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Exposing the Deep American Roots

With all the talk about the inauguration of President Elect Barack Obama, my American roots are more exposed than ever. Americans are gathering together in Paris, and I suspect all across the globe, to celebrate an event that the entire world is embracing with enthusiasm. I can’t remember another inauguration which got quite so much media attention, perhaps except John Kennedy’s…but that’s now just a faded memory from childhood.

If you scroll down to the P.S. of today’s newsletter, you’ll find a newly published list of events across France and in Paris in which one can participate.

Part of the American roots which go so deep that it’s doubtful they will ever cross to French soil is the concept of “customer is king” — that because we are the paying customers, the merchant will always do their best to accommodate us. WRONG.

I’ve practiced the French technique of getting good service for years now, with tutelage by Polly Platt and the other cultural experts, not to mention a lot of trial and error on my own. And just when I think it’s been perfected, something happens to stir up those deeply entrenched American roots…like a visit to an Orange/France Telecom boutique to exchange old mal-functioning equipment for the latest model.

I won’t bore you with the details, but imagine a grown woman sitting on the floor in the middle of the boutique on boulevard Saint-Germain at Odéon, papers spread all over the floor, with her coat, hat and other belongings draped on a nearby chair, blocking their copy machine so no one could use it, on her cell phone to a France Telecom customer service representative (oxymoron) after dialing 3900 and a zillion other code numbers which eventually take you to the right person. The person on the phone, now after having spoken to 5 or 6 others, is asking to speak with a sales person in the boutique to settle the matter, who are not only completely ignoring her pleas to come to the phone, but downright refusing to assist! That’s when the American roots exposed themselves…when the yelling started causing a big stir…and then guess what happened? The customer service representative on the phone hung up. TRUE STORY.

Three trips to the boutique and three trips to the apartment later, the issue was settled, but those old American roots found their way to the surface and asked, “will I ever get used to this?”

The annual winter sales are on at their height of frenzy. Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais was closed to traffic Sunday but wall-to-wall with anxious shoppers. You wouldn’t have thought there was an economic crisis given the long lines to the cash re

gisters and the big bags people where toting.

Not many stores in France have the legal right to be open on Sunday. A 1906 law requires most non-food retailers in France to close on the “Lord’s day,” but President Nicolas Sarkozy has been working to change that to encourage business. Le Marais has benefited from its Jewish roots where the shops traditionally closed Saturday to observe the Sabbath, reopening on Sunday, hence the frenzy to catch bargains on what might otherwise be a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I stayed an observer, not wanting to battle for bargains or expose any more of those American roots by expecting good customer service. Guess I’ll have to pay full retail and freshen up on what Polly Platt taught us Americans to say — “Excusez-moi de vous déranger, mais…

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Here are more Presidential inauguration parties in France (as provided by Democrats Abroad):

* In Marseille

In association with Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires PACA and Media Euroméditerranéen des Diversités à Marseille, the cocktail party starts at 5:00 p.m. on La Boate, 35, rue de la Paix, 13001 Marseille, to watch the inauguration ceremony LIVE at 6:00 p.m. on a big screen.

* In Toulouse

A special event being organized by the American Consulate in cooperation with the City of Toulouse and an NGO, le Conseil Representif des Associations Noires (CRAN): Speech by Dominique Nitoumbi, Président of CRAN Midi-Pyrénées and David Brown, U.S. Consul. The festivities will include live television coverage of the inauguration as well as a talk by Fulbright Distinguished Professor Lorenzo Morris of Howard University and the University of Paris. Salle municipale Osète: Immeuble Duranti, 6, rue du Lt-Colonel Pelissier 31000 (Métro Capitole, parking St George).

* In Strasbourg

Starting at 5 p.m. at the Dubliners Pub, rue du Vieux Marché aux Vinx with CNN live streaming on a big screen.

* In Avignon

Starting at 5 p.m. at the “Restaurant 75,” 78, Rue Guillaume Puy — large screen viewing of ceremonies, parade, etc., with champagne. Followed by cocktail dinatoire and dancing with live music.

* In Paris

* The American Library
Tel: 01 53 59 12 60
10, rue du Général Camou, 75007
At the Library we’ll be marking this historic moment with a special book display, a live broadcast of the inaugural address, and an evening discussion focused on the promise of change on the international stage. 5:30 p.m. Live broadcast of the swearing-in ceremonies and inaugural address. 7:30 p.m. Political analyst Thierry Leterre on ‘The 2008 election viewed from Europe: A world ballot?’ A Current Events Forum in cooperation with WICE.
* The American Church in Paris
65 Quai d’Orsay, 75007
The American Church in Paris will have an Inauguration Prayer Service at 7:30 p.m. It will be a 30 minute service featuring a gospel choir, followed by the viewing of the speech. Afterwards they will have a reception with music, snacks and wine. All are welcome. This is a free event.
* BIZZ’ ART (ex OPUS) OBAMA DAY “Yes, We Can!!”
OPUS 167 quai de Valmy, 75010
M° Louis Blanc
Tel: 01 40 34 70 00
From 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., free entry
Rebroadcast of Inauguration on a big screen, Expo-Sale of Obama clothing (silk screened by XULY BET) , Photo exhibition, and Concert of and soul music featuring several groups including Chicago musician Sean Haefeli.

* The Highlander
“THE Scottish Pub in Paris”
8 rue Nevers 75006, across from Pont Neuf.

Special American Inauguration 2009 Party, also sponsored by POLITICAL PUB, bar opens at 5:00 p.m.
* The Moose (Canadian Bar)
16, rue de Quatre Vents, 75006
Tel: 01 46 33 77 00
They have 11 big screens and at least one will be showing the Inauguration! Tuesdays are Ladies’ Nights AND it will be Happy Hour until 8 p.m.
* Breakfast in America
17, rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris, France
Métro: Cardinal LeMoine or Jussieu
Tel: 01 43 54 50 28
We will be tuning in live at 4 p.m. Paris time to see who Obama’s guests will be before he gives his big acceptance speech! So come and join us for this historic event!

* Queenie and Queen
5, rue des Berri, 75008
and Queen
102, Avenue Champs Elysées, 75008
Get the party started at Le Queenie, starting at 8:00 p.m. Then move on to Queen, opening its doors at 10:00 p.m., with the Inauguration playing on the big screen and dancing until dawn. RSVP to mailto:[email protected] so they know how many to expect. This is not a ticketed event, but Queen has a ?15 cover charge after midnight.

* Carr’s Irish Restaurant & Bar
1, rue du Mont Thabor, 75001
Watch the swearing-in and acceptance speech on CNN on large screens, with television coverage starting at 4.30 p.m.

* Joe Allen

30, Rue Pierre Lescot, 75001
Tel: 01 42 36 70 13

Watch the swearing-in and acceptance speech on CNN on large screens, with television coverage starting at 4.30 p.m.


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