Rebranding destination France

What images do La Marianne, The Loire Valley and Gewürztraminer bring to mind? Probably none, unless you were born in France or spent significant time here. But this trio forms the new mantra of tourism ministry chief Frederic Lefebvre. He wants visitors to spend more time in France and could soon be in a town near you with the following message: There is more to see in France than the Eiffel Tower and the picturesque urban sprawl around the monument’s base.

And there is another image that worries Lefebvre even more. That is, that of the haggardly restaurant waiter whose main job consists of ignoring and sneering down hungry customers in equal measure.

"We would like to make a strong effort to improve the sense of welcoming in France," Lefebvre told a group of tourism professionals in New York this month, according to "We are number one in the world in terms of the number of tourists (76.8 million in 2010)…But, in terms of sales, we are very far behind the US," he lamented.

In other words: “Sorry we’re rude. But can you give us more money?”

While people who actually visit France go home with few, if any, stories of French rudeness, Lefebvre is going around adding credibility to the fable. The diversification-accommodation combo is at the core of the ministry’s new marketing strategy, and its website,

Conspicuously absent from the website are pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, chocolate éclairs and Marcel Marceau-like mimes. Figuring prominently are provincial capitals, UNESCO World Heritage sites, summer festivals and regional vineyards. That and videos of the smiliest people you ever saw.

But as the website battles preconceptions of rudeness it is also hurting the image of French savoir-faire. Dizzying videos and poorly translated text is bound to leave potential tourists baffled as to what they might expect from a trip here.


A sample from the website:

Montpellier: Discover a city in turmoil and sites are among the most prestigious World Heritage”. Does that mean we'll be watching a "Medieval Times" show done on a massive scale?


Nantes: Recognised as European capital of good living, between the westerly winds, scents of iodine and salt and light of the Loire, Nantes recounts his maritime adventure” Should we expect story time with a retired boat captain with one eye and an aversion to soap?

The tourism ministry may in fact succeed in changing ideas about French hospitality, but in unexpected ways. If foreigners start spending more vacation time off the beaten track in France - and if they manage to survive the pitchfork battles in Montpellier - they will certainly meet more French nationals. That may do more than any marketing ploy ever could to bury the reputation of that rude Parisian waiter.

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My wife and I spent three months in France for study, visiting the sights, and meeting the French. The people were kind, friendly, and very supportive of us despite the fact that we didn't speak French well. The only time I heard some rude comments from a French person was when an American tourist was shouting at them in English. Rude people are not liked anywhere in the world . . even the USA.
On my two trips to France I have found this to be most untrue. The French have been charming, helpful & kind. I've had everything from a man stopping to help me because I looked lost to a waiter putting his jacket over my shoulders as it was cold and I hadn't bought my jacket. My French language skills are limited but I find if you make an effort and are polite people will help you.
In my experience, this is a "few bad apples" stereotype, and perhaps pre-financial crisis. I've been a frequent visitor to Paris (3-4 times per year for the past few years) and have found people to be incredibly nice and helpful, from people in shops and restaurants to people in the street - despite the language barrier (which is, technically, *my* problem and not theirs). It would be helpful (and more useful for tourists) to find more signage in English, especially at historical sites.
French people are not rude - at least on Cote d'Azur. The food is good and the climate is perfect. What is difficult for foreigners is driving a car - people use a horn all the time, the road signs are not clear (at least to me) and you do not feel comfortable driving in France comparing to other European countries.
I have been to the Vendee area and Brittany several times. I have only been treated in a courteous manner at all times. I agree with the first response that the people still retain some manners and seem quite proffessional. I have found this when dealing with old and young alike. A beautiful country to visit. ps I'm off to Spain this summer, well you can't go to France every year now can you?
It is not the French that are rude. It is everyone else. The French people still observe Western manners which have all but disappeared in the states. The fact that when the Queen of England made a toast at a White House dinner several years ago and no one stood up shows even our elite in this country have lost their social graces. Now imagine being in customer service in France and having to put up with loud vulgar customers who dress in t shirts and shorts and expect to be seated at the chic restaurants of Paris. They are not rude they are disgusted. There is a difference. I do hope the French are not adopting the American motto " If all else fails lower your standards." That would be heartbreaking.
Rude waiters and taxi drivers too.
The French government could very easily fix the problem of rude waiters by repealing the law that requires a tip to be included in the restaurant bill. When waiters know that the amount of the tip depends on the quality of the service provided, the service will improve. Before the law was enacted, France was known for having the best service in the world. When the law took effect, it took only six months for France to develop a reputation for bad service.
I've always wanted to visit France. Many people tell me to visit Paris, however, I'd like to visit southern France and see the history, the scenery, and the quaint villages that many don't see while they visit France. I've heard of stories of people dealing with rude waiters or being chastsised for not speaking fluent French, however, it must be few and far between as people would stop visiting France if that was the case everywhere and anywhere they went in France. I hope that within a couple f years I'll be able to visit France and if everything goes the way I want it, move to the southern part of the country(somewhere around Narbonne or Toulouse hopefully).

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