In France the Marie (or Mayor) is very powerful, he allows you planning permission, you will need his permission to erect even a greenhouse or shed. We have been advised by many English people that “you have to introduce yourself to the Marie”. They will tell you that it would be considered rude if you do not introduce yourself. Regrettably we have found out that is not necessarily the case, in fact I would go so far as to say people have been having a bit of laugh with us.
So off Rich and I went to the Marie’s office, which is very very grand, to introduce ourselves. On the way in we met a lovely old Frenchman who chatted away to us very quickly in French (even though we had explained that we do not speak French well (hardly at all!)
Now for those who have read some of my previous entries on my husband and the French language it will come as no surprise to know that one of Rich’s favourite phrases is “pardon monsieur je ne parle pas Francais tres bein”) which basically means I do not speak French well; at this point, when people continue to speak to us very quickly (because we are in France after all and their expectation is that we should speak French,) Rich then looks at me as if to say there you go, over to you, translate and steps back. Bless him!
So off I go, looking at them meaningfully and hoping against hope I have a rough idea of what they are saying, that I am saying oui in the right places and, even more importantly, laughing in the right places. I dread to think what I have agreed to and laughed at since I lived here, but I can guarantee that I have had a fair few funny looks.
So after our enlightening chat with the gentleman about a new statue in the beautiful grounds of the Marie’s office, and hoping against hope that he had not noticed Harley do a big crap on the grass (you can always rely on Harley he has no understanding of standing on ceremony) we tied Harley up and went into the reception area.
Now I am sorry to say this but out came this very sour faced miserable looking woman, who was understandably frustrated and unhappy with something in her life.I introduced myself and explained that I was English and that my French was not good. At this point she went over to the back office door and closed it. I don’t know why, perhaps English offended them or perhaps it was because she did not want them to hear how rude she was to people, possibly all people, but I would hazard a guess that being English was not helping our situation, as she was looking at us with a look on her face suggesting that she could smell brie that had been left out for several sunny days.
I asked if we could have an appointment with the Marie and she looked at me (it appears quite rightly) as if I had gone made and asked “Pourquoi?” (Why?) A good question because to be honest standing there at that point I didn’t know why. What did I say? Because other English people have told us we have to meet the Marie for no other reason than to say “hello”? I started to feel like a numpty and to make it worse in front of someone who was just soooo rude. (I did say that I would say about the bad as well as the good.) Now, to be fair, it may be because she had a lot of stupid English walking into her office on a daily basis asking to meet with the Marie to say hello. In fact at this point I was starting to feel like a bit of an arrogant twat (Rich had disappeared into the background, bless him!) I started to realise how silly we looked. She proceeded to speak to us quickly in French and I offered our apologies and we left.
We then thought we would look at all of the notices about the town, as we live there and it is good to know what is going on, and as we have a basic understanding of written French we could understand the declarations that were on the notice board for all to see. She took exception to this and came hurtling out from behind her desk (quite quickly for a woman of her size) and asked what we were looking at. I understood her question, which I think shocked her a bit, and she then said in fluent English “Can you not speak ANY French?” Thinking back I should have said “not as well as you can speak English apparently, tempted to follow up with “your rude cow!” but we just shuffled out offering our apologies.
Given what has happened recently I toyed with not posting this but I have said that I would show the good with the bad, and possibly the ugly. People like this lady let others down, as do people like her all over the world. There is no need.
When I got home I looked up whether you need to introduce yourself to the Marie on the net. Someone had answered a similar query with “Only if you want them to think you are mad!”
Job done, we are the mad English!!
The moral of the story, find out for yourself do not listen to what other people say! After living here now for getting on for 8 months I should have done my homework. In the words of the famous song “and I should have known better….”