Les Américains souhaitent se faire plaisir et ne pas se limiter
April 14, 2016 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Do You Speak Touriste? [PDF, 3 MB, in French] and the accompanying website is the Parisian tourism board's guide for workers in the Parisian tourism sector on traveler preferences from 17 different countries on subjects such as their habits, preferences for transportation, views on quality and price, dining times and specific cultural tics -- for instance, the fact that Americans "are hoping to have fun and not limit themselves"* or that the Japanese "won't complain about anything immediately, at least until they return home."**

Salon pans the brochure as a collection of national stereotypes, in some cases of mysterious origin, and the New Yorker summarizes a lot of the more, er, opinionated examples.

The tourist nations in question are France (i.e. domestic non-Parisian tourists), the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the US, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, India and South Korea.

*« souhaitent se faire plaisir et ne pas se limiter »
**« Ils ne se plaignent jamais tout de suite, mais le font à leur retour »
posted by andrewesque (50 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not in any way surprised they picked the Belgians for the wacky photo ...
posted by aperturescientist at 1:59 PM on April 14, 2016


They forgot how angry Parisians can get Quebecois by insisting they speak English.
posted by bswinburn at 2:06 PM on April 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


From the New Yorker link (which I consulted because my own French was a bit rusty):

At no moment shall you forget American expectations: bespoke service, impeccable English, and anticipation of their needs “at every step of their stay.”

*snort*

I made a point of attempting to dig up as much French as I could remember from high school when I went to Paris for New Year's - partly because, well, that's just what I think you ought to do, and partly because I was so surprised at how much I remembered- but mainly because I got a kick out of how much it made people's day. At least ten times on that trip, at the point at which I had to switch from French to English when my knowledge ran out, I'd get a blink of surprise from the person who I'd been talking to, and then they'd gush, "Madame! I thought you were French!"

There was also a great moment when I was shopping at the cookware place E. Dehillerin, and overheard a really pushy Anglophone woman nagging one of the clerks, who was trying to get a word in edgewise - I tapped her on the shoulder and answered the question she was asking, in English. Then when I had a question of my own, I made a point out of seeking that same guy out and asking him a question, in French ("Est-ce que c'est pour couper des herbes?") - and he beamed, enthusiastically answered in French, and I think even gave me a tiny discount on what I bought.

Now, why would I have wanted to insist upon English when I could have impressed a crapton of people and gotten discounts just for attempting to speak French?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I also came to point out that the guide has a bunch of translation phrases into English on the Canadian page, but no mention that lots of Canadians speak french (and probably a higher proportion of visitors to France than Canadians in general), and that somewhere in Quebec someone just read this and started venting steam from their ears.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:09 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


but no mention that lots of Canadians speak french

In fairness, they do actually mention on the top right hand corner of page 27 in the bigger red text that "Seuls les Québécois parlent le français : s’assurer de la langue parlée par votre interlocuteur est donc particulièrement important" ("Only the Quebecois speak French: it's therefore particularly important to be sure which language the other person speaks"), which, while not totally accurate, is at least pretty close to the mark.
posted by andrewesque at 2:12 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


They forgot how angry Parisians can get Quebecois by insisting they speak English.

Every time my Quebecois boyfriend spoke (in French) to someone in France (Nice), they'd reply in (sometimes terrible) English. He'd continue in French...they'd continue in English. He wasn't angry, but was very weirded out. I guess the different accent made them assume he wasn't a native French speaker or something.
posted by randomnity at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I see "Seuls les Quebecois parlent le francais: s'assurer de le parler la langue parlee par votre interlocuteur est donc particulerement important" on the Canadian page. That would lead me to believe that they're aware of francophone Canadians, sort of.
posted by peppermind at 2:15 PM on April 14, 2016


Great pamphlet - but do you have it in English?

*ducks*
posted by Itaxpica at 2:20 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


My bad. I actually thought I read the whole page but missed this. Yeah, not quite accurate, but good enough to suit their purposes, I guess.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:20 PM on April 14, 2016


Did you know, for instance, that Brazilians “appreciate the availability of wifi connections”?

At least they make the Brazilians look sensible.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


For service industries, stereotypes do not equal racism. So Americans like ice in their drinks, and Germans like fizzy drinks. It's culture, not IQ.
posted by Steakfrites at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Great pamphlet - but do you have it in English?

