Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yesterday, my boss asked me to take a day trip to Grenoble to visit a new client. I was pretty excited since it's a new region for us - most of my clients are in "le grand ouest", and I've seen pretty much everything there is to see in their areas. I unfortunately didn't get to see as much as I'd hoped due to the train strike - I basically just had time to get there, see my client and get back - but it is definitely a region I would like to explore more someday.

My train wasn't due to get in until after 9pm and I was starting to feel peckish, so I decided to head over to the bar car. I obviously wasn't the only person with this idea, since there were a good 10 other people in line in front of me. Which meant I spent the next 20 minutes preciously guarding my place in line and fighting off all the wannabe line jumpers. When it finally came to be my turn, I ordered their "menu saveur" - it had a cold entree, a sandwich and a drink.

The waitress grabbed the entree and turned back to me and said: "What sandwich?" I was like "Pardon?" And she repeated "What sandwich?" again. Now y'all know it's a major pet peeve of mine when people start speaking to me in English. Especially in bad English. So I replied back in French, saying I wanted to roasted chicken one w/veggies. I give her my (American) bank card and we proceeded to have the following conversation.

W: I no take
Me (in French): Why not? I use this card a couple times a month on the TGV with no problems.
W: Machine no take
Me (in French): Um, yes it does. See, it goes right there - you just have to slide it through.
W: I try. (runs it through at the speed of a turtle). It no work.

The other people in line have noticed the delay and are starting to get shifty. Everyone else in the near proximity is also staring because of the English speaking. I am starting to get majorly irritated because all those years in Bretagne have made me really testy about people staring at me.

Me (in French): You have to do it faster.
W: No work (who is she, Tarzan??)
Me (in French): Now you need to press that button. (She tries and it works). But why are you speaking to me in English anyways?
W (in French): Because you can't speak French Mademoiselle! (Not only is she telling me my French sucks, but she calls me Mademoiselle on top of it? When I'm all gussied up in professional attire, carrying a work valise and sitting in first class? Nobody puts baby in a corner).

W (continues on): I am doing this for you, to make things easier. You should be happy.
Me (in French - and getting on my high horse): Listen lady, did I ask you to speak English with me?
W: Ah bon? You don't like speaking English? It's the first time a foreigner has ever told me that.

Me (*possibly* stretching the truth just a little bit here to make my point....): You do realize that not all foreigners are anglophones right? That there are other languages out there? I'm telling you, if I'd wanted to speak English, I would've moved to England!

I was ready to expect a round of triumphant applause, but then I was brought back down to Earth and remembered I was the only foreigner there. And that everyone else was still staring. Including the dude in front of me who'd for whatever reason had thought it was humorous to order his "parmentier de canard" with in an American accent. (Who buys parmentier de canard on a train anyways??) So I took my food and quickly walked back to my seat, all the while hearing the waitress muttering to the next customer "Ca alors. This has never happened before. Those foreigners are normally happy when someone speaks English to them".

I don't know why this rubbed me the wrong way so much, but I am glad I got the mini-bottle of wine with the meal to help calm me down. I guess I just felt like I've made so much progress. And for whatever reason, my French is normally a million times better when I'm talking to a customer or to a stranger than it is with someone I know. Hell, in Egypt, the people at our table didn't even realize I was a foreigner until half-way through the trip - and only because of my misuse of 'avant' when speaking about a food item. As in "Ah, tiens, il y avait pas ça avant" instead of "il n'y avait pas ça tout à l'heure".

Same goes for our châteaux weekend - neither the owners of the castle we stayed in nor those of the manor realized I wasn't French - and the owner of the manor even has an English husband! So I was thinking I'd really come a long way, only to get put back in my place by some lowly SNCF chick. Boo on that.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Screw her! It is so frustrating when that happens, and it happens more often than one would imagine.
Don't worry, she'll get hers when she tries to go to England and everyone speaks French to her.

April 22, 2010 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Zuleme said...

Yes, if she ever gets to an English speaking country the shoe is on the other foot!

April 22, 2010 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger meredith said...

I feel your frustration. Like Dedene says...screw her.

April 22, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger doomed to be fabulous said...

You have every right to be angry. I would have bitch-slapped her over the counter. And that dude who ordered parmentier de canard, too.

April 22, 2010 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Andromeda said...

I totally know how you feel, way to stand up for yourself! I always feel like when people do that they just want to make themselves look better, which is why it annoys me. I'm not here so you can show off your A2 level English!

April 22, 2010 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

Whatever, she's an idiot. By "you don't speak French" she probably really meant "you're foreign" and doesn't understand that the one doesn't always go with the other.

April 22, 2010 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

Yeah, something's wrong with her brain, considering she could understand everything you were saying to her, in French, perfectly. Ugh. Forget about it... I think that's awesome that people don't even notice you're not French - I could never pull that off for more than a few minutes!

