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 Post subject: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:38 am 
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Seagull of the PPK
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I have a thing that's bothering me and the PPK always has great advice.

I live in a place where if you have an accent, or are a foreigner, most people have something nasty to say about it. Yesterday someone was extra-hurtful and I just didn't know how to respond.
In terms of skillful responses, yesterday was a failure. I snapped at the person and walked away, which is a bisque because i'm going to see this person regularly (at my gym, ugh).

i know that people say things like that because they're ignorant and small-minded, and that's fine intellectually, but I need to find some way to respond when I'm a step away from bursting into tears and wondering why i have chosen to live among such jerks.

What do you say when someone says something negative about the fact that you have an accent or are a foreigner? I speak well, but I have an accent and always will. I am not interested in insults, I just want to be able to respond in a nice, rise-above-it kind of way that preserves my conscience and maybe a little of my dignity.

thanks peeps. i know a few of you have had experiences like this and maybe some time to think about it.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:56 am 
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Can you share more specifics of what was said?

I look foreign in the US (so, no where are you REALLY from?). and I speak both German and French as a second and third language. And inevitably people who speak French will shift into English, sometimes with a bit of a sneer. I mostly let things go and think of nasty stuff to say under my breath. On a good day, I'll say "Yes, I'm still learning" smile and move on, reminding myself that it is no small feat to speak another language.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:57 am 
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I normally dont say anything to them, I just brood about the fact that they laugh because my 5th language isnt as good as their mother tongue. Idiots.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:07 am 
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Seagull of the PPK
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VeganinBerlin wrote:
I normally dont say anything to them, I just brood about the fact that they laugh because my 5th language isnt as good as their mother tongue. Idiots.

this is usually what i'm thinking but for a variety of reasons it doesn't help me to say it out loud!

crazy lady: you talk like a foreigner! (said like, you have mange! or, there's a fetus in my soup!)
me: yes, i have a face like a foreigner too.
CL: well the face is OK, since so many people are europeans, but with an accent like that? people like you shouldn't be allowed here. we can't even understand a word you say. not allowed.
me: (thinking: you understood every other word i said to you; how about we continue this in japanese, spanish, french or english and see what your accent is like; like i give a shiitake what you think;etc) Wow. People here are famous for being rude, but I don't understand how you can have your nose in the air and in my business at the same time. <left>

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:15 am 
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Semen Strong
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Yeah, there is no shortage of jerks IRL or on the internet. Basically those people are trolls and you shouldn't feed them any of your energy.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:20 am 
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I've lived in China for over 3 years now. Almost daily I will hear strangers on the street talking about how I have a huge asparagus or how fat I am. They likely mean no harm and to them I just look different than the average Chinese woman. I can't say that it doesn't boil my blood sometimes though. I'll through out a "mind your own business" which is quite rude and causes them to "lose face" every once in a while. It never quite gets the reaction I'm looking for though. They normally just stare back in shock because a foreigner is actually speaking Chinese.

I've realized that the culture here is just different. Some things that are considered rude back home might be more acceptable here. I try to focus on changing my reaction instead of throwing out an insult or trying to have a teaching moment, because at the end of the day, I'm living in their culture and people are still going to tell me I'm fat all the time no matter what I do. On the other hand, if someone I'm closer to does something that makes me very uncomfortable, I will normally bring it up as politely as possible. Our situations seem a little different because the locals are normally very welcoming to foreigners, but I want you to know that I very much feel for you!


Last edited by orangeluna on Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:24 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:21 am 
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I think you responded very well torque.
Being polite usually wins, same as pointing out how rude the other person actually is.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:26 am 
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orangeluna wrote:
I've realized that the culture here is just different. Some things that are considered rude back home might be more acceptable here.


I traveled through Vietnam with my white boyfriend and got non-stop comments about being black and ugly and having a huge nose and "Why is he with you?" And then in HK, people were really rude about me not being thin (I was working out 2 hours a day and barely eating).

But then in France, someone told me I was "too square for French clothing - no one in France is your shape." So rudeness - it is everywhere

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:35 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
So rudeness - it is everywhere


Absolutely. But dang, those are some very rude things, tofulish!

I probably come across as a rude crasshole here myself.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:55 am 
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Americans tend to think it's hilarious to laugh at my so-called Canadian accent. My accent is kind of weird, since I grew up in both southern Alberta and England, but fork it, I love my weird way of speaking. When I was living in England I got made fun of for sounding "American", and when I was in Canada I got fun of for sounding British, then in America I was made fun of for sounding Canadian. Oh and in France I was mocked for sounding Quebecois.

