June 23, 2009

When a non-French meets French; 15 peculiarities of un français

1. The time that a French person (un français) dread the most is Christmas time shopping and the reason is one – no parking available at almost any malls. French come to the malls before the doors are open to secure any available parking lot. Sundays are off for all businesses; the only places that are open in Paris are the touristy ones – like the Champs de Elysees. Thanks to the tourists, French can buy their milk and stamps on the Champs de Elysees on any holiday.

2. Why have a freezer if you can do as French do – store your groceries in a car.

3. French recycle and save. And the secret behind the energy saving? Simple: 1. don’t open subway doors, let each passenger open individual doors if they do have to get on and/or get off, 2. just before you exit the room, turn off the lights and make your way further in the dark – you will get used to moving in the dark pretty soon, 3. turn on the heating only if you seriously can already see your breath in the living room.

4. If you spot dust in the house, blame the “dirty” city, like French do blame Paris for all the dust on the bookshelves and kitchen tables in the house.

5. Not a Sunday goes by without a baguette, a long daily baked bread.

6. Never assume you really, really understand the menu. It might look like chicken bits in your le salade, but actually it is the “intimate parts” of a rooster.

7. Even if you try to speak French to a French, they switch to English instantly, not for the sake to practice their English with you, but more as to give make it easier for you to communicate your thought.

8. Don’t be surprised if an Arab selling roasted chestnuts on a street in Paris speaks perfect Russian, English, and/or Spanish to you. Just make sure you understand the difference between “deux” and “trois” (“2” and “3” Euro bag sizes).

9. If you present yourself as an Eastern European girl, do expect that some French waiters would assume that you are a striptease dancer. Try to prove them wrong – it only amuses them.

10. It is always refreshing to see Robin Williams, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts speak fluent flawless French. (Thanks to great dubbing job of the French cinema industry.)

11. Starbucks has invaded Paris. Try to order Tea Chai Latte, venti, with soy milk, no water, extra hot in French. It is refreshing to see American fellows crowding Starbucks cafes and munching on so-dearly-missed chocolate chip cookies and crumb cakes!

12. The metro system can be easy comprehensible as long as you know the end stations of each of the 14 lines.

13. Parisians don’t speak of districts in names, they speak in “arrondissments”. You are a true Parisian if you can say “J’habite le 6ieme arrondissment” – “I live in the 6th arrondissment”.

14. You think you know the words like “apartment”, “admission” and “ “ – but in truth – it sounds NOTHING like your familiar words, but more like l'appartement [lapurtimuh], and l'addition [ladission] and always check if 15% tip is already included - service compris (tip included).

15. French do not wear berets; so don’t try to pass for one by wearing one. You will stand out as a non-French!

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