Friday, 6 July 2007

It's long but I think there is a moral at the end of the story...

Finally! I'm finished. It was long painful and felt degrading but I am done with my carte de séjour classes. I despised attending these sessions. "Vivre en France" was no exception. Let me set it up for you, I walk in and get settled, make myself a cup of tea, get out the booklet we were asked to bring and mentally prepare myself for the day that it said to last from 9:30 to 5:30 pm. The instructor of the class pops up out of nowhere, puts her face 2 inches from mine and demands to know my nationality.
>>Euhh, americaine.
>>Je suis desolée Madame mais on n'a pas de traducteur anglais. (Excuse me? Who asked for a freaking translator?)
>> Il n'y a pas de problème, je n'en ai pas besoin. I wanted to strangle her!
During a long-winded review of every topic that was covered in the previous session, Madame decided to really lay into how laïque the french public schools are. And I agree that the french have really made an effort in this and have been very successful in attaining a completely secular environment in public schools. The Russian two seats away from me volunteered that the term laïque appears in the american constitution. (Madame whips her head around to look at me.)>>Vraiment, il y a le mot laïque. La-ïque dans votre constitution.
>>Il y a une phrase qui specifie qu'il faut avoir une séparation entre l'état et la religion.
>>Parce que les francais trouvent que c'est drole comment vous dites c'est laïque mais le président jure sur la bible.
>>Et oui madame, je n'ai pas dit en pratique c'est le cas. J'ai dit simplement il y a une phrase dans la constitution qui demande une séparation entre l'état et la religion.
>>Avez-vous le mot laïque dans votre constitution? Est-ce que ça existe dans votre langue? Parce que la langue devoile beaucoup de choses sur un peuple. On voit les principes qui sont importants aux gens.
>> (Grit teeth) No, le mot laïque n'est pas dans notre constitution. (There are so many things I wish I followed up that with but in frustration, I fell silent.)

Moving on, I won't go through every single thing she found wrong with the US, our expensive University system that selects people based (paraphrased from her rant) on their financial status as the most important criteria and isn't based remotely on merit, etc. Or the assumption that all of us in the session are all out of work and trying to take advantage of the french system. And we all shouldn't complain about finding work, if you speak multiple languages you can find work in retail. There are lots of Russians and Japanese that enjoy coming to France on vacation so if you have those language skills you should just work in a clothing store.

The best advice I got on how to deal with these classes came from a friend at coffee this morning.
>>Tu sais Karen quand t'es pas contente, tu fais comme les francais. Tu mets le feu. Petit feu dans la poubelle et hop, sentiments bien exprimés.>>
That made me laugh so hard. I feel much better just imagining a tiny fire with acrid smoke in the wastebasket.


Sara said...

how rude!!! i hate it when people (of any nationality) try to talk about how wonderful their country is and how much better it is than country X, Y, or Z.

One thing I've learned from living abroad is that all countries have their problems, and their good sides, and people should remember that otherwise they just sound stupid. Something about those living in glass houses and throwing stones!

ColourMeCrazy said...

Urghghg, I'm all worked up and ready to fly over and smack that righteous Madame over the head with a big baguette!

in the Alps said...

At least now it's to the point where I can laugh about it and am only better prepared to take on the narrow-minded.

The Late Bloomer said...

Oh, I totally agree with Sara! Every country has its good and bad points, strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons... This Madame sounds like a real piece of work, to say the least! That would have pissed me off SOOOOO much too; I can totally understand where you're coming from. I despise it when people make assumptions and stereotypes about cultures, especially when they haven't even spent any time in the country they're talking about. I try to keep an open mind about people and cultures, and trust me, I still have a heck of a lot to learn (I've never said I or my country was perfect) but I think the key word in all situations is tolerance. And this lady sure as heck does not sound tolerant to me -- I'm actually pretty shocked that she's teaching a class like that!

Then again (*insert hypocritical French criticism here*) -- guess I shouldn't be surprised; this is France we're talking about! Ha ha.

Emily said...

Wow. She definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed.