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American politics

I had traveled to France about 20 years ago. Using Rick's book and had an amazing experience. My son and his fiance are planning a trip to France this summer. I have not been there for 2 decades, and would like opinions of those who have traveled there recently. Has recent U.S. foreign policy impacted how American tourists are treated? Please know that I am not going to repost this on any media. I am not trying to make a political point. I just want my son and his bride to have a great honeymoon. Thank you.

Posted by
357 posts

We have traveled to France five times in the last six years. We have always been treated as we would be at home and I have to say on many occasions probably better. We do not know the language but learn the pleasantries. We do our very best to be good ambassadors of the U.S.

Posted by
6570 posts

Most Europeans have been fed by the slanted U.S. media, and they have.no idea what politics are like here. Refuse to speak politics and everything will be all right.

Posted by
2884 posts

We were last in France several years ago and never felt we were treated differently. In fact, we have always felt welcomed wherever we have traveled throughout the world. I have not heard about American tourists being mistreated due to "U.S. foreign policy." France is one of our special places to visit!

Posted by
276 posts

They have enough of their own problems to worry about ours. The media likes to start fights. We were there last year and found ordinary people wonderful and helpful. Even in Paris we had a lady on her way to work help us without our asking. The only annoying loud mouths were in small restaurants near the university. No different than this country really.

Posted by
503 posts

No different than under any other administration. I think the success of their honeymoon will depend far more on their itinerary and attitude towards things that are different from home than on U.S. foreign policy.

Posted by
1147 posts

I would advise your son and fiance to begin every conversation with a formal greeting (bon jour Madam, etc.) The only tourists (American and otherwise) I saw treated "rudely" were people who just approached someone and started talking without greeting the person (i.e. starting the conversation with "Can you tell us..".. instead of Bon jour) I have been told that it is considered rude to do this and so they will feel free to be rude back. I have had people comment on American politics, (both positive and negative), but it has never influenced how we were treated. We always greet everyone with respect and have been treated graciously in return.

Posted by
1886 posts

It would be VERY rare that anyone would bring up US politics or treat you differently, provided you are polite and not personally act like you-know-who.

The only real US-related questions that we have faced in our travels (and it is not usually one of the first topics those from other countries will bring up, but more after rapport is developed:

1) Either asking if it is safe in our country, or they comment they would be fearful to visit our country due to the gun issue.

and

2) We have been asked HOW it ever happened (the results of the election)....we just agree with them and ask for prayers for our nation.

But, that said, many other countries are dealing with their own issues.

We do find it amazing how many from other countries know (accurately) so much more (from news sources) about current events in our country than the typical "man on the street" in our country.......regardless if the person is a taxi driver or a doctor. People seem to really follow what happens in the US.

But, what over arches any other topic is how soooo many young people in other countries dream of coming and living in the US. Those whose adult children live here or have studied here are proud to share that. Such is often shared when we ask if they have ever visited the US. When the answer is yes , typical destinations have been New York City, Florida, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, sometimes the Grand Canyon. That gives us a chance to share how very diverse the US is and how there are so many other places to visit, and we start listing along with the whys...............that typically steers the conversation to something positive!

Despite our issues as a country, many people still see it as the land of opportunity. It is still very good and comforting to come home to the USA!! We are very blessed and re: issues of today as they say, "this too shall pass." ([Please never miss the opportunity to vote...no matter what your views are....vote!)

Most countries welcome visitors (who are polite) to their country, as it helps their economy. Just as we are glad when someone shows an interest in our country and our lifestyles, so are those in other countries. If you have a genuine interest, people are glad to engage and it is amazing what you can learn by talking with people.

Posted by
7996 posts

I just spent this June in Paris. The answer to your question is No.
I agree w Nancy above, their attitude will set the tone. If they learn the basic phrases (hello, please, thank you, excuse me can you help me) in French before they go, and always say Bonjour before speaking to anyone, they will be treated at least as well as here, and quite likely better.

