you are not special

When one of my aunts lost a luggage in the plane & had to call the airline almost every hour, I was in a tug-o-war of cultural differences. It was a familiar picture of easily grumbling about almost everything - because in France, you are not special. All it took was a visit from my aunts to remind me how truly spoiled we are back home regardless of how inefficient some services may be & how things work even without a concrete set of rules.

If exercising your consumer's rights in the Philippines sometimes render a satisfying service, you might get different reactions in France - depending whether the company gives their employees a training in customer service, the mood of the person you're dealing with - especially the mood - and the time of business. But customer service almost does not exist in France. When it is likewise true that calling every hour is not really necessary to speed up the request, we wouldn't know if it did push the process faster. I understood my aunt's worry of not retrieving her luggage & the airline's logistics in locating & delivering lost luggage - but I also understood that there will be no lost luggage delivered right away as insisted. The airline must have lost a couple of bags already & I wanted to tell my aunt that for the airline, hers is no more special than the others.

In meeting my aunts in the hotel, the first thing I noticed was their huge luggage - without the one that got lost - and in my head, I was already imagining dragging them to places - from Paris, we still have Lourdes & Marseille by train. Knowing that France's hotels normally does not have porters, it didn't bother me until now. Not only that the reception was unwelcoming in the hotel we're staying in, we had to squeeze ourselves & the luggages in a tiny elevator & then finding a small room for three. The hotel already charges more than 100€ for 2 people. Hotels in France are just literally a place to sleep - I will never know the service in those luxurious ones but I bet a smile from the reception comes with a price. They are not even close to Philippine hotels in terms of rooms & services - you are so welcome & well taken cared of that you can just spend your day in the hotel.

I still clearly remember cursing under breaths when I always had to walk to get to places - to the metro station was even like a kilometer walk - so you can imagine my 60+ year old aunts walking around Paris. I did want to make it easier for them but not only that I don't really know Paris, there is no way around the hike from one place to another - even with a metro ride in between - and the heavy gray weather of Paris made it harder. Even when we reached home & I drove them to Marseille & Monaco, I explained that it is not allowed to just stop in the middle of the street, or say, in front of the place they want to go to like in the Philippines. Whatever you're complaining about the Philippine jeepneys & tricycles, I miss them. I miss having the option of hailing a pedicab in a remote area if I get tired of walking. They are a luxury.

They of course encountered some special random acts of kindness in France. It somehow still exists - the porter in the train station Paris Montparnasse who nicely carried all the luggages without the supposed extra charge - but was balanced by our calvary in the train station of Toulouse. The porters there didn't want to work & we had to drag our bags to two long flights of stairs under the curiousity of other travellers. The taxi driver in Lourdes who my aunts embarassed with compliments & the very good service in IBIS hotel. Sometimes, just sometimes, you will feel that France makes you feel special.

After awhile, you learn & get used to it while being constantly reminded that the Philippines is special. A lifestyle so unconsciously spoiled by a culture of customer service - we are so spoiled that it made us feel special - it is a culture. But not in France. My aunts did enjoy their stay & I do hope they will come back to visit hopefully with lesser luggage.


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. Makis,
    I enjoyed this post a lot as it reminded me of my experiences during our stay in Paris. I had similar insights on the customer service and transportation. Anyway, I still had a great time albeit exhausted. Later...

  2. Hi Rose! I was also surprised! I guess entertaining family here in Europe will never be the same as back home :) I'll check back on your blog for your photos. Welcome back!

  3. That's always one of my concern everytime I travel- losing a luggage. I hope hindi nawala yong mga pasalubong mo. :)

    OFF TOPIC: Ninev and I are going home for vacation this coming Monday. It's kinda so sudden, pero we've been planning this since last month pa. Kaya lang natagalan ang pag-process nila sa passport ni peanut, we waited for more than 2 months! how i wish were just neighbors para magpatulong ako sa page-empake. ;)

    take care always Makis! big hugs! =)

  4. I saw that also, Mak, that here in France, even at airports they are not smiling, they are not accomodating. Unless nga one is in a business class and booked in a five star hotels.
    The smiles of the staff goes with the price one pays.

    I ask Lolo why? He said, some personnels are fed up of haggling tourists that come to France evryday. If too many, the staffs gets overworked, worn out, fed up.
    In Phils, we dont have much tourists, so the service is full blast, to pamper those who can afford to pay. Pansinin mo, even in the market, amoy ng mga tindera if one is galing abroad: amoy dollar daw! LOL kaya full attention talaga, feeling pampered kasi it means sure business.
    In France, sa dami na, sawa na sila sa tourists, mas gusto na ata nila bawasan na! LOL
    Yan lang opinion ko, not necessarily correct ako.

    Lola fran

  5. Hi Francesca! Every comment is welcome here! Thanks for passing by!