Monday, May 19, 2008

Excuse me, does anyone here speak French?

I have to say that overall, the French people are much more pleasant in Provence than in Paris. Most of the people I dealt with in Provence were very friendly and put up with my attempts at the French language in addition to my embarrassing German “Dankes” (which have become unfortunately somewhat automatic no matter what language I am attempting to speak).

Case in point was this woman at the McDonald’s in Avignon. I ordered my breakfast in French, and she knew exactly what I wanted, but when it came to options within my order she would simply bring out the three tea choices for me to point to, instead of having to discuss. Same with the jam options. Each time, I was shown the selection and could point. It was really quite pleasant and very kind of her to make this effort.

My traveling buddy and friend, who speaks excellent German, Chinese and English, but alas, no French, had a bit more difficulty with McDonald’s breakfast menu. So this kind French McDonald’s employee went as far as taking down the huge cardboard sign that hung overhead so my friend could point to exactly what she wanted. If this isn’t hospitality, I don’t know what is.

So the last day of our trip, when I am just about to write in my journal about my misconceptions that all French people hate anyone that isn’t them, we go to an ice cream shop in St. Remy de Provence.

As my friend ordered a citron crepe, I studied the ice cream choices. I was so enthralled with the fact that they might have bubble gum ice cream, (as always, key word being “might”) that I failed to notice that my friend was upset.

The ice cream man had given her a cup of citron ice cream. But she wanted a citron crepe. But she couldn’t express this with anything other than a look of frustration and a “no.” I would have helped her, except my French was not exactly top of mind after two years of German study, not to mention the fact that I was too enamored with the thought of bubble gum to fully focus on the complexity of the situation.

As my friend stood hopeless and upset at her cup of lemon ice cream, the ice cream man, who had obviously grown up in Paris, said to the other people waiting to order in as sarcastic as the French language can get,

“Excuse me, does anyone here speak French?”

A man next to me chimed in with a hearty “Oui.”

So the ice cream man proceeded to help the “Oui” man. Finally after a painful few minutes he got back to my friend, dumping her scoop of citron ice cream back into the tub while his wife got me my bubble gum ice cream with a scowl. So finally my friend did get the crepe she wanted but failed to get a fork and knife with which to eat it with.

“How am I supposed to eat this,” said my friend angrily.

Luckily I knew the word for fork so I said I would get her a fork even though at this point eating with her hands would have been a much more recommended option.

So I went inside and finally the French woman scowled at me.

“Avez vous une forchette?” I said.

“Ooh, UNE FOURchette…” she said, correcting my French pronunciation meanly. But she obviously understood me as she produced a fork along with another scowl.

Needles to say, I left the shop as pissed off as my friend. It’s not like I wasn’t trying to speak their language. What is wrong with these people? After all, if it weren’t for our grandparent’s generation, they’d be speaking German.

As I pictured that possibility, I couldn’t help but smiling as I sampled my ice cream. It was bubble gum after all. And that made it slightly easier to possibly consider forgiveness.

1 comment:

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