Posted by
1016 posts

I've been in Europe during the Iraq War and after Trump won and the only times I've ever talked politics is in a pub with fellow travelers. If you don't bring it up, most people won't ask. As another poster said, most people have their own problems to deal with. That being said, there have been times where some idiot will make a comment about Americans, but then we have our own idiots here talking about immigrants.

As long as they are polite and happy, they will have a wonderful time in France.

Posted by
7996 posts

The French love to talk politics. I speak French so I had conversations very often (all of June ‘18 and all of Feb ‘17) with French people asking me to explain what the heck happened to the US starting in Nov 2016. They are very curious and want to understand how it happened. And I gladly explain. But if a visitor / tourist doesn’t speak French, 99% of French people will not bring it up.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you all for your help with advice for my son. I appreciate the time you put into your responses. Merci'

Posted by
12400 posts

I was in France the beginning of May, ie Paris and then again at the start of June, having backtracked after the rest of the trip. Last summer I was also in Paris for a couple of days. I always stay at the same 2 star hotel. They know me as American, passport wise, and talking wise. When I use a credit card, eg, to pay for dinner, "they" know that I'm from here. Bottom line is no problems. Any concerns you might entertain are groundless.

I've been going to France ever since 1973, against the background of the Vietnam war, Nixon, Watergate, and I was in France again in 2003 when Bush invaded Iraq, when anti-US Iraq war opposition in France stood at 83% In Germany it was even higher, ie 86% against Bush's war against Iraq. Regardless of how Americans are treated, reacted to, I continue to go over. Likewise in Germany too.

Posted by
3 posts

I’ve been to Paris 12 times over the past 20 years-the last time was September. We have always been treated respectfully and often with kindness. There have been a few times someone will ask a politically based question-what do you think of @#$ or who would you like as president…It seemed to be out of curiosity. I agree with others. We are treated well as long as we know their customs and take the time to be courteous.

Posted by
12373 posts

We just got home from a trip to France, in the Alps and Alsace. We have been before and were not treated any differently this time. If politics came up at all, it was more an expression of mutual agreement that the current situation is an anomaly. “This too shall pass” as my mom liked to say.

Posted by
401 posts
  1. I agree with the consensus. It is highly unlikely to come up, especially if one behaves in a culturally appropriate manner.

  2. I agree with Susan -- in the highly unlikely chance politics comes up and unless you happen to get into a discussion with one of Madame Le Pen's supporters, the most likely questions will be along the lines of "What happened?" or "How could that happen?" to "What's it like?", probably accompanied by a pitying head shake.

Posted by
6755 posts

Last year, we were asked about our politics in The Netherlands and London. In past years, politics have come up, comments made. We tell them where we stand politically after these comments and that is that. No problems ever. These comments usually occur in restaurants and bars.
I remember during the Iraq War Americans wearing pins with the slash mark through the name Bush while in Europe.
Our Canadian friends want to send us maple leaf lapel pins to wear in Europe. We aren’t concerned at all about European reactions to US politics as we head to Europe again next month.

Posted by
908 posts

I was in England last year, and it came up twice casually. A British couple who were on the same walking tour as me in London made a casual comment at one of the walk's pub stops, and I just laughed and made a comment about whether he would even pardon a turkey (this was around Thanksgiving). It came up again when I used an Amtrak credit card to pay for a rail ticket, and I joked about how Great Western had to take the card because it was a rail credit card. The GWR employee said, "Ah, but "you know who" is no friend of the railroads..." We laughed again. Granted, my views are in line with people I was interacting with, but I did not bring up the topic, they did, and I'm not interested in discussions about politics at home or abroad. In short, it shouldn't be an issue, and I wasn't treated any differently than other times.

I agree about France and opening with a greeting in French. The Rick Steves' France or Paris guidebook (or another guidebook that talks about the importance of this) might make a nice wedding gift! Hope they have a great time!

Posted by
12400 posts

True, I would say that one of the places the politics topic could come up is at breakfast. That did happen during last year's trip in London at the B&B and also in Berlin. If locals mention US politics, I have no problems with that, ie engaging them in such a discussion.

