Get a treat with Libé

Tim Bray has found the RSS feed of Libération, a popular newspaper here in France, and subscribed to it for some language learning. What surprises me is the reason why Libération is his journal of choice:

Among other things, because it’s a tabloid and easy to carry; if you walk into a café or restaurant or store in France with a copy of Libération stuffed under your arm, the locals will instantly assume you’re not a gringo and you’ll probably get treated a lot better. Try it, it works.

Come on, is that true? May be I'm more open than my fellow compatriots, or may it's an effect of living in the most visited city in the world, but I do have a hard time with the idea that the French would automatically treat someone better just because they carry a French journal.

Have you experienced something similar? Have you felt being treated less favorably because you were a foreigner? Or on the contrary, better treatment because you blended perfectly with the locals? I'm really curious.

3 Comments

I think he would be better off reading Le Parisien. They may not have an RSS feed but (I've been told) the reading age of that paper is around 12 -- that doesn't mean 12yr old kids read it alot, the language is in that age bracket. Perfect for a foreigner trying to learn for the first time.

I used to read that paper on and off with 'The Guardian' on the RER to work or in a bar/brasserie. With a British paper I never encountered snippy French folk. I think the idea of carrying a French paper to blend in is similar to those cliched trends I remember from my youth: wearing a beret, smoking Gauloise or Gitane cigarettes, drinking a coffee and saying 'bien sur', 'truc', 'bon' and 'oui' alot.

Once or twice, I have noticed some strange stuff when I meet people for the first time. An odd look of trepidation until I start to speak and they notice my accent, which leads to the fact I'm British, the air clears and our conversation has a lighter mood -- with interspersed Blair Poodle remarks. And, thinking about it, I was often mistaken for a Mexican immigrant in the United States, which led to some interesting incidents.

Something similar I heard many times (only concerning girls) : if a girl is obviously a foreigner or a even non-parisian woman that looks lost, you can be sure you'll see stupid guys coming at you "Salut, comment ça va, tu fais quoi ce soir", etc.

If you look busy, dressed to work or that you're fixing something specific, you won't be disturb. I know many french canadian girls who felt that different when living many month at Paris.

I don't know why... some parisian residents may feel "superior" at foreigner people. I'm not really surprised of your example.

Eh...

On the minus side:
1) I remember an american family trying to buy some croissants and bread in the bakery I was buying my croissants and bread from every morning. Well, it did not went well... The woman in the bakery did not speak any word of english and despite of all the efforts of the family to use a few french words, she almost refused to serve them. I translated the request for them, so they got the croissants and bread... They were thankful :-)

On the other side:
2) I remember an american couple, 60 years old, in front of the same bakery. That bakery in on Blvd Beaumarchais, not far away from the Picasso Museum. They wanted to go there and asked me directly in english without even saying please or excuse me "Do you know where is located the Picasso museum?". I told them. Then the man said "oh, thank you, you speak a quite good english for a french citizen.."! His voice, the tone, the way he looked at me when he said that, that was really insulting. I was really shocked. What was this country for that man ? A third-world zoo or what ? I replied "oh thank you, you speak a quite good english too for an american citizen". And, trust me, I don't regret it at all.

Again on the other side:
2) the group of american girls, about 20-22 years old, was in the subway, on line 9. They were studying the "metro" map. A map that my 5 years old son was easily decrypting when he was 3 and a half. Each line has a color, and junction are indicated with a circle. And they did not get it. They were completely lost. So I said "can I help you?". The answer was "oh god he speaks english, thank god we found one person speaking english in this country, can you explain us THIS?!?". Again, I was shocked. So I replied "no, I have to leave here, goodbye". And I left the subway to take the next one. And again, I don't regret it.

I guess there are harsh/unpolite/stupid people everywhere. It can happen here, it can happen there. That's all.

Tim Bray can try having Libé with him, if he orders in a bar with a strong anglo-saxon accent, given how our bar waiters are super-polite in Paris, it'll make no difference IMHO...

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