One of my favorite places is France. I love the people, their attitude to life, the scenery and the fact they take time over meals and tolerate entire families in restaurants.
However, some cringe-worthy moments have happened when I have been in a restaurant and other Brits have come in. Now, the French have an attitude to people speaking French. If you don’t try, they remain firmly French but if you at least make the effort, they often switch to English – and often speak it really well.
One time I was in a delightful harbor-side cafe in Joinville on the Vendee coast with my family. Another family came in, English to the core (trousers hitched up, sun cream slathered on the kids’ faces and loud t-shirts proclaiming ‘I (heart) London’.
We smiled and they sat near us. The waiter, who was a lovely, laid-back man of even temperament, but who probably did not speak English as we had been conversing in French for the good part of an hour over our lunch, came across to take their order. I knew he was a lovely guy as he had given us some insights into the local areas’ attractions (and free beers with our meal).
Anyway, the family had decided to order and they wanted chips. ” Do you have chips?” the father asked the waiter.
The waiter looked perplexed, shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Je suis desolate, Monsieur, mais je ne comprend pas!”
“DO …YOU…HAVE CHIPS?” the man asked again, this time in a loud voice and speaking very slowly!
“Frittes? Nous avons frittes, Monsieur” came the reply.
CHIPS? I WOULD LIKE CHIPS!”
“Er…chippes? Flavor?” the waiter indicated a counter with bags of crisps in a box (chippes are crisps in French).
“NO! COME ON, We’re going!!”
With that, the entire family upped and left. The waiter gave a massive Gaelic shrug of the shoulders and, once they had disappeared out of the door, he turned to me, grinning like a Cheshire cat and said, in perfect English:
” Bloody tourists!”
Location: Joinville, France