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Speaking French

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Cincinnati, Ohio
posts: 57
reviews: 32
Speaking French

While staying in Villefranche, how important is it to speak French.

I am very rusty but really don't feel like getting ripped off for things for being a tourist and American.

Any advice, especially going to restaurants what not?

Merci :)


Kamloops, BC...
posts: 9,751
1. Re: Speaking French

It seems to me that given the way you feel, you have two choices. Either you can put some effort into squaring away your French, or you can go to some other place where you aren't so sure you'll be victimized.

As it is, I don't see how you'll be able to relax and enjoy yourself in Villefranche when you're so sure that everyone is out to cheat you.

Andrésy, France
posts: 2,959
reviews: 88
2. Re: Speaking French

Why should be ripped off in Villefranche sur Mer more than anywhere else? In France, prices of nearly everything have to be displayed. If they are not, just ask "c'est combien?" before engaging yourself & I don't see why you should have a problem. Many people in Villefranche speak some English, as it's thronging with tourists.

Orlando, FL
posts: 21
reviews: 2
3. Re: Speaking French

You didn't mention when you are going.

I think some of the people -so called experts- who reply to questions posted seem to be, in my opinion, in a bad mood all the time, they take things personal, pay no attention to them. I stayed in Nice from July 15th to July 18th and Paris from the 18th to the 21st. I found very FEW people who spoke a little bit of English. I speak English and Spanish.I learned a few phrases in French before I went, but once there I realized I needed more to get around. Some locals were nice and helpful some weren't, it is the same here in the States. When you are a tourist anywhere in the world you will probably get ripped off, for one reason because you don't know what places to avoid. I live in Orlando, when I have friends come to Disney, I tell them what areas to avoid. Villefranche Sur Mer is located between Nice and Monaco, if I'm not mistaken. I went through it on my way back from Monaco to Nice. It looked like a very nice little town, I liked the beach area. My advise to you is to read the menus outside the restaurants before deciding where to eat. I noticed tourists from all over the world during my week in France.

There were 2 instances where I felt I was probabIy taken advantage of, one was when myself and my 2 traveling companions took a cab from our hotel in Nice Sofitel Nice Centre to the Nice Ville train station, the meter read 7.20 when we boarded and 12.20 when we arrived at the station, the trip was less than 10 minutes maybe 6 to 7 minutes long, the driver said we owed him 20 Euros, we had 2 small pilot cases and 1 large suitcase. I felt the meter should have been set at zero when he picked us up. We had a similar situation when we took a cab from our hotel in Paris to the CDG airport, I can't remember what the meter read then, but that time we paid 50 Euros for 2 people and two small pilot cases 21" each, the driver picked up up at 4 am, maybe 50 Euros at that time is normal over there, I guess I'll never know. I've hardly ever take a cab here in the States, I can't even remember how much I paid for one the last time. I don't know this for a fact, but I think here the meter starts running the minute the driver gets to your pick up location. The other time I felt I was ripped off was when I bought a 1 liter bottle of water, 1 liter bottle of coke, 1 bottle of juice 18 oz, - can't remember- and 2 apples at a little market around the corner from the hotel in Paris. Nothing was priced, when I got to the cashier I was charged 12.20 Euros. I was tired, thirsty and hungry at the time, I should have probably just left without buying anything. The next morning I went to the market 2 doors up the street where I only paid 1.30 for 1 liter of water.

The worst part of my trip was not knowing the language. Some restaurants offer menus in other languages, that was helpful.

We bought a bag for 19 Euros in one store at the port in Nice, the same bag was 13 Euros 3 blocks up the road.

In Nice, when I went to the train station to purchase tickets to Monaco ,I got a ticket for Menton instead, I guess the cashier didn't understand me. Someone who spoke spanish helped me and told me I could still use the same tickets to get to Monaco. The train ride was awful, the train was so packed with locals going to work. The value of the 2 tickets was 2 Euros more than what it was supposed to have been.

My advise to you is to stay alert, get rested, when you are tired you can't think straight, read the menus before going into a restaurant.

Water is expensive, we paid between 2 to 4 Euros for a 9 oz. bottle of water. It is in my opinion the worst time to go because of the heat. I hope your room is air conditioned. Try to remember landmarks to help you find your way back to your car or hotel. If you are nice to people they will be nice back, very few times they won't, so don't feel bad. Point at things, people will understand what you want that way. It helps to say a few words in Frech like bonjour monsieur/ madame/mademoiselle, Au revoir, etc..

I hope I was helpful. France has beautiful monuments, churches, etc. I hope you enjoy your visit.

posts: 594
4. Re: Speaking French

To Scout67 :

In France :

if you take a taxi at a taxi stand (except airports or railway stations) the meter is reset (to zero) (but there is always a minimal sum for a journey : example in Paris it's 2.70 Euros, even if it is only 100 meters)

If you take one at a railway station or an airport, there is a fix sum already on the meter (some 2.50 or 3 Euro)

If you call a taxi : the meter starts when the taxi picks the call (not when it picks you)

If you hail a taxi in the street (not at a stand), the taxi has its meter reset from the previous taxi stand he came across (not from where it picks you)

You pay a price per piece of luggage put in the booth (irrelevant the size of the bag - except for huge ones (they count for 2)).

