Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Where is the punchline?"

This is so hard.

I knew moving to France would always have it's ups and downs, I feel like such an eejit here. Life as a foreigner is difficult; way more difficult than I ever imagined.

In Britain I'm interesting, funny, amusing, worth listening to... But here, in France, I'm nobody. I'm certainly not funny; when I eventually get to the genius punchline of an anecdote that I find to be be hilarious I am greeted with an empty silence, punctuated with the bored sigh of someone sat at the dinner table waiting for me to get to the end of my dull story. I actually have to announce to everyone that 'that's the end, j'ai finis' and even then they don't crack a smile. I'm rewarded with nothing, no laughter, no polite titter, no fake smiles, nothing. Sometimes someone utters, 'c'est où, la blague?' but really, that's all I get.

Theres nothing fake about the French. If they don't find your story funny, they won't crack even the tiniest of smiles. At least, at home, people will smile and nodd, even if they had no idea why they were doing so. Not here.

In France, I'm evidently not worth listening to either, because everybody just cuts-off my words, as though I don't even exist. Countless amounts of times I have opened my mouth and begun to say something, only to be interrupted by someone else. Apparently they do it to everybody, but it doesn't make it any less rude. I have now found the courage to stir up a big long, fed-up sigh whenever I am cut-off, but no! They can't even take a hint!! They ignore me totally and carry on with whatever they were talking about. SO RUDE!

Another thing about being a foreigner is being the brunt of every fecking joke. Twice a day I sit at the dinner table with FP and his family and I allow the piss to be taken right out of me. Just because I come from a dfifferent country with a different culture and language does not mean I should be laughed at. I have feelings too, you know! Just because I happen to cut the skin off my cheese a different way from you does not mean I should be ridiculed. And yet, they find the simple differences, between my culture and theirs, a riot. So, I place my cutlery facing away from me when I've finished eating, and they place their cutlery on the right side of their plates, facing left; big deal! Who cares? And yet this simple difference finds them convulsing in guffaws. Why? Why can't you laugh when I tell a good story? Why must you laugh at me rather than with me?

Yes, mes amies, 'ridiculed' is a very good word to explain how I feel right now. I am the jester; I am placed there to make people laugh at the way I do things. "Hahaha! Regardes comment la Petite Ecossaise fait ça! C'est bizzare, non?" "Leeeeensè pourquoi tu le fait comme ça, c'est pas normal, ça..."

Did I mention that in France I am also considered super-dumb? Again, lots of laughter involved, aimed at me. The thing is, we didn't all follow the same systeme scolaire, but some people tend to forget that. Okay, so I didn't know anything about 'les hippies, Woodstock' but I
a) am only 22 years old,
b) am not American and
c) learnt history in a Scottish school which really only taught us about William Wallace and the assination of JFK.
I was never a smarty pants, even in Scotland, but I was never 'simple'. Here, it's all so different. I am just a dumb blonde here, I really am. Just like they always said at High School. Even my university degree apparently counts for nothing. It makes me wonder, did I work that hard for all those years, just to come over here and become the eejit at the dinner table who has a weird sense of humour and laughs at her own jokes?

Och I don't know, I suppose I still have adjusting to do; after all, it won't be the French who change, it will be me. I just don't appreciate their rudeness right now. The fact that they can't open up and accept that I am different because I am British is really 'getting on my tits' (and I almost never say this phrase it's so revolting, but that shows how pissed off I am). They can't even find it in themselves to laugh a little when I tell a joke, or to let me off when I don't know something that they do. They can't see that it's hard enough as it is for me, because I have left my country; my home, my family and my friends. They don't see, somehow, that with a little understanding, with a little more room to manouevre, I would adjust much better to their culture, to their ways.

Despite what 'they' say (always wondered,; who are 'they'?), everyone in this world is not the same. So many differences, so, so many differences. I know only one thing; I'm going to stick it out; because it would be way too easy to give in right now.

Thank God I love that French man of mine...

I dread to think what would happen if I didn't.


Syd said...

Poor thing - I miss my humor, too. I'm a laugh riot in the States.

