Friday, July 15, 2011

The French Art of Destroying Conversations

York, 2006

There are three French women sat at a table. They are teachers, come to York to watch over a band of French teenaged thugs. They fail in spectacular fashion - one of the kids is deported for buying an air rifle in Scarborough and shooting a baby.
But two of these French femmes are way hot. I could easily fall in love with either. I approach.
"Hey there," I say, charmant. "I am going to see a movie. Does one of you want to come?"
They look excited - at last a break from their routine of chain-smoking, changing outfits, and buying cigarettes. They decide that only one can leave - two must stay and watch over the kids. They huddle and discuss who should go. My body is angled significantly towards the hottest one. They choose Munta, who is oddly-shaped and oddly-faced. I am distraught, but I don't show it, because I'm an English gentleman.

In the queue to the cinema, I bravely engage her in conversation.
"So, Munta, do you like movies?"
"Yes, I am French. I like French movies."
I point at a poster. "We could watch this one. But maybe it's a bit sad. When's the last time you cried at a movie?"
"Why would I cry at a movie?" she says contemptuously. "It's just a movie."
Conversation over.

My Flat, Zurich, 2010 

I'm talking to a French woman who has come from Prague to visit me. We talk about stuff and suddenly I get excited about the relationship between dreams and creativity. In particular, I've always been fascinated by people like Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, who turned their childhood fantasises and nightmares into movies and books in their adult life.
I turn to the French girl. "Yeah," I say, bouncing and buzzing, "It's like with Steven Speilberg..."
But I get no further.
"Spielberg?" She spits his name. "Ee is shit."
Conversation over.

Zurich, Walking Around, 2011

The Apprentice is one of the best things on TV, and one of my favourite things ever. It's a business-based reality TV show. I love the candidates's stupidity and the way they crumble under pressure. But I wouldn't watch it if it weren't, at heart, true-to-life. I tried to love the American version, but found it very fake and turned it off after half an episode. The British version is superbly edited to be as entertaining as possible, but the show is real, and I love it. 

The Apprentice 2011

Cecile, a moody French woman with a habit of uninviting me to parties based on perceived slights, found it shocking that I left her company on Wednesday night to get home in time to watch The Apprentice. On Thursday, she asked me if I enjoyed "that show".

My whole body language changed as waves of positive emotion flooded my body. "Oh, man!" I said, excited, "It was great! There's only six of them left now. Four did a great job; they really understood the task. But the other two totally lost the plot." I paused to think how best to describe their paralysing stupidity.

Pausing was a mistake, for it allowed Cecile time to piss on my cornflakes. "Oh, they choose retards to be on the show," said the woman who has seen a grand total of zero minutes of The Apprentice. "It's all fake."

Conversation, fin.

Zurich, Bubbles café, 2011

Cecile went to the toilet. I opened my laptop. My next class was going to be with a manager pretty high up in a bank. I checked the stock market. Everything was down - way down. Shares in his bank were phenomenally low. Maybe a good time to buy? Make some quick money? Or could it be the beginning of a new financial crisis? Maybe my student would have some insights. Maybe some of my friends and students' jobs would be at risk. Maybe his big meeting with the CEO - the reason for our lesson - would be postponed. Certainly, there would be plenty of interesting and important things for me to talk about with him.

Cecile came back, sat down, and rudely pulled my laptop screen back so she could see what I was looking at. "What's that?" she asked, apparently unable to decipher the names of companies with numbers after.

"Huh? What's that?"

"The stock market," I said, ready to inform her and educate her about the world-changing events unfolding digitally before my eyes.
"Oh," she said, Frenchly, "The most boring thing in the universe."

And that was the end of the conversation.


  1. Anonymous5:34 PM

    I know some not French people who are also pretty good in this art :)

  2. Maybe this post is not only a compilation of OUTRAGEOUS lies... But you have to admit that the French are also good at starting conversations and entertaining them.
    I am not sure the French really intend to kill the conversation. When I said those words, I was just expecting you to passionately defend your point of view. And what did you do? Give up. Is that a British trait not to fight for what you believe in?

    ps: writing café and Cecile in the same post is an act of paralysing stupidity.

  3. dajoropo - me too, but I've never noticed another nationality where I thought 'huh, they must teach this at their schools'

    Cecïle - Are you - a French person - seriously suggesting that the British give up too easily? I'd make a joke, but mon dieu, that's too easy!

  4. Anonymous9:39 PM

    I'd comment, but my monkey is howling for cheese before it surrenders-i-mean-goes-to-bed.


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