Paris launches manual on how to treat tourists
Parisian waiters, taxi drivers and sales staff have acquired a reputation for legendary rudeness and a wave of pickpocketing targeting tourists, has been bad publicity for a city visited by 29 million visitors in 2012.
Organised gangs have been targeting tourists at Paris's top destinations in a crime wave of such intensity that workers at the Louvre Museum went on strike in April. Now the police are cracking down: 200 officers have been specially recruited to protect tourists this summer while a new guide written in several languages warns visitors about both pickpockets in the metro and gangs of youths who pretend to be deaf and dumb and raising money for apparently reputable organisations.
The extra police officers are now patrolling tourist areas, and there has been a drastic reduction in crime as a result. Besides protecting visitors from opportunistic crime, Paris also wants to improve the way tourists are welcomed by Parisian shop owners, taxi drivers and waiters.
A misunderstanding of American or Japanese etiquette can often be interpreted as downright rudeness. A small 13-page guide, called "Do You Speak Touriste?" provides information on tourists' expectations according to their nationalities.
The English, says the manual, like "Smiling, friendly staff, a warm welcome, and a playful dimension to cultural attractions" while the Americans expect "to be taken care of quickly, and a mastery of English." The manual also includes notes on how to say basic phrases like hello, thank you and goodbye in several languages.
For one shop-owner, it's a welcome initiative: "You have to be able to adapt to the customers. In the United States people come up to you and say 'hello, are you ok?' while Asian visitors prefer staff to be more discreet but they like things to be nicely presented." ■