Getting known around town

As I’ve described before, I’ll never be considered a local here in La Clusaz. In fact, it takes about three generations for someone to be gain that privilege. Because I’m not local, it’s always nice when familiar faces whose names I don’t know say hello and stop for a chat. Yesterday is a perfect example. I popped out for a quick slide in La Clusaz. When I arrived at the first drag lift, the (normally grumpy) guy checking the electronic tickets said: “You’re late today.” For the past month, I’ve said hello to him in French every time I’ve seen him. Sometimes I’ve had a reply; sometimes I’ve had no acknowledgment at all. Grumpy? Maybe. Or shy? I’ve persisted in saying hello because even if he is grumpy, I refuse to let it rub off on me, and I’ve embraced the way the French say hello to strangers. So, back to the moment. I explained to him that I had finished my work early. He nodded and told me to be careful on the hill. Achievement #1: get grumpy/shy drag lift French man to talk. Achieved. Bonus points for his apparent concern for my well-being.

At the very next lift queue, the ticket-checker also said hello. I said hi back, and to my surprise, he told me that my accent had improved significantly since last year, which led to a quick conversation about how important it is to be able to communicate in French even if you don’t know all the verb tenses or the entire vocabulary. Achievement #2: Have a conversation in French with a stranger and actually understand everything he says, and speak well enough for him to understand everything I say. Achieved.

The reason I was surprised (and still am) when he said that my accent had improved is because the only French words I had uttered were: “Bonjour. Ça va?” These words (“Hello, how are you?”) are not the most difficult to say. In fact, they are some of the first words I ever mastered in French. I’m certain that my accent on those words is exactly the same as the first day I learnt them. La Clusaz can sometimes be xenophobic, and although this guy is probably not a ‘local’ (in the La Clusaz sense of the word, and therefore an outcast like myself and most of the people I mix with here), he already knew I was not French and he still made the effort to have a conversation with me. Achievement #3 (not mine): give a foreigner warm and fuzzies by patiently speaking French with her. Achieved.

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About

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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2 comments on “Getting known around town
  1. jowalmesley says:

    As they were ski-lift attendants perhaps they weren’t used to non-French users actually speaking French to them. The British are notorious for believing ‘foreigners’should all speak English !!
    MOH hasn’t been able to progress much from the basic greetings I dinned into him when we first came here, but I excuse him on the precept that the male brain isn’t set up to absorb linguistics. That my excuse anyway!

  2. You must have, like, totally blown that lift dude’s mind with your reverse explanation shizzle.

    Yeah, I’m late because I finished work early.

    Like, talk to me again once you’ve figured that one out, French dude. Loving your travail.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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