Paris, Je T'aime

New code of conduct between Parisians and tourists.

LONDON, July 9, 2007— -- Tourists love Paris -- but not necessarily the Parisians.

As the tourism high season kicks off, the Paris Tourism Office has launched a code of conduct in the hope of improving relations between the Parisians and their visitors.

On documents distributed to service professionals -- cabdrivers, hotel workers and restaurant employees -- the Tourism Office calls for a protocol of respect between the Parisians and tourists.

On the one hand, the French must take the time to answer visitors' questions in English.

They should also inform the tourists on the places of interest in Paris, and show that they value the importance of tourists to the city's livelihood.

On the other hand, visitors are asked to discover French products, respect the city and use public transportation.

Paris' economy is highly dependent on tourism.

"In Paris, tourism has become the first source of employment," said Paul Roll, director of the Paris Tourism Office. He explained that it is therefore crucial to make sure that visitors are not deterred by the attitude of the French.

With amazing museums such as the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay, with its small streets and cafe terraces, "Paris is a must for a tourist," said Ted Stanger, an American author who has lived in France for the past few decades and wrote "Sacré Francais," a sarcastic but nonetheless sympathetic profile of the French.

"It's a magnificent country," Stanger told ABC News, "so people go at least once. The problem is the second trip, as some tourists do not feel very welcome."

One of the main problems is that the French have the reputation of refusing to speak English.

Stanger explains that on the one hand, many American tourists walk into shops and expect the clerks to speak fluent English, and sometimes don't even bother asking whether the salesperson or the waiter speaks English.

The truth is, many French people still struggle with English.

Roll says it's a matter of shyness. "Most French have studied English for at least years, if not seven," he said, "but they are afraid to speak."

According to Stanger, it is a matter of philosophical principles and the perception of France as a great, influential country.

Not everybody "in France has really accepted English as an international language," said Stanger, even "singing in English for a French singer is somehow unpatriotic.

"France is no longer the most significant country on earth. The economy is flipping behind England. To [correct] that you have to make concessions, and be more flexible on language."

Stanger also blames France's conservative national educational system, which to this day still teaches a form of English that exists only in British 19th century literature.

"A student who would score 19 out of 20 at the baccalaureate [French high school diploma], could speak to Charles Dickens, not to Sharon Stone or Woody Allen," said Stanger.

"The French education System doesn't teach the word 'get,'" which is in one American sentence out of two, according to Stanger.

Another common reproach made to the French is what's seen as their aloof manners.

"The American perception of the French is that they are snobby, sophisticated, and not very welcoming," said Stanger.

According to the latest studies commissioned by the city of Paris, the French still have a long way to go before they acquire the reputation of being warm and polite.

But the good news is that their image may have improved in the last years, thanks to many campaigns and efforts led by tourism organizations.

France has been aware of the country's unwelcoming reputation and has launched repeated operations to remedy this among the French.

Recently, tourism organizations distributed T-shirts with smiles in the streets of downtown Paris. They also issued a guide to French shrugs and 'tudes -- a nice way to tell tourists that what might be perceived as a rude facial expression might only be a Gallic facial tic.

"The tourism industry has made some very good efforts to improve," said Stanger. "But some restaurants in France are still 100 years behind."

In some regions of Paris, it's sometimes hard to find a place to have lunch after two in the afternoon, said Stanger.

No wonder McDonald's has been doing so well in the country of baguettes.