The tourist tribulations of three friends

By spending all my summers in Majorca, I ended up making friends there. Believe it or not, I sometimes get out of my house and out of my shell. This is the case in Mallorca. This winter, it was my friend Anna who took the opposite route: coming to spend a few days in Paris and then in Lyon. So I partially skipped school to introduce him to our capital.


Anna is Chinese and has lived in Mallorca for a very long time. We talk to each other as best we can: a little English, which she vaguely masters, a little Spanish, which I am learning, and when we start to get tired of juggling, we take out our translator to talk to each other directly in French and Mandarin.

What I didn’t know — Majorca is a small island for those coming from Paris, so I never managed to get lost, despite my best efforts — is that it has a sense of direction as fanciful as mine . I arranged to meet him at the RER Invalides exit, showing him the exit on Google Maps.

Except that with her friend Stacy, they arrived early from the Trocadéro. So here we are, the three of us embarking on a treasure hunt around the army museum. Because, instead of asking her to directly share her geolocation with me, I had the absolutely grandiose idea of ​​asking her to take me a photo of what she saw. Brilliant idea: it was on the other side of the museum. Except that it wasn’t visible in the photo, because I only saw the dome, which looked exactly the same on my side. I hadn’t paid attention to the orientation of the sun either. In short, I still have progress and parts of GeoGuessr to do.

After 45 minutes, we finally found each other. The three of us left for a visit to the army museum, then an exploration of the center of Paris.

Linguistic and cultural barrier

After all these years, Anna and I have finally found ways to communicate quite easily. A usual question, I guess, and after all these years, she knows my facial expressions. But a cultural barrier persists. The first was to explain to him why there were so many police officers and gendarmes in the streets.

As I wanted to show him my “workplace”, after the army museum, you walked towards the National Assembly, then the Concorde. I explained to him that we were in the district of ministries, but also of demonstrations. We also had to explain to him that a terrorist attack had taken place on Saturday evening.

– “But is it over now? “.

I could have lied to him, but I didn’t see the point. Fortunately, the sun and the beautiful Parisian buildings made it possible to quickly change topics. Arriving at La Concorde, we walked towards the Tuileries Christmas market. We did this walk more for the folklore than anything else and Stacy was curious to see the Ferris wheel.

That’s when another cultural difference was born: food. I loved seeing his face when I explained to him what tartiflette was.

– “Why put cheese on potatoes? »

– “Anna, in this country, food is a religion. There are things we shouldn’t try to understand, it’s beyond us. »

Thanks DeepL!

From the Invalides to the National Assembly, from the National Assembly to Concorde, from Concorde to the Tuileries, our walk had tired us a little. Head for a café at the end of the garden. In such a touristy area, I expected to find waiters speaking at least English, especially for such a snobbish cafe.

Lost ! You had to see the head waiter’s face when I asked him if they had cards in Mandarin or Spanish. If I had asked to leave with today’s recipe, he would have had the same outraged look. We nevertheless managed to settle in and even order. All three of us were happy to have a translator in our pocket.

Quite tired from their visits today, Anna and Stacy wanted to have an early dinner. They found a restaurant near their hotel. I suggest calling to reserve. I just happen to ask – the area is suitable for this, being very touristy – if they have menus in Mandarin or at least in English. The response was scathing:

– “Oh well no, we don’t have a map in Mandarin or English. We know our job and we explain the dishes to customers.”

Obviously, any job is not about being nice. The three of us left at the foot of the Concorde metro station.

Poor tourists

I have been railing against the Olympic and Paralympic Games which are coming to Paris this summer for a long time. Especially since I live between an Olympic village and the Stade de France. I know it’s going to be a nightmare these three weeks. I even wonder if I would not prefer to undergo a real examination of a complete finance bill – without 49 paragraph 3 – rather than undergo the Games.

While the army museum did have signs in several languages, including Mandarin, all the other places we walked around barely had any signs in English. Spanish is absent, as are German and Italian. Same thing for Arabic, Russian and Mandarin. However, at the Tuileries, we encountered people speaking Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Arabic and at least one Slavic language — I was unable to determine whether it was Russian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian or something else. thing.

However, the whole world will arrive in Paris in a few months and no, not all of these people will speak French. What surprised me the most is that the places where we walked and stopped are tourist places. Nobody spoke English. I’m sure that in my neighborhood more foreign languages ​​are spoken fluently than in the Golden Triangle, including Mandarin, Russian, Arabic, English, Spanish and Polish.

In fact, for the Olympic Games, I think I will develop a mobile application so that tourists can survive in Paris, with maps, translation, deciphering menus in cafes, sign to “catch” a waiter and telephone number. relief.

For the next evening, we went for a safe bet: Chinese fondue in a restaurant run by Chinese people. At least we will have no linguistic or cultural barriers.

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