French bakeries part 1: cursing and customers

This morning, I entered a La Clusaz bakery, where the nice French lady always smiles at me. This morning, however, things had changed. Instead of smiling, she was scowling at the woman in front of me, while the woman threw down the lid on a beautiful-looking raspberry cake and said: “bof”. This prompted the scowling lady to huff, which prompted the woman to huff, which prompted the scowling lady to call for the baker/owner/husband to sort out the problem. While they awaited his arrival, the scowler swore loudly in French: “Putain de bordel de merde fait chier” (which means, in nice-speak “lady-of-the-night from a lady-of-the-night’s house of poo makes me poo”), then smiled in my direction and served me (giving me, I discovered later, the wrong bakery items, which were pleasing to taste nonetheless).

Meanwhile, the baker arrived and it was only now that I discovered the severity of the situation: the customer had ordered a raspberry cake only big enough to feed four children, and this was far too big. Can you imagine the disaster?! What on earth would she do with all that delicious cake that the children would snub after their first piece? How could this problem possibly be solvable? The baker knew the answer: “Just charge her for a cake the size for four people,” he said in French to his wife. Now, this may have eased the customer’s mind — she seemed very happy with this resolution, but the baker’s wife was still shooting evils in her husbands direction, clearly hacked off that he had undermined her stance and given into the client.

With a face of thunder, she looked in my direction as I was still waiting to pay while all this was going on. I must have looked a bit scared because her scowl turned to a cheery smile as she took my money and apologised for the delay. I said it was no problem, smiling back sheepishly, which encouraged her to launch into another bout of swearing in French and a scowling face, clearly aimed at the other customer, but said while looking at me. I whispered goodbye mid-swear and left the shop as quickly as possible with my own incorrect order. I’m not convinced the cake didn’t end up on someone’s face before I was at the end of the road. French bakeries can be scary despite their attractive appearance.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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