Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The answer my friend...

Can I have a Rosetta stone to take away, please?

I still feel I need a sort of the Rosetta stone to interact in a fluidier fashion with my British cousins. After almost two years spent on the wet compost of la perfide Albion, there is something I am still not able to handle.  Let me explain.

When I bump into someone, more precisely an English person, whom I don't know very well but enough to stop for 5 seconds and politely say "hi, how are you?", I am often left bewildered and irritated.

Why? Because I simply say "hi, how are you?" and the person answers "Hi, you alright there" and as I say "yes and you?", this person says "I am fine thank you" and starts to ask me "what are you up to these days?" or "how was your weekend?" and I start to answer because I don't want to appear rude but, guess what, that person is already gone. Gone. Gone!

Why bother to wait for the answer to a question you asked after all? And here I am, promising myself this will never happen again but guess what? It's like a pavlovian reflex, there is nothing I can do about it. Something I say triggers the question that shall never be answered. What is it?

Usually, when I stop to say "hi, how are you?", I literally only say those words because that is all you can say in 5 seconds. In these kind of polite exchanges, both people go back to their normal life in a matter of seconds with the satisfaction to have said "hello" to someone you hardly know.

Sometimes I even reply "I am fine and you?" before the question and that's fine. It makes things shorter, it's quite handy when you are in a hurry but don't want to compromise with the etiquette.

Think in terms of 'frenchpeopleness' here, for us being polite is a lifelong inner fight with our deeply encrusted rude wildboar-eater-barbarians' instincts. In short, this is a great achievement.

Since I reached the other side of the Channel, these 5 seconds of satisfaction turned into 40 seconds of frustration. Alas, the answer is not to be found in an another Rosetta stone but forever blowing in the wind.


  1. lol pardon mdr puisque je commente en french...
    Tu as raison, chez nous ça ne dure quqq secondes, "Bonjour" ou "Bonjour comment ça va", c'est la même chose on ne veut pas vraiment savoir....
    C'est drole cette différence de mentalité, et en Allemagne ??? En tout cas je ne me souviens pas de cette frustation en Autriche, pourtant je disais forcement Wie geht's derriere mon 'Tag

  2. I don't remember having any problems in Germany... Mind you I was a teenager back then and did not really care about being polite... Ach!!

  3. Poor little you : they're so ruuuude ! tu vas finir par regretter la politesse parisienne : un comble :)

  4. I know! It's hard being me ;o)!