Want To Get To Know The Real France? Call A 'Random' French Person A tourist agency in France has established a hotline that connects callers to a random French volunteer. NPR's Oliver Dearden tested it out.
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Want To Get To Know The Real France? Call A 'Random' French Person

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Want To Get To Know The Real France? Call A 'Random' French Person

Want To Get To Know The Real France? Call A 'Random' French Person

Want To Get To Know The Real France? Call A 'Random' French Person

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/495295123/495295124" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A tourist agency in France has established a hotline that connects callers to a random French volunteer. NPR's Oliver Dearden tested it out.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The series of terror attacks in France have hurt the tourist industry there, which has injured the nation's economy. To try to entice people back to baguettes and Bordeaux, a French tourist agency has come up with a way to try to connect people who want to know more about France.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Welcome to the French Number.

SIMON: The French Number is a hotline staffed by volunteers who are called telephone ambassadors. Dial it and...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You're about to be connected to a random French person. This call may be recorded.

SIMON: Well, we were recording, too. Ollie Dearden, one of our producers, was on the phone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking French).

OLIVER DEARDEN, BYLINE: Hello. Was that me meant to leave a message? Is there a French person here?

SIMON: The first few times he called, Ollie got put into voicemail. But eventually...

DEARDEN: Hello?

BETSY WILLIAMS: Hello?

DEARDEN: Hi. Who's this?

WILLIAMS: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Betsy (ph).

DEARDEN: My name's Ollie. It's like Oliver...

WILLIAMS: Ollie.

DEARDEN: ...Or Olivier, as you would say. Tell me about yourself. Who are you?

WILLIAMS: OK. So my name is Betsy Williams. I am a Nigerian national. And I moved to France in 2011.

DEARDEN: I got a ton of questions about France that maybe you can answer.

WILLIAMS: OK. I've got time for this.

DEARDEN: Good - good, good. Now, why should I come to France instead of, say, Italy or Spain? - you know, Eiffel Tower versus Leaning Tower versus some unfinished tower by Gaudi.

WILLIAMS: There are lots of reasons to come to France. Everybody's kind of, like, captivated by the idea of coming to Paris, the city of life, city of love. And there are so many historical events to make France a destination, like - yeah, in the book, at least.

DEARDEN: I can only speak a petit peu of French. If I'm out and about in France, and I'm going into a shop, and I say - you know, I'm in the bakers - and I say, (speaking French), will the baker be, oh, just stop trying to speak French badly? Just say it in English. Or would he prefer it if I had a go?

WILLIAMS: If you can make an effort, then, yeah, I think they prefer that you make an effort. But this is like their English is bad. So they don't want to make an effort.

DEARDEN: OK. Let's get on some stereotypes which are clearly not true. But we'll go through a few of them - that French waiters will be mean in restaurants. Are waiters mean?

WILLIAMS: No, they're actually professional. The waiters are really, really professional.

DEARDEN: Crucial question for anyone who is going to be there as a tourist - at what time of the day is it acceptable to start drinking?

WILLIAMS: Oh, my God - anytime.

DEARDEN: Anytime. What is your favorite thing about France, Betsy?

WILLIAMS: I love the language. I love the - people are kind of, like, well-behaved. Like, it's normal not to shout or scream - like, a society whereby you don't have to scream or you don't have to be violent to make a point.

DEARDEN: Well, that's wonderful. Betsy Williams, thank you so much. I'll just end by saying (speaking French) nincompoop.

WILLIAMS: Oh, no. You shouldn't say that (laughter).

DEARDEN: Take care, Betsy.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Ollie. Bye.

DEARDEN: Bye-bye.

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