*ducks*


This old canard.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


It says that South Koreans "appreciate a word of welcome in Korean," and on the same page helpfully translates bienvenue as "..."
posted by theodolite at 2:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I got a ride near Colmar in France from a French family that had just gone to Canada for vacation. They said they were happy they knew English when they were in Quebec as they said no one there could follow their French.
posted by njohnson23 at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Muricans likes their free wifi.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2016


At least ten times on that trip, at the point at which I had to switch from French to English when my knowledge ran out, I'd get a blink of surprise from the person who I'd been talking to, and then they'd gush, "Madame! I thought you were French!"

I believe you.
posted by beerperson at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: EXALTÉS ET EXIGEANTS
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:49 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed that not more time was spent on the first section, which is the French. It's pretty interesting if you're a tourist who sees Paris as a distillation of France, especially this bit (which is absolutely true): les Français ne viennent pas pour la gastronomie. Yes, that is correct. The French do not come to Paris to eat good food. There is nothing like regional cuisines in their region of origin.

I also like these bits on prices: les Français considèrent toutes les activités comme chères, en particulier en comparaison avec le reste de la France. [Ils] perçoivent certains tarifs comme abusifs. Translation: "the French think that all activities are expensive, especially compared to the rest of France. They perceive some prices as abusive." Heeheehee. Also totally true, some of the prices really are crazy. When you live here you learn to pick and choose. They never take taxis, either. The only times I've ever taken a taxi in my 20 years in the country were for a few business trips, train-station-to-office, for which I was reimbursed. Even for those trips, I preferred the bus the rest of the time.
posted by fraula at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


Re: Canada, I'm not sure where the criticism is coming from, maybe the English translations are skipping this all-important part? Peu formels, spontanés et directs, ils ont le tutoiement facile. "Tutoiement" is French by definition (use of informal tu versus formal vous), so they are indeed assuming that Canadians speak French.
posted by fraula at 3:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bah - why do New Yorker articles always read like they have been translated to English from another language? Like you could literally write an article in English, translate it to German, translate it back, make some edits and have a New Yorker piece.

Anyways...on my first visit to Paris I was at a restaurant with my then-girlfriend who was fluent in French. An American father and son sit down at the table next to us and the waiter arrives and the father, after looking at the menu contemptuously, just looks at him and says "DO YOU HAVE ANY HAMBURGERS." The waiter replied in English just doing everything he could to look unphased - but his body language was like "enough of THIS shit."

And yet the trope is that we think THEY are rude.
posted by jnnla at 3:43 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


The Russian language stuff is mangled, too (hard to say how it got like that). But they really do [v]isitent les Grands Magasins et les boutiques de grandes marques comme des attractions, or at least I have heard more than one Russian put it almost exactly that way ("как в музей").

Is there any reason not to translate "Welcome" into Korean?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 3:44 PM on April 14, 2016


I believe you.

Eh - they may be so used to people for whom "French" consists of "BON JEW-ER, OO AY LEE TOWER EIFFEL, SEE VOO PLAY?" that there's a low threshold for fluency at this point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:53 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


> And yet the trope is that we think THEY are rude.

The bigger trope is that rudeness breaks down by nationality.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:00 PM on April 14, 2016


I am Parisian and I can assure you that the rudeness in the service industry is not hostility towards tourists, it's hostility towards everybody, including Parisians.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:08 PM on April 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


"Americans appreciate free wi-fi"
posted by thewalrus at 4:26 PM on April 14, 2016


French people from small towns/rural places in France frequently think that everyone in Paris is an asshole. Much the same way that Americans from small towns/rural places think everyone in NYC is an asshole. Don't take it too seriously.
posted by thewalrus at 4:29 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


my roommate's parents are visiting from Brussels right now. I just showed them the "Belgium"part of this - and they read it, and started giving little bemused shrugs and admissions that "okay, that bit there is right..."

History did not record precisely which bits they were reacting to, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 PM on April 14, 2016


It's true though Americans eat dinner like, insanely early.
posted by The Whelk at 4:56 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Aloof doesn't = rude.

I'll cop to being an American about ice in 1st world countries.At one place in Geneva I told the waitstaff this (in French) and they brought me a pailfull. Fine with me!
posted by brujita at 5:03 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


SO said he moved to the States for the ice.
posted by The Whelk at 5:07 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Most yank ice is 1/2 air and melts too fast.
:-(
posted by brujita at 5:20 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eh treat Paris link ny and you'll be fine. I'll also note that my dad who is a native speaker but had been in the States for fifty years will get responded to in English - especially at places where it is expected English will be spoken. Usually when he first gets there and hasnt spoken French in a while. It entertains me greatly.
posted by JPD at 5:39 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I did a bike trip around Avignon, which involved some small towns and navigation that made me grateful to my high school French teacher. I tried to be, at a minimum, a good tourist.

