Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Non" Is the Most Important Word in the French Language

When the French soccer team refused to practice in protest against a change in the team's set-up, I laughed. This is such typical French behavior that I couldn't do anything else.

The French are a proud, haughty people. ("Cranky as weasels" someone said.) They will pout or curl a lip at small insults, but if you really annoy them, they will go on strike.

"La greve" (the strike) is the time-honored method for getting your way in France. At any hour of the day or night, you may be sure that some group, somewhere in France, is planning, having, mediating or ending a strike.

The Shortest French Strike On Record
Michelle, Richie and I were at Orly, ready to fly to Marseilles for Sunday lunch at her sister's house. As we were all flying non-rev, we missed the 9, 10 and 11 a.m. flights. "I hope my sister's not making a souffle," Michelle worried.

At noon, our group was called. With anticipation (for the lunch -- in France, Sunday lunch is the equivalent of an American Thanksgiving dinner) we surged forward.

Only to come to a dead halt when the PA system came crackling on and a disembodied voice reported, "The baggage handlers have just gone on strike, all flights are cancelled." Dejectedly, we turned to look for a phone to call our hostess, when the PA came back on and the voice said, "The baggage handlers have ended their strike." This particular strike lasted 30 seconds, if that.

Working Around the Strikers
On another visit to Michelle, we got up and wandered sleepily into the kitchen where Michelle greeted us with this news -- "My beau-pere (father-in-law) just called -- he heard on the radio just now that all of the museum guides in Paris are on strike -- so no Louvre today."

She thought a moment and then triumphantly said, "I know! We'll drive to Giverney and see Monet's house and studio! It's outside of Paris!" So we did. In a pouring rainstorm.

So, for the French soccer team to go on strike was just another day in French bad behavior history. All you can do is laugh and say, "Mais, c'est si vrai francaise!" (But it's so very French.)

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