘L’; then bring your fingers and thumb together.”
Personally, I never felt the need to use any of these gestures, nor did I find it necessary to “cop” the Gallic, French attitude while visiting the City of Light.
However, for the nervous or hesitant tourist who is debating whether or not to visit Paris, humorous tips like these may help you make light of any rudeness you may encounter.
To take a peak into more aspects of French culture, please visit TheSecretLifeofFrance.com for an Englishwoman-now-living-in-Paris perspective.