On a recent trip to Iceland, I overheard a French couple staying at the same hotel complaining about the fact that there was no croissant served at breakfast. The food available for this free breakfast, since it was included with the room, was made up of regular Continental items as well as a variety of local breakfast foods such as herrings, some other pickled fish and veggies, smoked salmon etc. While I am not used to eating herring early in the morning, I jumped on the occasion to try mixing the flavors of fish with a bitter orange jelly toast on the side: when in Rome, eat as the Romans do.
The French couple probably thought they were the only French-speaking tourists in the breakfast room since most of the languages spoken around were Danish, Swedish, Icelandic sounding as well as English. They freely discussed and argued that it was un scandale that there were no bakery items available to eat and that it was absolutely dégoûtant to eat fish for breakfast.
It got me to think about this article I had read from Time Magazine about a recent poll on the World’s worst tourists. Europeans and the French especially love to call out Americans as being the worst tourists: they’re so loud, they’re so uncultured, they’re so demanding etc. But for the third year in a row, the French won the title again for worst tourists! Now how about that?? Not just elected worst tourists… re-elected for the third time. Now that’s a title you don’t want to win over and over again.
So what did the French couple do in light of their croissant disappointment? They called the manager in charge and asked why there was no bakery available and if such items could be available the next morning. With a strong Icelandic accent, the poor manager tried to find his most polite English words and clearly explained that this was not something they were accustomed to serve and he pointed out the various toasts and small breakfast rolls. The French couple unable to come to terms with the idea that they would have to wait to land at CDG to smell the deliciousness of buttery croissants huffed and puffed – so French, I loved it… and yes, I do that too! – and said under their breath: “Let’s make sure next time we book a trip in a non-poor country”. Ouch!
Are the French forever cursed by the Ghost of Breakfast Past, Present and Future? Is the Mighty Croissant something we after all cannot live without? Or is it just that we’re so inflexible and so not ready to adapt that we do indeed deserve the Worst Tourist Trophy?