A few months into my relationship with Matthieu we went out for lunch in his picturesque, coastal town of St. Malo.
We headed to the old part of the city, a typical European old town complete with cobbled streets, medieval-style buildings and souvenir shops on every corner.
We sat down at the restaurant and the waitress brought out a bottle of wine. She poured the red into Matthieu’s glass and asked him, ‘C’est bon, Monsieur ?’ (is it good, sir?), to which he replied ‘oui, c’est bon’ (yes, it’s good) and then the waitress filled my glass.
Where did I get asked if I wanted to try the wine? Did I come into the conversation at all? No! I don’t think I even got glanced at during this ‘wine tasting exchange.’
I held back and just looked incredulously at him as we continued our lunch date like nothing strange had happened… Well, I guess for him, nothing strange had happened. I wasn’t particularly offended or even angry – if anything, I thought it was funny. Overall I just didn’t get it.
The average English speaker probably doesn’t realise that ‘xoxo’ means nothing to people who don’t speak English. Even my French friends who spoke English really well, and understood that an ‘x’ was a kiss and an ‘o’ was a hug, didn’t really understand how those two letters represented a kiss and a hug.
In France, the ‘xoxo’ equivalent is ‘bisous!’ (meaning kisses!) and can be used with everyone. You can shorten it and write ‘biz’ to make it more casual. If you want to step it up a notch you can write ‘gros bisous’ (literally fat kisses) or if you want to be a little romantic, you can write ‘je t’embrasse’ (I kiss you).
I don’t really remember how it came up, but whilst I was dating Matthieu I had to explain how to write ‘xoxo’ when we sent text messages.
Many people were shocked to find out that I mainly spoke in French with my French boyfriend. It was the language that we ‘met in’ and we always found it difficult to speak in English together, so French it was. It was definitely a good way to practice my French, until he decided to break the rules of French grammar….
We were sitting in a pub in London and I had introduced him to the typically British (and Australian) ‘Sunday Roast’ but the waitress forgot to bring out my sauce.
So as we’re sitting in this pub and I’m waiting, Matthieu tells me “Elle va l’amener” (She’s going to bring it).
Now this post might be difficult for people who don’t study French, but I’ll try to explain why he confused me. Here Matthieu used the verb ‘amener’ meaning ‘to bring’. However in French you only use this verb when you are talking about bringing a person or an animal somewhere. They have a separate verb ‘apporter’ which you use for objects.
It’s no secret that I love French food. I know because I gained 2 kilos living there. Oh how I loved those chocolate eclairs, the melt-in-your-mouth croissants, baguettes which are crispy on the outside yet soft and fluffy on the inside…
There’s no doubt, the French can cook, but one thing they cannot do for the love of Christ, is make a good ol’ cup of English tea.
I’m talking about strong black tea with about a 1/4 cup of milk in it, and maybe some honey or sugar. I may not be English – but I love English tea. Yet it’s just not done in France. The caffeine staple in France is coffee. Specifically a shot of black coffee with a teaspoon of sugar – with no milk.
When you try to explain what garlic bread is to a French person (yeah, the French don’t eat it – weird huh?) it tends to go down like this…
Matthieu: What’s garlic bread?
Samantha: It’s just butter with garlic and herbs, it’s really nice.
Matthieu: Hm… I don’t know, I don’t really like garlic.
Samantha: What? But you’re French!
Matthieu: Well you can’t surf!
No, not that type of French kissing (Did you like the title? Bet you did, you dirty bastards) but a much more important French kiss called by the French ‘faire la bise’ (do the kiss).
This is when French people greet each other with two kisses – one on each cheek. It is still very much ingrained in the French culture, it’s kinda like the equivalent of the English-speakers hug and becomes so natural French people don’t even think about it. Or that they’re following a bunch of rules (which I picked up in France)
After spending 5 days in London with my very French boyfriend I learnt a few things about him. Such as his favourite style of t-shirt is the polo shirt, he can shop for longer than I can and he has an aversion to mint chocolates which is apparently a part of being French.
It’s right up there with English atrocities such as roast beef and tea with a dash of milk in it, having French blood makes you allergic. We were at a Portuguese restaurant in London and three courses plus a bottle of wine later, the waiter gave us the bill with two chocolate after-dinner mints. My boyfriend put one mint into his mouth, five seconds later he looked like he had a spider crawling in there. His face screwed up and he spat his chocolate into his serviette.
“Oh my god, what’s wrong?” I asked, running through the possibilities of has he broken a tooth or bitten his tongue in half?