Rudeness and Modernity

The Reception of American Tourists in Early Fifth-Republic France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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  • 1 California State University, Los Angeles
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Pierre Dumas had high hopes for the 1965 tourist season. At the very least, the French state secretary for tourism hoped to avoid the frustrations of the previous year, when the US and French press, and even French senators, accused the French of being rude to foreign guests. As warmer weather returned in April, Dumas traveled to the new Orly Airport outside Paris to launch his response. He greeted foreigners, mostly Americans, as they disembarked for stays in France. Young women dressed in the white gloves and modern pink dresses of official Hôtesses de France stood beside him, handing out free roses and perfume bottles. Dumas himself distributed booklets of “smile checks” (chèques-sourire), which the government had printed for its new “National Campaign for Reception and Friendliness.” When tourists felt they received particularly good service in a hotel, restaurant, or elsewhere, they were to tear out one of their ten smile checks, inscribe the name and institution of the friendly employee, and then mail it, no postage required, to the government’s tourist office. At the end of the season, the government would award the ten most-honored French workers with vacation trips of their own to Tahiti, the Antilles or New York City.

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