Bringing up Chien

Cultural Differences, Uncategorized

The French LOVE dogs (literal dogs not all my figurative dog-talk).  Dogs can go on the train, on the tram, in a restaurant…just about anywhere that doesn’t have a sign indicating

No dogs allowed!

No dogs allowed!

otherwise.  A dog being out and about in public is so prevalent that at my favorite restaurant they even have a “dog’s menu” underneath the children’s menu.

As a life-long dog lover I embrace this; I like realizing that there is a canine friend at the table next to me in a restaurant or having a large furry beast relaxing under my feet on the train, it’s charming and friendly.  In the U.S. we are dog-banners; I’ve seen a dog get kicked out a post office line before…I mean, the POST OFFICE for heaven’s sake…what is the dog going to do that could possibly be more unpleasant than what your postal worker will do?  (har har har – I slay me) 

Could this difference in policy actually be a difference in behavior?  While I have seen no evidence whatsoever to convince me that French children behave better than children of any other nationality (sorry, I’m sure I’ll get skewered for this since it is all the rage…but there it is…kids are kids the world over and I see just as many crying, screaming temper tantrums in public here as I have in any other country I have lived in) I WILL say that their dogs are appear to be more attune to social etiquette.

A friend was recently visiting from the U.S. and commented on the fact that the canines

Doggie public toilets

Doggie public toilets

about town seemed to be much better behaved.  They sit patiently if left outside a “magasin” without barking or putting up much of a fuss, while giving imploring looks they do not incessantly beg at restaurant tables, and they typically manage to “do their business” in the “espace chiens”* set up around town for this express purpose.

And so, the question is: Are these better behaved dogs or are they just French?  Let me explain by going into dog psyche for a moment.

A French dog is out and about in town with his owner.  This is the dog’s internal dialogue.

Pfff…look at that stoopeed bichon on a leash…so degrading.  I mean, you know, you should learn how to walk if you want to go out in public. 

“Hey Cotton Ball – yeah, you with the leash – it is not hard, you know, just walk with your human.  You are embarrassing us all!”

Well, it is hardly a wonder, huh?  The owner is wearing tennis shoes and MON DIEU picking up the poop off the sidewalk!  If my owner did this I would run away; I would rather live on ze street zen with a human who would disrespect themselves so.  It would be too shameful.  Picking up poop…it eez disgusting, non?  I don’t walk on leashes and I manage to get to a toilet when nature calls, huh?  I’m not a barbarian or an American…ha…Americans.

The owner stops in front of a bakery and leaves the dog waiting outside with another one.  Our narrator dog stops and looks around for a minute.

A la la la la…what is thees barking fool next to me? 

“You know, we are just waiting outside the “marche”; relax Kujo!”

More barking.

“Hey – Timmy hasn’t falled down a well, Lassie!  Have some dignity.”

Pfff…I would never behave in such a way.  I don’t need to bark all the time and act like I am having a heart attack of excitement each time my human returns.  …Rideeculous.  I have standards, you know?  I know how to comport myself in public.  I-

“OOOH!  My human, bonjour, bonjour, salut, salut, salut!!!!!!!!!!”

SCENE

Last week I was walking back home from the bakery with my baguette in hand.  As some bakeries prefer, the baguette wasn’t even fully enclosed in a wrapper but just had a wisp of paper for me to hold it around the middle.  As I was walking back to my house the baguette was down by my side…you know, about dog height…and a dog came walking by with his owner.  The dog didn’t so much as turn his nose in the direction of my baguette.

It made quite the impression on me that the dog didn’t even make an attempt; there was no tug of war with the owner pulling him back from trying to devour my baguette.  I thought to myself what a well-behaved canine he was but then again, the dog was French so maybe my baguette was just from the wrong bakery.

*The Espace Chiens are set up around the city and are little sandy or dirt pits (sort of like sandboxes) with some fencing around them for the dogs to do their business.  Yes, that is right, in France dogs have their own public toilets…gotta love it.  Furthermore, while these “espaces” are used regularly there is still a prodigious amount of poo on the sidewalks.  When you walk around France it is best to keep an eagle eye.

