This blog has been silent for some time because I was struggling with a post about trolls, comments and talking about discrimination on-line.
It was meant as a intelligent response to being profusely insulted by several people, some of whom you know, while I was already pretty down for other reasons. I thought that I could express express myself freely on the subject, but the handful of friends who read any version of it immediately cut ties with me. They have refused since to answer to any of my message. I have no idea why, nor do I wish to loose more friends on the subject, so I decided to be a coward. I won’t summarise it, but I can say I quote, critically, from Ethan Zuckerman, Judith Donath, The Cluetrain Manifesto or Obama’s Pittburg address.
Please accept my sincerest apologies for not trusting you with this.
The only thing I would like to say about it is the conclusion; it might seem extreme, or candid: it is neither, on the contrary. Before banning anyone, or calling him a troll, offer him to have coffee together.
That idea is actually the origin of the name of my blog: my concern at the time and now is that to actually do that, you might have to come to Paris, and that coffee will probably be improved by two croissants (one for each of us). Sharing something surprising both simple exceptional, a delicacy every can enjoy, rises the conversation with a common, human, positive respect. Plus, the way you eat a croissant is probably the most socially revealing thing I can imagine: anyone can learn how to eat a lobster, and nouveaux-riches can train; there is no étiquette about to eat viennoiserie.
Soon before the incident, an American scholar whose blog I read religiously came to Paris. (We had some croissants, that’s all you know.) The conversation was delightful, it went in all directions, and he mentioned the few things a foreigner might have a hard time finding or figuring out, but that a local could easily provide. I had been thinking about how to organise such a “Welcome package” for quite some time, but this put my ideas to the test. I was wondering if you could prevent more experiments by providing your own insights, as guests or hosts.
The key element with tourists seems to be the meeting point: they have no (or partial) memories of the city, wouldn’t know if they are in the wrong place, feel dizzy with the foreign-speaking crowd at any popular meeting point, often only have an old photo of you, can get lost and easily end up half-an-hour late… So, assuming I pick up someone at the airport or the train station with a package, what should it include?
- An active Sim Card is the number one demand: roaming might not be expensive but it is still unpredictable, and it is surprisingly hard to get a local contract without an address and a local bank account — 3G, mini- or standard, with talk-time, data plan?
Many are enthusiast about having an iPad: it is great, and I don’t mind lending a device with a GPS-tracker, but it seems those who care have one already, and they prefer to keep their own applications handy, and install those useful for Paris on top of that (I suggest a list on Quora);
- pass-codes to the most common wifi-sharing networks;
- a universal power-plug adapter is nice to have too;
- a full map of Paris, with advised places properly marked and commented; I know Galerie Lafayette gives one away, but it’s poorly designed, and misses half the street: I know because I keep helping out lost tourists, and this map is akin to Flash on Mac: the main if not exclusive source of confusion;
- metro tickets, or a travel pass; for the pedal-inclined, a pass for Vélib’, the “free” rental system;
Some might prefer a car rental: I subscribe to something very similar to the bike plan, but insurance is obviously a problem; I could recommend you and deal with the paperwork in advance — and the keycard comes into the package;
- Cash is always convenient for non-Europeans (against a transfer to my account abroad; I like to be generous, but handing over money is improper according to Dan Ariely) or the address of that one money-change that isn’t ripping people off;
There has been several attempts to impose money-holding cards, all unsuccessful so far.
- basic translation tools, phrase books can be useful—although that might be a more personal choice;
- and of course, a stamped envelope with return address, to send back all the re-usable stuff easily just before boarding back home.
What am I missing?