For too many years, expats in Luxembourg who don’t speak French – maybe because they tried signing up for a course at the INL that one time but couldn’t navigate the website, or because they are allergic to certain language families – have been victimized by the Francophonie.
As these expats innocently try to complete everyday tasks like fueling their cars, getting a haircut, or buying a box of pistachio macarons, they face gangs of inflexible French-speaking cashiers who wield puckered lips and Gallic tongues like weapons.
Enough is enough. Here’s how you can fight back and win.
Decide that today is the day
You might be late for work, and there could be two or three impatient customers behind you, but don’t get discouraged. Someone needs to take a stand. If the cashier responds to your perfectly good English with French, say to yourself: no, not today.
Act like you don’t understand a single word
There is a chance that you understand what the cashier says in French, at least partially, and your instincts will tell you to allow the exchange to run its natural course. However, it is important that at the first use of French, even a simple word like bonjour, you show total confusion and say, “Sorry, but I don’t speak Spanish.”
Repeat yourself in English, but louder
If the cashier repeats herself in French, do the same in English, but louder – a lot louder. Yes, this sort of behavior is rude, and that’s exactly the point. Remember, winning a fight is about weakening your opponent, and a good way to do this is by annoying her.
Just as you might actually understand a bit of French, there is a good chance the cashier does know some English. Use this to your advantage by intentionally misunderstanding and causing a sense of alarm. “Oh, you said that I don’t have to pay for this? It’s free? Thank you!”
Tell a long story in English
If making her afraid that you’re going to rush out of the shop without paying isn’t enough to force the conversation into English, do the opposite and make her think you’re never going to leave. Put down your handbag or backpack, lean on the counter, and say, “This is so funny. It reminds me of the time I was in Paris, and…” Make up a long story. Be creative. Add details. The more she tries to tell you in French to leave her store, say, “I know, right? That’s what I thought, too.”
By this time, the queue may have grown to 10 people, all of whom will be shooting daggers at you with their eyes. Some of them might try to intervene, either acting as interpreters or defending the cashier. Don’t let these third parties enter the war. This is between you and the cashier.
Hold off on celebrating
You did it! The cashier switched to English, unleashing a litany of poetic and nearly grammatical insults at you in English. This is a day of victory, but don’t run off and start celebrating too quickly. You have won a battle, but the war is far from over.
Originally published by RTL Today