I really liked Elizabeth’s comment on my last post. You are so right Elizabeth. Over here, it is all about having good manners. I am convinced that you could get away with murder, provided that you are well-mannered. Obviously you would need to be charming and polite. Words really matter over here- acts sometimes don’t seem to.
It is all about style over substance. As I am not sure that you believe me, a few examples will probably help.
This morning I had to wait a good 10 minutes to get my much-needed cappuccino because the barrista was busy chatting away with her colleague. Busy night apparently – good for her, but none of my business…
When she eventually realised that there was a long queue and after at least 10 failed attempts -on my part- to grab her attention, she politely said:
“-sorry to keep you waiting Darling”, and then she smiled.
What she meant was in fact :”I couldn’t care less about you guys, I had important things to say and come on you can wait a little bit for your posh coffee, can’t you?”
It is also important to note that my sense of humour usually wakes up after my morning coffee and not before…my husband can confirm!
I didn’t smile back as I was slightly annoyed. She noticed it and asked:
“-skinny or normal, your cappuccino ?”
I was outraged. I am taking my coffee here every morning. What she meant was probably:
“-have you put weight on?”
I couldn’t believe it.
“-no, full fat as usual please”
What I meant was: as you can see, I don’t need to diet and you know perfectly well what I want as I come here every morning.
I think that she got the point. I might change coffee shop anyway.
And here, you can say the meanest things in a very polite way. Here are a couple of examples with their “real” translation:
“- You didn’t expect to get the job Darling, did you?
This means: “you knew you were too thick to get the job”.
“- She is such a nice girl”
Don’t be fooled, this means: “she looks like the back of a bus”.
The list is endless.
It is the way Brits are educated from a very early age. You have to conform and be polite in all circumstances. My younger daughter didn’t get into a posh nursery in London because, at her assessment -when she was 3-, she finished her scribbles, got bored and started to pull her little friend’s (very nice & expensive ) dress. This is not an acceptable behaviour you see, even at 3, if you want to become a lady -which after careful consideration I am not sure I want for her. We found the right school, and she is doing very well. I am especially pleased that she doesn’t have to do any curtsies ( not joking, it happens!).
French can be a lot blunter, and it felt nice, initially at last, to be surrounded by seemingly polite people. Well, it didn’t last, because I now can say what they actually mean. Maybe it means that I am ready for a British passport…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London