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A question about getting directions...

Paris, France
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A question about getting directions...

First, let me say that this is addressed to the "newbie" travellers out there, as I am interested in what they have to say about this. The more experienced Paris visitors will please refrain - as much as possible : )

The ratp.fr site has just published a "Politeness Manual". It's meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but is useful, too. One of the entries concerns "Helping Tourists With Difficult to Pronounce Streets", and suggests that Parisians come forward to offer assistance to tourists struggling to read maps. Granted, this only a suggestion, and most Parisians are too busy and stressed-out to do this - but it's a nice idea, nonetheless...

Considering that most tourists have been taught that anyone offering to help with directions is out to rob or molest them, how do you feel about this?

When I see tourists, obviously lost and miserable, unable to make heads-or-tails out of a map, I have been known to step up and offer assistance - in both French and English. Foreign tourists are grateful for any help, but English-speakers tend to shout "NO!", clutch their belongings to their chests and look around for the nearest policeman (and I'm a lot less disagreeable in person, by the way). This is a fairly recent development - it used to be a nice way to meet people, if you were new to town, and often friendships developed over a cup of coffee.

Assuming this campaign takes off, would you feel comfortable accepting directions from strangers? Appreciate any thoughtful responses...

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Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: A question about getting directions...

I am always surprised at this. I volunteer all the time to take snapshots of couples or families and I'd say that about half the time they take me up and it and return the favor. I never have trouble asking others to take group shots for me. I occasionally have offered assistance to tourists who appear lost and have yet to have anyone snap at me like this, but I can imagine it happening given all of the predators with their 'do you speak English' come ons.

But seriously? People really can't distinguish between the friendly local or tourist offering to help and the scam artist? In all my time in Paris, I have only fallen for a scammer once and that was last year. A middle age frumpy woman reasonably adequately dressed and towing one of those large metal wheelie suitcases near the Edgar Quinet metro asked for assistance. I thought she was a tourist confused about directions; she was a beggar who wanted the '20 Euro she was short for a hotel room.' As soon as she started in on the 20 Euro I knew it was just the latest grifter ploy -- but she had me until we got to that.

People should be able to make a reasonable judgment about those offering assistance; it is a bit sad that American tourists are so fearful. I wonder if it is the constant bath of danger danger danger we are saturated with by our news media. They are always out to get us. Even the weather report makes rain sound like the coming apocalypse.

Seattle
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2. Re: A question about getting directions...

My sister and I have visited Paris 4 times and at least once each trip, someone has offered to help us as we are standing on a corner trying to figure out where we are at and make sure we are heading in the right direction or we are looking at the map trying to figure out where we want to go next. We've never taken it as anything but a nice person trying to help us. Sometimes we take them up on their offer and sometimes we just thank them and decline especially if we are just trying see where we want to go next in the area. This happens to us in other cities too. London, NYC, Rome. We've always appreciated the effort by the person to try and be of help. Granted we still make sure we keep our belongings secure just in case but we don't "clutch" them to us as if the person is going to rob us.

chicago
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3. Re: A question about getting directions...

HI PattyinParis:

That is actually a very good question.

I travel quite a bit by myself, and have been lost many times (definitely not a good sense of directions). I am always pleased if someone asks if I need help when looking lost and struggling with a map. That being said, I hate to say, it also depends on the appearance of the individual. If the person appears 'nice' (nice clothing, etc) I am more incline to accept their help vs. a disheveled person.

And like someone stated above, I have my eyes/hands on my belongings no matter what.

London, United...
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4. Re: A question about getting directions...

I know you only wanted comments from new visitors , but I will chip in anyway. I had been thinking similar thoughts. We were there for a few days at the weekend ( for a rugby match) and as always there were a couple of occasions when we must have looked as though we were lost and locals offered help. I did wonder how often these kind people were rebuffed by travellers who may have become paranoid about the dangers. That would be sad.

For the record we came across no ring people, petition girls etc. The rugby fans were all very friendly and charming, as well they might have been when they were beating our team so decisively:)

New York City, New...
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5. Re: A question about getting directions...

I think Janet is correct that the media has contributed to US travelers being paranoid. I have an awful sense of direction and have always found Parisians to be step in when it's obvious I am lost. I hope that rude visitors don't prevent people from offering help in the future.

Patty, are they distributing hard copy brochures or is it just on the site?

Btw, I love the new metro politeness manual!

Paris, France
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6. Re: A question about getting directions...

Thanks for all the replies thus far...

I asked because this has really become a troublesome new trend - and it's not only been happening to me, but several people I know. I think we would all qualify as "respectable" - well, certainly not suspicious, anyhow.

Last weekend, I offered to help a family who rudely brushed me off - they rushed over to a man selling candied peanuts on the street, instead. Since he didn't speak either English or French, they didn't get any help from him, so they stomped off in a huff - they might still be out there, looking for the Eiffel Tower. Just seems such a waste of time and energy...and misplaced paranoia.

Paris, France
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7. Re: A question about getting directions...

rachel - it's only available online.

Again, it's pretty tongue-in-cheek, but applicable, nonetheless.

You can get the gist of it here: thelocal.fr/20121206/paris-publishes-new-rul…

Paris, France
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8. Re: A question about getting directions...

I have also found this behaviour more and more prevalent, up to the point that I now wait to hear which language is spoken before I offer to help: English=forget it; anything else= help offer. That may be a bit harsh, but it seems to work for now.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: A question about getting directions...

I wouldn't lose sleep over this. 'Wisdom to know the difference" isn't automatically conferred at birth. If you/we are able to make one out of five visitor's stay less stressful by helping, it's worth approaching and offering. I just feel sorry for the others you describe who are destined to have a fretful time in a magical city.

Minneapolis...
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10. Re: A question about getting directions...

>>Assuming this campaign takes off, would you feel comfortable accepting directions from strangers?<<

Patty, I'm a man, I'm never comfortable accepting directions from anyone. :)

seriously,

I qualify for the newbie tourist as I was just in Paris for the first time last month. I can not remember anyone offering to help but I always had my iPhone with me and was looking at the screen. The most time I spent in front of the metro map was maybe a minute, I actually helped others that were lost.

However, on our last night in Paris we had 6 leftover metro tickets that I tried to give to an older couple that was exiting the metro at the same time as I was, the woman yelled NO at me and they walked away.

To answer your question, the posts about the scams and pickpockets had me on high alert but not parinoid, I would gladly accept help as long as there wasn't 3 or 4 people offering their help at the same time.