Expat Magazine

Paris - with a Twist, (of Course)

By Expatmum @tonihargis
We spent last Tuesday to Friday in Paris, which was fab. It's about 13 years since I'd been there and I noticed a few changes:-
- a lot more of them speak English. I used to be quite proficient in French, but was getting pretty nervous at the thought of being responded to in French. I can read and speak the language decently even now, but as soon as a French person replies, I just freeze and am unable to understand all but the basics. In the taxi queue outside the Eurostar station, I managed to tell the person in charge that we were five people, with five large pieces of luggage, and would need a "grand taxi". The family was impressed. You could have knocked me down with a feather when we got into the taxi and the driver started cracking jokes in heavily accented English. Similarly, more waiters and shop assistants seemed able to communicate in English this time around. Amazing...
- a lot more of them admit to speaking English. Time was when they'd watch you butcher their language and generally make a complete fool of yourself, before pulling out near-perfect English, just to add to the shame.  I did A level French and found that as my French improved, the French people were less tolerant of my grammatical errors. Even the French guys that were clearly trying to get laid would get quite picky about tense usage and subjunctives! This time around, I found myself having half-English, half-French conversations with both parties filling in the gaps, and none of the tensions of old.
My language skills really came into their own at Charles de Galle airport on Friday night however. While having a quick meal, we noticed the military personnel wandering around, having a quiet word with people here and there, all of whom seemed to take umbrage at what they said before removing themselves immediately.  Before we knew it, a soldier came up to us and started speaking rather rapidly in French. The Ball & Chain sent him over to me, and the soldier quietly told us that we needed to move to a different part of the airport at once. After assuring myself that he was indeed telling us to get up and leave our unpaid-for meals, I asked him why. With little fuss or drama, he quietly said the word "bomb" (in French) at which I said "Oh - really?" and then, in an attenpt to not panic the kids, turned to the Ball & Chain and said, in my best Peter Sellers accent " He says it's a Burm". (Hey - I lived and worked in London in the 1980's - these things don't scare me.)
Yes, folks, yet again an incident.  I can only assume it was an unattended plastic bag since we were allowed to return to the departures lounge almost as soon a we'd reached the holding area.
One of these days I'll have an uneventful journey - and then what will I blog about?

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