• Zahra S.

Don't forget the phlegm!

France is one of the countries I’ve visited the most on my travels. I love the old buildings and being able to immerse myself in the culture. I also believe I enjoy the city; because that’s where all the great American writers like James Baldwin went spent their time.

I must admit I do spend a lot of my time in the city of Paris. I would like to expand my visits there. I’ve traveled out of Paris maybe two times, but for small amounts of time. It’s nice to see the city backdrop fade away and encounter a slower pace of life.

One thing that many Americans know is that we are seen as ignorant when it comes to other cultures. I have seen it myself when an American tourist seems to become overly exasperated because a person in another country is having difficulty communicating to them in English. Sad to see but it happens sometimes.

I have learned French in high school. My French is not the best, but I can get around and if you speak to me slowly I understand mostly. I will say my strong point however is reading the language, so I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that.

Paris is known as a beautiful city; Parisians are not known to be welcoming; but truly I thought little of that. Again, you will always run into a few bad apples.

The second time I was in France I was with two other friends. One of my friends is Haitian so she spoke creole and could dabble in French and I had my minimal from school, and we thought we could make this work.

Money is an important necessity traveling anywhere. Most people know the airport charges a leg and arm for currency exchange, so we wanted to go to a bank in the country to deal with that.

Strangely we could not find one bank after settling into our Airbnb. It was hilarious to think that we were pretty much in the center of Paris and we could not find a bank. At a lost we stop this older woman to ask for help. My friend in French of course asks, “Where is a bank”. The main part here is the word bank is ‘banque’. The lady looked at us and she was like excuse me I don’t understand. So, my friend asks again, and the lady still looks confused, her eyebrows scrunching up. I jump in and in French say, “the place where you get money from”.

This older lady’s eyes turn big and wide like a light bulb just went off in her head. “Eughhh la banque” with the phlegm-iess emphasis on the ending of the word. Basically, we could not be understood because my friend did not put that emphasis on the last syllable. At the time I thought the situation was hilarious while my friend was fuming, because the word was too similar to not know what we were talking about.

The next day we were out and lost, we just could not find the metro. I find these two young twenty something girls and ask them in French where the metro is. We know where this is heading. Mind you we’re not speaking the language without any accents we’re trying our best to convey the nuances of the language that isn’t our native tongue.

The girls look at me confused and I try again then here I am explaining in French, “the public transportation that is underground.” Not surprisingly these girls say, “Eughhh le métro” putting that deep throaty phlegm like sound on the end of the word.

Truly they all knew what we were saying, they just wanted to see us struggle. I’m assuming it was fun for them. My accent did not get any better from asking my question to explaining it.

Maybe I should stick to English. lol

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