And yet a moment that will stick in my brain forever: when I arrived at an inn early, I asked the innkeeper when I could enter my room. She said something I didn't understand, even though I recognized the word itself. Stupidly I asked her to repeat, that I didn't understand. Twice. I'll always remember her saying, loud and frustrated, 'QUINZE!'

I do not understand the 24 hour clock in any language. I wish I could have told her that, but it was, alas, beyond me to tell her exactly how I was not understanding, so I was just another stupide americain, despite myself.
posted by Dashy at 6:01 PM on April 14, 2016


I have trouble with numbers in French because I always need to do the math for 70-99. Whenever I have mentioned it to native French speakers they say it had not occurred to them that those numbers are weird.
posted by jeather at 7:00 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, "four-twenty ten-eight" is some bullshit.
posted by clorox at 7:11 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure where the criticism is coming from

Non-Quebec French speaker here... Maybe this is a Canadian thing or possibly a generational thing but being told you don't exist, "only Quebec people speak French", both in Canada by Quebec and in the Motherland is a bit discouraging to one's personal identity. I will admit I'm sensitive to this having been bullied as teen in Quebec for my accent but still it takes 5 minutes to look up on Wikipedia that there's more to French speaking Canada than Quebec. Would it kill them to change the phrasing to "many people from Canada speak French, especially those from Quebec"? At least they say "s’assurer de la langue parlée par votre interlocuteur est donc particulièrement important" which is good advice even here in Canada.

As far as tutoiment goes, that certainly is common in Quebec and with younger people, maybe we were old fashioned but in my Northern Ontario family we most definitely did not use Tu with anyone who was our senior or unknown to us. Only my great grandmother allowed me to use Tu with her and it was done with the deepest affection. My dad always bristles when I use Tu with him.
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


We're getting ready for a trip to France later in the year, and I'm getting a refreshment in French to prepare. As in German, one jamais/never uses tu/you-impersonal with strangers. It's such a rule, that the French even have a verb called tutoyer that is about asking whether you even can use tu/you-impersonal — On peut se tutoyer? I have the impression from native speakers that you pretty much just go there not anticipating using tu, like, ever.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:45 PM on April 14, 2016


> I have the impression from native speakers that you pretty much just go there not anticipating using tu, like, ever.

But what about the pineapples?
posted by lawrencium at 12:03 AM on April 15, 2016


Yeah, "four-twenty ten-eight" is some bullshit.

Well, it's really "four-twenty eighteen". "dix-huit" does word-for-word translate as "ten-eight", but every language has a funny collection of words for the numbers 11--19. So while I agree that the "four-twenty" thing is nonsense, I think that the "ten-eight" part is a little less ludicrous.

However, let's be clear: Danish counting is totally bullshit. "halvtreds" for fifty? What is this crap?
posted by vernondalhart at 12:38 AM on April 15, 2016


The Google Translate of the Australian sub heading came out as "Raiders and Causual" (from AVENTURIERS ET DÉCONTRACTÉS).

Too much Fury Road at Google HQ?
posted by antiwiggle at 12:55 AM on April 15, 2016


Salon pans the brochure as a collection of national stereotypes, in some cases of mysterious origin, and the New Yorker summarizes a lot of the more, er, opinionated examples.
If Salon and the New Yorker actually bothered to read the brochure, they'd noticed that the "stereotypes" are derived from two series of surveys conducted from 2012 to 2015. This is market research, so the results are sterotypical and somewhat silly, but that's what any industry with a worldwide market needs to do, and in this case the product is the Paris region rather than microwave ovens or smartphones. More than 80 million foreign tourists visit France every year, so there's a lot of data available about what tourists do, don't want to do, like, dislike etc. In 2009 alone, the Comité Régional du Tourisme Ile-de-France surveyed the habits of 11,000 tourists, half of them European foreigners, and those were just the tourists who arrived by the TGV train to visit the Paris region. The CRT IdF has been collecting data (from questionaires and other sources) about 50,000 tourists every year since 2008. One can read more about these surveys in this recent parliamentary report on the assessment of tourism policies.
posted by elgilito at 1:19 AM on April 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, "four-twenty ten-eight" is some bullshit.

