Language Barriers

Friends are arriving this week with a 5 yr old. I was on the bus today and saw a cute little girl.  I wondered how old she was… 4? 5?  I am not good at kids’ ages. I was trying to compare her to the little girl flying over. 

My French is improving. And shop workers are complimenting me often. So I was brave enough to ask.  Politely I said excuse me Madame. I have a question. How old is your little child?

OMG. I guess she was German not French. And she took total offense. I have no idea what she thought I had said.  I spoke quietly.  Politely.  Even smiled.  

She glared at me the rest of the trip.  Even called me something that I think meant stupid Swede.  One time I caught her eye and I looked away and slightly shook my head.  Wondering what the heck was going on?  How and why was I misunderstood? And she told me off.  I just shrugged my shoulders.  Finally we got to her stop and she got off with the little girl and turned and made a parting crack.

It was sad.  I wished I spoke German. I didn’t mean to ruin her day.  But she allowed it to happen.  

Guess I will make sure the person speaks French before I ask anything in the future.  

They’re here!

When I worked in Truckee, the Lake Tahoe mountain resort town, a co-worker came into my office late on a Thursday to announce, in an omininous tone, “they’re here”. 

She meant the tourists.  Those who brought dollars to the community but also created lines at Safeway and traffic jams at the round about (they wanted to stop, not go round). 

When I went to Norte dame last weekend, that’s how I felt.  And today I did a bit of shopping at Galleries Lafayette. OMG.  So crowded.  And 60% were speaking Japenese or Chinese or another similar language at the top of their lungs.  I felt claustrophobic.  

And the Parisiens have fled town. A not uncommon site is a small sign on the door or in the window – typed it handwritten- announcing the “fermature” from August 1 to the 20th or even the 31st.  At least three weeks and often 4.  

My Parisien friends are going back to the old family village. Even those born in Paris go back to the grandparents locale. 

My conversation exchanges have been limited as I work around their vacations.   If I am here next year in August I won’t be here!  I’ll be somewhere else acting like a Parisienne.