Paris has launched a new kind of tourist guide: not a guide for tourists, but a guide to different types of tourists for the use of Parisians.
The intention is to encourage the legendarily gruff Parisian hotelier, waiter or taxi driver to be polite to foreign visitors and not to assume that all nationalities enjoy the same things on their holidays.
How useful the guide will be is open to question. British visitors, it suggests, “like to be called by their first names”. Britons, it goes on, want all their activities to be “playful” or to take the form of games. “Les Anglais”, the guide says, insist on eating at the absurdly early hour (for Paris) of 6pm to 7pm.
So on your next visit to the French capital, you may meet a waiter who calls you John or Susan at the first meeting, shoves a menu into your hands at 6pm, and asks you to play a form of charades to guess the desserts. If so, then you know whom to blame.
The Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its Regional Tourism Council have issued a booklet and created a website for tourism professionals called Do You Speak Touriste? The intention, according to Jean-Pierre Blat, the council’s director, is to make sure that foreign visitors are not inadvertently insulted.
“One does not welcome a Japanese and an Italian in the same way,” Mr Blat said. “You have to adapt.” But the reputation of Paris as an unfriendly city is undeserved, he insists.
With 33 million tourists a year, Paris is the most visited city in the world; and the satisfaction rating of tourists is 97 per cent. Nonetheless, Mr Blat admits, Parisians have a poor reputation for politeness, adaptability and knowledge of foreign languages; Paris must learn how to treat foreigners as they expect to be treated.
Thus, according to the guide, Americans want to eat at 6pm, expect to have Wi-Fi everywhere and will call you by your first name within a few seconds. The Chinese are obsessed with shopping and expect everyone to smile. The Germans like precision, cleanliness and handshakes. The Italians are impatient, travel in groups and eat late. The Japanese never complain, except when they go home. The Spanish eat absurdly late (11pm), so warn them about when you close.