Parisians try to learn how to be nice to Chinese tourists

Not always a fairy tale.
Not always a fairy tale.
Image: Reuteres/Jack Naegelen
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You’ve heard the joke: What’s the one problem with Paris? Parisians. In attempt to counter that stereotype, the city’s tourism board and the Paris Chamber of Commerce have issued a helpful guide to cabbies and other locals on how to welcome foreign guests. (One tip, for example: the British like to be called by their first name.)

The guide’s section for dealing with Chinese tourists is particularly important, given that they are now among the world’s most important groups for tourism industries around the world. By 2015, 100 million Chinese (pdf) will travel abroad annually, according to the UN. Last year, they overtook Americans and Germans as the world’s biggest travel spenders.

The guide “Do You Speak Touriste?”
The guide “Do You Speak Touriste?”

The guide bluntly advises that Chinese traveling abroad are obsessed with shopping: ”Foremost, luxury shopping…they love shopping and luxury,” it says. Chinese tourists are said to divide their spending this way: 40% toward shopping, 16% on eating, 8% on museums and shows, and 6% on transportation.

Chinese tourists have “an idealized and romantic view of Paris,” according to the guide, but that might not last for long. Violence and robberies have started to dent enthusiasm for France, and the City of Lights in particular, long a top tourism destination for the Chinese. In March, after a group of 23 Chinese tourists were robbed at Charles De Gaulle airport, China issued a travel advisory warning its citizens not to “carry wads of cash around or show off their wealth” when visiting the city. The Chinese embassy in Paris says they’ve been getting more complaints about robberies.

For now, Paris can hope that little extra effort in cultural exchange will help. It encourages locals to speak to their guests in their native tongue—”A smile and hello in their language goes a long way”—and offers these pronunciation tips for French speakers:

BonjourNi hao (ni rao)
BienvenueHuan ying guang lin (rouanne ing gouang linne)
MerciXie xie (sié sié)
Au revoirZai jian (dzaï djienne)