Yep, so try nonante-huit and they'll think your a bonefide Belgian or Swisser.
There's septante and the more rare octante too.
posted by guy72277 at 1:55 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh wow, they got the Dutch for "bonjour" (should be: goede dag) and "bienvenue" (welkom) wrong. Looks like everyone in the tourism sector in Paris will be greeting us in Norwegian from now on.
posted by sively at 4:10 AM on April 15, 2016


Every time my Quebecois boyfriend spoke (in French) to someone in France (Nice), they'd reply in (sometimes terrible) English. He'd continue in French...they'd continue in English. He wasn't angry, but was very weirded out. I guess the different accent made them assume he wasn't a native French speaker or something.

Exact same thing happened to us, but with only one guy at a hotel in Paris; we found everyone else to be pretty good about understanding the Quebec accent. My husband was annoyed though & would not switch to English... the guy continued to greet us in English for the duration of the stay.
posted by Laura in Canada at 5:23 AM on April 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


lawrencium, do I hear a reference to Pilote and Les Squelettes and other Canadian educational funtimes?
posted by brainwane at 6:41 AM on April 15, 2016


French people from small towns/rural places in France frequently think that everyone in Paris is an asshole. Much the same way that Americans from small towns/rural places think everyone in NYC is an asshole. Don't take it too seriously.

I first visited Paris after spending a semester in Moscow and with that as my baseline it was a friendly city.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 7:22 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had a French teacher who taught HUITANTE. My parents asked me why I didn't tell them. How was I supposed to know that it was wrong? I have had people tell me it's not real because they only knew about octante.

My French accent is apparently confusing (terrible) enough that no one could tell what my first language is, so since I'm otherwise fluent no one ever switched to English for me in France.
posted by jeather at 7:36 AM on April 15, 2016


Hmm I went through the entire PDF and I’m not really seeing what the big mockable stereotypes are? American tourists are excited and demanding, what’s wrong with that? Most tourists are!

Considering this is targeted at people working in the tourist industry, it seems to be very generic netural observations, often so similar for different nationalities that I find it hard to see its usefulness really. But these awful stereotypes, where are they?

One thing that puzzles me is that there are quotes in English in both the Slate and New Yorker piece that I just cannot find in the original French - like "Italians are impatient" or "love amusement parks" or “are very sensitive to the elegance of professional uniforms” - where is any of that? Not in the PDF... It actually says "they’re not surprised about waiting times" and the only mention of children is that they’re interested in "animations" especially when traveling with children. That’s not amusement parks is it?

No mention of uniforms that I can find for any nationality...

The embellished translation “will be very touched if you devote a little attention to their children” is from the section on the Spanish but the original is far more straightforward, "Apprécient particulièrement l’attention portée à leurs enfants" - "they especially appreciate attention given to their children".

The only thing about patience I can find is about Indians, "Beaucoup moins patients que les autres nationalités, ils sont plus exigeants sur la gestion de l’attente" - "a lot less patient than other nationalities, they are more demanding about the management of waiting times", and reading the whole thing, you really have to make an effort to interpret that as a negative characterization, ignoring all the rest of the details given and the cheerful generic tone of the entire guide.

Soo, dear New Yorker, I love you so much but are you sure this is "a laundry list of pigeonholes, which might, upon browsing, induce a bugging out of the eyes—a shock at once of effrontery and recognition" (ooh no less!) and not a list of mistranslations and embellished quotes to give you an excuse to mock the French’s lack of sensitivity and feel all superior? Hmm? Naughty naughty...
posted by bitteschoen at 8:26 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am glad I am not the only one who was going to complain about Danish numbers. They do the French counting by twenties (halvtreds is 1/2 from 3, times twenty, or 2.5*20=50. The "twenty" bit is just mostly abbreviated). But also the Germanic digit reversal- so 57 is syv-og-halvtreds.
Swedish though is more sensible (numerically anyhow)- much like Swiss French.

And the ice thing? No matter what language I am speaking, my strong American accent means I have to order drinks "no ice" lest I get random frozen things in an otherwise acceptable beverage.
posted by nat at 8:35 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


brainwane, ouai !

FWIW the most confusion i have with the (Suisse) French numbering system is the use of it in reading out telephone numbers. Zéro septante neuf quatre cent vingt sept... attend... Zéro sept nonante quatre... attend (nous sommes en Genéve) Zéro sept quatre vingt dix. Madness.
posted by lawrencium at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2016


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