Fitting In – Can’t be hard right?
One of the things I vowed to do upon arrival in France was to seamlessly blend in to my surroundings and try to be as French as possible. This is very difficult when everyone keeps telling me I have “Such an English Face“. The language barrier is of course a major factor. Try as hard as I might to muster a convincing accent and body language when ordering an espresso or a newspaper, and yet still people either shrug or answer back in English. I recently tried reading a local newspaper La Marseilless and tutting whilst drinking an espresso in my local café in St Victor, and yet I was still eyed up with suspicion by the regular on the next table down as an IMPOSTEUR.
The next hurdle for me is the lack of rules. Being your regular uptight Englishman, I am accustomed to personal space, lots of rules and regulations and the importance of the Queue. The queue is an age- old concept which is incredibly sacred in England, and yet seems to hold little relevance in France. My first experiences of purchasing items in my local Fruit and Veg shop, Boulangerie and supermarket left me feeling bruised, vulnerable and afraid. Why did the snotty women with a leopard skin handbag push in front of me in the Queue upon walking in? Why did the 3 old ladies walk out to greet friends for 5 mins whilst in the middle of paying? Why did the shop owner walk off when it got to my turn, to turn the radio up and flirt with a women who just walked in?
The driving is another major issue. I have never been a great passenger in any car, but here it is even worse. It seems you can’t go on any short trip across the city without a near miss, pedestrian walking out in front of you without looking or a scooter driving the opposite way down a one way street right at you. It feels like a driving awareness video, where hazards are thrown at you in abundance and you must react to them . If you see an old women up ahead teetering on the edge of a curb, you have to expect her to walk out in front of you. It’s just how it is.
Trying to cross the road also seems like a big task. The illuminated green man should, in theory mean I can walk, but cars still seem to come straight at me in abundance.
The problem is of course not with them but with me. I need to relax, loosen up and realise that this is just how it works here. Peoples priorities are different and that is what makes the place so special. People don’t want to conform to rules and regulations, and take great pride in sticking a middle finger up at anyone who would try to change their way of life.