It’s the weekend of the celebration of the liberation of Paris from the Nazis. I step out on my balcony for a cigarette, and I see a parade of old World War II military vehicles roll down l’Avenue de la Motte-Picquet. When the American vehicles come, the onlookers cheer and clap. The French vehicles go by unapplauded.
It’s August in Paris, when there is dancing on the banks of the Seine. I walk up to a woman and ask her to dance. She walks into my arms and asks Where are you from? Later, I ask her how she knew so immediately that I wasn’t French–in France, asking a French person where they’re from is rude, although it’s (mostly) fine for non-French. (More on this below, in the French notes.) You hesitated a bit before a word, she said. Then she thought for a moment more: …and you walked up to me with this directness and openness that I admire in Americans.
It’s my first time in France, and I don’t speak French. Someone is telling me where to find a specific hotel in Normandy, and says–in English, obviously–That’s where you saved our fucking asses–twice.
No, French people do not hate Americans.
In France, you do not ask a French person where they’re from (vous venez d’où ?). It’s rude, because the implication is that you don’t really belong in French. Rather, you ask What region are you from–vous venez de quelle région ? Point of pride: when I first started spending time in France as a francophone, people would ask me So, you’re an American? Then, they progressed to Where are you from?, or occasionally So, you’re British/Belgian/German/Suiss? Now, after 5 years of constant and intensive study of the langue de Molière, I very, very occasionally get what region are you from? Always warms my heart.