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Clueless Brits and expats
When I notice a British person in the supermarket - which is often depressingly easy as they dress in a style best described as Granny-Slut, or they shout at each other across the aisles - I tend to drop the volume of the music I'm listening to in order to listen in to whatever it is that is annoying them. A French woman and myself were rolling eyes at each other over a dingbat who was getting stressed because she couldn't find the broccoli.
Well, let's see. You could look in a dictionary (or Google) and see it's either called "chou brocoli" or just "brocoli" or, you know, look for the pack that has a picture of something resembling broccoli on it. I mean, if it walks like broccoli and quacks like broccoli, it's not going to be carrot now, is it?
But, yesterday, I had to intervene. This elderly couple who were looking for some oil to fry with. Luckily for them, oil has made a return after the craziness earlier in the year. It's just limited to one bottle per purchase.
They were discussing what oil they should choose, given all these utterly alien phrases such as "huile de tournesol", "huile olive", "huile de colza"... The one they picked, because it was cheap, was "huile d'arachide".
Now, I had heard her say, twice, that they had to check that it was okay as so-and-so was allergic to peanuts. So I said to them that "arachide" is another word for peanut. Now, I think that peanut oil is highly refined to the point that the proteins that trigger the reaction are no longer present. However, given that peanut allergies can be fatal, it's not a chance I'm willing to take.
Her husband told me I was wrong and told me the word for peanut is ca-ca-hoo-ettie (try "caca-wet"). I said that was the word for an actual peanut, but the oil is called arachide ("ara-sheed"). I didn't mention it to him, but that name comes from the name of the plant, Arachis something-or-other. Probably Latin.
To her, I pointed to the olive oil and said it was olive oil. Colza is rapeseed. Tournesol is sunflower, which is my personal preference, and this one here is the oil that I buy.
I don't recall the brand (I recognise the bottle), it's a fairly well known French brand. Lesuir? Something like that? I'm too lazy to amble into the kitchen and look at the bottle.
The husband pointed to the shelf and asked me what this one was. Huile de noix. Walnut oil.
"How do you know all this?", he asked.
How am I supposed to answer that? "...because I understand French." I mean, duh?
His... attitude suggested that he was building up to something.
And, yeah, he was.
"Well, la-de-la, think you're so smart don't you, Mister Know-it-all?"
I've run into this problem before, mostly with, shall we say, working class people. It seems that life has banged into them ideals such as "know your place" and "don't stand out". So if they think somebody knows something they don't, or is "rising above their station in life", rather than being supportive, they will attack and ridicule.
The deep irony of all of this is that these simplistic slogans have been adopted so well that the working class effectively subjugates itself. There are exceptions, certainly, but it seems a lot of working class parents see an intelligent child as a shameful thing. It's probably their own insecurities, but still.
What was especially galling was that I wasn't attempting to show off, I was simply explaining the different types of oil to them as it was clear that they didn't have a clue. And, note, just stopped them giving peanut oil to a peanut allergy sufferer.
"No, I don't think I'm so smart, but if you expect to survive in a foreign country it really does help to have some understanding of the goddamn language!".
Headphone back on, trolley turned, walked away. I have no idea what he said next, really didn't care.
What a complete arsehole.
Since mom's death, I had made a few tentative tries at getting to know the local expats.
Sadly, this just reminded me why I want to have nothing to do with the local expats.
Picture the scene. It's a hot day. This old couple (I have yet to see any expats under the age of sixty around here, except for visits by children and grandchildren) are on plastic chairs outside. He is wearing shorts and no top, surrounded by beer bottles. She is wearing a skirt that might look cute on a ten year old, and a bloody bra. Not just any bra. Try to imagine a black lace Victoria's Secret sort of bra on the body of, say, Dot Cotton.
Inevitably she'll use the awful phrase "it's beer o'clock" before heading inside to get something very much stronger than beer. Very much stronger than wine, and do take note of the three empty bottles of red on the table and the not-yet-tidied remains of two place settings. So... they've already emptied three entire bottles, he's chugging beer like a redneck and she's already onto the spirits, and it's only barely time for afternoon tea.
While you're there, you will notice copies of magazines such as Bella and Best but not one single book.
When you talk to him, it's either supporting or complaining about something Harry Maguire has done (Wikipedia tells me he's a footballer) or drooling over the abilities of Max Verstappen (a Formula One driver, apparently an exceptional one, but I wouldn't know).
When you talk to her... it's pretty pointless. You get the idea that she is essentially clueless mixed with a blood alcohol level that should send her under the table but she's built up enough tolerance that she's able to function and fail to articulate what Phil and Grant are getting up to. I'm going to guess it's either EastEnders or Coronation Street. Wait... Is that Phil and Grant Mitchell? Wasn't they the bald bad guys, like, thirty years ago? They must be in a competition with Charlie Fairhead as to who can be in a BBC drama series for the longest time...
What you must never ever do is say that you can actually speak French. Just vaguely mention that you know a little, can get by, etc.
Mom mentioned to somebody a while back that she was a little annoyed at going to French lessons in a nearby town, to being made a volunteer teacher instead. "Oh, you you're good enough to be a teacher?" and suddenly all sorts of bills, letters, and papers were wanting to be translated.
Including, in one instance, a demand from the tax man for copies of the previous five years of tax declarations (in whatever country they had been made in). Mom was smart enough not to enquire, but we got the feeling they had been playing the ruse of telling the French that they paid taxes in the UK, and telling the UK that they paid tax in France, and coming and going enough that it was debatable which country was actually their residence for tax purposes. And we guessed that maybe somebody smelled a rat.