Try not to let it get to you. Easier said than done, I know.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:10 am 
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torque wrote:
VeganinBerlin wrote:
I normally dont say anything to them, I just brood about the fact that they laugh because my 5th language isnt as good as their mother tongue. Idiots.

this is usually what i'm thinking but for a variety of reasons it doesn't help me to say it out loud!


I don't think either of you mean it but this rubs me the wrong way. The person is obviously picking up on something that makes them feel superior and even though you don't say it, acting/feeling superior because you speak multiple languages doesn't help either. I mean I love languages and it kills me that I've lost a lot of my Spanish and most of my Italian and I think people should learn multiple languages on some level. Some people are better at it than others though, doesn't make anyone better, just different.

Anyway, my stepfather's mother and I used to have conversations with her speaking Spanish and I speaking English. It was a weird dynamic but she didn't like me very much because I wouldn't speak Spanish but I'm fairly shy and she was a critical person anyway. She refused to speak English which didn't bother me but I figured it wouldn't please her if I spoke Spanish and it'd be another hing she could nitpick. It isn't like she didn't know English, she was born in the US but she lost her spoken English at some point living in a small farming community where mostly everyone could speak Spanish.

Oh and I had a funny experience when I went to Germany. I was born there due to my dad being in the army and when the person stamping my passport saw that, he switched over to German. I was like crepe but it was simple enough, I was surprisingly able to answer him in English. He really wanted me to speak German but I've neve studied it, I was happy enough to answer in English. I credit Indiana Jones with the amount of German I do know.

I figure the best thing was to do what I do and don't worry about the criticisms. People who don't think highly of themselves will always try to put others down. Sadly, some of it is even cultural.

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Last edited by linanil on Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:13 am 
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orangeluna, i heard a lot of stuff like that in japan [and even the foreigner-go-home kind of stuff] and for some reason it never really got under my skin- although i had forgotten how hard it is to be under criticism all the time as a blatantly different-looking person. you have my sympathies, it is tough. back then maybe because i was such an obvious foreigner i felt like i kind of deserved it, and also the whole US-Japan relationship brings up bad history and i felt like they had a right to say those things. Or maybe i was just tougher back then.

so, what is the recommendation, a simple "oh well, too bad you think that way"?

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:14 am 
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I too love my unusual accent. Growing up we spoke English at home, Irish Gaelic to one set of grandparents, Ukrainian to the other and went to French immersion school. Add a bit of Boston 'twang' from staying with Grandparents who lived in Salem MA.

These days it is such a strength to be multilingual. When I get stoopid comments, I usually ignore them and then start a conversation with some one else - in another langauge if needed.

Cultural ignorance is a bit more difficult to address.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:16 am 
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linanil wrote:
I don't think either of you mean it but this rubs me the wrong way. The person is obviously picking up on something that makes them feel superior and even though you don't say it, acting/feeling superior because you speak multiple languages doesn't help either.

Yes, this is part of why i don't want to respond snarkily, and the fact that it shows to me that there is just a gulf between our two ways of thinking that i don't think a quick exchange is going to resolve.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:29 am 
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Can you just halt the conversation? I don't know how much you're forced to interact with this lady.

crazy lady: you talk like a foreigner!
you: That's a nice observation!. :smiles: :leaves:

eta: acutally I think your "oh well" is just fine. Best with a smile. I think what's most important is that what's said to you doesn't get you down. A smile not only makes you look kind and polite, but maybe it will make you feel less annoyed as well.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:10 am 
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I live in the same country I was born in and I get a lot of hate, too. A large portion of my family are fairly new immigrants from Italy and in my family we pass down our names (all names, not just last) so I have an odd looking name that makes me stick out. No one can ever seem to place my first name and more often than not, people believe my last name is Jewish (fun fact, my first name is derivative of a Jewish name). I've had a lot of antisemitic things said to me because of that. I've also had people tell me to "go back to my country," "you have no business in America," "you must be an Islam lover," etc. Now I know it's not the same thing you're going through, my name isn't readily available to see unlike skin color or accent but the way that I've dealt with it is two ways. One is where I've tried to educate the person if it's one of those moments where it seems possible (for example, when someone shouted at me that I'm lucky America saved my asparagus in WWII or else my whole family would be dead) but that usually ends up with me getting frustrated and feeling like it's stupid to try to rationally talk to someone who is completely irrational. That usually leads to the second response, I just try ignore them the best that I can and walk away. It seems like people who say these things like it when people argue back because it gives them an even better chance to assert their dominance.