Maybe you could try giving it back to them? "Yes, we are so backward that everyone in the country puts their silver like this after dinner! Hard to believe we call ourselves civilized. It must be hysterical to see someone so different - like she's from a different country, almost."

You might even add (depending on how mad you are) that the Scots (is that what you're called?) are so backwards that they actually try to accommodate foreigners and not make them feel ridiculous just because they're different.

If you do it right, with a touch of humor, they might get the point and still have a smile on their faces.

Hang in, it'll probably be better when you're in a more natural situation with your peers more often.

bryansurvive said...

So you love everything french but the french does not love you. That would destroy me. Just love the world that wont love you back :(

pierre l said...

Poor old Princesse. I am glad I am not French, or I would feel embarrassed - on the other perhaps I would think this was perfectly normal if I was French. Does FP not defend you at all?
Regarding the twitter piece on the sidebar ("I have a French keyboard that does things like this; èçàéêâ coooooool!"), I assume it does "AZERTY" as well - I had trouble getting used to that when I lived in France all those years ago.
I hope you do find somewhere to live soon, and that things improve for you.

Ghosty said...

Phft. What do the French know about humor, they consider Jerry Lewis comedic genius. :/ But if you ever come to the States, I'll get you all up-to-snuff on Woodstock, I grew up not two hours from there.

Silly French people, they should know the Princesse is a funny girl! :(

Leah said...

Oh, how I feel your pain. It's hard to be funny in French, I totally agree and being looked at like you have approximately 2 brain cells just because you have an accent when you speak and maybe have to take your time sometimes, SUCKS.

I also find that there's a difference between being forward and just plain rude and I find that here they really can cross the line sometimes. Alors, what to do, what to do? I personally will stand up for myself and explain to them very simply(ya know, so they can un-der-stand) that yes, things are different, but that doesn't make them WEIRD. What's wrong with being open and trying new things? Why is it THAT important the way your place your silverware? I'm not someone who likes confrontations AT ALL, but one can only take SO MUCH. Sorry for all the caps, but this is something I have been through and go through almost every day here!

I feel your pain, I do. Hang in there!!!

PS-I friended you on Facebook in case you're wondering who that crazy person was that did that!! :)

Heather said...

Poor you. How could anyone not think you're brilliant, charming and hilarious?! I do!

Anonymous said...

Oh love, I also feel your pain. I really miss the English (Irish and Scottish) humour when I am here. I have to admit, I don't laugh the same way I used to here when I was at home. I nearly cried when you wrote "when I eventually get to the genius punchline of an anecdote that I find to be hilarious I am greeted with an empty silence, punctuated with the bored sigh of someone sat at the dinner table waiting for me to get to the end of my dull story", it rang so true with me. The advice I can give you is don't let things like this make you question who you are, and make you have an inferior complex about who you are and what you are about. You have to turn it on its' head and just silently laugh at their lack of understanding, patience and quite frankly rudeness and just be glad you are better than that.

When do you start working? Because I think it will help when you start doing your own thing as part of the society because you will eventually find your own way. Also I think I have said it before but do make some expat friends, they will be so comforting and by sharing their experience, you will not feel so alone. ('Michael Jackson - you are not alone' begins to play in the background):-)

Lis of the North said...

Princesse babe I am sending huge cyberhugs and sympathy vibes to Paris. I *so* know where you're coming from on this. One of the things I have noticed about the French is that while they are quite happy to rip the piss out of every other nation and nationality on God's Earth, Heaven forbid us "étrangers" should have the temerity to poke fun at their little national foibles. Them laughing at us is funny. Us making a joke about them is rude and bordering on racist. And sometimes the things they are having a laugh about can be very cruel and hurtful. But if you take offence, it means you can't take a joke. Grrr!
I am afraid it's something you'll just have to learn to live with. I must say that since I have been living in the Noooord I have found people with a similar sense of humour to Brits. Folk round these parts will happily make jokes of their own local folklore and accents and habits. It's so refreshing.
Och, I s'ppose you could cheer yourself up by saying the French are so damn parochial and laugh at every little thing you do because they don't know what multi-cultural means, and in France if you don't do as everyone does you're not right. Maybe it's the people I mix with, but Brits (and Americans) I know are always interested and curious to learn about different cultural habits, not condescending and mocking because "c'est pas comme ça chez nous". But not all of the French people I know are like that!
Sorry if this comment has been a bit of an anti-French tirade. I'm just so angry and disappointed you are having to go through the same shit I experienced. Seriously babe, mail me if you need a rant. xx

Samantha said...

