On the Eurostar now, out of Paris and back to London. I am looking forward to being in an English-speaking environment again.
Before spending the past 5 days in France, I learned some French phrases and greetings, and downloaded a French app for my phone. I had been told that if the French see you make an effort to speak their language, then all will be well. Another bit of advice was don’t go to France ready to judge, and keep an open mind. Well, I tried, and I failed. I find it difficult not to judge after spending 5 days in Paris.
Paris is a world famous city. The City of Light. If, after spending 5 days here and I still don’t love it, then perhaps something is wrong with me. But, perhaps not. Perhaps Paris and I are just not compatible. It’s like dating a beautiful woman. She may be beautiful, but after a couple of dates you realize she’s just not for you. That’s probably the most respectful way that I can put it.
Imagine seeing your wife (if you know JC, you know she is the nicest person on the planet), who so wanted to visit Paris, try to order an egg, ham, and cheese crepe and struggle to pronounce “egg” (“œuf”) in French. Then, imagine the crepe lady respond in utter disgust when she pretends she doesn’t know what is being ordered. Next, realize that this crepe stand is steps away from the Eiffel Tower, a world famous landmark and, I don’t know, probably a tourist area, where not everybody speaks French. Now, imagine this happening in most of the places we went.
It amazes me that someone operating a business in a tourist area would behave in such a manner. I will concede that things like disgust and pretending are subjective, and that perhaps this is just the French way and not intended as I perceived. We did encounter a lot of what I perceived to be dirty looks all over Paris. One man’s dirty look is another’s friendly face. So, perhaps I just didn’t fully understand the French way, and applied my own standards when judging how I was being treated.
To be fair, there were some friendly faces, but that’s also the part that confuses me. If these are French people and they are behaving in what I perceive to be a friendly manner, then how do I reconcile the fact that I’m also perceiving so many to be unfriendly? Which way is really the French way? Could it just be something wrong with me? I’m not exactly a people person so my apprehension around people could be mistaken for unfriendliness. But, what about JC? People love her no matter where we go.
In the end, I’m not going to try to figure it out. I probably won’t be going back to France in my lifetime. Other than what I described above, I enjoyed my time in Paris and now I can say I’ve been here, been to the Eiffel Tower, been to the Arc de Triomphe, sipped espresso at a café, and toured the Louvre. The history of France in particular is worthy of fascination and respect. I’ll remember the centuries-old buildings, I’ll remember one of the world’s oldest subways, I’ll remember the friendly faces, and I’ll especially remember, when I’m in Hong Kong or San Francisco and a French tourist approaches me and asks “Pouvez-vous parler Français?,” to respond with a friendly smile and say “Oui.”