I'm sure all French people will be so relieved to hear this--after all, my blog is widely read and highly influential. My mom reads it, my aunts read it, my best friend reads it, and it's possible that even my dad reads it. Clearly, this post will make a huge change in the lives of French people everywhere.
In Paris, for example, there are swarms of tourists all year, but the summer is especially bad. Lexi explained that being stopped by a tourist is not annoying if it happens occasionally, but when it happens to people several times a day they sometimes get annoyed.
Now, you have to understand who this is coming from. Lexi is extremely friendly and open--she and I hit it off right away. She took half a day to show us around Versailles and really went out of her way for us. If she says these things can get annoying, then by most people's standards they would probably be considered infuriating.
I asked one of the French Erasmus students about this and she explained that French people are usually a little overwhelmed when expected to speak English. Most of their English skills are writing and reading; speaking and listening are not stressed. So, when a stranger randomly walks up to them and speaks English they afraid they will say something wrong. She studies languages (her English is excellent) and I could tell that it was something she too had experienced.
In fact, while at the party lots of people attempted to speak to me in my language. However, almost every single one of them prefaced the conversation with "I'm sorry my English is not very good." I then informed them that my German was not very good, so I had no room to judge. Here's the thing: I was actually able to have conversations to most of them, which for me equalled good English.
When you look at people that way it is easier to connect with them and understand them, and more importantly, it is easier for them to connect with you. The problem that most locals have with foreigners (and tourists with locals) is that they seem to operate in different worlds and therefore are not very considerate of one another.
So, when traveling, it is important to act as if you are in somebody else's house, because you are. You don't criticize your hosts within earshot, make a mess, or turn up your nose at anything they offer you. Respect them, and you will find that they want you to enjoy their country. It is something very beloved to them and they want you to see it as they do. The way they live is an extension of who they are. It's just like having a guest in your house; you want them to think the best of you, so you do everything you can to make them feel comfortable.
However, they only care about your experience if they care about you, so if you are that annoying tourist you will just be seen as a nuisance. Don't go for the packaged experience of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, blah blah blah. Yes, you should go to those places, but dig a little deeper and try to see the country as the people who live there do. It's always so much more beautiful and interesting that way. That's the difference between a tourist and a traveler.