In a rare admission of their flaws, the French have resolved to be more welcoming to the ‘ros-bif’ Brits who visit their capital City. Their stark admission follows a recent survey which reports that after “cheaper transport” Brits would rather have a “bigger welcome from the French” in order to entice them to visit Paris.
The poll, commissioned by the Paris Tourist Board also highlighted the fact that two-thirds of people who do actually visit the French Capital find communication with the Parisians difficult, relying on hand gestures and ‘franglais’ (a mixture of French and English). A further 34 percent of those questioned make no attempt to speak French and stick to English when visiting our Gallic neighbours.
A new advertising campaign and website, launched by the Paris Tourist Board, sets out to prove that speaking francais is irrelevant but understanding the Parisian attitude is a must, especially since only 10 percent of communication is verbal! And, with nearly 60 percent of those questioned believing that to see a French man holding his hand above the head means that ‘it is likely to rain’, the website is a timely launch to teach Brits the correct answer: that the man is in fact actually ‘fed up’!
Claiming to be misunderstood, the Paris Tourist Board has launched the campaign to remind the British that while Parisians aren’t the most welcoming to foreigners, the road to easy communication lies in hand signals and non-verbal gestures. This is a view by supported by Graham Hales, Executive Director of Interbrand, whose recent research looked into the core elements of communication, he said: “We have discovered that 55 percent of communication is non-verbal, with tone accounting for another third, so it is no surprise that Brits get ‘put off’ visiting France since the tone of voice of the French is very different to that of the English.”
As a witty and light-hearted interpretation of the Entente Cordiale, the new website www.cestsoparis.com has been launched to train Brits in the art of understanding French hand signals and gestures, including the infamous ‘Gallic Shrug’. The website also points out the diverse range of activities and sights on offer in Paris and aims to show the English that Paris is far from being merely the romantic and historic city that they may have been taught about at school but, rather, that it is a vibrant destination brimming with exciting events throughout the year that make it worthy of more regular visits. The aim of which is to entice Brits to Paris on a more regular basis, whether for romance, culture, family breaks or simply to sample the delectable cuisine. Although 67 percent of those questioned said that sightseeing in Paris interests them most, many of the Brits that were questioned also stated they are keen on French food and drink, shopping and the arts when visiting the Capital.
Henriette Zoughebi, President of the Regional Committee of Tourism for Paris ële-de-France, commented: “Our research has indicated the frustrations that the French have long suspected visitors to Paris may encounter. That is to say that despite the many cultural parallels between the two great cosmopolitan cities of Paris and London, the language difficulties sometimes prove off-putting to our UK guests, with visitors frequently misunderstanding the Parisian attitude. With this in mind we have launched a light-hearted campaign which we hope will help Brits appreciate that beneath the cool Parisian exterior lies the ability for us to make fun of the stereotypes surrounding our unusual demeanour.”
“With Paris due to become even more accessible from the UK this year, thanks to the opening of the King’s Cross Eurostar terminal connecting to trains from the North of England, we hope that the new advertising campaign and website will help travellers appreciate that the French Capital’s combination of traditional charms, modern attractions and colourful events makes it somewhere worth returning to time and time again. As such, we hope that this small gesture will go some way to improving the relationship between the English and the French - and what better way to knock down any perceived cultural divides and build on our famous cordiale than through the power of humour!” Henriette continued.
The Eurostar service, which will transport Londoners to Paris quicker than travelling by train to Manchester, has made it easier to spend a weekend in Paris. Coupled with the fantastic sights, cultural events and the Rugby World Cup that is taking place in the city this year, (of which 80 percent of those questioned were completely unaware!) Paris is an ideal weekend break destination.