Monday, September 24, 2018

Une fuite!

Bam! Bam! Bam! This was followed at about 6:00 a.m. by loud French mutterings on the other side of the door of my high-rise Paris apartment. I stumbled awake and fumbled for my robe. I didn't see anyone through the peephole, so I turned on my lights and started to make coffee. I opened my door to the hallway to see if I could assess the concern. Two people came running toward my door with arms waving in the air. "S'il vous plait, s'il vous plait," the French man said as he pointed to the inside of my apartment, gesturing that he wanted to enter. I am sure I look confused and concerned. I recognized the woman at his side as the apartment maintenance person, Madam Hernandez.  (I  learned her name later.) She said "Desole, une fuite," as she pointed to the inside of my apartment and then back out to the hallway along the floorboard.

My French is okay, but not good enough to understand "une fuite."

Moments later Flavia, my neighbor whom I had never met before, arrived at the door in her robe. She began calmly explaining that the cold water to my apartment must be turned off immediately and permanently due to a leak somewhere in the bathroom that was damaging the adjacent hallway.

The plumber quickly went to work finding the valve.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Hernandez was talking with Flavia, who was talking to me while I was on the phone to the landlord, who said I would need to find another apartment as this one is no longer "suitable." Oh, and I was already unpacked, had one box that needed to be mailed home, and Adam was arriving in a few hours from the United States.  I must have looked deflated.

Flavia turned to me and said, "No need to worry Anastasia, you can use my apartment for anything you need while I am work. I would let you stay with me, but my daughter is coming for the weekend. However, whatever we have is for you and your husband to use while you are here in Paris. I will get you my spare key."

No, we had never met before, and yes, she was willing to leave for work and let Adam and I use her apartment as we needed.

Adam and I found another apartment.  That is a whole other story of a wonderful bunch of French folks -- whom we had never met before -- who came to our aid.

So, our answer is no, the French are not more rude than Americans. The French can be more reserved and can be more formal in their interactions. These cultural differences are often misunderstood by Americans. The French are a generous, kind and helpful people. We are so thankful for the many French people like Flavia we have met who open both their homes and their hearts to us.

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