This is a story from the time when I visited Paris, the capital city of France for the first time as part of my college graduation solo trip.
During my five-day visit, I stayed at my friend’s house in the outskirt of Paris. Since my friend had to attend classes at University, on most days, I explored the city by myself. To be honest, I was so anxious about getting around this big city on my own where I didn’t really speak nor understand the local language. My friend showed me how to get to the nearest train station, how to buy a ticket, and which metro lines I should take to reach some famous destinations. After this brief orientation, I was left to start my adventure. I was scared, but I took the plunge.
Once in downtown Paris, I was surprised to find myself smoothly navigating the local metro system. My mind and body were trained to handle this kind of complex metro system from my days in Tokyo. I knew how to buy a day pass, how to read the metro map, how to find the exit and so on even without understanding the language.
I enjoyed visiting several famous spots in Paris including the Louvre Museum, the Orsay Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral… I also took lunches at local cafés. I quickly learned that any effort of trying to greet and communicate in French would create a good relationship with the person behind the counter.
As I got used to the city and its culture, I realized how French baguettes were an essential part of the local people’s life. Wherever I looked, there was always somebody carrying or eating a baguette. One time, I even saw a business man in a suit marching with a full-size baguette in his hand.
On the day I left Paris to another city of France, my friend prepared a lunch for me to eat on the way. It was a half-size baguette with cheese. Because I was so hungry, I started munching on the baguette on the train heading to downtown Paris.
As I enjoyed the luxury of this French baguette with cheese, a young woman approached me and started to talk to me in French. With my very limited knowledge in French, I understood that she was asking something about the train. When I apologized to the lady saying in English that I didn’t speak French, she looked genuinely surprised. We chatted for some time in English about each other’s destinations before she got off at her station.
Later, I thought to myself how strange it was that somebody mistook me for a local. And then it dawned upon me. It was the baguette and the cheese! The way I took out a baguette and a slice of cheese from my bag and munched on them must have made me look like somebody who shared the language and culture with her. I felt so honoured.