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Jim Eagles: The changing face of service

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French people have been named the most obnoxious hosts in the world, according to a Skyscanner survey.
French people have been named the most obnoxious hosts in the world, according to a Skyscanner survey.

When travel comparison website Skyscanner ran a survey to find the rudest country in the world it's no surprise that France came out on top.

Of the 1200 respondents, 20 per cent named the French as the most obnoxious hosts followed by the Russians on 16 per cent, the British on 10 per cent, the Germans on 9 per cent and the Chinese on 4 per cent.

You'd expect that, because the French do have a reputation for being offensive to visitors, especially rosbifs who can't speak le beau Francais properly. But I'm not sure it's still true.

The first time I went to Paris, about 40 years ago, I certainly thought the locals were an unpleasant bunch. But when my wife and I went back just recently I thought things had changed dramatically.

The people we dealt with in hotels, cafes, on the metro and in the shops were all extremely helpful. Even the waiters in the posh restaurants were pleasant and helpful.

When we finally did run up against a rude waiter he was a source of entertainment - a fascinating museum piece - rather than a cause of irritation. And out in the countryside, in Burgundy and Provence, the locals were uniformly delightful.

The only exceptions were the staffs of some of the great museums and galleries who were just as unhelpful and arrogant as I remembered, and still keep hours designed to suit themselves rather than visitors.

And, when I come to think about it, that's also true of countries like Russia, China and - a country not mentioned in the Skyscanner survey - Greece: the people working in privately run cafes and shops are mostly charming while those working for state-owned museums and hotels are frequently rude, lazy and unhelpful.

Still, I'm sure that's changing, as the old culture of being grateful for whatever crumbs the state deigns to hand out is swept away.

What's happened in Paris shows that attitudes to service can change ... even if tourist memories take a while to fade.

- NZ Herald

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