Anecdotes from Paris: Partie trois
In Europe I get a lot of people asking me where I’m from or trying to guess on their own. I’ve gotten Spanish, Italian and a lot of America? Bush!, but yesterday I was not only pegged for a different nationality, but a different ethnicity as well.
After the race yesterday, I was sitting on a bench in the Arênes de Montmartre next to a French African. Trying to make conversation he asked where I was from, but before I could even open my mouth he continued for me. Algérie? he asked, avec un peu des îles Seychelles? This guy apparently thought I was a beur, a second-generation North African immigrant. The term used to be somewhat pejorative, but it’s made its way into mainstream French and lost the offense in the process.
Non, I said slowly, Je viens des Etats-unis. Apparently unwilling to admit that his conjectures had been wrong, he pressed on. Mais vos parents, ils sont pas Africains? Once I’d finally convinced him that I was not any part African his next question was Do you speak good English, then? This is where I realized that he was just seriously confused – I am as white as they get, and yes, English is my native language.