So, I have been polite, and I have excused myself, and I wave if I see them out and about (in other words, in the morning when they are sober enough to walk) but I don't stop by. We literally have nothing in common, no point of reference to talk about, and I'm smart enough not to mention the giant elephant in the room.
So, I just head on home, pop the kettle on, and then decide if it looks like the grass needs mown or.....
This year, rather than just keeping them in a bucket with a plastic bag over top, I thought I'd try something different.
It's a solid, dark, plastic box with the potatoes arranged in layers, seperated by paper towels. And not overly crowded. So air can pass around.
What you see here is the fourth layer.
I keep it in the back kitchen, which is a fairly dark place.
The shallots are in a thick fabric bag with a mesh front (originally held mandarines). The potatoes like dark, the shallots like light. And the leeks and carrots are still outside doing their thing.
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|Pieter, 2nd September 2022, 06:03|
No doubt about it, some knowledge of a foreign language can widen your horizons.
|Gavin Wraith, 2nd September 2022, 11:57|
> The deep irony of all of this is that these simplistic slogans have been adopted so well that the working class effectively subjugates itself. There are exceptions, certainly, but it seems a lot of working class parents see an intelligent child as a shameful thing. It's probably their own insecurities, but still.
There you have it. How else do you keep people enslaved but by persuading them to despise the very thing they most need to be free? This is England's tragedy and her Achilles heel. Deference and Brexit are the result. The gutter press is the means.
|David Pilling, 2nd September 2022, 12:13|
"How do you know all this?" - can be a sort of exclamation, not a literal question. It is something people have said to me after I told them the solution to a problem. Take it as "I wish I knew what you do".
|J.G.Harston, 2nd September 2022, 15:11|
If they were in an English garage and somebody said:
* this is brake fluid, this is engine oil
* how do you know?
* well, it says it on the bottle
* oh, lah di dah motor mechanic, don't /you/ know it all.
err.... no. it's this thing called lit er ay cey. You may have heard of it, apparently we have 99% of it.
|J.G.Harston, 2nd September 2022, 15:17|
Expats! You should have met some of the ones I met in Hong Kong. Actually, no you shouldn't. "So, what part of mid-levels do you live?" I don't, I live in Lei Yue Mun, a little fishing village. (unspoken: "wot? with all the /chineese???/")
Potatoes - yep, that's how I store mine. A few empty wine boxes with layered potatoes/paper/potatoes/etc and put on shelves in the cellar like some eosoteric tax archive. !
|Rick, 2nd September 2022, 17:49|
David, there are, as you say, different ways to ask that question.
For instance, "how do you *know* all of this?" (emphasis on the know) is expressing wonder at how all that stuff fits in your head.
However, "how do *you* know all this?" is more an accusation, like who do you think you are knowing these things.
I cannot say how he spoke the sentence as I don't remember, but given that my subconscious figured he was going to be nasty, I'm guessing the second way.
JGH has it exactly. I rather imagine the twat didn't like somebody saying what the things were, even though he wasn't capable of doing it himself.
I would like to say "some people are their own worst enemy", but I would imagine he's the sort that would muddle through (another way of saying blunder blindly) expecting it all to turn out alright in the end, or some such nonsense.
|Rick, 2nd September 2022, 18:06|
Pieter, it's not just the language, it's exposure to a foreign culture.
I don't believe there is any country on earth that has it all sussed and runs perfectly. Not even Denmark.
However by being exposed to how other people go about life, it can maybe give you some ideas about how to improve your own.
It's also a bloody good way of highlighting the flaws in the country that you grew up in.
Like, for example, the widespread casual racism that is "bashing the French at every opportunity". It's so common in England that I wasn't at all surprised about the idiotic thing that Truss recently said.
Though, by and large there's no equivalent loathing of their northern neighbours. I think the French used to think Britain was cool. Now it's a mixture of confusion and pity.
And in a week, after the press has reported the latest utterings from the mouth of Truss, they'll probably start to wonder if it's possibly a country-wide problem of la vache folle.
I mean, what else could explain it?
|VinceH, 3rd September 2022, 12:12|
To quote something I tweeted about a week ago, but which clearly has relevance here, now:
"How do you even know how to do that?"
Why do I get asked that so often? The answer is the same *reason* that I don't ask it of people who can do things I can't.
I learnt how.
They learnt how.
This should be obvious.
From now on my answer will be "How is it that you can't?"
It's the same basic thing. I recognise that there is a lot I don't know or understand, so when I encounter people who do I don't ask what I see as a silly question! To be fair to those who ask it of me, though, it usually comes across complimentary because it's usually after I've helped them solve a problem or whatever.
Which also SHOULD apply in Rick's example, except it sounds very much like the chap had the wrong attitude and/or a chip on his shoulder.
|David Pilling, 3rd September 2022, 12:36|
Does depend - if the answer is "because I have spent 10 years at Uni studying the subject", I laugh it off. But if the answer is "because there's a sign back there that says so" that's what I say.
|Rick, 3rd September 2022, 13:37|
Made your tweet a proper link. 😉
|Rick , 3rd September 2022, 13:48|
Just had to create a content filter in UBlock Origin to defeat Twitter going to a black "sign in or sign up" screen after a dozen tweets...
One of the many reasons to use Firefox over Chrome on Android. ;)
|J.G.Harston, 3rd September 2022, 19:37|
David: when I was a local councillor, a Labour councillor stated with a straight face:
I know about the working class, I studied them at university.
|Rick , 3rd September 2022, 21:06|
Are you sure that guy represented Labour?
Sounds more like something one of the more enlightened Tories would say (where studying the working class means "read Dickens").
(Felicity? Marte? Find out!)
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Last read at 23:20 on 2023/11/28.
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