They say things happen in threes. I hope that’s true, because if I experience another run-in with the Parisian rudeness that I have been actively assuring others doesn’t exist, I might just lose my mind.
After gaining the confidence to try to speak some French in public, I have been surely and swiftly knocked off of my little pedestal. For a city that is known for its culture and class, the people here certainly can lack tact. Here’s a recap of my descent from moderately confident to fearing foreigner:
- At my neighborhood grocery store, an old lady asked me where she could find a “boite de sel,” or, a box of salt. Not knowing the answer (or what exactly a BOX of salt was), I told her, in French, that I would ask someone. She understood me and thanked me for offering to help. I found the nearest grocery store employee, to whom I said: “Je cherche une boite de sel…?” knowing that I was looking for something rather odd. His response: “Vous n’êtes pas français, hmm?” (or, “you’re not French…”). He then laughs, and follows me to the aisle where the old lady is searching. Um… did I make a mistake here? Am I speaking so unintelligibly that you cannot understand me? Obviously not. So stop focusing on the fact that I’m not French and tell me where we can find a freaking box of salt, damn it!
- At a restaurant ordering lunch last weekend, a waiter makes a joke about what I’m ordering in French. I smile politely and nod, not even realizing he was making a joke, which prompts him to ask Frog Prince why I didn’t get the joke. He of course responded that I don’t really speak French. At the end of the meal, the waiter looks me in the eye and asks me in French if my plate was good. I responded “C’était bon!” Meaning, it was good. At which point he proceeded to sarcastically ask me if it was “bon ou bonne?” in an attempt to correct my French, and he was in fact, making a mistake (insert French grammar lesson about masculine and feminine forms, here). Nice try, buddy. I didn’t realize French teachers also worked as waiters on Sundays.
- On the same day as incident number 2, we were at the lake enjoying the rare Paris sunshine. Somehow we started playing football (soccer) with a little boy nearby. The great thing about little kids is that I can speak to them in French, probably making plenty of mistakes, but they totally understand me and don’t judge me at all. However, a group of pretentious mommies who arrived after our game of football had started, who sat themselves directly adjacent to our playful little match, proceeded to tell us we were playing too close to their children, and DO like to judge. Apparently they heard me speaking to the little boy and felt that my French was sub-par and felt it necessary to talk among themselves about my poor language skills. After being informed of their comments to each other, overheard by Frog Prince, that I should learn how to properly speak French, we decided to ignore their warnings and played until they left. Hopefully, they went to find something better to do, like pay attention to that baby they were so damned worried about that they strategically placed him near an ongoing football game.
To be completely honest, after getting home from the lake and having all three incidents hit me at once… I cried. For the first time since moving to Paris, I cried solely because I felt so completely frustrated with living here. On the bright side, it took me almost a year and a half to reach this point.
But have no fear, friends, family, and faithful readers… after my pity party passed, I have made a resolution: I’m gonna learn the SHIT out of this language, if for no other reason than to go back to that waiter and tell him what I think of his français de merde. After my meal is finished, of course.