Thursday, 11 September 2014

Allô allô

Ever since I changed my phone from a cheap pay-and-go one to a real, grown-up contract a couple of years ago, I've noticed that I get a lot more calls and texts from people who have the wrong number. I once listened my way through voicemail messages from a group of people who were all concerned that they hadn't seen one of their colleagues for several days, I've been invited to many parties by a person called Genevieve and an anonymous texter reliably sends me greetings for every religious festival in the Muslin calendar.

So when I picked up and a woman's voice said, "Bonjour Madame Machin" the other day, I didn't hesitate to explain that I was not Madame Machin and that she must have got the wrong number.

Luckily she tried again, and luckily I picked up again, and luckily I listened again to her first few sentences, because it turned out that what she had said the first time round was not, "Bonjour Madame Machin", but "Bonjour, Madame Machin," which makes a world of difference, because the lady did not think that she was phoning Madame Machin, she was Madame Machin, and she really did want to speak to me.

Now I did know that people sometimes use this formula on the phone as a shortcut for the very formal sounding "Madame So-and-So à l'appareil" that I was taught at school but I guess that a) it's fairly unusual in this day and age for someone to refer to themselves as M/Mme and not just use their full name and b) there's normally a bit more of a clue in the intonation than what I heard on this particular occasion. (Tip: never answer your phone to strangers on a metro platform with a train going by.) Other than that, I don't really have any rules for hearing that critical comma, but I thought that by posting my latest embarrassing adventure in the French language on here, I might encourage a handful of readers to listen very carefully when they pick up the phone and perhaps help you to avoid missing a few important calls.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Expat Revelations: My Biggest Fear

So, once again I'm a bit behind in writing my contribution to Holly's Expat Revelations series, but as the final topic, My Biggest Fears as an Expat,  was the one which spoke to me the most out of the four fascinating topics, I'm going to sneak this post in a few days late. Shh!

In my case, it's actually a question of my biggest fear as an immigrant, because the worry that keeps me awake at night is one that didn't start until I was seriously contemplating a long-term future in France. It's a fear that I can only imagine will grow the longer I stay, and beside it all the niggles I had at the beginning pale into insignificance.

Put in a nutshell, I am terrified that one day I will need to go back to Scotland to live and that the life choices I have made will make that impossible.

This possibility is probably greatly exaggerated in my mind compared to what would be likely to happen in reality. In reality, it would probably be more a question of wanting to go back than needing to, and more probable that it would be complicated than impossible. But that's the nature of fears.

The most likely scenario involves ageing parents needing cared for and myself trapped by career or family that keep me in France. I also feel a little pang when I see my friends' kids growing up with Scottish accents, going to local schools and generally having experiences not dissimilar to the ones my friends and I had ourselves, and know that's unlikely to be the case for my children if Understanding Frenchman and I ever have any. And I'm scared of losing my job here, knowing that it would be much harder to find another one in France but that working in France for years could make it difficult to find work at home.

Of course,  there are plenty of reasons why I should also NOT be worrying about these things right now, of which my expat/immigrant friends remind me regularly when we talk about these things. The trouble is, when you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, logical, reasonable thoughts aren't often the first ones that come to mind!