Any tourist in Paris is now used to seeing signs stating that the client can be served in English at restaurants, hotels, and many other places. On their websites, French banks either have special pages for anglophones or their main pages are also available in English. So it is clear that more and more businesses are advertising, in one way or another, the fact that they accommodate anglophones.
Interestingly enough, I have found out that others literally hide this service. I am still trying to understand why.
L’assurance-maladie, which is the generic legal name for the French national health care system (nicknamed the Sécu), has a toll-free number, 3646, where you are supposed to be able to get whatever information you need on your case. After sending them a file three times […], one of my clients came to my office with another letter asking for the file one more time.
So, I call this number once again in an attempt to find out how far along the file is in the pipes. I am told that someone can call back the insured party, but my client does not master French at all. I explain the situation. After several minutes of a conversation that is by this point going nowhere, the civil servant finally explains that there is another number for the anglophone office and that perhaps this would solve the problem.
Need I say more?
Assurance Maladie / Sécu’s phone number: 01 53 35 23 00
France Télécom is the country’s largest telephone company, formerly state-owned but privatized some years ago, although numerous civil servants still work there. On both sides of the Atlantic, it seems, such companies have the same level of customer service, whether it concerns cable, internet provision, or phone service. So I made a call for a client who was trying to fix a phone and cable TV problem, and was told it should be fixed three days later. It was not, so my client tried to call on her own to follow up, but was quickly stymied by the language barrier because of her level of French. Finally she asked, out of desperation, if there was any way she could speak to someone in English, whereupon she got a number to call for services in English.
France Telecom / Orange’s phone number: 09 69 36 39 00
I would like to remind everybody that Paris was ranked the second most welcoming European city for tourists, after London, in a recent survey – sponsored by the tourism office of the Paris region.