It has been nearly eight months since I’ve last set foot in Orvieto – a really, really, really long time in my book. Each and every visit back to Italy has developed its own particular flavor and personality. This trip took on a special “French twist” because it included a 4-day stopover in Paris.
Paris: The City of Lights.
The Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame de Paris, Montmartre, Foie gras, French wine and the pièce de résistance, French pastries. I loved this city from the moment I arrived. Parisians are so sophisticated, elegant, romantic, chic, and very COOL. I wanted to be cool just like them so I decided to become French.
Becoming French is not something you can do overnight — it takes a lot of time and effort. I was fortunate enough to be traveling with my French friend Manuela, staying in the apartment of her friends Christophe and Tiphaine and spending time with JC and Stephanie. I had round-the-clock exposure to daily life in France and I am happy to share with you some of the secrets I have learned.
Introduction: Fake it ‘Till you Make It
The first and most important thing you must do in order to become French is to stop being American immediately! You must hide all the characteristics that would tip people off to the fact that you are from the United States. (You know you’re making progress when someone accidentally mistakes you for a Canadian). It can be challenging, but if you put your mind to it I believe it can be achieved. By reading and following my step-by-step instructions, you too can be well on your way to becoming French, just like me!
5 Easy Steps to “Frenchdom”
Step #1: Shut up about it
If you don’t speak French fluently then don’t talk at all. (For those of you who know me personally, you understand that NOT talking was my biggest challenge). If you want to buy something, just point at it and grunt. Even a simple “Merci” will give you away. Believe me, your rudimentary high-school French isn’t going to help you here – you might as well write “Ugly American” across your forehead in Chanel lipstick, for God’s sake.
Step #2: Enchante`
Greet properly. Never hug anyone! Hugging is a dead give-away that you are American. Give two or three kisses on the cheek. Never shake hands when introduced to a person unless you are in a business setting or you’re meeting President Sarkozy. (I was severely admonished for extending my hand when presented to someone for the first time. Apparently I’d insulted him and had to give him extra kisses to make up for it).
Step #3: Look the part
Wear scarves, dress in all black and be short.
Step #4: Smoke
I know smoking is detrimental to your health and makes your clothes and hair smell bad, but if you don’t, you will be left alone at tables in restaurants while everyone else is outside smoking their cigarettes and having fun. You don’t want that! I am proud to say that before coming to Paris I didn’t smoke at all and now I am up to half a pack a day.
Step #5: Eat, Pray, Gag
In order to survive one must eat. To be French means you will be consuming large amounts of animal organs and garden pests on a regular basis. If you can’t read a French menu you are in serious trouble because you are likely to be served a dish that is made from a lamb’s brain or its intestinal tract. Pouring ketchup over them to mask the flavor will only draw attention to your “Americanism” (See Introduction above). Thank God the cheese and bread in France are second to none. Bon Appetite.
Being the good friend that she is, Manuela could see I was struggling with my “Frenchness” so she enrolled me in an intensive, crash-course entitled “How to Become a Parisian in One Hour?” (Some say this is actually a one-man comedy show, but whatever). It is presented entirely in English because if you speak the French language you don’t need this course — you are probably already Parisian. The teacher/comedian Olivier Giraud, teaches you how to be Parisian in a shop, restaurant, taxi, metro and even in bed! Just as Olivier promised, after the one-hour class/show I was hardly recognizable to my family and friends! I had actually become Parisian in just one hour!
I still love my Italy and will continue to live there. I have to admit that it can be very problematic being French and Italian at the same time. When I returned to Italy, I was quite confused and disoriented. I forgot that I needed to speak louder in order to be heard over the yelling and I’ve caught myself more than once complaining about the perfect Italian weather. Fortunately, I never seem to have trouble adjusting to the sea of devastatingly handsome Italian men. I am so torn, conflicted, and split over these two beautiful countries, but I think I’ve come up with a solution to my dilemma. I will be “married” to one (Italy) and have a “love affair” with the other (France). Isn’t that so French of me?
*”How to Become a Parisian in One Hour?” By Olivier Giraud is playing every Tuesday & Wednesday-8:30pm, Saturday-7pm, Sunday-5:30pm at Theatre De La Main D’Or, 15 passage de la main d’or-75011 Paris-Metro Ledru Rollin L8. Reservations: 06 98 57 45 96 www.oliviergiraud.com
by Toni DeBella