That was also the case in Berlin in 2003 (Bush and the Iraq War) close to Bahnhof Zoo at an Imbiss where a Middle Eastern guy started this short aniti-US rant after I told him I was from Calif....tedious... I listened, didn't dispute him since his 3-4 statements were historically accurate, if they hadn't been, I would have taken him on. As Peggy Lee sang in 1969, "Is That All There is?"

Posted by
21243 posts

Over the years we have had a number of political discussions especially in pubs on various subject. All pretty friendly and often very interesting. I find that locals generally are better informed on US politics than I am about their current political situations. And sometimes they ask difficult questions that forces you to look at the US situation in a different light. Something that most of us should do more often. And I am always interested in their perceptions. We all live in a complex world with few simple answers.

Our funnest political "discussion" -- although very short - occurred last fall in Peru. It was late afternoon, we were in a plaza in a small mountain town when a group of 15 to 20 children in school uniforms started drifting across the plaza. Kind of looked like school was out and kids were headed home. Two of the children approach us -- could have been brothers, maybe 10 and 12 - and in remarkably good English the older student asked if we were Americans. We said yes and he said, "Mr Trump is your president?" There was another couple with us and we all nodded yes. Then the younger one pipes up in equally good English -- "Your Mr. Trump is crazy!" Everyone nearly fell out of their chairs with laughter. Out of the mouth of babes. Two things struck me --- We were in a fairly isolated mountain village but their English was very good and second, they know who our president was. I have no idea who the president of Peru is.

Posted by
12601 posts

Frank, that is a howl but does make you think about what some of our own citizens might consider backward countries?

Posted by
1737 posts

Your son and his bride should have a great honeymoon. We were in Paris last October and were treated courteously.

My wife and I have been to several countries in Europe, Central America and Africa. My takeaway are folks are just folks. Treat them with courtesy and respect and it will be reciprocated. The French may not be as demonstrative as the Italians, but they can be every bit as fun and charming in their own way.

I've decided that the "rude" French comes from what I describe as the "ugly" American.

Posted by
4411 posts

Most Europeans have been fed by the slanted U.S. media, and they have.no idea what politics are like here. Refuse to speak politics and everything will be all right.

No we're not. No-one I know pays any attention to US media, why would we? Each country has their own media and Europeans are primarily influenced by that.

I think you'll find many Europeans are quite clued up on American politics, probably more so than a sizeable proportion of Americans!

Posted by
3175 posts

Your son and future daughter in law should be fine and enjoy themselves immensely.

We were in France after Wikileaks revealed in 2015 that the US government was spying on France. We never felt any backlash whatsoever on us. Why would the French people do that anyway? Travelers had nothing to do with it.

Posted by
7996 posts

“I've decided that the "rude" French comes from what I describe as the "ugly" American.”

DougMac, exactly right.

“I think you'll find many Europeans are quite clued up on American politics, probably more so than a sizeable proportion of Americans!”

JC, also exactly right. Well said.

Posted by
971 posts

I think you will find that for most Europeans politics isn’t such a taboo subject that it seems to be in the US. With the exception of Brexit, politics in most European countries isn’t as entrenched as it is in the US. People are mostly capable of discussing political topics without descending into the tribalism that seems to charactarize the current political climate in the US. Many Europeans are probably also better informed about US politics than many Americans, since we tend to get our news about US politics from more neutral news sources that arent part of either of the US political blocs.

Posted by
971 posts

Thats true Emma. I guess it’s mostly a Northern European thing, but religion is considered a private matter, whereas politics is a public matter. Funny how this seems to be the opposite in the US.

Posted by
7996 posts

“accompanied by a pitying head shake.”

Bob, yes! Very much so!

Posted by
1016 posts

We recently were talking to a German intern in DC and one thing that he was really unprepared for was the politics being in everyday life-especially now and how divided and passionate people are about it. Interestingly, he seemed to know a lot about our politics, more than young people here would know about German politics.