I'd say it really depends on how responsive the person is to even bother saying anything to them. I'd just go on and live your life the way you normally would and since you'll see her regularly maybe she'll come to know you not as a foreigner but more like her equal (wishful thinking). If not, at least you're not exerting so much energy into such a hateful person.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:20 am 
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linanil wrote:
Oh and I had a funny experience when I went to Germany. I was born there due to my dad being in the army and when the person stamping my passport saw that, he switched over to German. I was like crepe but it was simple enough, I was surprisingly able to answer him in English. He really wanted me to speak German but I've neve studied it, I was happy enough to answer in English. I credit Indiana Jones with the amount of German I do know.
That reminds me of when me (blond hair, blue eyes, living in Germany) and my boyfriend (half-Chinese, half-Welsh) went through German passport check in the airport and they actually tried to peel the plastic off his passport, assuming it was a fake, whilst making racist comments about Turkish people (which they assumed he was). Contrastingly, they looked at mine for half a second and and waved me through.

Luckily, he didn't understand a word they said, but I was pretty flabbergasted. It took me about five minutes before I realised that that had actually just happened and it wasn't just some strange parallel universe that I had glimpsed.

Don't assume people around you don't understand you just because you're speaking a language you think they cannot. Especially when you're being openly racist.

But anyway. Anecdote over.

I constantly felt like everyone was making fun of my handwriting in France. French handwriting is stylised cursive, and they all more or less write in the same way. English handwriting is a delinquent exercise in free expression. My writing on the board in class had to be block capitals because my handwriting had too strong an accent. I still write my numbers in an "internationalised" way.

When I lived in France I spoke French clumsily but fluently, if that makes sense. It wasn't graceful or poetic, but it got the job done. Once, in Paris, I bought some shoes or sunglasses or something, with me speaking French and the shopkeeper speaking English. She just would not acknowledge that I was speaking French.

Luckily, Germans are so mystified as to why anyone would learn German that that seemed to override much linguistic contempt. My friends all thought my German mistakes were hilarious, but in a "laughing with" kind of way. Good times!

It takes decades to lose an accent, unless you really, really work on it. The only person I know who has lost her accent totally is a Dane who's lived in England for over thirty years.

Sadly, it's just something you live with, I think.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:09 am 
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I just wanted to say: Cool!! Always wanted to learn to speak it!

Padraigin wrote:
Irish Gaelic



And: I work in an Irish Pub, my coworker is from Australia. She's pretty good at German by now, but still got an accent. Well, all guys practically fall over themselves when they hear her talk because it's SO SEXY. But, once in a while even she gets asshole-comments from shitty customers. I guess one cant avoid it entirely.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:14 am 
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torque - I love your response! Hopefully she'll think twice before saying something like that again.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:46 am 
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Gulliver wrote:
When I lived in France I spoke French clumsily but fluently, if that makes sense. It wasn't graceful or poetic, but it got the job done. Once, in Paris, I bought some shoes or sunglasses or something, with me speaking French and the shopkeeper speaking English. She just would not acknowledge that I was speaking French.

why are the french so rude about this! i'm kind-of in the mindset of: if you want to practice my language, you can pay €€€ for a plane ticket and practice in a native english-speaking country all you like. but in the mean time, i am here and making a decent effort, so let's all try to be polite, shall we?

my french sounds very stunted now, but when i lived over there, it was exceptional by american standards and "pas mal" by french standards. sometimes i'd make a goofy wording choice (ex: "i gotta get going" = "il faut que j'aille"... yeah.) and get teased. i'd usually be exhausted from dealing w/ all the close scrutiny anyway, so i'd respond w/ a desperate, emotional response like, "i'd like to see you try to do what i'm doing!! it's not easy!!"

Gulliver wrote:
Luckily, Germans are so mystified as to why anyone would learn German that that seemed to override much linguistic contempt.
i've always loved this about germans.

i had a more difficult time conforming to german culture; their strict adherence to rules and regulations. when i'd get yelled at for stuff that seemed arbitrary to me, i'd usually just yell back in english because i didn't care.

i guess my point is that living in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language is stressful and it's difficult (and perhaps shouldn't be expected) to behave w/ the same social graces you would in your home country. then again, i know from experience that i don't have what it takes to be a good foreigner. i do think ignoring the bullies is probably the best response-- easiest for you and hardest on them because they aren't getting the reaction they were looking for.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:48 am 
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chouettes crêpes wrote:
Gulliver wrote:
When I lived in France I spoke French clumsily but fluently, if that makes sense. It wasn't graceful or poetic, but it got the job done. Once, in Paris, I bought some shoes or sunglasses or something, with me speaking French and the shopkeeper speaking English. She just would not acknowledge that I was speaking French.

why are the french so rude about this! i'm kind-of in the mindset of: if you want to practice my language, you can pay €€€ for a plane ticket and practice in a native english-speaking country all you like. but in the mean time, i am here and making a decent effort, so let's all try to be polite, shall we?

my french sounds very stunted now, but when i lived over there, it was exceptional by american standards and "pas mal" by french standards. sometimes i'd make a goofy wording choice (ex: "i gotta get going" = "il faut que j'aille"... yeah.) and get teased. i'd usually be exhausted from dealing w/ all the close scrutiny anyway, so i'd respond w/ a desperate, emotional response like, "i'd like to see you try to do what i'm doing!! it's not easy!!"

