You Know You’ve Been in France Too Long When…
Sebastien Marx, a New York stand-up comedian, who does a show every Friday and Saturday at the Apollo Theatre here in Paris, offered up the “Top 10 signs that you are an American living in France for too long.”
I got a real chuckle out of that — Sebastien is young and hasn’t lived here as long as some of us, but he already knows when one can overstay their ‘welcome.’ It’s a joke among Expats who often say “Uh, oh. Guess I’ve been here too long.”
When you’ve been here a really long time, you might go through a period of becoming very French, and then the pendulum might swing and you find yourself becoming even more American than you were before. Here’s what Sebastien lists as his top 10 signs…along with my own comments, following, if you dare indulge me.
1. You eat a burger with a fork and a knife, and with a basket of bread next to it
It’s true. If you eat a burger with your hands, you’ll be the only one in the café behaving like a ‘heathen,’ however, I once witnessed the actor Jean Dujardin (from The Artist, among others), sitting next to me at Café Charlot, eating his burger with his hands, to which I remarked, “I’m glad to see you eating a burger the ‘correct way!'” (He laughed and kept eating.) I personally solved the problem by never ordering a burger…except on July 4th at American Restaurant Joe Allen’s where eating it with your hands is not only acceptable, it’s the norm.
2. You have Tupperware® dedicated to stinky cheeses
Fortunately for me, I dislike cheese, particularly stinky French cheeses. You’re absolutely right, this is not normal and a particular shame living in France with its almost 500 cheeses, but my refrigerator will never stink of cheese, with or without Tupperware®. This does not upset me.
3. You leave home at the time when you should be arriving
Nope, that will never be me. I’m as “à l’heure” (on time, usually) as one can be, however it’s true that some French friends do arrive almost always late…at least I can count on it.
4. When you see a woman topless in a pub, it has no effect…well, almost none
If you grow up seeing women’s breasts just about any where, any time, it’s no wonder it has no (or little) effect! Pop singer Johnny Hallyday gave an open-air free public concert on the Champ de Mars in June of 2000 and the Crazy Horse dancers performed on stage totally topless. I was not shocked, but let’s face it, that would NEVER happen in the U.S. See it for yourself if you don’t believe me.
5. You have a scarf for every season, yet you are a heterosexual man — a real man!
Of course you do. Just because you’re a man, it doesn’t mean your neck doesn’t get cold from the damp, cool Parisian weather. Besides, it’s fashionable and men are allowed to be fashionable — even REAL men. There are so many gorgeous scarves from which to choose, so, “pourquoi pas?”
6. When you leave 5€ tip for a bill of 100€, you think it’s generous
The French don’t leave tips — but, of course, we Americans do — who not only are used to tipping 20%, but understand that if it were not for the tips, the waitpeople would starve. Not so in France. The service is included in the bill and the bill doesn’t allow you to add the tip to the charge on your credit card. If you want to show you appreciated the service, leave about 5% of the bill in cash and be proud of your American generosity.
7. When someone says that your work is “not bad,” you are happy
That’s as good as you’re ever going to get, no matter how excellent you really are. “Pas mal” is what every student receives from their teachers equivalent to a gold star. It’s as positive a statement as the French are capable of making, so yes, be happy…but do me a favor: never adopt this attitude, no matter how long you are in France!
8. You buy a “baguette” without knowing what you’ll be eating in the evening
Sadly, I never buy baguettes. I’ve been here so long that giving up carbs meant giving up baguettes, but of course, I do miss them. There is simply no better-tasting bread in the world and I often dream of it slathered with butter, warm and crispy to go with a big, frothy café crème. There are lots of times I wish I had carried home a fresh baguette just for that.
9. You think that dairy and sunshine are good for you
Of course they are. Don’t listen to all that hullabaloo malarky. If you’re in Paris, you’re not getting a lot of sunshine, so yes, we soak up every single ray we can get and pray for no Vitamin D deficiency. Interestingly enough, people who are lactose intolerant in the U.S. find they aren’t when eating dairy products in France. Some doctors believe it’s not the milk, but the preservatives in U.S. dairy products that cause the problem!
10. You distrust people who smile, too
I wouldn’t say we distrust them, but they do start to look silly. Americans have a permanent smile on their faces, evidenced by all those happy lines around their eyes…and then when they are dropped in Paris, they get even more sparkly-eyed…they’re so HAPPY to be here. But then again, they aren’t likely going to be here long enough for the smile to wear off.
There is one thing I’d like to add to the list and it’s the most important of them all:
11. You speak softly and modulate your voice so that only those whom you want to hear you, hear you
At Café Charlot Monday, there was a table of three American women, each one with a loud, piercing voice worse than the next. It was literally painful to hear, and of course, the entire café heard every word of their inane conversation. They were clueless. It was all I could do to refrain from going over to their table to ask them to respect the rest of us by keeping their voices down.
You know you’ve been in France too long when you get so annoyed that you actually do something rude to shut them up. Fortunately instead, I just left the café without saying a word.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(with her anual hamburger at Joe Allen)
P.S. Don’t miss the next Après Midi with author Kathy Borrus, Tuesday June 14. Kathy will talk about her book, Five Hundred Buildings of Paris and show slides of Parisian buildings with anecdotes on each, including many unknown to Paris insiders. Come and tell some of your own stories! Details on our Après Midi page