Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Thursday 1 July 2010

Canada Day, quoi

We're heading out to a beach for Canada Day, but before celebrating my l'étranger holiday, I've made sure to add a little extra power to my patriotism.

To do that, I went to get my hair cut, which has so far turned out to be difficult in France. I can't quite tell which hair salons are the good ones and I've had trouble getting a good colour of blond for my (also troublesome) skin tone AND I always seem to leave with something different than I thought I'd asked for.

The first time, I told the hairdresser that I needed my hair cut because I was going to be riding around on a scooter. So, she cut me a helmet.

The second time, I told her I wanted to keep it long and she only cut two pieces with a men's razor, but charged me full price.

And today, I got the haircut of patriotism.

Well, I actually got the haircut of alienation, due to a refusal of cultural admission and some simple ignoring. But that's really what drives all good patriots, isn't it?

This morning, when the people in the salon overheard that I was English, they weren't told that I understood French. So, the whole time I was getting my hair done, I got to overhear the dirt on all of the other customers including whether they were going to be overcharged or if their hair had been fried or accidentally snipped in the wrong place. I now know who looked ugly at some woman's wedding (I was almost given a paper cut as one of the photos was passed over my face while my hair was being washed) and I know who is probably getting fired in the next week. This is because the people in the salon had whispered right over my head, treating me as though I didn't exist.

At least, this is what I thought at first... that I was being treated like a North American.

But then I slowly realized that the reason I was getting this special treatment was because I was so obviously CANADIAN.

At one point, someone looked at me and, in French, said, “Excuse me, this is just my sister's roommate. I hope this isn't bothering you.” And that's when I figured it out.

They KNEW I might be able to understand them. And they liked it. Because they also seemed to know that I was polite, tolerant, and probably hadn't penetrated my way far enough into French culture (which is hard to get into) to have anywhere to spread the gossip. I was like an added audience with no added consequences.

Is this what it means to be a CANADIAN in France?

Today, I'm going with it. I am proudly wearing my misshapen, inconsistently dyed and a little too poofy hair in the wind as I would have worn our strong, red and white flag – had I thought to bring one with me.

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