Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One Way Street (heading in their direction)

The French are infamous for keeping their private lives private and for becoming uncomfortable if you ask if they have children or if they’re married or where they live or what they do for a living or blah, blah, blah.  I’m finding that this is not a two-way street. It seems that having an accent gives them free license to ask me whatever they feel like.  There is a pattern, but I’ll give the two examples fresh in my mind because they happened yesterday and today.  Yesterday, I was asked if I owned or rented my apartment by a complete stranger.  Today, while waiting for the elevator a neighbor whom I never met arrived in the lobby.  I asked him if I should hold the elevator.  He said no as he was taking the stairs. Then he asked me if I was Madame So-and-so’s babysitter on the first floor.  I said no, I live here.  Then he said “oh, because I called her house the other day and a woman with the same accent answered the phone – an accent from, from, from . . . .”  I let him stutter for a few moments before I offered: "American?"  Then he asked from which state.  When I said California, he asked if I was from Palo Alto. Because even though he couldn’t identify my country of orgin, he thought he'd nail the city.  No, I answered and provided the city.  Then he skipped away happy; his file on me complete.  I seriously wouldn’t care if they didn’t have such attitude about being private and accusing Americans of being prying.  I still don’t know his name, what floor he lives on, or why he cares where I’m from.  Maybe I'm jaded.  Maybe he was just trying to be neighborly.  But had the roles been reversed, I'm sure he wouldn't have been so jolly.  


Keith Eckstein said...

I used to have exactly the same at work - people would come over to find out all about me.

I just knew that I'd be a topic of conversation over dinner that evening.

They always wanted to know where I was from and whether it was near Cardiff (the local schools used to send the kids to Cardiff to learn English!)

In the end I just used to say "Albert Square" and "Yes, not far from Cardiff" and they went away happy.

All the best


Amy75 said...

Hi, Keith! I like your approach. Might as well get it out there and move on :) Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is well.

Ksam said...

This is definitely one thing that drives me crazy - people here my accent and then think that gives them the right to ask me things they would never ask a French person. I cringe inwardly anytime I hear a sentence start with "Je me permets de vous demander..." or "Sans vouloir être indiscret...". Grr!

Ksam said...

Doh, I mean "hear" and not "here" - I really need to learn to proofread my comments!

Amy75 said...

Hi Sam! I completely understand re here/hear. I recently made the same mistake (also where/wear). I think learning French has made it worse. Also, Facebooking, texting, etc. :) I love your sample French intro phrases! I rarely even get that . . . they usually just go in for the kill.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that funny? Related to money conversations, we have a friend who has asked me on separate occasions 1. How my salary in the US; and when I was negotiating for a job way back when, 2. How much I was negotiating for 3. How much I make now. I also know how much he makes, and how much his wife makes.

And these are questions that I have almost never had with Americans. Ever.

Re you convo..maybe he wants a green card or wants to be your mail order husband? - phillippa

Amy75 said...

LOL, Phil! He'd probably have better luck as a mail order husband (where he could choose the photo people see of him) :)