Oh lord hon, I've been there and it's definitely not fun. But it does get better eventually (though I do think being funny in another language is one of the hardest things to accomplish).

Esa said...

Oh, Princesse...that must 'really be frustrating'. (I say that instead of the crude English words I'm really thinking of saying). That's what you get for really learning to speak and understand French. Since I only know a few words and phrases I have no idea when they're laughing at me. Blessed ignorance.

Hopefully FP is sticking up for you!

Bonnie said...

I can't imagine how you feel. Hope everything starts getting better for you soon *sending hugs to france*

ColbyPants said...

Well it seems the prejudice that the french are rude is well earned. this is why I claim my Irish heritage despite a french last name. Chin up, I think you are very witty!

Lesley said...

I promise it will get better. My only advice is to avoid snooty Parisians.

Selica said...

Hi I just discovered your blog from 20sb. I too miss my humor in French. Especially my sarcasm. For some reason it doesn't translate well.

So sorry to hear you're having a difficult time. I'm sure these feelings will pass once you've settled in. Parisians can be impossible but trust me it does get easier.

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Despina said...

Stick it out my darling!
We are all different and ohhh it takes such balls sometimes just to be yourself!
Oh dear I am thinking of you with hugs, I know exactly how you feel from certain experiences I had in Czech. Thankfully I'm considered eccentric enough over here that I am pretty much used to it by now.
Hope you had a good first day at work! I can only imagine how difficult it was. I have my last exam tomorrow and then I am free to do whatever I want.
Soooo much to tell you that I'll blog about rather than steal your limelight.
Love you babes, and simply adore your punchlines! xxx

db said...

I'm sorry to hear of your frustration, but at least you can understand when people are laughing at you! My "prince" is Korean, and I'm looked at, stared at, and not fluent at the moment. I'm living with huge glass walls around me. I can always understand the word for foreigner and I can always understand the laughing, but that's about it.

I hope things get better for you! Perhaps you can eventually learn to appreciate the cultural insensitivity as a purely French attribute? I dunno.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy do I understand how you feel! Now what I've started doing is just giving it right back to them... a prime example was the other day when one of my partner's friends was making fun of my accent. So I put on the most horrible exaggerated French accent I could and he stood there quite shocked. Of course I had the decency (or weakness) to say "no, I'm only kidding you don't really sound like that". But hey, some of us have manners and some of us don't!

val said...

oh dear :( that's sure revolting, but i guess usually its just because you don't speak their language well yet... I come from a french speaking background and moved to New Zealand some years ago, and it wasn't easy at all but you get used to it. And i've found that as soon as you get to speak their language "properly" they kind of get more interested in you.. Like you're not dumb anymore. :)and about them being rude and all, well that's just a french thing i guess. :P cause I can be like that too a lot of times, its just the culture, nothing personal usually...

so don't worry, things do get better!


my cup of t said...

I didn't have these problems, (though I did say a number of really dumb things and my accent was repeatedly mocked) unless I was just completely oblivious to them which is highly likely but it was because of these 2 things which I hope will work for you as well.
1. To make the French laugh, make fun of the English. For you this might be hard because they will probably assume you ARE English (they often assumed I was English and I'm American so... I always had to correct them, I am not the assistante anglaise, I am the assistante d'anglais), but if you make the distinction clear that England and Scotland are siamese twins but are not identical, then you can proceed to do so and they will understand.

2. If you don't want to seem like a dumb blonde (I'm also blonde), begin every sentence with either "evidemment" or "theoriquement" especially "theoriquement," because they will be distracted enough by a non-Frog using such adverbs that the genius of whatever follows will not be taken into question. Whatever you say after that will be assumed to be important. Really anything ending in -ment at the start of a sentence should suffice!