Terra: The Streets – Paris, France
If I were to give someone planning to travel to Paris in a large group one piece of advice, what would it be?
My advice would be to watch yourself.
What is the significance of that statement? Does it mean I’m going to get shot at, you ask? Watch yourself- sounds menacing. No, getting shot at is not likely. The only thing that could be in any grave danger of getting shot at is your pocket, or your wallet, if you don’t pay attention while retrieving money. Parisian pick pockets’ hands are skilled, and much more inconspicuous than bullets. The metro and crowded places in general are infamous hot spots for their thievery. However, pick pockets are not the only ones you have to watch yourself with. Scammers also run rampant in cities like Paris.
Who are the pick pockets’ and scammers’ main targets? I’ll let you infer, based on my experience.
I’ve traveled to the City of Light three times, the first two in a group of other Americans, the third with a French family of three. Every colorful experience I’ve had with thievery- or attempted thereof- has happened during my first two visits.
That’s right- tourists are easy to spot, and in the mind of a Euro-hungering thief, easy to take advantage of. The most obvious give away is traveling in a large group, which very well may be unavoidable. More include wearing bright colors, baseball caps, athletic shoes, and fanny packs. Also, in order to avoid being pinpointed, keep the volume down. The typical American is known to have a louder demeanor than the typical Parisian.
My first encounter with a scammer occurred on my first trip to France when walking with a friend. A woman stopped us abruptly, and began making gestures with her hands, while she shoved a clip board at us. On the clipboard, there was a piece of paper advertising the “school for the deaf and mute,” in big black letters, followed with places to write a signature and given amount of money. The woman wanted a donation, which my friend and I, suspecting funny business, refused to give. Soon after, we were informed that this was a common scam- a seemingly helpless “deaf and mute” woman or child will meet you, clipboard at hand, and prey on your goodwill by asking for money to go to a made-up charity.
Another encounter occurred on my second trip to Paris, while walking alongside the Seine River with two other group members. We were chatting, and all of the sudden, spotted a gold ring lying on the sidewalk just ahead. Not long after, a strange woman swooped in front of us, picking it up. She held the ring in her palm, marveling at it, then looked at us, to see if we shared her astonishment.
“For you,” she smiled, placing the ring into my group mate’s hand. “I cannot wear it. It’s against my religion.”
“Thanks,” was my group mate’s response, and we continued walking, each of us contemplating how much this ring was actually worth.
The woman soon caught our attention again, acting much more urgent this time.
“Water, buy me water, since I gave you the ring,” the women begged. My group mate, refusing to give her any money, tried to return the ring, but the women was relentless.
“No, the ring,” she reminded, “is for you.”
Again, we started to walk away. However, it wasn’t long before we heard a shout behind us.
“Give me my ring!” It was the woman.
Out of fright that she would harm us, my group mate dropped the ring, and we ran. It didn’t take us long afterward to figure out that this was a scam. The ring scam is popular in Paris. People such as the woman we encountered carry many “golden rings,” that are not made of gold at all, trying to rip off unknowing tourists.
Paris is a beautiful city, and no vacation there should be ruined by pick pockets or scam artists trying to take advantage of innocent tourists. That’s why it’s so important to watch yourself at all times. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of those around you!
Marcella Del Plato
The LEAF Project
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