Le pick-up artiste

Le pick-up artisteI was wading through my very clogged inbox yesterday and found an email I’d sent to a friend on May 11, 2006. I’d all but forgotten about this interesting encounter in the aisles of my local Auchan supermarket, but I’m so glad the email surfaced, even if it kind of perpetuates stereotypes of the amorous Frenchman and the uptight Canadian. (How uptight, you ask? I didn’t return to the store for three weeks, so afraid was I of bumping into him again. So pretty uptight, I’d say.)


The weirdest thing happened to me today. Some guy tried to pick me up in the grocery store. It was such a bizarre experience. There I was, trying to figure out which box of dishwasher tabs to buy, and suddenly, he was standing beside me. His opening line was, “Are you a university student?” In English, my response would’ve been, “Do I LOOK like a university student?” but I couldn’t quite manage that in French, what with the shock and all.

This guy was absolutely relentless. Charming, but determined. I decided to look at the whole thing in terms of a) the language practice it would provide (quite a bit), and b) the cultural experience. From a cultural point of view, it was a very different chat-up from the ones I vaguely remember from my youth. First of all, I lied and told him I was 45. He replied gallantly that he didn’t believe me, and even if it were true, he didn’t care. I told him I was married with two children. Again with the not caring. I told him my husband was a bodybuilder and very jealous. He gave me his phone number anyway.

And then, of course, there was the kissing. In Canada, a kiss in a situation like that would pretty much seal the deal, wouldn’t you say? Here, it’s just what you do after you introduce yourself. I’m still very uncomfortable with kissing strangers, especially ones who then say, “So, you wanna get out of here and go get a drink or something? We could get to know each other a little better.”

The saddest part is that as I was trying to formulate the sentence, “My husband doesn’t like it when I talk to strange men,” my mind was going, “Mon mari ne veut pas que — now wait a second, after veut que don’t I have to use the subjunctive? How do I put ‘talk’ into the subjunctive?” Yes, a good-looking man asks me out, and all I can think about is grammar. It has come to this.

I threw out his phone number.


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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4 Responses to Le pick-up artiste

  1. Sine says:

    Maria, I loved everything about this story: From the fact that you still had a 2006 email in your inbox (!) to the pickup part and then the part about the grammar conundrum – that could be SO me! In fact, I was sitting there reading it and trying to finish the sentence – “parle”, “parla”, “parlais”?

    • Maria says:

      Thanks, Sine. I didn’t keep a journal while I was away. I wrote weekly emails to my family instead. I always intended to keep a copy of them, but somehow not many of those emails survived, which is too bad. And it’s “parle.” 🙂

  2. ‘And you actually did the farewell kissing thing??’ asked the equally uptight American in disbelief. I really do like the kissing hello/goodbye over here, but with a pick-up artiste? You ARE a wild one 😉

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