Got French?

If you don’t speak French...
A sign on the neighbor’s 
door: "Gentle cat." 
You could take Bill Bryson's approach. Bryson is a very funny travel writer...laugh-out-loud-in-the-bookstore funny. Followed by convulsions, gasps, and cracking ribs.

Graffiti is common in French cities, though occasionally it rises to art, as with these stenciled portraits.

Bryson travels for a living, yet he speaks only English. He says,
"I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."
You could also take a phrasebook. And spend ten minutes trying to locate the French for "I don't speak your language." At which point, most French will spontaneously remember that, yes, they did after all have five years of classroom English and, although their grades were nothing to write home about, they will attempt a conversation. Just, please, put the book away.

Directions are well marked in France. These signs in the center of Valros direct you to the two nearest towns, the town hall, and the village school.

One last tip:
to avoid offense, it is very important to be polite. It's the French way. When you enter a shop, you greet the proprietor (the American habit of entering a store and not saying a thing is in France considered rude): "Bonjour, monsieur/madame" (or "bonsoir," if it's night). When you leave the shop, you say goodbye: "Au revoir, monsieur/madame." And don't forget to express your thanks for every small thing: "Merci!"

This web page is from Our House In France, ( ) Posted: Tue, Feb 28, 2006 - 12:00am