You may have felt ripped off when the rules were indeed applied.

posts: 20
5. Re: Speaking French

Christian - For heaven's sake, chill out! If you really feel so vulnerable perhaps staying in Cincinnati would be a safer option. As an Englishman living in Villefranche and involved with the hospitality business, I can assure you, that as Tradeform has already mentioned , there is no reason to believe that you will be ripped off to a greater extent here, than anywhere else! I doubt that throughout all my travels over many years, that I have not been "dis-advantaged' by the locals somewhere along the line. This includes many States in the US where we share a similarity of Language! It is all part of life's experiences which often in hindsight can be summed up by "how could I have been so dumb"!

On balance I would say, that English is spoken to a far greater extent in Villefranche both in the Shops and restaurants than most other places in this part of the world. This is due, not only to the visiting tourists but also to the number of American, British, Dutch, German, Irish and Scandinavian Nationals who either live here on a permanent basis or retain a second home. English is the language which helps us all get along, whilst we continue to improve our French Linguistic skills!

Enjoy your trip, take obvious precautions if in doubt, ask again, if they don't want to understand, just walk away.!

London, UK
posts: 5,830
reviews: 58
6. Re: Speaking French

There are cheats everywhere but in more than 40 years of regular travel I have been aware of being really ripped off on less than 20 occasions. I usually get on well with Belgian people but Brussels is the place where I have had most problems, followed by Paris and New York. The kind of people who are going to cheat you would be just as happy to cheat their own country men and women but it is easier with tourists who are not used to the language or the currency.

I spend about 20% of my time in Villefranche/Nice and find most people to be friendly and helpful but I am given incorrect change about once or twice a week and it is never too much. Bus drivers do this about 20% of the time, only ten or twenty centimes but in the course of the week it must add up to quite a sum for them. Of the three bakeries I have used in Villefranche, the staff in the one in the Place De La Paix are charming and scrupulously honest, a woman in the one at the lights on the main road has twice palmed me of with burnt goods that were clearly reserved for a tourist, while the one in the street that runs parallel to and just above the sea front gave me 1.25 change when I gave five euros for a .75 bagette. When I queried this she gave me another euro and only after looking her steadily while shaking my head did she come up with the correct change.

I have never had a problem of any kind in a restaurant in the area, unlike Brussels and Paris where it is routine for waiters to try to foist expensive dishes and wines onto the customers, even sometimes in the face of a clear refusal after being urged to try the 'delicious fresh asparagus that has just arrived', the outrageous price of which is not shown on the menu.

Personally, I find the organised fraud that is routinely done by international hotel groups, such as the incredible mark up on phone calls, much more unpleasant than the little scams that are operated by individuals. I have never been short changed or pressured to buy expensive meals in the UK, perhaps because prices are already ridiculous, but the most outrageous bit of cheating I have ever witnessd was in London. Many years ago, when I was a student, I got a job selling ice cream from a van in London and the cheerful Cockney who took me out the first day to show me the ropes charged an American tourist 20 times the real price.

posts: 20
7. Re: Speaking French

Dear London Bob - You must have been in the van nerxt door to Alan Sugar's minivan selling car aerials where I paid rather a lot! Or are you not that old? Straight answers only please!

London, UK
posts: 5,830
reviews: 58
8. Re: Speaking French

July 1967.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 412
reviews: 35
9. Re: Speaking French


Wow, what a response you received! I had French in high school, I won't say how long ago, but trust me, it was long ago. And while I was good at memorization and what not, I could never understand spoken French. I can understand isolated words but... Anyway, I've been to the south of France the past two years and have not had any real problems with the language. When I really need to know something I always ask in French if the person speaks English: Parlez-vous anglais? The response is usually "a little" . But their litte English is always far superior to my little French. Most people I've encountered have been friendly and helpful. Be sure to follow your basic rules of courtesy. Alway say bonjour when you enter a store. Get yourself a guidebook, it will give you pointers here. Rick Steves is a very good source. I also try to bush up with a French language cd. The best one I've found so far is called One-Day French. I got it at Borders and it's specifically targeted to vacation French. It claims that ther's only 50 words to learn. You'll familiarize yourself with the pronunciation so it won't be such a shock. And I did not detect any hostility due to being a American.

Cincinnati, Ohio
posts: 57
reviews: 32
10. Re: Speaking French

Yeah, no kidding. Some of you really need to chill out...it's not like I complained and yelled about anything...I just asked about local customs and what I need to learn, if anything before coming to someone else's country, I think that's only fair to prepare myself.

I definitely don't think it deserved some of the quick and tempered responses it received.

But on the other hand, thank you to those who answered the question helpfully.

I know that some Europeans have a "stupid" mentality about Americans and that we expect everyone to speak our language and do our things. That is why I want to do the best I can to be a good american and tourist, that is all.

I just wish I had this much response in my other posts regarding spa's/massage in the town.

Thank you,