The Worst Tourists in the World

I’ve suspected it all along, but finally I’ve been proven right – I am not the only one who thinks the French are indeed arrogant to the point of being rude. French tourists to be exact.

The Grumpy French Man? By Alfonso Jimenez

My French Encounter

I’ve had the feeling ever since I met that French traveler at a bar in a Guatemalan hostel – in his broken English he tried to convince me vigorously that  the language of Shakespeare was far inferior to that of  Balzac. And he seemed to take pleasure in the fact that the Brits sitting next to us could obviously overhear our conversation. The feeling  later changed into an absolute conviction after I had the misfortune of flying Air France where unpleasant flight assistants were absolutely unapologetic for: a) failing to inform me that my flight was canceled, b) overbooking my connecting flight, and finally c) losing my baggage.

The Bad Southerners

I’ve always been shy about coming out with my prejudice but now it’s officially confirmed: expedia.com has published the results of a worldwide survey clearly showing that I am not paranoid. According to 4,500 hotels worldwide French tourists are the worst when it comes to rudeness, language skills and – a bit surprisingly to me – stinginess. God, it feels good to be right:). The French were closely followed by Spaniards and Greeks, so it does seem there’s a problem at least with the perception of the European southern culture, if not with the culture itself.

The Good

The opposite end of the ranking was occupied by the Japanese, praised worldwide for cleanliness and politeness. Other good guys are:

  1. Japanese
  2. British
  3. Canadians
  4. Germans
  5. Swiss
  6. Dutch
  7. Australians
  8. Swedes
  9. Americans
  10. Danes

Share Your Experiences

Have you met any French tourists in your travels?  Or perhaps you’re French and can explain what has become of the proverbial French chivalry? Post your comments or write to me.

THE RESPONSE

Some time after publishing the post, I got a very interesting e-mail which, with the author’s permission,  I’ve decided to put here since it seems very informative. Do you agree with Romaine’s explanations?

The E-mail

Hello Alex,

I am a French national, however I have been living in Scotland for the past 6 years and I am currently travelling around Latin America. I also have been working in hotels and restaurants / cafes both in Scotland and in France, so I can safely say I have seen my fair share of tourists, French or not.

To some extent, I have to agree with what has been said here. Most French people can’t speak English to save their lives and I really dread meeting other French people when abroad (with the exception of the backpacker scene, where 90% of the people I meet are interesting, or at least not in my hate list after a 3 minutes conversation).

I don’t know where the language issue comes from to be honest, maybe it’s because French people don’t travel as much ? Maybe it’s due to the fact that many nations around the world speak French ? Or the poor level of our english education at school ?
It’s anyone’s guess really, if someone feels he can enlighten me I’m all ears.

Misrepresentation

Now, to the comments above, most of you seem to draw your conclusions from experiences you had with Parisians (which is a bit outside the focus of this post since it was about tourists, but I’ll pass on that). I cannot stress this enough; Parisians are NOT representative of French people. Go to the south of France and you are way more likely to receive a warm welcome (they still won’t speak English though, sorry we’re hopeless that way).
Would Brits agree to be represented by Londoners ? Would Americans say New Yorkers – I know it’s not your capital people, but I know nothing about Washington DC – are a good sample of US friendliness ?

Language

I wouldn’t say that if you don’t speak French in France you won’t even get a look. Here’s a tip (that works in every single country by the way): learn a few phrases like “Sorry, I don’t speak French very well” (Désolé, je ne parle pas tres bien Francais) or even simpler. If you show people that at least you bloody tried, it will go a long way and may help break the ice.
I have seen oh so many english-speaking tourists come to my desk and straight away start the conversation in english without making sure I did speak the language. It always put me in a bad mood from the start.
If you are in France, you cannot demand of people to speak English, I am sorry but this is not our national language. I agree that this is a service that should be provided, specially in the most touristy places. Now be honest, how many of you speak fluently French ? If I visit your country, can I expect someone to speak my language ?

Rudeness

To the author, that French guy was clearly a d**k, and there are quite a few out there. But each nationality has some.
Let me tell you about that American I met somewhere in Honduras if I recall correctly, we were having drinks in a bar and when came the time to pay he took his dollars out, and exclaimed:

“Isn’t it weird that they accept dollars ?”

Nobody paid much attention to the remark, I think we all knew were he was going with that. He still went on with

“It’s the case in every country in Latin America though…”.

