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.

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]

A light sleeper’s lament: six things you shouldn’t do in a hotel

I used to be able to sleep well in the humblest of places. But the older I get, the harder it is for me to get a good night sleep while traveling. I don’t know if it’s because I usually travel with two toddlers, or if travelers are becoming increasingly ignorant of basic hotel etiquette, or if I’m spoiled by my Tempurpedic mattress at home, but I often find myself sleeping like a baby while on the road. That is, waking up every few hours and wanting to cry.

Here are six things you shouldn’t do in hotels.

Sleep Crimes

Hit the snooze bar. As a light sleeper, I don’t think hotel rooms should come equipped with alarm clocks, and certainly not ones with snooze bars. I’ll never forget a truly diabolical traveler sleeping in the room next to mine in a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few years back. His alarm clock woke us up at 5 A.M. on a Sunday morning. It went off, like a siren, for about 30 seconds before he finally turned it off.

Eight minutes later, there it was again. And eight minutes after that. And again, eight minutes after that. We called down to the front desk and they sent someone up to the room, but their pounding failed to rouse the slumbering maniac. The alarm-snooze-alarm cycle continued until 6 A.M. when our neighbor finally decided to grace the world with his consciousness. But even then, it was hard to get back to sleep, because I was so irate.

Travelers’ kangaroo court verdict: ten years in prison in a cell that shows nothing but Samantha Brown reruns on the Travel Channel.

Converse loudly in the hallway outside my room. It’s amazing how oblivious people can be when it comes to the sound of their own voices. I once had the misfortune to say in a hotel with a huge group of senior women who belonged to a club called the Red Hat Society. On a Saturday morning at 7 A.M. two red-hats were conversing loudly about how annoying someone else was, directly outside my room. I could hear every word. I sat up in bed and listened for about ten minutes, assuming they’d soon go away. They did not, so I got out of bed, and confronted them, bleary eyed in boxers and t-shirt.

“Excuse me, but we’re trying to sleep,” I said. “Do you think you could keep it down, or go in a room, it’s 7 A.M.”

One of the red-hatted women (they really did wear red hats) smiled broadly at me and chirped, “7 o’clock, it’s time to get up!”

Travelers’ kangaroo court verdict: banishment to a monastery that requires a vow of silence.Call me. During a recent one night stay at a chain hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, I fielded more phone calls from the front desk than I’ve received from various family members over the last year. Right after check-in, they called to ask if I liked the room. No worries. Around 8 p.m. they called again, as we were working on getting our children to sleep, to ask if we needed anything. No thanks. At 10.30, about an hour after we’d finally managed to subdue our little ones, the phone jolted them back awake.

“Mr. Seminara, we’re calling to remind you of the hotel’s no smoking policy,” the woman said.

“You’re calling to remind me about the non-smoking policy at 10.30 at night?” I asked, incredulous.

“We’ve had a complaint from someone on your floor who smelled smoke,” she explained.

“So rather than come up to investigate, you’re calling everyone on this floor to remind them of the no smoking policy?”

“That’s right,” she said.

It made perfect sense to her, but then again, she wasn’t going to have to put my kids back to sleep.

Travelers’ kangaroo court verdict: 30 days of solitary confinement.

Banish your children to the hallways. I would rather gouge my eyes out with a monkey wrench than stay in a hotel on a floor with a youth sports team, who are the worst offenders to this rule. I can deal with people who wake me up, but when you spend hours trying to get small children to bed and then they are roused awake by marauding teens and tweens, living it up on the night before their soccer tournament, it’s hard not to get into a homicidally crazy frame of mind.

I once asked a group of little monsters, who were running up and down the halls knocking on doors at random near midnight, what room their parents were in.

“They’re in there,” one said, pointing to a room down the hall. “But they told us not to come back until twelve.”

Travelers’ kangaroo court verdict: for the parents- sixty days in a North Korean labor camp.

Hygiene Faux Pas

Emit uncovered hacking coughs or blow your nose near the breakfast buffet. This should be common sense, shouldn’t it? But why do I see people who look like they’ve got Bubonic Plague fingering every roll on the breakfast table?

Travelers’ kangaroo court verdict: 90 days of eating bizarre foods with Andrew Zimmern.

Discharge bodily fluids on the bedspreads and blankets. An ABC News investigation of hotel chains in 2006 found bodily fluid stains on the floor, bedspread and walls. Really folks, if you must discharge bodily fluids, do so in the toilet or on the sheets, which are actually changed.

Travelers’ kangaroo court verdict: 60 days of baths in an open sewer.

Image via Fairy Heart on Flickr.

Four United Kingdom cities show what rudeness is, Manchester meanest

Four levels of rudeness in the United KingdomSometimes, it can be pretty hard to face facts. Nobody wants to be called rude, and many destinations make great efforts to be perceived as welcoming. Well, forget what you see in the brochures and pretty PR pictures – some places are just tough.

Like the United Kingdom.

Now, I’ve hit London and several cities in Scotland. I had no problems at all. Then again, I’m from New York and grew up in Boston, two towns with reputations for rudeness over here. So, there’s a shot I just missed it. Thankfully, The Sun picks up the trail and shows us just how rude the people of Manchester, London, Glasgow and Bristol can be.

Why is The Sun picking on these three cities? Well, it’s pretty sad, really. A 77-year-old man lay unconscious on the street for close to five hours in freezing weather. Hundreds of people walked by and gave not a damn.

Of course, this could have happened in any major city, but The Sun decided to operate in its own back yard. Let’s take a look at what the newspaper learned by leaving a reporter out on the ground in below-freezing conditions:1. Manchester: The most sympathy the reporter got here was from one woman: “I thought you were dead. Your face didn’t look good.” Meanwhile, 15 people ignored him in 13 minutes. A builder asked his friend, “Is he homeless or p***ed?” but did nothing and several shoppers stared.

2. Glasgow: At the freezing mark, a philosophy student checked to see if the reporter was breathing. Was he rude? Not at all! In fact, Marc Deane, the concerned citizen who stopped, told The Sun, “”Some people don’t want to get involved in anything out of their routine. But it’s a small price to pay if somebody’s life is at stake.”

3. London: It took six people for someone to care to roll up and say something. The rest, according to The Sun, were severe: “One man gave barely a second glance and a grunt before walking on, still chatting on his mobile. Others just looked straight through our reporter.”

4. Bristol: Like Glasgow, Bristol knows how to treat a cold-weather victim. The reporter was “picked up off the ground almost as soon as he hit.” Bravo, Bristol![pho

[photo by Lara604 via Flickr]

Travelocity survey says: fat, smelly and coughing the worst to be sitting next to

A Travelocity survey confirms what we knew all along – smelly passengers, coughing passengers and “passengers of size” are amongst the worst people to be sitting next to in the air.

The results are from the Travelocity 2009 “rudeness poll”, asking people a variety of questions. In total, the survey interviewed just under 1600 people, from the US and Canada. When the survey expanded on “large passengers”, 44% said the airlines should provide a second seat for free, while 39% said fat passengers should pay for their own space.

When asked about hotel items taken from the property, people either lied, or are just more honest than I expected – 13% of people never take anything from their room, and just 1% admitted to stealing dishes and silverware.

The survey is very well put together, and a lot of work was put into explaining the results. If you’d like to read more about rude passengers, check out the full version of the 2009 Travelocity Rudeness Poll (PDF file).

%Gallery-10616%

%Gallery-73517%