Posted by
21243 posts

I think one of the issues is that US political system has generally been two party while Europe tends to the multi-party systems. So you are either for or against - very little in the middle. I sometimes wish we had more of a multi party system.

Posted by
10045 posts

For every Trump there's a Johnson or Corbyn or Le Pen or Berlusconi. Many countries have their own ridiculousness in politics and realize there is a difference between politicians and the people.

I get asked lots of questions about U.S. politics and have no trouble with it.

Posted by
2486 posts

*Has recent U.S. foreign policy impacted how American tourists are treated? *

I think not.

Posted by
1737 posts

Political discussion with a stranger has only come up once. We were standing in line, waiting for entrance into the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. It was July 2016. I was having a pleasant conversation with a gentleman from Germany. He was expressing alarm regarding our upcoming presidential election. He was concerned about the possible outcome.

I spent the next 45 minutes experiencing a profound sadness as we walked silently through the house where Anne Frank found her final sanctuary. No matter how hard I tried to choke back tears, I joined the several other people around me silently weeping.

The question "how?" kept running through my mind. How could so many Germans not see what was happening? How could they not see the Nazi administration for the monsters they were? I don't have an answer for what happened then. I'm confused now more than ever.

Posted by
1425 posts

I read a while back (and sorry, but I can't remember where) someone discussing this topic saying how funny it is that people from the United States think everyone else is as interested in our national politics as we are.

I think there is probably some number of people in every country who take interest in the politics of other countries, but I don't think it's a large number. Maybe US politics are more interesting to people in other countries because of US influence around the world, but overall the internal political goings-on of other countries are probably not a big interest for most people.

That said, I think we can all bust some stereotypes about Americans who act as if we're the center of the political universe. Simply pivot when asked about US politics. "I'm on vacation. The last thing I want to talk about is politics back home. Tell me about your government. Are people here generally happy with how things are being run?" I've found asking people about the inner working of their society and government is a great way to break the ice, and I've learned a lot too.

Posted by
7996 posts

DougMac, I know just what you mean. I didn’t understand it either until Nov 2016.

Posted by
12400 posts

That Madison Garden film clip is included how Americans across the board reacted to the war prior to Pearl Harbor, ie from the America First group, which polls showed the majority of Americans. How many of the Madision Square Garden film clip rally promoters were already under FBI scrutiny. Look at the Gallop Poll in 1940 in which Americans expressed the view that staying out of the war was more important than stopping Hitler.

Read the in depth, scholarly works by R. Evans, D. Orlow, I Kershaw, A Bullock, R Grunberger, KD Bracher, H.A. Turner, etc as to how Hitler and the Nazis turned Germany into a totalitarian dictatorship in two years after coming to power "legally."

Posted by
1660 posts

The news in Buenos Aires gave regular coverage to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona,
and the BBC often does stories about US children accidentally killing their relatives (or friends) with unsecured firearms.
So when you say that other countries don't care about internal US politics, that's mostly true,
but it also means that out of all the many things that news organizations can choose from, they pick the
items that fit into their narrative of American differences from themselves.

Gee, maybe, I wonder, if our news coverage does the same kind of thing?

If your son may actually want to engage the people he meets in France, maybe you should suggest that he read the local news online ahead of time. I try to scan the major newspapers of whereever I'm traveling next.

Posted by
4411 posts

The response I've gotten from the French on three visits in the last five years is joy and surprise when I tell them that I'm not English!

Is that because they know they're in for a big tip!

Posted by
12400 posts

They won't get any tip if at the bottom of the bill has "service compris" written, regardless how the waiters behaved.

Posted by
1025 posts

We have been treated well in France. One measure that I use is to see what happens when you walk around looking like a tourist (i.e. with map or guidebook in hand). Parisians have come up to us to see if we need assistance, probably more often than in other European cities.

