The Girl in the Plastic Bubble

“Foux da fa fa?”  Says one girl.*

“Feau de foux!  Foux da fa fa fa fa,” replies the boy she is talking to.

“Mais oui, a le feau de foux a fa fa.  Ceau le le le foux de fa fa fa.”

All of France has started to sound like a Flight of the Conchords song.

“Alors, foux da fa fa?”

“Baby?”  MB is looking at me questioningly.  I am bouncing my head slightly while singing internally.

“What?”  I look around startled and he nods his head toward the girl next to us.

“Oh!  Désolé,” I say to her, a bit embarrassed.  “Répéter s’il te plaît?”

“What is it that you do while you are in France?”  The girl replies to me in English.

I sigh.  I would have understood her question in French; I just wasn’t listening.

After six months in France, I have finally managed to perfect the ‘zone-out’.

Of course, when we first arrive to parties, there will be the obligatory conversations; just basic niceties that will last about ten minutes.  After the first half-hour of the party, however, fewer and fewer people are speaking to me so I just climb into my bubble.  It’s not a rude thing.  For them, it is frustrating to try to struggle through a slow conversation in basic French with the new girl (not exactly the recipe for a rockin’ time at a party).   And for me, it’s just as exhausting; all that concentration, trying to separate words only to understand the sentence thirty seconds too late and realize that the conversation has moved on.   In the past I would try to fake it, you know, nod when others nod or laugh when other laugh.  But eventually, that always ends up backfiring and you realize that you have just agreed that Stalin wasn’t all that bad and that actually the situation in Darfur is hilarious.  Talk about awkward.

Sometimes there will be children or teenagers at the party and that usually works out well.  They all speak perfect English and are usually pretty happy to practice with the ‘cool’ American (before the French hit adulthood, they still think we are cool).  They will sidle up to me at the table and give me that clear, quiet look of comprehension:  Yes, we understand; no one talks to us either. 

Therefore, until I perfect my French, I am relegated to my bubble or to the children’s table (not such a bad fate, the children’s table…beware, they pick up on everything).  So, if you speak to me and I seem to ignore you, don’t take it personally; I just don’t know what ‘foux da fa fa’ means!

*Credit where credit is due:



  1. I am right there with you at the kids table, until they start correcting your pronunciation and looking at you as if you were a talking alien, my next move is to search for friendly pets.



      1. Except my puppy only 2 months old was trianed in French (picked up from the country an hour away). If I speak to her in English I get a WTF? look. She literally tilts her head, looks at me and walks off.
        When she did this I couldn’t believe but I had been given the french attitude by a pup!


      2. It is such a hilarious image – you should write about this! haha – I can just imagine, you come home from work and expect her to be all excited and you walk in the door and she just looks at you like “quoi? Vous etes special?”


  2. The bubble! Love it. I have actually really got this down to a knack… to the point that I can keep my self occupied for long hours of time. I was once a loud, laughing, joking, chatter box. At dinner parties I now can be content for hours as long as I can see…. SOMETHING!
    Ok maybe you all have got this one too?
    You speak french and they look at your partner for a translation like you are speaking alien???
    The brazen rudeness can drive me nuts!



    1. I am the same – always used to be the most talkative, life-of-the-party type but now…meh, leave me alone with my wine and my food. Sometimes, I almost get frustrated when people interrupt my reverie and speak to me. Terrible! I am becoming socially lazy.

      hah -and yes, the confused looks for translation drive me bonkers!



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