Friday, June 21, 2013

Guide to Tourists for Parisians

As I am close to leaving Paris and moving back to the U.S., it is interesting that just now the tourist board and Chamber of Commerce of France's capital should come out with a guide for the capital's inhabitants to try to make the city more welcoming to tourists. A few observations about the "Do You Speak Touriste?" guidebook (or rather, a few observations about the idea because I haven't read the book itself):

1) In my now extended experience (at least by comparison to other tourists who come for just a few days), Parisians have not generally been "rude, overbearing, unpleasant [or] aggressive." I do think we almost have to resort to generalizations and stereotypes when discussing cultures and societies, but perhaps this is one that is changing.

2) There are general differences between being here and in, say, Japan. I do not know how helpful it is to discuss those generalized differences, though. Trying to teach those general differences in an informal way to one city's inhabitants could create as much confusion and misunderstanding as anything else.

3) According to American witnesses in The Greater Journey, the Parisian welcome was very warm and friendly for newcomers back in the 1800s. Interesting if, as a general rule, this was true as opposed to late-20th century Paris.

4) The guidebook idea is not a terrible idea. I would insist, however, that the burden should rather be on tourists to make an attempt to understand and adapt to the place where they want to practice their tourism. This should include adjustments in areas from eating times to personal salutations to public comportment to . My concern, of course, is related primarily to cultural studies and humans' undersanding of one another, while the Paris Chamber of Commerce is probably more focused on the economic considerations of being a welcoming tourist destination. (I am not obliquely criticizing that preoccupation.)

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