Thursday, 11 October 2012

Smile and nod

I have worked out that until I open my mouth and start speaking no one realises that I can't speak French so the best way is to just look like I know what I'm doing and smile and nod.  This applies to driving in some ways as well, because the other motorists don't realise that it is only my second time driving further then to school 1km a way and that I don't understand half of the crazy French road rules and that I am completely relying on the GPS to get me anywhere!  Today I decided to take Hannah and I on an adventure to the local mall (Centre Commercial in French).  The aim was to have lunch and to do some post.  I wanted to give Hannah and myself a cooked dinner at lunch time as Jasper had soccer tonight after school and Penelope was starting singing class so it was sandwiches for tea - very French!  I decided to drive the back route to the mall which worked well and thankfully coming from Christchurch am use to roundabouts so arrived at the mall unscathed.  Hannah was such a good patient girl even when it took me ten minutes to find the correct location on the GPS before we had even started.

In France there is a chain of restaurants called Flunch which have a unique way of ordering where you get your tray, tell the teller what you want, pay, get a docket then go and get your food by presenting the docket. Hannah loves it as she can go up for more chips as often as she likes.  This is one of those places where I just smile and nod and try to pronounce things in French but the poor French teller has no idea what I'm saying so I start pointing frantically and then just hope that what I've paid for is what I want.  Luckily for me Pepsi is the same in every language.  I am also learning a few key French words - hache means steak burger patty without the bun, cafe means coffee, glace means ice cream and as long as you always say bon jour and Merci things are normally fine.  It is nice though when the French people who can speak English rescue me from flailing my arms around and pointing at things.  The nice chef at the fish counter in Flunch spoke perfect English, which made my life a bit easier.

After Flunch for lunch we went to the post office where we struck an annoying French habit of idle chit chat between the customer and the teller even though there is a huge que - all very nice for the people involved but not so great for me.  Anyway I got in the only que at the post office and the lady in front had about 20 envelopes each which had special stamps and stickers on them for some reason and she took about twenty minutes!  It is a very strange thing standing in a line of people and not being able to understand anything anyone says - again I just smile and nod.  I do miss not being able to eaves drop on conversations and just  listen to what others are saying in the world around me.

By this time I decided we needed to head back home so got in the car and pressed the home button on the GPS and it started taking me in the wrong direction - as I knew better and also was terrified it would take me onto the motorway I turned around and went the other way.  Luckily the GPS came into line recalculated and we all got home safe and sound.


  1. Small steps, Rach, sounds to me that you are getting along just fine with a nod and a smile. What's the phrase? Patience is a virtue! Well done.

  2. You are certainly having some adventures. I think you are very brave doing the driving. Much quicker to be independant rather than having to rely on public transport. A great idea to have a cooked lunch. How nice that Penelope is learning singing. They all have settled into their new way of life.

  3. The only problem is when people smile and not at your English... Not long after I arrived I was asked at work what my needs were on my work cellphone. I explained that I probably wouldn't use many minutes, but internet was very important - translation, maps, etc. etc. "I need internet. As long as it has Internet it will be fine. How much Internet does it have?" - Smile, smile, nod, nod. 1 Month later - €1000 phone bill. Actually, the phone had no internet plan and the internet was charged per minute connected. - Obviously this is less than ideal if you think you're being charged by amount of data and leave your phone connected sometimes when you aren't actually using it. Of course, now I have a much better plan...