My sister came in town last week. Because she's been basically everywhere, we decided to get out of France and go to Prague, in the Czech Republic. Prague has a great (misleading) reputation for being fun, beautiful, and cheap.
The little capital is trying very hard to take advantage of the waves of tourists by upping prices. My sister, who was there in 2006 was horrified, myself, who frequently goes out in one of the most expensive cities in the world, was pleasantly surprised. Eight euros for a meal with MEAT? Less than two euros for a WHOLE PINT?! Is this heaven?!
Anyway, needless to say, Molly and I lived it up, eating whole meat plates (okay, that was just me), and drinking copius amounts of spiced wine, beer, regular wine, absinthe, coffees, and basically anything on the menu.
I realized how much I a) miss ordering any kind of meat at a restaurant, if anyone has seen my post about food in France, you understand and b) cant avoid being a tourist.
I don't think I've ever blogged about how damn annoying tourists are in France, and I know that sounds insensitive, seeing as I am a foreigner, and barely make it with the language thing. (Although, constantly being spoken to in English, or hassled on the trains because of my accent and being thought of as a tourist probably has a direct result on my disdain for them.) Anyway, lets be honest, they are annoying. Anyone who lives anywhere where newbies show up and ask a ton of annoying questions, and do a bunch of annoying things to try and be original but really aren't, are annoying.
Oh yeah, except until I become one. Enter-Prague. I was a tourist. An American tourist at that, speaking English, laughing, and butchering the Czech language, that is, when I even bothered to try and speak the language at all. I guess I am constantly surprised when I realize that English has become the international language. I always assume that its because I look Anglo, that people speak to me in English, but to be honest, when I am talking with a friend on the street in Spanish, no one knows if I'm Anglo, Latina, Greek, French or anything. The French response to us always seems to be the same, speak English with us. It doesn't make much sense to me in France, seeing as French is a pretty widely studied language.
The Czech Republic on the other hand, wow. So one of my pet peeves, in English speakers, is when they waltz (this goes with my bohemian theme) into a place and automatically speak English, and worse, when they continue to do so, as it becomes clear the other person does not. (Had an experience in Argentina with an English guy, of course, who walked in to a travel place my friend and I were at and started speaking in English, the woman translated that her partner, the English speaker was not around and would be in later. The Brit, stereotypical as he was, refused to accept her not speaking English continued to talk at her, forcing myself and Melissa to translate. The women thought we were German.)
Anywho, so my way of avoiding this was pantamiming (spelling). In which I used hand gestures and pointing to get what I wanted. This usually came off as being smug, or ignorant, but I couldnt figure out the Czech vowels ( or lack of them) to at least put up the pretense of asking if they spoke English. It was embarassing and uncomfortable, because I realized that I had become the people that I hate. For the most part, as soon as I started being awkward, the people began speaking to me in English.
If there's one thing the French enjoy, its bitching about French, and it being overrun and changed by foreigners. (They have an entire academy dedicated to the preservation of the language). I must wonder how the Czech feel. Are we like little aliens that are coming in there, demanding we are treated just like the Czechs, but refusing to even try and grasp a few words? I met a French guy at a bar (what a surprise) and talked to him briefly in French. He lives in Prague, has for three years now, and works with the refineries or something like that. I asked him if he spoke the language, and he said no, he just speaks in English or French. Later, we were discussing my own language conquest, and I was saying how difficult things still are for me. Do you know what he said to me? "Si tu habites en France, il faut apprendre le francais." If you live in France, it is necessary to learn French.
Yeah right, mon copain, practice what you preach.