Over the years, I’ve learned how to conduct myself in certain scenarios that wouldn’t make me stick out too much among the French. As an American, I have the tendency to get overly excited or spark up casual small talk in a grocery store line—traits that the French don’t necessarily share. But even with all this practice, there are still moments that catch me off guard.
Maybe you could get away with this one at a new, hip café, but my dear friend didn’t have such luck. One bright morning, we found a restaurant serving breakfast outside. We sat down, quickly skimmed the menu and got the waiter’s attention to order. My friend (for the sake of non-disclosure, we’ll call her ‘Anna’), began to order her breakfast and a coffee with soy milk until she noticed a perplexed expression on our waiter’s face. Where did we lose him? “Soy milk? Milk is milk,” he exclaimed.
Before Anna got the chance to explain, he just scoffed and walked away, given up on trying to figure out what she meant. We considered it a lost cause and just laughed the situation off until we received the bill and noticed an extra charge. The soy milk was never served, so that couldn’t have been it. We concluded that we were instead fined for asking such a preposterous question. Remember kids, milk is milk.
On the second evening of our trip, the girls and I decided to spend the night out in Monaco. We got dressed to the nines and ordered an Uber to drop us off at the Hôtel de Paris. The driver pulled up in front of the brightly lit hotel, gilded with all the pomp and circumstance you’d imagine. The evening turned out to be really fun and we were treated a little extra VIP since I told everyone I came across that it was my birthday. Like all good things, the night came to an end and I took out my phone to order an Uber back to Nice. Stupefied, I realized that the app wasn’t loading and it dawned on me that Uber doesn’t operate in Monaco.
I was comforted by the fact that it certainly wasn’t the worst place in the world to be stranded. We devised a game plan and walked into the Hôtel de Paris to tell the concierge our situation. To our surprise, they kindly ordered a taxi for us! “The car will arrive in 10 minutes”, the man said. Relieved and tired, we all sunk into the plush lobby chairs until the same man condescendingly told us that we weren’t allowed to wait inside and guided us towards the door. I tried one last “but it is my birthday” but it didn’t work. That card had expired. Moral of the story: if Monaco is too good for you, it’s too good for Uber.
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