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Fraud in France: A Little White Lie

For the last two years, I've been meaning to weigh in on one of your "Questions of the Week." When I heard the topic "Trave Lies," I had to write in.

I was living in Dublin and traveled quite a bit through Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Glasgow, London and Paris. In Paris, my girlfriend and I spent a couple days taking in the sights. We'd already lived in Europe for some time, and knew Europeans found Americans to be quite tedious, especially after the peak tourist season. So, to avoid ugly American syndrome, we did our best to blend in -- and always got better service for it. My girlfriend speaks French and I speak Spanish, but can read enough French and do a reasonable accent to get by.

At Notre Dame, behind the flying buttresses, we were approached by two American tourists. They asked us to take a photo of them in very broken, Midwestern-American French, but it was a game effort. My girlfriend and I looked at each other, and I said in French, "Well?" She took the hint and responded in French with something like, "I need some water" and "yes." The Midwestern tourists didn't know what we were saying. We turned around saying, "Oui, oui," smiling away.

We took their photo, and they thanked us in more broken French. We wished them a good day, and went our separate ways. They never caught on to the deceit. We spent the rest of the time in Paris pretending to be French around Americans and Dubliners around Parisians.

As a side note, our travel experience completely refuted all the typical stereotypes about Paris. The people weren't rude, the city was clean, and we had no trouble with anything. But we also had the benefit of pretending to be something we weren't, which eliminated the problem of erroneous preconceptions.




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