Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Foreignerspotting in Paris: it's like trainspotting but foreigners are the trains. Kind of.

Today I was accosted on the street on my way home. Being accosted while walking along the street around where I live is not unusual, but this time it was a girl who accosted me so I stopped.

"Excuse me!"
"Ah, yes?"
"Do you come from France?" (this is more or less asking me if I'm French, but it's subtly different from "are you French" which I think also implies a question of nationality and identity)
"Er, no, actually I'm a New Zealander."
"Oh OK. Thanks."
"Why do you ask?"
The girl looks worried, as if she's done something very rude and I'm about to tell her off. She points towards a group of girls sitting on some railing nearby and replies:
"My friends and I were wondering if you were foreign or not. I told my friend - that one there - that I think you're foreign because we've seen a few other women around with your "look" and they turned out to be foreign too. But my friend thought you were French and I thought you were foreign, so..."
"So you won the bet, right?"
"Er, yeah."
"Well then, congratulations!"
"Er...ok thanks!" and she went back to her friends to hang out some more.

I told my flatmate about it when I got in the door. She said, "these girls, they were ethnically North African, yeah?" (It's a fairly African quartier, the east of the 18eme arrondissement).
And then she pointed out how cool and modern it was that now it's girls like these who have the "French" look and people who look like me (pale, blonde) seem foreign or exotic.



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