A friend is talking about going to Paris. And how she's worried because she doesn't speak French. And of course Parisians have this terrible reputation.
I said that I love Paris, and I've only had amazing experiences there, and that, with the expected exception of a couple bitchy saleswomen in swanky stores, people are always lovely to me. I do speak French, but at this point it's pretty sketchy. I smile a lot, though, which probably helps.
And then I reminded her that people speak English.
Which in turn reminded me of an embarrassing little story.
Because sometimes? Even though I don't go to Europe looking like I'm dressed to mow their lawns? Even though I wouldn't be caught dead wearing white sneakers, a fanny pack, and a visor?
Sometimes I'm the loud American you don't want to be associated with in public. Although actually, now that I think about it, that could be said for me in the US as well. Maybe it has nothing to do with travel.
A few years ago I was in Paris with my friend Kris, an American friend of mine who lives there. We were out shopping. I think it's worth mentioning that at the point this conversation took place, we were shopping for an outfit for her daughter. In other words, we were in children's clothing.
We'd been talking about a variety of things, as you do, but we'd somehow gotten onto the topic of health care and medicaments. And how in France it's not terribly unusual to have medications offered in suppository form, which is something you don't really encounter much of in the US.
And then something caught her eye and she darted over to it. So we were a good, oh, two rows of clothing apart when I proclaimed, and not quietly, "Honestly, the whole idea of sticking anything in my anus really makes me twitchy."
This man a couple feet away from me whipped around, eyes wide. My friend held up a dress on a hanger in front of her face.
She hissed, "People speak English!"
Yikes. They sure do.