As many of you know, Aurel and I were back in the States to do a small wedding ceremony for the folks who couldn't make it to France last year. Before I get into the loveliness that is getting married in a duck pond and having an intimate dinner at a bistro in a historical village, I have a little tale that I thought some of you would appreciate.
While the wedding was small with only 30 guests, we still wanted the touches of a traditional wedding and had offered guest favors, tables splashed with gorgeous blush pink peonies, garden green place cards, and printed programs and menus. The week leading up to the wedding turned out to be less of a vacation and more running around to secure these details for our second big day.
Once our menu was locked down, we ran to get them professionally printed at chain print shop near a mall on Long Island. We entered the printing store and discussed with the clerk what we wanted done. When she realized it was going to be a bigger job than a simple photo copy as we handed her our USB key, she welcomed us to the back office to discuss further. In the back office, there were other employees and because Aurel is French and I have lived in Paris for many years now, we made the point to make eye contact with all three employees to say hello. They looked up from their work and grunted hello.
"We don't have to do that here," I nudged Aurélien, honoring our pact to speak on English when we are on American soil, "No one cares, especially on Long Island."
"Okay," he accepted, "No hello on Long Island."
"What do you mean?" a woman with bleached yellow hair and big teeth who was sitting across the counter asked, "We say hello here."
I really didn't want to kick off the uber-snotty "Well in Paris..." (so Blue Jasmine, right?) but she appeared to be genuinely interested and even a bit offended, so I did it.
"In Paris," I explained, "It's a cultural expectation to acknowledge staff and employees in a store."
"Well!" She scoffed, "Isn't that interesting coming from the Fah-rench-a?!"
She somehow added two more syllables to the word French, clearly for effect. Aurel and I both nodded and smiled, knowing what she was hinting at and turned to the clerk who was helping us, waiting for our heavy documents to load up.
"I mean," she continued, "I find that very interesting coming from the French!"
Again, we nodded and smiled. I may have even shrugged at this point, but our body language clearly read that we got what she was laying down and were not interested in pursuing it any further.
"Wanna know why I say that?" She asked.
"Well," I muttered without conviction.
"Because the French are guilty for being the rudest people in the world!"
And she went and did it. She clearly couldn't resist. Only on Long Island. I swear, it's the water.
"But are they?" I indulged her. Clearly I couldn't resist either.
"Oh come on!" She said, "They are just awful people! I can't stand them."
"Yeah, well" I nodded, and with a thumb pointing to Aurel said, "He's French."
"Bonjour, guilty as charged." Aurel responded with his hands up.
Her coworkers all nodded their heads in laughter, as did we, because really, who makes blanket statements about any culture like that anymore? The French are rude? What is this, the 80s? Several days later when we picked up our prints, the same Judgey Jan employee was there. I made a point not to say hello, Aurélien on the other hand approached her and gave her the double French bises and said to her, "Not all French are rude, ma belle."
Just like she was dumbfounded when I informed her that Aurel was French, she stood frozen in her little printer's smock making incoherent noises to somehow make sense of what had happened. She'll be talking about forever when the Frenchman came into her shop and kissed her. Maybe this is what it will take to change her view on the French. They say, if you can reach just one person....
Wedding and New York recap to come soon!
So, how is everyone?
So, how is everyone?