Monday, December 12, 2005

You know what the problem with the French is?

Spent the weekend much in hibernation--knitting, reading Harry Potter 4 and 5 (again and again), drinking tea, working on my new (hopefully) template and graphics, eating chocolate, and taking lots of naps. I guess sometimes you just need that.

But, needless to say, we do need to eat. So, on Saturday during a particularly long walk with Lucy, I stopped in our neighborhood bakery on my way home to pick up some mini-Pavés for lunch. The bakery, right on the Place d'Italie, has recently been bought by a young group of people, and they are making changes. The bread is better (yay!) and they have started making these lovely mini-pavés--basically a bread roll stuffed with fillings and baked. I love the feta and red pepper, and the lardons and gruyère--plus the banana chocolate one is to die for. The best part is that they are only 1 euro each, and 2 makes a very filling lunch.

I stopped in to get some for me and Dr. B, and since this is one of the few bakeries that doesn't force Lucy to stay outside (the square footage inside is room for barely 5 people in line), I was trying to keep quiet so no one would notice her taking up 1.5 person's floor space. There is usually a line out the door for these lovely little french version (of course, better tasting) of Hot Pockets.

The lady in front of me seemed to be having a little trouble. She was looking at the signs for the various offerings, many of which were askew or in front of the wrong thing, and looked very confused.

She asked, in a very heavy (Russian???) accent, "Do you speak Eeeengleesh?"

The girl behind the counter said, "Non."

I piped up, "I do!" and proceeded to help tell her what was in each of the pavés she pointed to. I loved the idea of being helpful--for once my french skills were actually needed! She made her choices, and as she was pulling 2 euros out of her purse, said loudly and clearly for everyone to hear,

"You know what the problem with the French is? They don't speak Eeeengleeesh."


I wished really, really hard that I could blend into the display case, or sink into the floor, or Apparate, --anything, to get out of there.

I tried to shoot the girl behind the counter a sympathetic look. No dice. The slightly less grumpy looks I had been getting from her lately had vanished. My guess is she speaks enough English to know exactly what that woman said, and enough to be quite insulted by it.

I was desperate to let everyone know that I didn't share this woman's opinion, that I was learning French as well as I could, and that I loved France very, very much! That I appreciate the differences between cultures! That I am not a stereotype! That I don't think the entire world should learn my language, while I sit back and don't make any attempt whatsoever to learn another!

Of course, I was just buying a few things to eat, so it was a little hard to work into the conversation.

I ordered, very clearly and in FRENCH, my 4 different mini-pavés, said "Merci" a LOT, paid, and Lucy and I walked home.

So, anyone got the whole apparating thing down? I think I'll need a new wand...



At 7:39 AM, December 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do hope that when the French come to America attempting English and possibly not too clearly understood, that we are a little more sympathetic and understanding. I realize that one must adapt to another country's culture, but there is such a thing as empathy for one trying to adapt! How terrible to go through life so ready to be crabby with everyone.

At 9:53 AM, December 12, 2005, Blogger Sarita said...

Now I see which Harry Potter you are reading....just curious... :)

At 2:37 AM, December 13, 2005, Blogger Kat said...

Try not to feel too bad about the whole English/being American thing. I used to spend WAY too much time worrying about it, when I should have just got on with enjoying life in Paris. There will always be someone--French, American, English, Russian, etc-- who will be looking for a reason to cop an attitude. Keep on with learning French. You're doing all the right things!


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