Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rose Colored Glasses

When you're somewhere new there are so many things to figure out. Even in English it can be challenging to know the norms and customs of a place—which is the best grocery store, where's the post office, where do you find a bike rack for the car? Now put all this in French and it becomes even more challenging and, to me, more exciting and fun. Well, on a good day.

So, you create this filter to get through all the newness, just to manage the essentials and maybe have a bit of personal connection there too. The grocery store has been fairly straight forward. I know the context of the checkout situation. You smile, say hello, and frantically pack your groceries to avoid impatient tuts from those in line behind you. Same in Ireland. Then, you hear the total spent, here it's said at rapid speed but I'm trying to figure it out without looking, you pass over your cash or laser card, smile again and say goodbye. This is easy enough. Last week I even got the courage to ask for a carte de fidélité. It was so gratifying to be understood and to communicate. I am now a proud and loyal card carrying Carrefour customer.

La Poste had me totally intimidated. I don't know why except maybe for the memory of being on honeymoon and being cut in line a few times and then not being able to figure out how to get a stamp for my postcard. Post offices in general kind of freak me out…..make of this what you will.

Anyway, I had to mail some things and kept putting it off. The word for stamp, le timbre, kept eluding me. It doesn't have a similar root or sound to it like some other words. For example, ascenseur is elevator and that makes sense; you ascend, elevate, are lifted. So working up my nerve and having Sofia help me repeat, "Je voudrais un timbre, s'il vous plait', we headed in, Leo bumping up the stairs in the buggy and the two big kids under threat of something awful if they embarrassed me.

It turned out to be easier than I'd thought. There was a line with people sizing each other up, wondering who was the weakest and therefore most easily queue jumped. But there was also a very nice machine where you can weigh and appropriately stamp your post. I was staring at it, trying to decipher which region I needed when Sofia suggested, 'Mommy why don't you choose English?' Oh, how easy! It's usually this way with me. I worry over something, make it HUGE, nearly insurmountable and then poof! piece of cake.

We still have to buy the bike rack but I've navigated and found one at a shop called Feu Vert. Who can guess the English translation? It's a clever name for an auto/bike and sundry shop.

I am reminded daily why I went along with this particular adventure. Vive la différence!




  1. My French is super rusty but doesn't vert mean green? Sort of, anyway . . .Good thing I live in my native country. I would fall apart. You do great!

  2. Heidi,
    You'd be amazed at how much you remember when you're thrown in at the deep end! Vert is green, correct...what about feu? Have you seen the new blog?