Everybody says they hate America. I go, “no, you hate the French. You despise the fact you have to recognize America.”
It’s funny I say that. I’m obviously pointing out you hate countries for different reasons, and most people have problems with the French demeanor. It’s actually really cruel of me; my experiences in France have been largely pleasant.
Yes, there was a guy who played footsie with me at a poker tournament, and when I swore at him to stop he went on a screaming tirade against me. But we’ll forget that part.
The thing that saved my ass in France was a piece of advice Faraz Jaka gave me.
He said, “The French I know are not any of their stereotypes. They just have a different culture. Every time you start a conversation there just start with a pleasantry, even a ‘bonjour.’ If you think about it, if someone ran up to us in America, didn’t even say hi, and just started asking things in French we’d probably be very put off. They’re an even prouder people, so it’s more of a big deal there.”
It wasn’t long before I had to try Jaka’s advice out. On my 21st birthday I found myself in Paris, trying to use the bus lines to get to a subway which would take me to a train station which would take me to Deauville. Since I was too cheap to get a cab, and looking for an adventure, I put an Outerspace album on my iPod and started trying to make my way through Paris without a map.
It was so confusing! I usually can get context clues in many languages, but French is a beast all of its own.
I needed to ask for directions at least eight times. Every time I did I started with the pleasantries I’d memorized. Everyone, without fail, was very polite with me. The police, public officials, strangers off the street, everyone helped me out. A few people even walked me to the right subway station.
Since then I’ve always tried to learn one basic phrase in a language, “Hello, I’m sorry, I’m a typical American. Do you speak English?” You usually get a laugh and a little assistance. At worst, you get a polite, “no.”
What seems to irritate most people about Americans is they expect people speak English. Some of them feel like the only reason they know so much English is because of how we’ve infiltrated so much of the world’s culture. If you show people you’ve at least made an attempt to learn a part of their language they feel like you’ve shown them respect.
Oh, to the young guys traveling to international tournaments, a self-effacing greeting in a foreign language can really open doors with girls. If you just speak English they might be intimidated. Showing you’re terrible when speaking their language puts you both on the same footing when you start speaking in bites ripped out of American movies.
My Plugs: Check out my vids at Pocketfives Training, contact me for lessons at firstname.lastname@example.org, see other stuff I write with my friends at www.pokerheadrush.com, and follow my Twitter @TheAssassinato and Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Assassinato