They Can More Than Bali Understand You

, , , , | Right | March 4, 2019

(I work as a hostess for the restaurant of a hotel which is five minutes away from the Eiffel Tower. As such, our terrace has a gorgeous view, and you can see the feet of the Tower from our tables inside. This makes my job a little difficult as every visitor wants to have “the best view,” and I have to accommodate them. As I’m part Indonesian, I speak it fluently, but rarely see any Indonesian tourists. It is in the middle of winter, and we have no heating on our terrace. A family of three enters the restaurant.)

Me: “Hello! How may I help you?”

(The youngest daughter, who I suppose is the only one who can speak English, replies:)

Customer: “Hi. We would like to have dinner outside.”

Me: “I’m really sorry, but our terrace is closed because of winter.”

Customer: “Well, open it for us.”

Me: “Sorry, but I have no waiters available to serve you outside, and we have no heating; I do have tables available inside, though.”

Customer: “We don’t mind the cold; just bring us the food outside and we’ll eat outside.”

Me: “Sorry, but I’m just following my manager’s orders, and we’re not going to leave you to eat in the cold! I can find you a nice table with a view inside if you want!”

(The customer turns to her parents.)

Customer: “Dia bego deh, katanya ngga boleh duduk diluar, pasti dia aja yang ngga mau kerja.” *She’s an idiot, she’s saying we’re not allowed to sit outside, but I’m sure she just doesn’t want to work.*

Me: “Ada meja didalam kak, bisa keliatan juga Eiffel Towernya.” *I do have tables inside where you can see the Eiffel Tower.*

(The mum started smiling and asked me where I was from in Indonesia, and the daughter turned white as a sheet and dragged her parents out of the restaurant. I just burst out laughing. This story always makes me laugh when I think about the years I worked in that hotel. Another question I have been asked while working there included, “Can we walk from here to the Eiffel Tower?” while literally staring at it.)

No Need To Pardon This French

, , , , , , , | Friendly | December 6, 2018

(My father and I are coming back home from church. We are speaking English because we attend an American church and just didn’t bother going back to speaking French. We’re both fluent and speak English with no accent at all. We take seats in the underground and go on with our conversation for a few minutes until I notice that the lady in the seat next to mine is glaring at us. Keep in mind that we’re in Paris, one of the cities with the most tourists in the world.)

Lady: *in French, to her friend, obviously thinking my father and I don’t understand* “These foreigners are way too loud! Why are they here? If they want to speak English, they should go back to their country. They should make an effort to speak French.”

(She keeps going on like that for quite some time. I tell my father, who was politely going to tell her to shut up that it’s not worth it, but her rant is starting to annoy me. At that point she’s speaking very loudly, and the other people around are looking at us.)

Lady: “Ils croivent qu’ils peuvent venir ici et nous envahir avec leur culture!” *They think they can come here and invade us with their culture!*

(There is an enormous grammar mistake in that sentence. Our stop is next, and my father is fuming by that time. I stand up and start towards the doors, but I can’t resist turning around to face her.)

Me: *in French* “Ma’am, you have been incredibly rude, and you’ve been disturbing the other passengers. If you don’t want to see foreigners, don’t live in Paris. Oh, and by the way, ‘croivent’ is not correct French, so maybe you should think twice before telling people to speak French, given that you are obviously unable to speak it correctly yourself.”

(She turned red, and some of the other passengers started laughing, including her own friend. I got off the underground with a huge grin on my face. My dad was laughing his a** off and ended up buying me a cookie on our way back.)

Pardon My English French

, , , | Right | October 5, 2018

(I am traveling with my family on one of those whirlwind trips through Europe. I took a French class last summer, so when we are in France I am in charge of communication. We are at a cafe near our hotel where we are trying to get supper. This is my first attempt:)

Me: “Parlez vous anglais?”

Cashier: *questioning look*

Me: *more hesitantly* “Parlez vous anglais?”

Cashier: *blank stare*

Me: “Parlez vous English?”

Cashier: *with bright look and in perfect English* “Oh, you mean English!”

(I blush as everyone else laughs.)

Tat For Brat

, , , , | Right | July 27, 2018

(Like most French tattoo parlours, we work only with appointments. A lot of customers want to get tattoos right here, right now, so we decide to have one “walk-in” day per week, on Tuesdays. Most customers perfectly get the idea, and everyone is happy about this. It is a Friday. A regular’s daughter, age nineteen, comes in.)

Customer: “Hi, I want to get a small tattoo. A small bow, on the ankle.”

Me: “Great! I’ll do it for [price]. Do you want to get an appointment, or do you prefer to do this next Tuesday?”

Customer: *seems confused* “I want to do it now!”

Me: “But we can’t do it now. We work only on appointments every day but Tuesday. That’s why your parents and you usually come here on Tuesdays, right?”

Customer: *looks dumbfounded, pouts like a baby, wide-eyed, and says with a baby tone* “But… I want it NOOOOW.”

Me: *confused* “But, [Customer], I can’t do it now. I have a customer right here waiting for me. We work only on appointments, every day but Tuesday.”

Customer: *not kidding at all, now leaning her head as if it would change my mind, saying in a desperate tone* “But… I wanted it… I wanted it TODAY!”

(She looks like she’s about to cry.)

Me: “I’m very sorry, but I really can’t. I’m planned all day, today and tomorrow. You can come back on Tuesday if you want.”

Customer: *leaving, mumbling* “That sucks. This place sucks. I wanted it. That’s not fair. I want it. I want it.”

Coworker: “What was that? Did she think that puppy eyes magically cancel your other appointments?”

(I was told the next week she eventually got her tattoo, in a famous tourist walk-in shop, for three times the price I asked. Some people can’t wait, I guess.)

It’s Not So Oui-sey

, , , , , | Working | June 10, 2018

(My husband and I have taken our five-month-old son abroad to a famous theme park for our first family holiday. We are staying in one of the park’s hotels and go there immediately after arriving to check in and drop off our bags. We don’t speak French, but as the majority of staff speak English, we don’t foresee any problems. We also request a travel cot from reception to be delivered to our room. We venture into the park and spend several hours happily exploring and taking pictures and get back to the hotel well after dark. Being very tired, our first priority is to assemble the travel cot and put the baby down to sleep. However, after a couple of minutes, it becomes clear that something is wrong, as the cot refuses to open. After giving the whole thing a final shake — more out of tiredness and frustration than anything else — the cot suddenly unfolds with a clatter. It turns out that in trying to close it, the previous user of the cot had forced it in such a way that one of the metal legs had broken clean off, resulting in the cot getting suck in the “closed” position and rendering it unusable. Now annoyed, as well as tired and frustrated, I call the reception desk and explain that our travel cot is broken and we require a new one as soon as possible. The receptionist is not as fluent in English as the one we spoke to earlier in the day, but she seems to get the gist of our request and says that she will send someone right away. Twenty minutes later, an employee appears at our door. He does not speak English, but walks straight up to the crumpled pile of travel cot, which we had left in the corner of the room. In three swift movements, he has it unfolded.)

Employee: “Ta-da!” *gives us a smug look at having assembled the cot so swiftly when we apparently could not*

Me: *holding out the broken cot leg* “Okay, and what about this?”

(The employee looked at the leg, then at the cot, and his face fell. He took the leg and started to drag the fully-assembled broken cot out of the room, shaking his head and saying, “Oh la-la, oh la-la,” over and over again. Five minutes later, a new cot was delivered by a different employee. I guess the receptionist didn’t quite understand when we said our cot was broken, not that we didn’t know how to put it up.)

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