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The Most Common Etiquette Mistakes Americans Make In France

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Last week’s contest opened a can of worms in terms of airplane etiquette. Turns out the bad behavior doesn’t stop when the plane touches down. And mistakes become even more glaring overseas. Peter sat down with Vanity Fair Travel Editor Victoria Mather to find out the etiquette mistakes that make Americans stand out when traveling in France. 

Peter Greenberg: In France, what are the common mistakes Americans make?

Victoria Mather: It’s all about tipping.  Americans are far too generous with tipping. In France, you’re not supposed to tip because it’s already included in the service.  They’ll think you’re absolutely mad.  You also have to understand that there are no nice cab drivers.

PG: That’s not true, I’ve had nice cab drivers.

VM: French ones?

PG: Oh no.  Why are French drivers unpleasant?

VM: They’re just angry.  I don’t think too much about tipping them.  Just round it off.

PG: Some will say New York cab drivers aren’t nice but I’ve actually encountered one that I loved so much he that ended up being my cab driver for over 8 years so I’m determined to find a nice French cab driver.

VM: Another thing is that the French do not have badly behaved children.  There is a new book out by Pamela Druckerman called Bringing Up Bebe in the U.S. In the UK, it’s called French Children Don’t Throw Food.  It’s true because French children are immaculately behaved in restaurants and are well dressed.  If you take a child to the park you don’t take all those toys with you to entertain them: they are meant to climb up a tree and fall out of it like normal children.  And If they interrupt while their mother is talking to someone else, the mother will immediately reprimand them and make them wait and they do.  It is marvelous.  Then if something goes wrong, they merely become disgruntled French cab drivers!

PG: Let’s go back to the double tipping aspect. It’s not just in France, this is everywhere.  We’ve already established that the service charge is included in the bill they give you, but now restaurants are being more sneaky and are including a line on the bill for additional gratuity so if you’re not looking carefully you could double tip!

VM: Yes, be very wary of that one.  The thing that goes off in your head is that they are ripping you off and think you’re a fool so stop feeling guilty and don’t do it.

Here’s one of my French pet peeves: When you go to the lavatory some of them are on time switches and often you can be left in the dark.

PG: So moral of the story is: work fast!

What etiquette mistakes have you seen Americans make abroad? Sound off about overseas etiquette in the comments.

Then keep reading with these etiquette ideas:

By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg Worldwide

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