My Fellow Americans…

“Would you like me to take your picture?” I asked.paris

“Oh, would you?”

It was an American woman and her two daughters, ex-pats, living in the Hague and in Paris on vacation. Reminded me of when I was an ex-pat in Switzerland, and took my daughters hither and yon collecting travel experiences.

The good part of traveling alone is the solitude. That bad part is the loneliness.

And so I find myself reaching out when I hear American accents.

“The nice fellow keeps giving me samples of the fabulous cheese, but I want to buy some,” the woman, hands brimming with cheese bits, said to her husband in the street market. “How do you say ‘buy’?”

The husband shrugged.

Acheter,” I said quietly.

“Oh thank you! Je voudrais achete….” And she is off to the races.

Another couple is worse off. They want to buy prosciutto. But how to close the deal?

“The woman is telling you,” I said, “that you have to decide which prosciutto. The one that’s 49 Euros a kilo,” on the left, “or the one that’s 60 Euros a kilo” on the right.

The fellow hastily pointed to the left. “We will take some of that one please.”

“How much?”

They looked at me. “Can you help us?” said the wife.

“Half a kilo?” asked the man.

“That’s a lot,” I said, “over a pound.”

“Quarter of a kilo?” he asked.

“For two of you? Still a lot.”

“How about twelve slices.”

It wasn’t pretty but they got their prosciutto, and I got a pleasant interaction.

There’s a kind of we’re-in-this-together feeling I often have when I come across other Americans. Yes, I cringe when I overhear a woman ask at breakfast, “if the cheese is processed”—two offenses….first, assuming that the waiter would understand such a question, and then the question itself, sort of like asking at a dock if the fish is frozen.

But generally the Americans I see…if over fond of running shoes for daywear…are polite, don’t talk too loud, and are more than friendly.

Wish I could find one to help me out when I was trying to read the bus schedule.

About Karen Ray

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