April 22, 2010 at 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

grrr, stupid lady! People do that to me too, my French is absolutely pitiful but I wish people would let me try. And no doubt your French is excellent so she shouldn't have patronised you in that way, good on you for standing up for yourself!

April 22, 2010 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Mallory said...

I feel your pain Sam, they do that to me constanly (in France or in Quebec). Try being born a Francophone and having jerks speak to you in English!

Good for you for giving it to her!

April 22, 2010 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

I'm curious. How do you know people don't know you're not French?

April 22, 2010 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger fashion survivor said...

So they get annoyed when English-speaking foreigners can't speak French, but only want to speak English when you do? You can't win.

April 22, 2010 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger L said...

Correct the bad English! Just to get back at all the mean French people who don't let you ask for the toilets or the price of an object without correcting your grammar. I bet if she got told how bad her English was, she'd have switched to French.

April 22, 2010 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

@Starman - Because the French don't hesitate to ask where you are from the minute they hear "un petit accent".

April 23, 2010 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I think I would have said "I'm French and anyway my french is much better than your english."

April 24, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Sheryl said...

Aw Sam! You could have also told her her English needs more work than your French! I am total impressed with your knowledge and spunk! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

April 24, 2010 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...

Boo on THAT chick... Isolated incident... I hope... I would have been more peeved at the fact that she was so huffy about not taking the credit card.. What a b-!
Well, who cares about her, anyways... You should have spoken to her in Finnish and pretended you don't speak English.. hahhahah!! That would have thrown her... I know what you mean, though.. Normally, people trying to speak in English with me is welcome, because it gives me a chance to bs with them and tell them how "good" their English is.. Trouble is that she was being a wanker from the start and you were on the defense.. b/c she was blatantly lying to you about the card and if it was someone who didn't know better... like an unsuspecting American.. you/they would have had to pay in cash because of her incompetence or her lying about the card..
In fact, she may have just done it on purpose to you b/c don't you think they probably get American credit cards and they know perfectly well how to use them... B-IOTCH!

April 24, 2010 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...

Second thought.... I just remembered YOU ARE FRENCH!!! Bitch slap the bitch... I'll do it for you, if you'd like!!!!! So there!

April 24, 2010 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Monique said...

I can tell you haven't spent that much time in France if being mistaken for a foreigner still bothers you. Wait until you've been here for 15, 25, 35+ years and you'll see that in the scheme of things it's not really that important to get so upset about, is it? If you have the slightest accent (and most foreign born people do) even after 40 years, you'll still get people speaking to you in English so get use to it. Once you accept it, you'll find that you'll enjoy life in France so much better and not get upset for something so minor.

April 25, 2010 at 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monique, Sam has been in France for 8 years or something like that, so she has in fact been here for quite awhile.

I know exactly how she felt and why something like this can be so annoying and upsetting. Imagine that everytime you went out you were interrogated about your private life by random shopkeepers, bus drivers, whatever. It gets very annoying and exhausting after awhile. Sam worked hard to learn French, she's fluent in the language and this woman was just being an idiot. The constant interrogation by strangers, the constant being treated like an idiot because of an accent even led me to go to an orthophoniste!

April 25, 2010 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Monique said...

Apparently, 2 ou 3 choses, 8 years is not long enough since it still bothers her. Ask Sam in another 10, 15 years (when it will still be happening regardless if she speaks French very well, if she still has the slightest accent it will happen) and see if she doesn't tell you, "I couldn't care less!"

April 25, 2010 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

I'm not really sure why it matters how I'll be feeling in 15, 20 or 35 years - I'm talking about the here and now. More power to you if it doesn't bother you Monique, but judging by the comments left here, I'm not completely alone in feeling this way.

April 25, 2010 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger J. said...

I suspect that England is one of the few countries left where English is no longer widely spoken!

But I sympathise with your frustration, the number of times I shouted at people to please! speak to me in French and the number of times the devils turned round and replied in Breton!

April 25, 2010 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Monique said...

My point exactly, Sam. If you look at my first comment, I said, "Once you accept it, you'll find that you'll enjoy life in France so much better and not get upset for something so minor."

April 26, 2010 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger leon's life said...

I don’t have any problem with people commenting about my accent ( although this rarely happens) as I have yet to find a French person that speaks as good English as I speak French. If they try to speak to me in English I just go along with it, it’s always gets a laugh out of me :) at their expense of course.

The funny thing is that my husband has a very, very strong southern French accent I have a thick English accent (no one is ever going to mistake me for a French girl even after nearly 20 years here) We live near Paris and when we are out together people are always commenting on his accent ( are you from Marseille .. ohh your from the south bla blah . . ) but not on mine. That’s really curious isn’t it ?

April 26, 2010 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger BebeJardin said...

Kudos to you for standing your ground! I hate when people do that, although my French ain't great, I want to try! Zut alors!

May 8, 2010 at 12:15 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home