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Who’s on French?

Learning French

My brain at times has a devious nature (exhibit a: https://breadispain.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/the-beau-reve/).  It is not particularly cooperative…never wanting to remember the names of movies I like and always forgetting exact statistics. Not to mention the fact that my Brain is constantly enlisting the help of its comrades: Conscious, Subconscious, and Speech Filter…among others, to mess with me and leave me feeling utterly confused or embarrassed (especially when Speech Filter comes into play, I basically think that my Brain has given Speech Filter early retirement and that Speech Filter spends its days relaxing on the beach with a margarita while I perpetually say dumb, ill-timed, and inappropriate things…but I digress).

Lately, my brain has developed a new and nefarious form of torture.

Yesterday, I was at the pharmacy with MB picking up a prescription.  While the pharmacist was typing information into the computer I turned to MB and had a conversation in English before asking her a question in French.  She responded to me in English (obviously she had heard me talking) and I responded to her in French.

“Quoi?”  She said this while laughing.  “I was trying to speak my English but you speak back in French!”

“Huh,” was the dignified response that I mustered (thanks again Speech Filter).

MB quickly jumped in and explained to the pharmacist that I have a lot of conversations like that because I want to practice my French and the French people often want to practice their English, blah blah blah.  On the way out of the pharmacy I asked him what the whole thing was just about.

“I don’t get it,” I said to him.

“She just thought it was funny that she was speaking English and you were speaking French.”

“She was speaking English,” I asked him, confused.

“Uh…oauis.”  MB looked mildly concerned at this point.

I just continued walking scratching my head like a confused character in a Charlie Chaplin film.  I hadn’t realized that she was speaking in English.

Yeah, so that’s right, my brain has now decided to not always acknowledge the differences in language, meaning that people can switch back and forth and I don’t always catch on immediately which in the end leaves me more confused than ever.  Thanks a lot, Brain.

BRAIN: Oh please, I mean, like it matters, it’s all up here in the same place anyway.  Did you understand what was going on or not?  HUH?!  HUH?!

I tacitly state that I did, in fact, understand.

BRAIN: Right then…get over it.  Gawd…I try to make things a little bit interesting, vary some thought process and BAM…rejected.  You know, it is very high maintenance being your brain!

This whole thing started a few weeks back when a friend of mine was visiting us from the U.S.  During her trip we spent a few days with MB’s family and so there was a lot of French being spoken.  My friend doesn’t speak French so I did my best to translate back and forth what I could (I would love to see the transcripts on that tragedy).  This seemed to work okay for a little while but eventually I got confused and sometimes I would give her the French version and give his family the English version.  Uh…wait, am I talking to…who?  Who’s on First.

Basically my Brain has decided that it will be hilarious for me to be constantly scrambling to concentrate on what language is being spoken instead of automatically recognizing it…you know, like normal people.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pull a Madonna (“I swear I can’t help my English accent) but it does get confusing up there in my head.  Basically my Brain is Abbott and I’m Costello.

ME: What do you call French?

BRAIN: Yes

ME: What?

BRAIN: Yes.

ME: What?

BRAIN: I said yes already. GEEZ.

ME: *SIGH* Okay, what do you call English?

BRAIN: What? Of course not, What is how I call French.

ME: I don’t know how you call French!

BRAIN: I don’t know’s how you call English.

ME: What?

BRAIN: Seriously?  This is exhausting.  What is how you call French.

ME: AGH! I don’t know!

BRAIN: I don’t know’s how you call English!!

ME: I don’t know how you call English!

BRAIN: Exactly!

SCENE*

So next time you run into me don’t be alarmed if I start spouting off to you in a different language; I haven’t gone crazy, it’s just my Brain having a laugh.

*For those sad people out there who have never seen this skit…pure comedy genius: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShMA85pv8M  Also, here is the script: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/humor4.shtml