The Paris tourism board is trying to make Paris "a kinder place for tourists," reports Liz Alderman in The New York Times (8/21/13). The effort "is once again spurring debate: Is the stereotype of the brusque Frenchman justified, or do visitors just not understand the French?" Paul Kappe "of the renowned Brasserie de I’Isle Saint-Louis," thinks it’s mostly the latter. While admitting that his waiters can be "disagreeable," he adds: "Their mentality is, ‘Don’t bother me when I’m working’."
Francois Navarro of the tourism board says his objective "is to fight against a bad reputation, and to improve the quality of the welcome in Paris." The board has created a pamphlet called "Do You Speak Touriste?" that is basically "a manual on how to make travelers feel more welcome.” It advises calling the British by their first names, reassuring the Japanese, being nice to Spaniards and somehow finding it within themselves to tolerate Americans who "are glued to their personal devices and want to eat as early as 6 p.m. – a frightful thought to a typical Parisien."
Karen Fawcett of BonjourParis faults Americans too: "A lot of Americans shout, or don’t say hello, and then they say the French treated them rudely." However, as Paul Kappe notes: "In the United States, waiters can be fired at any time and must work for tips, so they have to be nice. In France, you can’t just fire somebody if they’re not doing a good job. If you could, everyone would be friendly." The Paris tourism board’s initiative comes as Paris faces increased competition as a tourist destination. "If we don’t improve our service," says Francois Navarro, "we will lose money."