A few new words

As you quickly realize in a foreign country, a formal foreign language education doesn’t always provide you with the words that people actually say in everyday conversation. (I would argue that to be true on both sides of the pond.) These words can be either outdated or simply too formal. Here are a few words and phrases that I have learned during my time here so far:

entre chien et loup: dawn/dusk (literally “between dog and wolf” meaning that at this time you can’t tell if the animal in front of you is a dog or a wolf)

baguette: wand (I thought this was awesomely hilarious.)

mec: guy (as in, “That guy is cute.”)

ça mache: “it works” (as in, “Do you like your new apartment?” “It’s not bad. It works.”)

copain/copine: boyfriend/girlfriend (apparently petit ami is a little old fashioned)

bon courage: have courage/good luck (This is used often as a goodbye and used more frequently, at least around here, than “bonne chance”.)

faire du chantage: blackmail (somehow that came up in one of my classes)

truc: thing (as in “that thing” or “things like that”)

bande annonce: (movie) preview

J’arrive: I’m coming (For example, a waiter might say this when he is serving other customers, but sees you and will take your order in a minute.)

bonsoir/bonne soirée: good night (Bonsoir is often a greeting, while bonne soirée is often goodbye.)

Je suis calé: I am no longer hungry (a “must know” if invited to dinner)

On va boire un pot/coup/verre!: Let’s go for a drink!

On va se balader!: Let’s go for a walk!

les bruits des escaliers: sound that you make walking on stairs

une boîte (de nuit): nightclub

parfums: flavors

What does an American look like?

In the past, I have been told by people that I look Irish and Scandinavian. In France, neither of those have come up. Once I open my mouth, people seem to catch on pretty quickly that I’m not French, but the nationalities that people think I have has been interesting to see. So far, German and American are tied for first and Italian and English are tied for second.

I should also point out that I am frequently asked for directions in French and have had several people start conversations with me in French. When I respond (typically asking them to repeat what they said), they realize that I am a foreigner, but often with some surprise. So, in spite of my fears about walking around with “I’m American” tattooed on my forehead, I must be blending in fairly well. (Phew!)

To be fair, with the exception of Italy, I have ancestors from all of the countries that people have asked about (Germany, France and Britain). I just find it interesting that they don’t necessarily pick me out as American. It makes me wonder what an American “looks like” to them. Would I be picked out as an American if I acted differently? If they heard me speaking in English? If I wore different clothes? I don’t know.

The Little Things

Shopping, especially grocery shopping, is surprisingly comforting. Even though the supermarkets are different here, there is something wonderfully familiar with stepping into a grocery store.

One of my greatest simple joys so far was, you guessed it, finding that they sell my brand of deodorant here! With grocery shopping here, it can be very hit or miss. Most of the time, it is pretty straight forward. However, frequently, I’ve noticed that the things you often expect to find with ease can’t be found. Either they don’t sell it or they put it in an aisle that you would never guess to look in.

I was shocked at how happy I was to learn that they sold my brand of deodorant here. It probably sounds kind of stupid, but think about it. You find the products you like in the United States. You probably have bought them for years. Unless they have been out of it, this is probably not even something you think about when picking it up at the store. When I went to go buy deodorant, it dawned on me. I have no idea what the equivalent words would be for the different features, scents, etc. What if I bought a kind that did absolutely nothing or smelled terrible in itself? (Which sadly happened. I bought a deodorant that I think only masks body odor by giving off a worse odor.)

There is an element of adventure of trying new products for things that you use every day. However, I just want to buy shampoo that doesn’t change the color of my hair, makeup remover (and not nail polish remover), lotion (and not body wash) and contact solution that won’t blind me.

Today, I am thankful for the little things. The brief appearances of familiar brands in a sea of the unfamiliar to keep me grounded and let me focus on the adventures bigger than staring at labels of toiletries in the grocery store.