“Pardon, monsieur. Vous habitez à Paris?”

I was walking to my stop at Porte Maillot to catch a metro to church on Sunday when the French couple approached me with the question in my title.

“Uh. Non.”

“Ok, merci.”

“Bonne journée!”

They were looking for directions. Hope they found where they were going. BUT WHO CARES?? THEY ASKED ME IF I LIVED IN PARIS!! Looks like this American is passing.

Speaking of passing, this evening was a happy sigh of home in the heart of Paris. I have cracked into more of the intimate core of my French family. They are finally getting weird and loosening up around me! A good sign (at least in my family.) Two of my younger French brothers haggled each other throughout the whole of dinner, makes tons of noise; the other kids and the parents just ignored them and talked louder which seems to be the standard procedure in my homestay family. My French mom Laurence made my FAVORITE dessert this evening: flan de noix de coco (coconut flan) after I told her a few days ago that I loved it so much. YUM. Seconds were in order. For the first time after dinner I was able to substantially help clean up afterwards which also made me feel at home and not like “just a guest.”

AND, another sure sign that I am “Parisian” now (yeah right, but I sure as hell love to pretend) is that I am mastering the art of French conversation, at least within the context of my own Parisian family. Ok, just letting you know, I can’t get a word in edgewise at dinner with a combination of six of the the siblings and both parents at the table every night. They all talk loudly at once, over each other, under each other, through each other. It’s a loud, intricate and seemingly impermeable tapestry of words.  French conversation is marvelously lively and sort of scary to an American since we typically say, if we interrupt each other: “Oh, uh. Um. Sorry, no. You. Please. Sorry. I cut you off….” OK. I would never speak a word if I kept my wimpy American attitude toward conversation with me at dinner. But now I get it. I was sooo cautious before but it got me nowhere. So I ditched it. It was hard. It felt wrong sometimes. Like I was rude. But I went ahead and did it anyway and just pushed right in. And now it’s great! You can be part of the club if you just let yourself into the front door instead of expecting someone to invite you first.

And again. On the metro today, coming home from Chateau Fontainbleau, a woman made small talk with me when the metro stopped unexpectedly (things were running a little more slowly this evening….) I never had to sound “American”! Now, I am a full-blooded American and I am not about to go all ex-pat on you now, but there is a very distinct satisfaction that I derive from blending completely. For example, it’s becoming tourist season in Paris and tourists are flowing in from all over the world. I can spot the Americans within a few moments: tennis shoes, shorts, exercise jackets, speaking loudly. (Note this, all Americans traveling to Paris: Please don’t be ashamed of your American-ness but just don’t be so conspicuous about it….) I gaze upon them with a mix of affection and kinship and also unashamed smugness. Let’s not mention that I just checked my metro map three times to be sure I was going the right direction before I got on. Really, if we don’t mention the private moments that I routinely share with my maps, I am French, right? ; ) Not even close. But just to say it again, it is so fun to pretend. Let’s try this again:

“Pardon, monsieur. Vous habitez à Paris?”

“Mais oui! Comment puis-je vous aider?”

There. Passing.


9 thoughts on ““Pardon, monsieur. Vous habitez à Paris?”

  1. My favorite line: “You can be part of the club if you just let yourself into the front door instead of expecting someone to invite your first.” How simple; how true. I hope Helene reads this blog and knows how you guys are blending and passing! Well done!

    • Me too : ) She’s learning it in other ways! There’s been so much improvement in our communication between her and our group and vice versa.

  2. Sounds great. So are you going to spend the summer there, now that you are Parisian!!

    I’m going to see your mom in Denver on Sunday. Can’t wait!!

  3. I agree with Steve. Best line. What are your summer plans? Will I get to see you at home? (I’m not even sure if I’m going to be here or there, but I will be at home for at least a couple of weeks…)

    • Thanks for reading! As always. I will be home for the month in May! I really hope our schedules overlap. Then I am working as a camp counselor in Colorado for the summer. Do you know when you’ll be in CA yet?

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