He concluded with

“Funny how the dollar is the dominating money in the world isn’t it ?”

which didn’t go so well with the broad panel of nationalities, a lot of which Europeans, that were at the table.
And American Airlines never apologized for losing my luggage either. Yet I am not assuming all Americans are rude.

Stinginess

The “stinginess” is easily explained considering the source of the data – hotels; tipping is not part of French culture (whether it should be or not is subject to discussion, our waiters and hotel staff are pretty well paid already, they don’t live off their tips like in the US), so when French people are travelling, tipping the hotel receptionist, concierge, or waiter simply does not come naturally. And since hell has no wrath like a waiter scorned, people are unlikely to receive a good mark on the “rudeness” criteria if they scored low on the “stinginess” already.

I think a big chunk of the whole issue comes from a cultural difference, rudeness is a relative term interpreted differently in every country. Of course, another big chunk comes from the fact that many French tourists are actually and undeniably rude.

Sorry about that, we’re working on it (I know I am).

Regards, a friendly French traveller

PS: If you feel like “punishing” us for our rudeness by not buying French as the first comment suggests, suit yourself but you’re missing out on some pretty decent wine.



Comments

  1. Two remarks, about the worst and the best. The worst first: In addition to be the worst tourists in the world, French are also possibly the worst hosts. Not only do French hardly speak other languages, they can’t even recognize their own language when spoken with a foreign accent! I am French Canadian (Quebec), and even if my language is indeed French, some waiters in Paris simply don’t understand when I adress them in French and they reply in their notoriously pitiful english. A few of my friends and colleagues from Quebec have had the same experience! Either they genuinely don’t understand, or they do it on purpose… In either case, that does not make them very friendly…

    And concerning the Japanese (supposedly the best), maybe they are indeed the best according to hotel workers, but have you ever wondered what other tourists think of them? I think they are probably among the worst. They don’t seem to understand the concept of taking a line (always passing in front of others!). They won’t let you see anything in a museum because everyone of them seem to have like 10 cameras to take as many pictures as they can while you wait for the good spot. And they are probably the most condescending people on the planet, considering all gaijins as inferior beings. No, definitely, I don’t think they are the nicest tourists…

  2. Hi, I am a Lebanon borne Canadian living in France, where I study General Linguistics. I have no intensions to give opinions I do not have yet or forge conclusions out of observations made with no methodology, although –as any honest traveller– I do happen to be stunned by how some ways seam to be recurrently related to some nationalities, but I’ve travelled enough and to destinations different enough where I staid long enough to have the conviction that everyone is the same. I think the author of that answer e-mail you got is right on many issues, and I’d like to point out that one comment I found sage: “I think this is a mixed bag… I’ve had the worst service and rudest experience as a tourist, AND the nicest service anywhere and one of the best experiences as a tourist, on two separate visits to Paris.”
    The one point I’d like to drag your attention to is the language issue since it is my “domain of expertise”.
    To do short :
    A number of studies have led to an interesting explanation of why the French (meaning the French French, not the French Canadians or other French speaking nations) speak so little English, Spanish, German, … We can historically say France has invented the first sustainable public schooling system in the world. This was achieved in an era in which French was not the only language spoken by nationals hence a number of problems both for the centralized Parisian French speaking power and for good understanding of orders by soldiers during wars –it has been attested that up to WWII, an impressive number of death were caused by a misunderstanding of orders by French soldiers who knew the French language only very approximately. The main goal for that public schooling system was to teach French everywhere in the country so that people could at least understand each other.
    Ever since, French children have had strict and precise grammar classes from an early age –much earlier than in English, German, Dutch, Spanish, … speaking countries– up to almost the end of high school, and still in College, any misspelling can lead to marks off. The different studies have shown that the French fear to make mistakes. A fear that makes them tend to find alternate ways of expressing their thoughts when not absolutely sure of the grammatical or orthographical correctness of their speech.
    One could say that a Frenchman will hardly feel like spontaneously talking English with an American tourist, but he’d love to mail his answer back given the time to correct it with his high school teacher, only to make sure no spelling mistakes have slipped from his pen.

    Regards

  3. My best experience in France consisted of landing in the Paris airport immediately boarding a connecting flight to Strasbourg and travelling throughout the Lorraine and Alsace regions.

    It is helpful to speak at least some French, though.

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