"Do you speak touriste?" Paris's new campaign to be friendlier to tourists!

Flow Restaurant earned two thumbs up last night for the friendly staff, tasty food and superb view!

Paris isn't known for friendly waiters. Unlike those in the United States, they don't squat down next to your table, introduce themselves as "Josh" or "Tiffany" before telling you the specials for the day or interrupt your meal every couple of minutes to ask if you would like something else, such as the bill. Parisians waiters are professional. They've been taught to observe from afar and not hover. They wait to bring the check until after you ask for it because it would be rude to rush your meal.

Things, however, were remarkably different when Stéphane and I dined at the newly opened Flow Restaurant at the Berges de Seine last night. For starters, the smiling waitress warmly replied bien sûr after I asked for a carafe of water to go along with my wine. When our drinks took slightly longer than normal to arrive, she made a special trip to our table to apologize, again with a smile. The waitress explained that the kitchen staff was washing glasses as quickly as possible but that they had been caught off guard by the success of the ephemeral restaurant next to the Seine and were having a hard time keeping up with the orders. But it was only after the waitress glanced at my camera and asked if we had enjoyed our hamburger and meat plate that I understood. She thought that we were visitors from abroad and was doing her best to "speak touriste".

In an effort to maintain its position as the world's top destination for foreign tourists, 30,000 copies of a booklet entitled, "Do you speak touriste" have been distributed to taxi drivers, waiters, hotel managers and sales people in tourist areas. The six-page booklet focuses on French, Belgian, Dutch, British, German, Spanish, Italian, American, Japanese and Chinese tourists and gives suggestions for how these various nationalities prefer to be treated. Americans, for example, expect more personalized service and require access to wireless internet to use their smartphones and tablets. British tourists prefer to be called by their first names and like when cultural offerings are also entertaining. French visitors from the provinces don't want to be treated like tourists, while the Japanese never complain about anything while they're in Paris but do once they've returned home.

When I posted a link to an article about Paris's new campaign on "Out and About's" Facebook page, it attracted some very interesting responses. Here are some of them:

Peter: I don't think I'm yet ready to hear "Have a nice day!" After buying my morning escargot.

Travel Fairy: This is the most ridiculous thing ever. If people want a homogenized home experience, stay home. Why go to another country if you don't want to experience it as it is.

Joseph: I can't imagine the waitresses at Le Petit Benoit would give a damn. Or the waiters, and one waitress, at Flore. Silly idea. Why the inferiority complex Paris?

Denise: The British like to be called by their first names"???? NOO! I just LOVE to be addressed as "Madame"!!

Paris Art Beyond the Louvre: I have not personally experienced the proverbial Parisian rudeness. Often, what American tourists experience as rudeness is just cultural misunderstanding.

Andrew: Shred this booklet.....Paris should be appreciated for what she is, not for what some chinless wonder well versed in corporate jargon thinks she should be....

Yvonne: Paris is perfect, we go in fact just so the French can ignore us.....lol.

Thérèse: Everyone has been lovely when I've been there. I despise it here in the States when I walk into a place and they shout hello across the room, refer to us as "guys" or say "no problem" instead of "you're welcome". Yes, I would rather shop and dine in France.

Please click here to view "Do you speak touriste" in French. With special thanks to Parisdise for tracking down the booklet on the internet!


  1. This is hilarious!! I never knew that such booklets were distributed. But do you think it's really having an impact on the way French service staff treat people? I guess it might be too early to tell as well!



  2. Oh Mon Dieu!! Are they trying to "Americanize" Paris even more?
    I'm annoyed by the overly familiar and way too-smiley-all-over-you servers in the US. It's a bit too much.

    I'm not saying I like people who deal with customers to be rude but like someone said on one of your FB comments, "If people want a homogenized home experience, stay home."

    But now that I think about it, I did find people a lot friendlier this time around. Maybe just a little is good, but I don't think Paris would be the same if all were smiling and saying "how'd you doing" as they passed you by.
    Or maybe yes? hmmmm

  3. This time I was so surprised how friendly the Parisians are. Believe me, 20 years ago it was really bad to ask someone. The Grande Nation has become almost amiable to the tourists. Well, I also do not want to hear constantly "Have a nice day", but a little kindness is never wrong?

  4. Granted, I'm not really British, but as with Denise the comment on Brits liking to be addressed by eir first names struck me as a bit odd. I hate when people i don't know overuse my name! And I remember growing up my (British) grandmother and I had a little routine of saying "thank you", "you're welcome", "have a nice day" to each other - the point being that this was such a weird American thing to do (sounds a bit strange now, doesn't it?)

  5. I really like the FB responses - Joseph's especially, "Why the inferiority complex, Paris?"

    And love it that the Japanese smile isn't to be trusted, as they unload their complaints along with their camera cards once home.