Awkward Moment

A perfect savory lunch of boeuf bourguignon (with bites of Josh's croque madame) resting nicely in my stomach, I pushed my way through the crowded French cafe, niece Ayla and her giant stroller in tow. Bumping into chairs and struggling to get the stroller down a small set of stairs, I began to feel like I had a blinking red sign on that said “American” in-spite of my mumbled "Pardons" and an occasional apologetic “désolés” as I squeezed my way out to the street.  

Upon reaching freedom outside l sighed and started to feel so silly about trying to fit in. I wanted so badly to not be a stereotypical loud, fat and rude American tourist. I even went as far as to make my husband carry our giant camera, wore many layers like the French, and tried as often as possible to avoid conversations with people so I didn’t reveal my very poor/almost non-existent French speaking skills.

Ayla’s chatter about kitty-cat’s and josh floated up from the stroller as we made our way to a nearby bench to wait for our group. A woman sitting on one of the benches looked at Ayla and then looked right at me waved and said “Bonjour!” Three thoughts flashed into my head.
  1. Why is she talking to me? As Josh and I quickly found out, in France, you don’t say “hi” or smile at random people on the street unless you know them. Don’t nod your head, half smile, wave, or heaven forbid say “hi”. If you do, they think you are crazy and you WILL be ignored. (This happened to me more than once…it was hard for me to make eye contact with some and then walk right past them and not say a single word in the deafening silence.)
  2. She must be talking to me because she thinks Ayla is cute and wants to comment on “la petite blonde avec de beaux yeux bleus.”
  3. She said “Bonjour” to me! She obviously thinks I’m French! My life goals are accomplished!!!!!!

Filled with excitement I smiled a big broad, probably-goofy-because-of-my-excitement-smile and said “Bonjour!” back.

Then, it happened. A man’s voice behind me said “Bonjour…blah blah something in French blah blah.” He walked past me and lovingly embraced and double cheek kissed the friendly French woman who I thought was talking to me.


  1. oh nooooooo! americans are just doomed to look awkward when in europe, i'm resigned.

  2. hahaha. love it. humility. good for the soul.