The service industry is an American concept, invented to gain more business from competitors with added courtesy, guarantees, favors, and pleasantry. After all, in which other country can you possibly return bought merchandise that has been open, worn, used, and sometimes damaged? Not in France! Non, non, non.
The rudeness of some service staff in France is the stuff of legend, and even if the problem has most arisen in Paris, it is a fact that a lot of country people do not speak English and can come out as rude to tourists. The café waiters have been the subject of many columns and even book chapters, with their surly manners and sometimes offending demeanor. Parisians have learned to live with the odd fact, but most tourists feel outraged.
Now comes the help. State-owned public transport operator since 1948, the RATP
(Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens) that governs over the Métro, commuters trains and buses system has decided that enough was enough, and produced a manual entirely devoted to teach the French some manners, and help them behave in a more civilized way. A call for public input for a few months over the summer yield a trove of desired changes and resulted in a guide book.
The E-Book is baptized Manuel de Savoir-Vivre à l'Usage du Voyageur Moderne, or étiquette guide for the modern traveler, and gathered over 2,000 entries by the public expressing their behavior wishes from other travelers and users of the Greater Paris wagons. Twelve supreme rules are taking center stage in the book, and they are, as translated:
- Give your seat away
- Do not to eat in your space
- Hold a door to the next person
- Please no blaring music
- Chit-chat in a convivial way with your fellow human beings.
- Greet the conductor
- Help the old lady with her bag to the top of the stairs
- Sneeze in a real handkerchief
- Do not smoke
- No yelling on your cell phone
- Do not stare at beautiful women
- Finally, do not raise your armpits to noses level, especially in summer time
Le Manuel consist of rules divided in four categories such as Politesse (politeness), Bienséance (propriety), Courtoisie (courtesy), and Serviabilité (helpfulness). Since all the suggested tips were gathered and censured by the RATP employees themselves, some might appear strange, such as Greet Your Conductor, hard to do if you don't ride at the front car. Or Do Not Stare at Beautiful Women, that one might not take well in Paris. The do-not-speak-loudly bit will surely come handy when hordes of Americans fill the trains with humongous backpacks and yell at each other from one car to another (who's rude now?)
One of the most ironic rules is the one about smoking, pointing out that the crossed-with- a-red-line cigarette illustration is an actual order, not just some decorative item, considering that the French cannot stop smoking in the subway, a revenge for the ban in public spaces. Designed in the green and red colors of the original métro, the book comes with whimsical illustrations, an old-fashion glimpse to the first days of the metropolitan.
Since it's entirely in French (but of course!), I want to point out that to use the guide, you must click on the dark green banner on top of the opening page of the website and the digital book pages will flip: http://www.chervoyageurmoderne.fr/
Bon Voyage! And tip your hat off to the nice French people!
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