French Given Etiquette Manual To Combat Rudeness

paris eiffel tower
Gary Cycles, Flickr

French tourism authorities desperate to overhaul the country’s reputation are handing out a manual aimed at teaching locals how to be polite to foreigners. France is the number one tourist destination in the world with nearly 30 million people visiting the capital in the past year; however, many foreigners leave Paris feeling snubbed by the locals.

The unhelpful tone and attitude used by shopkeepers or the unwillingness to speak English to tourists has earned the French a reputation for rudeness causing tourism bureaus to fear they will start losing visitors to friendlier cities in Europe.

The six-page booklet “Do You Speak Touriste?” teaches locals how to greet foreigners in a number of different languages and explains some of the cultural peculiarities of various nationalities. This includes referring to Brits by their first names, welcoming Italians with a firm handshake and greeting the Chinese (who are described as “fervent shoppers”) with a smile and a “Ni Hao.“Around 30,000 copies of the etiquette guide have been handed out to wait staff, taxi drivers, hotel managers, retail sales staff and other Parisians who regularly come into contact with tourists.

This is not the first attempt to encourage the French to be more polite to visitors – just last year the Parisian transport authority launched an ad campaign to end rudeness, and back in 2008, a group of locals set up a meet and greet service designed to showcase the friendlier side of the local folk. Five years on, the effort to combat rudeness continues… old habits, it seems, die hard.

Naughty Place Names You Never Noticed In Your Atlas

If geography has always seemed like a rather boring subject to you, chances are you’ve just been looking at the wrong kind of maps. Because one man has put together an online atlas that provides hours of giggle-inducing, snigger-triggering, head-scratching fun.

Londoner Gary Gale created a website where he brings together hundreds of rude place names located across the globe. Towns, villages and streets with less than polite monikers have all been collected in the online project dubbed “Vaguely Rude Place Names of the World.”

Some of the names on the map will no doubt ring a bell – “Titicaca” in Bolivia and “Brest” in France are among the more infamous of the bunch. But there are plenty of other dubiously dubbed towns that will leave you wondering, “What were they thinking?” Here are a few hard-to-believe ones in the United States:Intercourse, PA

Climax, MI (There are actually several towns across the country with this rather popular name)

Wet Beaver Creek, AZ

Virginville, PA

Horneytown, NC

We can only imagine the embarrassment when spelling out a home address in one of these towns!

[Photo credit: screenshot from Vaguely Rude Place Names of the World]

Rude US Customs Officials: How Not To Welcome People To The United States

U.S. CustomsSome people should not be allowed to wear a uniform.

While flying from Spain to the U.S. to attend the Gadling annual team summit, I touched down first at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. I got into line at U.S. Customs to enter the country.

The line was in a huge room with a row of bulletproof glass booths manned by U.S. Customs & Border Protection officials checking passports and visas. These booths blocked entrance to the baggage claim area and, officially, the United States. The line for U.S. citizens and Green Card holders was long but moving steadily thanks to several booths being open and the generally efficient work of the U.S. Customs folks manning them.

The line for foreigners was a different story. Only one booth was open and the line was practically at a standstill. There was a bit of grumbling in various languages but no loud complaining. Everyone just stood there looking jetlagged while watching a big flat screen TV hanging over the booths.

It was playing a promotional video about all the things to see in the United States. Images of the Grand Canyon, Alamo, Yosemite and other great attractions flickered across the screen, interspersed with a diversity of smiling Americans saying, “Welcome.”

As I waited my turn, one woman in her early twenties who looked like she was from Southeast Asia walked up to the head of the foreigners’ line where an airport worker stood.

“Excuse me,” the Asian woman said with a heavy accent, holding out her ticket, “I will be late for flight.”

“There’s nothing I can do,” the worker said, waving her off. “Get back in line.”

“But the flight–“

“Wait in line!”

The Asian woman quickly retreated, looking at her watch.I was about to shrug this off as Case #4,589,513 of Airport Rudeness when the tale took a turn for the worse. After a couple of minutes, the airport worker called over a U.S. Customs officer. I hesitate to describe him because you might think I’m exaggerating, but believe me when I say he was short, with a big paunch and black, greased back hair. His face was also greasy and over a poorly trimmed mustache he had a big, pockmarked nose – a boozer’s nose, a Bukowski nose.

The airport official said something to him and pointed at the Asian woman. The passenger looked over hopefully. The officer summoned her by jutting his chin in her direction.

The woman approached with her ticket held out.

“Excuse me. I am late for flight. . .”

The officer gestured at the ticket.

“What’s this?”

“My flight. . .”

“So you’re late? Everybody’s late! Hey, is anyone else here late?”

“I am!” some British wanker chimed in.

“Go,” the Customs agent said, dismissing her with a wave of the hand.

She stood there a moment, looking confused.

“Get back in line!” he shouted.

I almost said something. I almost said, “I’m not late for my flight. I have a three-hour layover. She can go in front of me. And stop being so unprofessional.”

But I didn’t. Unlike last month’s run-in with a rude airport security official, I was trying to enter a country, not leave one, and speaking up against this lowlife wouldn’t help the Asian woman and would almost certainly get me in trouble. So I didn’t say anything. I still feel bad about it, but there really wasn’t anything I could do. The fact that he did this within full sight of several of his coworkers showed that his work environment didn’t discourage that sort of thing.

Another small man with a bit of power treating other people like dirt.

