I Guess It Had To Happen…
March 28, 2012 § 2 Comments
Earlier this month I went to Paris for a week, staying at my childhood and best friend Véronique’s apartment in the up and coming ultra cool 9th arrondissement, just a few minutes south of Montmartre and its old neighborhoods.
I know. How lucky!
Well, believe it or not, I look forward to these trips overseas the same way a Once-In-a-Lifetime visitor does, bursting with excitement and anticipation even though I used to live there.
When I am in Paris, I walk for hours, day and night, with or without a friend, revisiting neighborhoods where I used to live and discovering with curiosity how they have evolved and changed. I take it all in, look at everything, try, taste, listen to as much as I can.
I walk into courtyards, ateliers, old apartment buildings, churches and anything that has an open door. I talk to people on the street, at the markets, in shops, galleries and cafes.
This is something I have always done ever since I was about 18 years old, out of school and living in Paris. It feels completely natural to me, I have never felt lost, unsafe or out of place, even in the various ethnic neighborhoods of the city.
Increasingly during my last few visits, I noticed that my attitude, my questions and my demeanor provoked a reaction I had never experienced before , and I should say to my dismay, it suddenly dawned on me that I had turned into a “foreigner”. Man! Was I mortified!
My expressions where dated, my innate knowledge of how things worked and people interacted had been frozen at a time long gone, some 30 years ago and as a result I was OUT.
Little everyday things… For example, buying metro tickets did not invlove a teller anymore, I had to read the instructions on the darn machine! Or, when in a grocery store, I would spend hours studying the “new products”.
Even the language subtleties had evolved and escaped me. (What Is Verlan???) It was as if I had stepped out of a time travel machine into a future version of my old city.
Of course, I was the only one noticing this… Until my friends started to tease me about my syntax and intonations. Oh My Shame!
Now I would argue that technically, my French is correct. But, as any Parisian would point out, it IS slightly off and dated. In other words, I can’t pass as a native speaker anymore…
I confess I am rather piqued by this.
Speaking with an affectation or pretending to be a local… Please! I can’t stand those people.
“Well, face it!” I told myself. ” You can’t fix it. So accept that you are an outsider and fine! Be ready to discover, learn, observe and listen.”
And this feels just right! Now I am truly a wide eyed out-of-towner and enjoying it! (Okay, as long as I am not too often confronted or reminded of it…I have my pride still)
In the next few posts, I plan to report on my last month’s trip and where my absolutely, genuinely and perfectly up-to-the latest Parisian Girl and Best Friend Véronique took to me to discover.