Friday, April 24

American whatevers in Paris

One of our American friends in Paris was robbed at gunpoint a few months ago. Police reviewed security cameras from the dark parking lot but did little to follow up on the case, and after he canceled his credit cards though Skype, Parisian life resumed its reliably-safe demeanor.

Upon moving to Paris I noticed a hobby store near our apartment that sells everything one would need to build an intricate train set and thick, black BB guns that look an extraordinary amount like actual handguns. The BB guns lack the large orange tip required of children's playthings in America; in America, they're necessary to distinguish a gun possessor from a cowboy or a pirate, a preventative measure taken to curb accidental Halloween deaths at the hands uppity law enforcement. This precaution is irrelevant in France because no one celebrates Halloween and because it's nearly impossible to obtain a real gun.

In turn, our friend may have been robbed at BB gunpoint. It isn't shameful at all considering how authentic they look and how stupid it would be to call a weapon on being a bluff. Moreover BB's hurt quite a bit and are probably fatal if they hit the neck or that big artery just South of the buttocks.

There are lots of Americans living in Paris. Many come for specific jobs and others, like myself, are freelance hooligans, buying up all the 2€ wine and paying for croissants in small change at Eric Kayser and Paul boulangeries. The majority of Americans in Paris are students, often made to feel comfortable about not knowing French or anything about French culture through immersion in institutions with exclusively other Americans: American University of Paris, NYU at Paris, etc. This stops the American students in Paris from making French friends or entering establishments that their Parisian peers patronize. It also gives them the impression that they can approach people in bars if they overhear spoken English, to spark up a where-are-you-from-oh-I've-never-been-there conversation -- about which they are gravely mistaken.

I have French friends but my French is so atrocious that we always speak English. And despite my poor language skills I don't think I've socially met anyone who was rude; I would easily assert that the French are miles-more pleasant than the average New Yorker. Even French strangers, upon being asked for directions or a cigarette, will usually exclaim, "Viva Obama!" as a way of assuring Americans that any negative stereotype is truly false. Still, if I'm in a vintage store and a slew of girls come in yelling in American accents, I'll quietly glare at them in an attempt to make them feel unwelcome in the city. I'm happy that Paris has been so kind to me but I'm an extremely polite guest.

Last weekend we went to a bar because our [French] friend was deejaying. I had a good time, but in the middle of the night, five American girls came over to our table and tried to relate to us; they came from Texas, dressed poorly, and couldn't read in our faces that nobody wanted to dance with them. My friend Isabelle called to me, "Alaina, these girls are American," knowing full-well that I didn't want to be outed.
"O-ba-MA!" I yelled back, emphasizing the last syllable as French pronunciations always do.

I assume that this loathing will subside before I go back to the US and have nothing to overhear but American accents everywhere I go. After all, I don't hate America; I just hate its loud, ugly brats. But until then, if I should fall upon economic hardships while still living in France, I will most likely invest in a dangerous-looking BB gun and use it to stick up the Americans in Paris; there's a high chance that they won't know any better.

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