1. You consider the wine aisle at the supermarket daunting.
There are so many bottles to choose from! The aisle must be at least a mile long. First there are the reds, which blend ever so delicately into the rosés and finally bleach out into the whites. There are sweet wines, dry wines, and bubbly wines. Some are bottled in the vineyard itself, others aren’t. There are even South American wines now…as if it weren’t hard enough already.
At dinner parties you pretend to know what people mean when they say a Beaujolais tastes of bananas, but the truth is your only criterion to distinguish a good wine from a bad one is the price. You’ve narrowed it down now: Anything over 4 euros a bottle and you won’t be bringing vinegar to tonight’s get together.
2. You’re still shocked by bare breasts at the beach.
You’ve never understood the contradictory tension between Catholicism and the human body in Romance countries. If, like me, you come from a Protestant country with Calvinist leanings, your first time on a French beach must have had you doing double takes.
3. You think blue cheese stinks.
Just the thought of putting those greenish chunks of mold in your mouth makes you gag. How anyone could eat such a putrid cheese — especially when paired with bitter endive — is beyond you.
4. You can’t say your phone number properly.
If only the French had decided to say their phone numbers one digit at a time. Instead, they group digits into pairs, and it gets you every time. Whenever you need to give your cell number to someone, you end up standing there with a blank expression on your face as you try desperately to remember how to say 97. Quatre-vingt-dix-sept? Seriously? “Four twenties and seventeen?” Why on earth did they make the numbers between soixante-neuf (69) and cent (100) so damn hard?
5. You own the Amélie soundtrack.
It’s rare to be able to travel without any preconceived ideas about your destination. It’s almost impossible to avoid the hype and stereotypes about Paris. We’ve all seen the pictures, we’ve all heard the songs. Besides, as if that weren’t enough, you decided to do a movie marathon of the French classics before your trip to the most romantic city in the world: Paris Je T’aime, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, À Bout de Souffle…
While all the Parisians around you are moaning, squeezing themselves into the sweaty metro, or avoiding dog turds on the sidewalks, you’re listening to your favourite soundtrack, totally oblivious to the daily grind, a glazed look of nostalgia on your face.
6. You keep forgetting there are four rush hours a day.
Everybody knows about the morning and evening rush hours, but in France, you have to deal with the noon and 2pm traffic, too. It’s all thanks to the famous French pause-déjeuner. The lunch break in France lasts just long enough for most people to be able to go home and eat a proper meal, instead of simply grabbing a sandwich at the nearest bakery. Needless to say, that leaves you with only a few windows of opportunity to beat the traffic, and you fall headfirst into it every single time.
7. Your ethics prevent you from eating foie gras.
Shoving food down the gullet of a goose to make its liver fatty sounds like force-feeding a prisoner on hunger strike. It’s just plain wrong! Every Christmas, people roll their eyes when you refuse to even touch the foie-gras-covered blinis that get passed around the dinner table.
8. You still believe Parisians don’t have an accent.
In school, you were told that real French comes from Paris. When your teachers corrected your pronunciation, it was with a Parisian accent, a neutral accent.
A sure sign of advanced Frenchness is the ability to recognize not only the strong twang of southern French accents, but also to hear that Parisians don’t just say “ouais,” they say “oué-euh.” Listen to the French singer Renaud and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
9. You still believe that one day you’ll be French.
So maybe you can get your hands on French citizenship, but unless you were born in France, you’ll never truly be French. One way or another, you’ll end up giving yourself away.
Photo: Liana Skewes