Gulliver wrote:
Luckily, Germans are so mystified as to why anyone would learn German that that seemed to override much linguistic contempt.
i've always loved this about germans.

i had a more difficult time conforming to german culture; their strict adherence to rules and regulations, for example. when i'd get yelled at for stuff that seemed arbitrary to me, i'd usually just yell back in english because i didn't care.

i guess my point is that living in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language is stressful and it's difficult (and perhaps shouldn't be expected) to behave w/ the same social graces you would in your home country. then again, i know from experience that i don't have what it takes to be a good foreigner. i do think ignoring the bullies is probably the best response-- easiest for you and hardest on them because they aren't getting the reaction they were looking for.


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:17 pm 
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linanil wrote:
torque wrote:
VeganinBerlin wrote:
I normally dont say anything to them, I just brood about the fact that they laugh because my 5th language isnt as good as their mother tongue. Idiots.

this is usually what i'm thinking but for a variety of reasons it doesn't help me to say it out loud!


I don't think either of you mean it but this rubs me the wrong way. The person is obviously picking up on something that makes them feel superior and even though you don't say it, acting/feeling superior because you speak multiple languages doesn't help either. I mean I love languages and it kills me that I've lost a lot of my Spanish and most of my Italian and I think people should learn multiple languages on some level. Some people are better at it than others though, doesn't make anyone better, just different.

Anyway, my stepfather's mother and I used to have conversations with her speaking Spanish and I speaking English. It was a weird dynamic but she didn't like me very much because I wouldn't speak Spanish but I'm fairly shy and she was a critical person anyway. She refused to speak English which didn't bother me but I figured it wouldn't please her if I spoke Spanish and it'd be another hing she could nitpick. It isn't like she didn't know English, she was born in the US but she lost her spoken English at some point living in a small farming community where mostly everyone could speak Spanish.

Oh and I had a funny experience when I went to Germany. I was born there due to my dad being in the army and when the person stamping my passport saw that, he switched over to German. I was like crepe but it was simple enough, I was surprisingly able to answer him in English. He really wanted me to speak German but I've neve studied it, I was happy enough to answer in English. I credit Indiana Jones with the amount of German I do know.

I figure the best thing was to do what I do and don't worry about the criticisms. People who don't think highly of themselves will always try to put others down. Sadly, some of it is even cultural.


I don't think I'm superior, I just think I'm better when it comes to languages, which is just the area they are making fun off and I find it ironic. Especially when its people who never actually studied a language until they were fluent and have no idea how much work it is. And then these exact people make fun of people who's accent or grammar isn't perfect. I cant help but think of this to get a perspective on the situation and feel less shiitake.

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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:02 pm 
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It sounds like you responded to it pretty well, given the situation. What you described doesn't sound especially terrible, even if you'll still be seeing the person sometimes, because what she said was way ruder. I don't think it's wrong to confront someone if they're being extremely impolite. Maybe she even felt bad about it afterwards!


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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:15 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: multilingual/multiculti people: help me?
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:20 pm 
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[/quote] why are the french so rude about this! i'm kind-of in the mindset of: if you want to practice my language, you can pay €€€ for a plane ticket and practice in a native english-speaking country all you like. but in the mean time, i am here and making a decent effort, so let's all try to be polite, shall we?.[/quote]

The "French = rude" stereotype is really hateful. I lived in France a long time, and still spend a part of every year there, and while the French have really different practices of customer service and communication than North Americans or Brits, in general they are no more or less rude than anyone else, and still Anglophones revel with glee in this horrible stereotype.

There's another way to see this: maybe someone is trying to be helpful? Maybe people are really excited to practice their language skills too? Should someone be confined to pay tonnes of money to travel, as you suggest above, in order to practice a language? When in North America and I hear people with French accents, I get really excited and want to speak French with them. There is a general enthusiasm for the English language in France, and the French learn it in school and are often very eager to speak it. People seek out customer service jobs where they will interact with tourists so that they can speak English. I agree that it's annoying to speak good French and have someone respond in English, and I'm fluent and it happens to me, but if you want to speak French, just keep doing so. It doesn't mean all French people are sneering, rude, and impolite.

Orangeluna's point "I've realized that the culture here is just different. Some things that are considered rude back home might be more acceptable here." is so spot on for all of us who venture outside of our own usual cultural contexts.

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Chicken>Lacan all day, any day. -pandacookie


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