We kept waiting in line as a succession of TV Americans welcomed us with big smiles. After a while the Asian woman stopped looking at her watch. She’d missed her flight.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Airline Madness: Rude airline staff vs. Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing

Airline Madness is Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances. You can catch up on all of the previous tournament action here.

gadling airline madness rude staff electronic devices

Our penultimate first round Airline Madness match-up pits #7 Rude airline staff against #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff and landing. While we almost expect other passengers to be obnoxious, airline employees work in customer service positions and should conduct themselves accordingly. Yet, short tempers, terse responses and ambivalent tones seem to be the norm when dealing with the folks in uniforms. We’re also infuriated by having to turn off our electronic devices during takeoff and landing despite insufficient evidence to support whether these practices are even necessary.

We have more to say on both of these peeves – and your chance to vote – below.#7 Rude airline staff
What happened to “the customer is always right”? While airline employees don’t need to acquiesce to every obnoxious customer request, they should treat passengers with respect and seek to be calming, helpful members of the travel experience. Sadly, though, too many gate agents, flight attendants and airport staff are short-tempered, ill-mannered and jaded. When customers need help most, they often encounter attitudes that simply exacerbate the problem.

#10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing
As previously mentioned, little-to-no evidence exists that electronic devices actually pose a risk to airplane equipment. This is particularly true for devices that do not have data access or have been switched into airplane mode. Why should we have to turn off our music and put away our Kindles simply because the cabin door has closed (especially when, as is often the case, takeoff is still 30 minutes away)? If you’ve ever been on a flight in which you heard somebody’s cell phone ring and then landed safely, you know that even mobile phone service isn’t interfering with the captain’s ability to control the plane.

Only one of these annoyances will punch its ticket for the second round. Vote for the one that you simply can’t stand and let us know why you feel that way in the comments.
%Poll-73831%
First round voting ends at 11:59PM EDT on Friday, March 16.

More Airline Madness:
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #16 Disgusting bathrooms
#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures
#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets
#4 Baggage Fees vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats
#5 Lack of overhead space vs. Inattentive parents of crying babies
#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment
#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
Hotel Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

Babies and first class: why is this an issue?

babies first classEarlier this week, I saw a story about babies and first class air travel posted on Facebook. The Facebook poster asked our own Heather Poole (flight attendant, mother, and new book author!) for her thoughts on the story, and she replied, “I’m fine with babies in first class. Usually they just sleep.” Columnist Brett Snyder is a frequent flier and new dad wondering if he should use miles to upgrade his first flight with the baby. Reading the article and the many comments, I wonder: why is this (or really any story about babies and airplanes) a contentious issue?

Long before I even thought about having children, I thought the same about babies in first class that I thought about anyone in the front of the plane: must be nice for them. Sure, it might be a waste of money to give a premium seat to someone whose legs don’t touch the ground and who can’t enjoy the free Champagne, but it’s the parents’ choice to splurge on the ticket. If the parents are more comfortable, the kid might be happier and thus quiet — a win-win for everyone on the plane. Does the child “deserve” to sit up front? Perhaps not, but airplane seating has never been based on merit. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, a passenger is a passenger, no matter how small.As the veteran of nearly 20 flights with an infant in Europe, the US and trans-Atlantic, I’ve been fortunate to fly a few times with my daughter in business class. While the roomy seats and meals make a 10 hour flight easier with a baby, more valuable is the ability to skip check-in and security lines, board the plane early, and spend layovers in a spacious lounge with a place to heat baby food or change a diaper. Some of those perks used to be standard for all passengers with small children, but have now gone the way of the hot meal in coach. Some airlines still make travel easier for parents: JetBlue is one of the only US-based airlines to allow you to gate-check a stroller of any size and check your first bag free (checking a bag becomes inevitable with a baby). Gulf Air offers free “Sky Nannies” on long-haul flights for young children, and Lufthansa offers a guide service (for a fee) to escort families traveling through their German hubs. Turkish Airlines (my most frequently-used airline while I live in Istanbul) always offers a “baby meal” and blocks off empty seats when possible to give us more room.

I’m also fortunate to have an easy baby who so far (knock on wood) has been very well behaved on every flight. This is in part very good luck, but also due to the fact that I watch her constantly and head off any signs of crying before they start. I’ll hold and feed her as often as it takes, even if it means I rarely rest anymore on a plane. Many of the same people who’ve given me “the look” when boarding with an infant have complimented me after on her behavior. Brett also notes in his article: “Don’t just sit there while your baby screams. Do everything you can to calm him and people will be more understanding.” This is good advice, but does it really need to be said?! I’d never dream of sitting by idly while my child disturbed other people and I’m embarrassed by any other parents who would consider such behavior acceptable. Still, I recognize that even with the most watchful parents, sometimes a cranky baby is unavoidable but I hope that when/if that day comes, my fellow passengers will see how hard I’m trying to make the flight easier for all of us. Better still, if I anticipate a difficult age for my baby to fly, I’ll look into alternative methods of travel (or postpone until an easier time).

If we are going to ban babies from first class, or even segregate them from adults on all flights, why stop there? Why not a separate flight for the armrest-hogs, the obese, the incessant talkers, or the drunk and belligerent? I’d like a plane full of only frequent flyers, who know not to use their cell phone after the door closes, who don’t rush the aisles the minute the wheels touch down, who don’t recline their seats during drink service or bring smelly food (or nail polish) onto the plane. Start flights for only considerate, experienced travelers and you will find me in the front of the plane, with my baby on my lap.

For more about (considerate) travel with a baby, read my past “Knocked Up Abroad” stories here.

Vote in Gadling’s Airline Madness Competition!

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