Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Worst Tourists in the World are....

Who do you think the worst tourists in the world may be?

Those who are perceived as the most arrogant, the rudest, with little interests in other cultures, and convinced that the rest of the world speaks their language, and so who can’t speak foreign languages?

The Americans? Nope, the French.

That’s at least according to a survey of 15,000 hoteliers carried out by the Expedia travel website published last Wednesday (as reported here, here and here). The best are the Japanese followed by… the Americans, and the French are down at the bottom, 28th put of 28 nations!

Who cares if the Americans are the worst-dressed tourists, they tip better. The French may dress the nicest but along with the Germans they are penny-pinching. The French tourists are not just impolite, they are also arrogant and won’t try the local cuisine, probably convinced that nothing can beat their own anyway. And of course, they won’t speak a foreign language, "ah ben non, alors!" – not even English! I think it is revealing of how the French are generally reluctant to learn foreign languages, something that as a teacher of English in France, I am quite aware of.

Maybe the Americans are also more willing to spend money because they get fewer days on vacation whereas the French and the Germans have to budget their longer vacations more strictly. I would also venture to say that America’s image abroad has made most Americans more flexible and willing to keep a low profile and make all sorts of efforts to reach out. Obviously, it has worked. Besides, those who come abroad are usually the most open ones. After all, it requires efforts these days to bypass the (unjustified and false) fear played out by some media that American tourists in Europe are not welcome.

Of course what a few thousands of snooty European hoteliers may think may not be very important…. or is it? In my experience of the French and the Americans abroad, it rings true.

At least this debunks a few long-held myths in France. The funny part is that those traits (arrogance, disinterest in other cultures, or unwillingness to speak a foreign language) are often what the French have been reproaching the Americans with. The irony here is a killer isn’t it?

It is a good thing, I suppose, that most French tourists actually visit… France. Only 17% of them go abroad for their vacations. A very low number, I think, but probably high enough for the rest of Europe.

One may wonder if the French are better hosts than guests. The latest figure would indicate that they are.: France continues to be the world’s number one tourist destination, with 78 million foreign tourists in 2006. (Not so bad for a country of 60 million people). But is it because of their people or because they have great world-wide famous cultural attractions?

Figures for 2006 show that, among France’s cultural attractions, the Louvre is the biggest crowd puller (7.6 million visitors), then the Eiffel Tower (6.4 million), Pompidou Centre (5.3 million) and Versailles (3.3 million). Outside Paris, the Puy du Fou theme park and [the abbey at] Mont Saint-Michel are the most popular.

Hard to tell what motivates foreign tourists. After all, Italy also has a lot of cultural attractions too.


At 05:14, Blogger Tororoshiru said...

In my experience, French abroad and Americans abroad behave in ways that mirror amazingly perfectly each other... with a major difference: "they" (guess which ones? :D) tip better!
I feel there's something as a "tipping culture" that's typically American and that's, to Frenchies, a totally uncharted continent. What do you tell your French students about this? :)


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