Friday, July 16, 2010

Restaurant the beginning

Today at school the director came and taught our oral comprehension class. In france it's not taboo to talk candidly about all the different stereotypes surrounding various nationalities. He did a little Q&A session with us and went around the room asking each of us a couple of get-to-know you conversations going. He asked one Polish student if she was good with pipes because the french think that all Poles are plumbers. I'm not sure she understood what he was saying but I must admit I was a little shocked at his bluntness and this is not the first time one of my professors has crossed this line since I've been here. My turn came, and he said 'Sarah, [everything was in French] you come from America, ummm, why do you hate french?' Seriously? What a loaded question but I tried to be diplomatic with my response, because french is after all the language of diplomats, and said simply that I like french but I find it very challenging to change between english, spanish and french all the time, blah blah blah... I thought about asking him why he asked me that but I figure maybe that's exactly what he wants is to get a rise out of the students or maybe it's part of the French child-like curiosity.

However, they also have a wild sense of humor of themselves and love to hear what outsiders think of them. Besides the typical association of croissants and berets here's a few more stigmas about the French:
•Lazy : people who do not work and demonstrate in the streets (when they are not on strike)

•Cowards : they always surrender, unreliable allies

•Rude, anti-American and ungrateful, people who don't speak English, distant and difficult to meet

•Communists : people who live in a bureaucratic Socialist system and who are totally dependent on the State

•Dirty : people who do not use soap (recently, I received a message : "why do French women use perfume instead of taking a bath?")

•Arrogant and conceited people, always giving lessons to the others

•Not democratic : people who do not respect religous freedom

I think these are not completely accurate but are slightly humorous because the French are just so French and you'd be mad to take them completely serious. I think it's like the child being afraid of a spider and the mom says not to worry because they are more afraid of you. As long as you show you are willing to bend a little, they will too. As soon as you make a valid effort to speak french, more times than not they will respond in the little english they know and it usually ends up being a comical exchange of bad grammar on both parts. Plus I must admit I don't completely disagree with their work ethic: they don't live to work, they work to live. However they do live to eat!

One of the topics the director covered today was how the french believe they invented the restaurant so I've been doing a little research on wikipedia and it seems his statements are valid. Here's what I've found:

"The term restaurant (from the French restaurer, to restore) first appeared in the 16th century, meaning "a food which restores", and referred specifically to a rich, highly flavoured soup. It was first applied to an eating establishment in around 1765 founded by a Parisian soup-seller named Boulanger. The first restaurant in the form that became standard (customers sitting down with individual portions at individual tables, selecting food from menus, during fixed opening hours) was the Grand Taverne de Londres (the "Great Tavern of London"), founded in Paris in 1782 by a man named Antoine Beauvilliers, a leading culinary writer and gastronomic authority[13] who achieved a reputation as a successful restaurateur. He later wrote what became a standard cookbook, L'Art du cuisinier (1814). "

En greve = on strike. They really do love to strike especially in areas of mass transportation.
French kiss. Some classmates and I were discussing this yesterday and the french don't understand how that term was coined. In French slang, a "French kiss" is called a "patin" (ice skating shoe) or a "galoche". Doing a French kiss is referred to "rouler un patin" (roll a skate, as in ice skating shoe) or "rouler une pelle" (roll a shovel).

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