Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Changing French

Most Americans have the preconception that the French, especially in Paris, are very rude to tourists. I have personally made three trips to Paris in the past fourteen years and have found their attitude ever evolving. On my first trip in 1995, I generally agreed with the rude stereotype. In 1998 however, I spent two months in a Paris suburb and tried to speak as much French as I could with locals. In that time, I found that most Parisians were fairly kind recognizing that I was trying to speak in their native language but still they were not entirely friendly either. This past February, Roxi and I traveled to Paris with my brother and his finace and we were amazed at how nice everyone was to us even when we were not speaking with our best French accents. I jokingly thought that it was happiness brought on by our new president but I mostly chalked it up to a decline in American tourism due to the current economic climate. According to an article that Roxi forwarded to me this morning, it appears that I was mostly correct about the decline in tourism. They also go on to talk about the new "smile ambassadors" who are tasked with helping to foster a more friendly environment in the city. I'm not sure if they're really necessary though since we found the City of Lights to be a whole lot happier five months ago.

1 comment:

Roxanne Benoit Raine said...

Hey there! I think it's also worth mentioning that the rest of France has always been accommodating to tourists. I've always thought of Paris as the New York of Europe, and just like New Yorkers, the Parisians have gotten a bit of a stereotype for being a bit rude. I'm sure that part of that has to due with living in a metropolitan area that is filled with people on vacation when you are on your way to work! I can definitely see how that could get old or annoying to the locals! Anyway, my point in this comment that I'm leaving is that it's not a 'french' thing, it's a parisian thing, and as you pointed out, it seems to be a thing of the past. I also think people in New York seem much more friendly than maybe they seemed in the 80s and early 90s. Maybe it's more than just tourism. Maybe it has to do with the world growing smaller. I think it's an interesting topic. It would be interesting for me to see what others have to say.