On our last trip, we took the train from Nice to Paris. A man and his young son sat across from us. From the child's behavior, we figured out that he was on the autism spectrum. Our older daughter is a Behavior Analyst who works with children with autism. Once we let the father know about this, he was relieved because we made it clear that we were not bothered by his son's behavior.. During the trip we had a nice conversation and it became apparent that he may have known more about American politics and history than the average American. When we commented on this, he said that people in France have to know about America, because everything that happens there affects the rest of the world.

Posted by
995 posts

I echo many people here, your son and his fiancee will have an amazing honeymoon. France is an amazing country. I love the culture and I love the people just as much.

Posted by
3 posts

I've been to France twice (Paris and the Normandy region). In Normandy, they fly American flags and love Americans, because of what we did to help liberate the country during WW II. It was amazing. The only time American politics came up on the trips was when my fellow tour members starting loudly bashing conservatives and especially then-candidate Trump. I've been to Italy twice, to Great Britian twice, and France twice. Not once did American politics come up outside of the tour itself. I think your son and his bride will have a brilliant honeymoon, and best of luck to them.

Posted by
12550 posts

We can be so narrow minded in our opinions as to believe we are the norm and everyone that disagrees with us is the deviation. Much of Europe is as evenly divided as is the U.S., so yes half of those who even care might not like current U.S. policy, while the other half do.

Dont forget that far right Le Pen got a full third of the vote and Marcon's policies at best are a tad softer than current US policies; but still very right of center. Hence the current civil unrest by those loosing their government subsidies.

And the fact, that on the whole, Europeans are more informed about us than we are about them is pretty obviously true.

Posted by
2140 posts

When I meet French or German tourists in the USA, I do not bring up French or German politics. I know more than most, but not nearly enough to offer an opinion to a native of those countries.

I would think that French people are the same. They are interested in tourists for a simple reason - money. Why offend someone before they spend money? It's a bad idea. As Michael Jordan said, when asked why he was not politically active: "Republicans buy shoes too".

Posted by
254 posts

I was there in 2008 after Barack Obama got elected. My french is not good so couldn't have real conversations, but I stopped to get gas and the attendant asked me who I voted for. I told him and he said "Bush, ffffft" and flicked his thumb in an "he's outta there" gesture. That's as political as it got (and I though it was funny so didn't mind). But the comments about them knowing what's going on here are on target. I was in Mexico after the 2016 elections and chatted with a couple Dutch guys who knew way more about the campaign that I'd expect. Unless your son and daughter-in-law invite or encourage the conversation, politics probably won't come up. If they're on their honeymoon, they won't be spending much time talking to strangers anyway. ;)

Posted by
399 posts

As the OP referenced US foreign policy, one thing to consider is that President Trump at least some of the time seems to have what I would term non-interventionist, anti-war feelings, such as when he came out against the Iraq war (though he's been back and forth about that) or the Libya intervention, (again for it at first but now against it), and now we see him beginning the disengagement from Syria. So in that respect I could see some people in Europe saying they would rather have a US non-interventionist president than a strongly neo-conservative pro-interventionist one. Of course in a perfect world such a president would come in a more organized, coherent package, so to speak.

Posted by
12550 posts

rob, you are about 50% correct. There are many countries in Europe as evenly divided as the US, and they see our current policies in an equally divided way. So I laugh when I hear someone (not you) just assuming the whole world thinks like they do. If one were to be asked "how did Trump win?" There is as good a chance the want to know so they can encourage the same in their country and bad talking our president wont get you a tour discount. But, yes, hes an ass). But, at least for the next 2 years he is our ass; and may G-d bless him and keep him safe.

Posted by
12400 posts

On the "how did Trump win?" type of question, I had that asked of me directly when I was in Kiel in the summer of 2016. This was at Kiel Hbf. The German guy, a few years my junior, asked me of that possibility. We talked about US politics.

I told him basically not to preclude the possibility of Trump winning at the polls vis-à-vis the electoral vote given the top 5 states with the most electoral votes. I ended up answering the guy using the subjunctive, saying. "Er könnte gewinnen." Of course, he let me what his opinion of him was.