• Transform magazine
  • October 22, 2020

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France: No more frosty welcomes

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As France launches an expensive effort to end its reputation as one of the rudest places to holiday, we take a closer look at the nation brand described as a paradox.

France is both one of the world’s top tourist destinations, yet at the same time perceived as one of the most unwelcoming. Paris, that legendary world city inextricably associated with fashion, culture and fine food, is also well known for its less-than-polite residents.

Think of those stereotypical French waiters and shop assistants that look at you pityingly as you try to address them in sub-par French. They may either refuse to speak English at all, although you know they can, or immediately launch into heavily accented English, running roughshod over your efforts to engage in French. As a result, the hapless tourist gives up on trying to speak French, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle.

But this year, the government is urging the French, especially those in the tourism sector, to be more welcoming. Tourism is big business for France, accounting for 2m jobs and 7% of the nation’s wealth, according to a recent article in the Telegraph.

The article detailed how French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, was spurred into action when he discovered that people around the world think highly of France as a tourist destination, but are often put off once they arrive to a frosty welcome.

This theory is backed up by user data from TripAdvisor, where travellers regularly vote France as one of the most unwelcoming destinations in Europe, with Paris voted the ‘rudest city’ in Europe.

It’s not the first time France has spotted this problem. Past attempts have been made to fix the country’s reputation for rudeness, but so far all seem to have failed. The latest attempt will follow a comprehensive strategy, involving many aspects of the French tourism universe, to help France keep the tourists coming back for more, instead of scaring them away.