No matter how good you think your French is, you will always make mistakes, misunderstand what you read or hear, and say the wrong things. Probably more often than you would like.
A survey of my fellow expats told me I’m not alone on this one. Here are some of my favourites.
“I was reading L’Étranger by Camus and I couldn’t figure out why some random guy kept asking the protagonist if he wanted to open la bière when the latter’s mother had just keeled over. Then it eventually transpired that la bière is another word for ‘coffin’. But I figured that as it’s supposed to be an absurdist novel, it was being just that.”
“In a restaurant, I tried to convey the idea that I don’t like fizzy drinks. I’m still not entirely sure what I did say, but I think I mispronounced bubbles as balls – cue many shocked faces and much hilarity from not only my table, but the one next to us, too.”
“I told a friend’s housemate I was making a hachis parmentier (kind of like a shepherd’s pie for us Brits), promising that it would be so good, he’d want to eat all of it. Except I mispronounced it as haschich. So obviously he was thrilled at the idea of an enormous marijuana pie. And no, my humble meat and potato dish didn’t live up to his expectations”
“It turns out that there is no feminine form of ‘chiots’ – puppies. Because ‘chiottes’ is actually a slang word for toilets. And not a very nice one at that. You can imagine what kind of reaction ‘J’adore les chiottes” gets when in refined company….”
What’s your worst faux pas? Don’t be shy now…