I have been in Paris for a week with my children. I was last in Paris when the now 19 year old was only 4 months old and he goo gooed all down the Avenue des Champs d’Elysees in the pram. This time he walked beside me and showed me around and is now fluent in French after a family exchange in Provence for three months.
It was so nice to return with him all those years later – who knows – perhaps it was the man on the metro who sang opera to him as a baby that inspired his love of French. However he is also determined to learn Italian as well to satisfy his mother’s whims…!!
However what I found hard is not being able speak French in the shops and for directions on the street when you are lost etc. and it made me realize how my clients must feel when they come to Italy not being able to speak Italian!!
I think the Italians in the shops in the big cities, speak a lot better English than the French do. I must say that I was quite shocked how no one, absolutely no one could speak any English. And fair enough I don’t speak French either but Paris is one of the big tourist cities and English tourists contribute a lot of money into their city!! If I was a business person in Paris – I would definitely learn English!! Where I come from no one speaks French and there is no need to speak French as there are no french tourists. If you are receiving your income from English tourists…..!!
The Italians try a lot harder I think, even Pepe my little fruit man (where there are no English tourists) across the road is trying to learn English from me. You say tomato I say tomato (pomodoro); you say potato I say potate….!! Remember that Ella Fitzgerald song!!
As I only had schoolgirl French, I kept saying sentences mixed with English, Italian and French words (the heat got to me 35 degrees!) and the poor person would look at me in shock horror until my son would say to me ‘ Mum just be quiet and let me speak”!! then he would speak for me in French. I would think – “ yes Gemma just shut up and pretend to be mute”! (a very challenging thing for me to do)…. But interesting as well!!
Not being able to speak the language sometimes makes one feel like a disabled person ( a good spiritual lesson also) . It is very very challenging not being able to communicate and it can be a bit disorienting when travelling so don’t be surprised if you feel like this when travelling in Italy. It is perfectly normal. But the best thing is that the Italians speak with their hands whereas the French don’t . The Italians have sign language a bit similar to the hearing impaired sign language but they use it all the time. Even I have picked it up. It is fantastic and I really love it. I recommend learning this as it is easier than learning Italian ha ha. There are quite a few books on it even.
However I must give the Parisians the thumbs up with the metro. It is simply amazing to just walk out of your apt 100 meters, go down and resurface in some fabulous place in Paris. Whoever designed the metro in Paris needs congratulations – a magnificent system. Italy could learn a few lessons – yes I know…everytime they dig down – they come up with a Roman ruin and they have to stop work!!…..
Yes I know I know!! The Italians always have great excuses and I used to believe them – though slowly learning not to… ha ha!! Paris is a beautiful city and I love it but it was nice to return home to the chaos and the disorder and that love of life that belongs in Italy.