While some would argue that a Paris vacation is itself a bit of a robbery anyway, I am often quick to defend the French. They are always getting a bad rap from tourists who say they are rude, snobbish, et cetera, yet I have never experienced any of that, not even from Parisians. (Mind you, I’ve only been to France twice, so mine isn’t exactly what you’d call an expert opinion.) Sometimes I think maybe tourists just do things that rub them off the wrong way — like assuming the whole world speaks English, or acting like they own the place — and at other times I suspect I look so non-threatening that they simply can’t be bothered to be rude to me.
That was actually one of the things I was worried about before my first trip to Paris: that the French would be awful and would pretend not to understand English when I try to talk to them. Instead, I was surprised when a lot of them were actually nice. An elderly French man we met on the train did not know how to speak English — for real — but he continued to smile kindly at us as he racked his brains for how to ask us where we were from. Finally, he ventured, “País?” (Spanish for country) and we managed to establish that we were from the Philippines before he realized he was in the wrong train compartment. I actually felt guilty at not having been more diligent in trying to learn French; it was his country after all, and it should have been me trying to make myself understood. (See 3 Things That Will Surprise You About Paris for more surprise!-the-French-are-nice stories.)
What I never thought to worry about was crime. I mean, I’m from a third world country. Who would be desperate enough to rob me?
There’s always someone, apparently.
We were at the Eiffel Tower last January, sharing a much needed cup of hot coffee, when a group of children approached us. They were beautiful kids: dark hair, round eyes, mostly girls, innocent-looking. They had a clipboard with a petition of some sort, which they asked us to sign. When we declined, they became pushy and they started to crowd around us, shoving the clipboard in front of our faces.
And then…I felt it. The faint brush of an inexperienced hand against the left outside pocket of my jacket. I yelped and stepped back in surprise and I think I shouted something like, “What are you doing?!” (Brilliant question, right?) The eldest kid said something in a sharp tone to my would-be robber and after a slight pause — during which I seriously contemplated throwing a punch; I hadn’t expected anything of the sort and that made me ridiculously angry — they backed off and headed for the trees.
And then the shock wore off and I started laughing.
All those times I walked about by myself in Carbon Market and Divisoria, and my first ever encounter with a pickpocket happens in Paris. Under the Eiffel Tower. By children.
They didn’t get anything! I was prudent enough to keep even the small coins in the zipped inside pocket of my zipped jacket. The bigger bills and my passport were in a money belt under, like, twenty layers of clothing. (I get cold easily — see my weather bloopers in Hot and Cold in Paris.) What I wasn’t prudent enough to do was read the Stay Safe section of the Paris Wikitravel; I would otherwise have known to be wary the minute those kids approached. But: all’s well that ends well, and it’s a story I always have fun telling, so I think I got the better end of that deal.
That said, a word to the wise! Even first-world countries have third-world problems. You’re never too poor to be robbed. And, oh yeah, never trust anyone who wants you to sign anything without thinking, not even in Paris.
“That Time I Almost Got Robbed In Paris” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.
You’re lucky the pickpockets were inexperienced! I’ve read travel stories about pickpockets who are so crafty that they can steal something almost from right under your nose without the person noticing! Money belts and inside pockets are good things!
I do feel lucky. The outcome could have been much worse! Thanks.
I was not robbed but I didn’t feel safe. There was so many doggy guys around especially near Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris. Apart from that all the French people I asked for info were really nice and friendly.
That does put a damper on the experience, doesn’t it, when you have to be wary about some of the people around. It would be much nicer to be able to just walk around, carefree. I’m glad nothing bad happened to you!
This reminds me of my cousin whose family lived in Paris as expats in the early 90’s. She was about to have a bite of her burger and a little boy grabbed the burger from her and ran off. The story made us laugh more than anything.
Haha, I can imagine! Though it is sobering…when children are forced to steal, that says a lot. In the Philippines some children steal too, and some are used by begging syndicates. But it isn’t something one expects from developed countries.
I’m glad that you weren’t actually pick pocketed and found that the French aren’t as snobby as their stereotype sets them out to be! If you attempt to speak their language they are usually very nice!
You were very lucky. We were visiting Paris in mid December 2014 when our hire car, which was parked in a busy street at lunchtime, had the window smashed and all our carry-on bags and computer were stolen out of the boot. There were people sitting on abench on the sidewalk beside the car. We thought in broad daylight it would be safe. Not in Paris – so much poverty and so many refugees. Desperate people do desperate things. Lesson – never leave anything in a car.
What?? Wow. In broad daylight too, with people looking. That’s awful. It seems the situation has gotten worse. I do feel very lucky! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sorry that happened to you. I guess we’ve all got to be more cautious than ever now. Unbelievable.
A friend of mine just told me about that wiki site the other day and said it’s her go-to for travel & that it always lists the things other travel reviews forgot to mention(clearly, you haven’t forgotten!) I can’t believe you were (unsuccessfully) pick-pocketed! That is freaky and such a violation. How relieving that they didn’t get anything.
It’s kind of fun to talk about it now though! 😀 Well that’s because they didn’t get anything, but it would have been a whole other story if they’d gotten away with my wallet or something. And yes Wikitravel is very useful, especially for stuff like how to get from the airport to the city center and how to get around the city.
It’s a unique experience for sure, since it worked out okay it’s cool(sort of in a weird way) that it happened just to give you a new perspective and helpful information for travelers that want to visit Paris, at least you can warn as somebody it happened to!