France remained the world's top tourist destination in 2006 despite a continuing reputation for giving visitors a distinctly frosty welcome.
Grumpy taxi drivers, stony-faced waiters and bad signposting make the tourism industry's achievement of having 76 million visitors last year a little less impressive.
“France is the number-one country in the world in terms of visitor numbers, but nearly the worst of all for a warm reception,” said Jean-Pierre Blatt, director of the Regional Committee for Tourism in Ile-de-France.
Rural areas give a warmer welcome than cities, according to the first findings of a recent study.
“In the major cities, the French are more stressed out, more distant and rarely make an effort to break the ice and approach a foreign tourist,” said Claude Origet du Cluzeau, the report's author.
This, she added, gives the impression that the French are “arrogant, or even scornful.”
Bernard Plasait, member of the Economic and Social Council, says French service industry workers dislike the idea of service with a smile because they fear their “service will be mistaken for servitude.”
Du Cluzeau also said the French refused to speak foreign languages to tourists even when they were capable of doing so.
“It's not a language problem, but one of attitude ... a third of the people in France say they can hold a conversation in English, but they just don't do it,” she said.
“The Spanish don't hesitate to fall back on sign language to communicate with foreigners in order to show their hospitality if they can't speak the language,” she added.
1. distinctly adv.
清楚地 (qing1 chu3 di5)
例: I distinctly remember telling you to turn your music down.
2. reception n.
接待 (jie1 dai4)
例: When J.D. came to visit us, we gave him a great reception.
3. arrogant adj.
自大的 (zi4 da4 de5)
例: Perry is good-looking but he's so arrogant that no one can stand him.
4. hesitate v.i.
猶豫 (you2 yu4)
例: Chris hesitated before knocking on Carla's door because he thought she might be sleeping.