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Monday, October 3, 2011

Du Pain?

I am occasionally awkard. I am occasionally even more awkward in French. I hate making small talk, because I feel vulnerable, and I suspect that I'm commiting a series of cultural faux pas(uh, 's). I don't know the French way to BS with someone when you don't know them, and well, I'm awkward. So although I like going with Gui Gui's friends, I occasionally have the "oh God, not French again," moment.

That being said, I can usually role with an evening out, because now I know most of his friends pretty well, and they serve me wine, which makes me less self-conscious. So, I was a little put out last weekend when we ended up going to Paris to have a birthday dinner with a friend I've never met before, and his friends, who Gui Gui has never met before. Things were kind of awkward when we got to the guy's house and we all sat around staring at eachother. I had to discreetly ask Gui Gui to explain things to me, as new people mean new accents, and are occasionally hard to understand (they were also talking about playing pool, which sounds really similar to the word beer, so that brought a whole new level of confusion). Anyway, we went to dinner, the apero and the wine came out, and that galvinized the conversation.

But, as I was eating my poulet au sauce moutarde, I looked down the table at the bowl of French bread. What a perfect example of why I'm so damn awkward at dinner parties.

One thing I've learned about how to not make an ass of yourself, is always watch what everyone else is doing, and never make assumptions. (One time, Gui Gui's mom put a bowl of water in front of me and said something about seeds in the grapes I was eating. I thought the bowl was for seeds, it was infact, I realized after watching his Dad wash his grapes in the seed filled water, for cleaning, oops). So the whole bread thing really gets to me. If you pay attention to your French dinner companions, you will see that the bread does not go on the plate, it goes on the table to the side. It is then used to aid in the sopping up of sauces left over. If, by chance, you are eating it with the starter, you must rip off tiny pieces and eat discreetly.

Before that, Gui Gui and I had been talking, and he asked me again, "So do you feel like things are that different here?" "I don't even know anymore, but as I've said before, it's always the differences in the little things that throw you off balance." Because that Saturday night, I was drinking the same wine, eating the same food, and speaking the same language, with my bread on my plate, because I'll be dammed if I forget 24 years of my parents telling me to keep my food on my plate.

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