I was in Belgium today to celebrate Christmaaasssss! Bing bing bing bing Are you ready children? Bing bing du du dah dum di dum.* Actually no, I wasn’t there to celebrate Christmas but in fact to celebrate my girlfriend’s and my anniversary. One thing that’s very strange about celebrating anniversaries in France is that it’s very easy to get confused between anniversaries and birthdays.** But luckily we didn’t have too much of a problem. I had all kinds of language barriers appearing before me as I struggled to differentiate between simple phrases that previously I had been quite confident with. I shall detail one of my conversations which has been translated back into English for your convenience.
Reception: Hello, Good Morning, Reception here.
Me: Hello. Er…
Me: There is water in the shower which is not hot.
Reception: Yes, I’m terribly sorry about that, it is broken.
Me: Ah, later.***
Reception: No, an engineer will come and fix it today. I can do nothing but apologise with all my heart and offer you a free night at any Comfort Inn of your choice. Me: Thank you, please, goodbye later.
As you can tell, only by my dextrous use of French was a disaster avoided.
But, as they say, it’s all swings and roundabouts. Later on a long string of abuse came my way after I had accidentally knocked over a glass. Clearly the individual was being incredibly sarcastic in her delivery of her insults because I just assumed she was being nice. Well you hardly expect to be insulted for knocking over an innocent glass at another table. In Britain, it would have had nothing to do with her, in fact in Belgium it would have had nothing to do with her either, but in her mind it was a personal attack on everything she stood for (which was not much, given how drunk she was). At any rate she insulted me and I just assumed that she was being nice until it was handily pointed out by Katherine what had really happened.
Anyway another international incident was avoided by them leaving moments later. And some delicious Belgian beer arriving seconds later.
* I wish it could be Christmas every day – Slade
** Happy Birthday is Joyeux Anniversaire and Happy Anniversary is Anniversaire Heureux in French, but luckily we were in Belgium. Happy Birthday in Flemish is Gelukkige Verjaardag and Happy Anniversary is exactly the same. We should have been in a pickle but luckily we spoke to each other in English and avoided the problem entirely.
*** I had the words for of course and later confused. I kept saying A bientot instead of Bien Sur.