Tuesday, May 19, 2015

As local as the locals?

A few weeks ago I found this quote in my room at an Oregon writers conference by Mark Twain from his book, The Innocents Abroad: “In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”

Twain poked fun at the American tourists in the 19th century visiting gay Paree. But it got me thinking about the other side of the Euro if you will - the life of the expat who's lived in France for awhile. How do you know when you're becoming as local as the locals?

Inspired by Zoe's questions but not the four minute stare,  I found some pointed issues that an expat might examine if they're wondering if it's just been too long. Courtesy of the blog, My French Life, with a few adaptions.

1. Do you no longer consider that notebook grid paper so strange?

2. Do you say ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ to everyone, including the bus driver.

3. Do you find that if you want something from someone, you’ll start your query with “excusez-moi” because that's how to get their attention?

4. Have you stopped giggling when men kiss one another hello?

5. Do you consider bread a utensil to eat with other foods and act accordingly?

6. Do you need cheese like it’s oxygen?

7. Do you believe in long lunches with multiple courses and insist on this with your friends?

8. Do you believe driving more than a few kilometers anywhere requires a weekend?

9. For the Parisian expat, do you never batt an eye when there’s yet another métro strike? Respond with a yawn?

10. Have you accepted that a reasonable response to a question is a shrug and bof with pursed lips? Have you ever conducted a whole conversation in French without saying a word?

11. Do you think calling someone a flea or a cabbage is cute?

12. Have you stopped laughing at the French name Fanny?

I'll leave it up to you if you're going for the four minute stare.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. I think I stared at your post (no, that's not a euphemism...) for a good four minutes. Not sure what that means, mon ami.

  2. I know all of the feelings here, Cara. I've lived in various countries over the years. I knew I hadn't made it in The Netherlands when, whenever I spoke Dutch, they answered in German. Sigh. And I still haven't learnt to put my knife on the plate and eat with the fork in my right hand. In that, I guess I'll always be South African.

  3. EvKa :):) Stan try the Gallic shrug and BOF

  4. I'm practising!

  5. so glad to hear it Stan, it's universal and works in many a sticky situation ie parking tickets

  6. What a fun list, Cara. The Gallic shrug speaks volumes. David tried it once, but he must have done it wrong. They gave him the parking ticket anyway. Stan, I once saw a WWII movie in which a spy who had parachuted into France--an American who spoke perfect French--was caught because the Nazi commandant saw him in a cafe switching his fork to his right hand while eating his dinner. Having grown up in the USA, but with Europeans in the house, I myself am ambiforkstris

  7. In Greece, when I start to speak the language my friends switch to English to save their mother tongue. Not sure what that means, but I do the shrug quite nicely.

  8. I consider bread a utensil...and I've never lived in France. (But I've been there, and loved it!)

  9. I could be part French.

    1. Cheese
    2. More than a few kilometers away should be a weekend.

  10. I use bread as a utensil. I love cheese. Can I do a Gaelic shrug... same thing but quicker as the weather is too bad to hang around and stare.

  11. Given that you're in Scotland, Caro, we'll give you a pass on the quick Gallic shrug as long as you put major attitude into it. Susan, bread as a utensil qualifies as honorary!