Today is the last full day here in Paris, but I have to write this post before I forget about this interesting and unique part of my Parisian experience. Over the last 6 weeks I’ve taken about 5 taxis around the city and tried to take the opportunity to strike a conversation in French. Now, testing my memory, here it goes.
The first cab ride was with a middle-aged Asian male. This person actually started the conversation with me first and inspired the rest of my conversations. I began feeling really comfortable speaking my subpar French. Even though I’m sure I messed up plenty of things over the course of the conversation. Once I told him I was an American student he was really interested in my studies, my stay and Paris, and the differences between Parisian and American culture.
This one with a North African woman, which surprised me at first because there are so few female taxi drivers around the city. Unfortunately she was not much of a talker and I really didn’t get to get to deep into a conversation. However, she seemed like someone hard at work as she said she drives her taxi around every single night.
Middle aged Arab man. Much much more social than the taxi ride before that. My conversation with him was great because I got to talk to him a lot about the United States and he described the suburbs he lived in outside of Paris. We got into a particular conversation about Brooklyn, in which he told me his image of the Borough was a place in which there are many shootings. He said all he hears about in the news is violence and murders taking place in New York City, which did not surprise my much at all as its always the negative news that makes it to airwaves first.
Middle aged Cambodian male. This was by far the most enjoyable of the cab rides as I learned so much in a mere 15 minutes. First of all, he said he was a cambodian refugee who fled to France to escape Polpot’s regime. He described the difficulties of growing up and being forced to come to France as a result of bureaucratic protocol as opposed to the United States where the majority of Cambodian refugees are according to him. He also said that he resided in a banlieue around Paris, which are suburbs that are notorious for their crime and poor living conditions. Surprisingly he said that the banlieue he lived in was good and that he was content living there. In general he seemed to like his job and his living driving around a Mercedes-Benz taxi, in style, and living the life of an immigrant in France. This is one conversation I will remember for the ages as it was a totally unexpected and enriching part of my experience.
After the number, this older white male was pretty disappointing because he seemed very on edge and did not want to talk much. I tried a few times starting up the conversation with my normal line “Est-ce que vous travaillez dans la nuit tous les jours?” or “Do you work at night every day?” It wasn’t to much avail unfortunately and I left very unsatisfied after the Cambodian pushed my expectations way up. At least he was nice enough to break my 50 euro note that no one else would take but the atm decided to give me anyways.
The Egyptian man working at the pizza place down the street. While I was waiting for my pizza I started talking to him in French, and soon enough to my surprise he started speaking english to me. He told me he lived in London for 5 years and that he moved to France because his wife is French. He was telling me about the incorporation of English in Egypt and how all the students learn English alongside Arabic and that French is absolutely useless there. He kept on saying how compared to English, French is so much more difficult for him to learn. However, I found it amusing that he was talking to me in Franglish and saying stuff like “It is trés hot oui?” Funny times.
About a week ago, Francesca brought a friend of her’s to class who works for Français de l’étranger or the French governmental service for citizens living abroad. He told a story about how back in 2006 during the Israel-Lebanon war, the French government provided transport to evacuate French citizens from Lebanon. However, they were not sure if Israel would attack the ships they were using to bring people back to France. The person asked what do you do in that situation?… Get 50 Americans on the ship and we will be 100% sure that they wont get attacked. True diplomacy indeed. Absolute genius.