Friday, August 29, 2008

Whew

Today is about 100 times better than yesterday. What a difference a few hours makes!

The picnic I went to with the random French guy (his name is Pascal) is what they call an "apero". Basically, a whole bunch of people sign up on an email list (I think) and show up at a different street corner in Paris every Thursday at 8pm. Everyone brings something to drink (wine, beer, liquor, soda) and something to eat (chips, cheese, melon). French people (at least these people) are very sociable and it's easy to talk to them (well, if you speak French). I'm not sure what Pascal's interest in me is, but he introduced me to at least four or five people, which was impressive, considering this was his first time at this particular event. With each introduction, he'd ask if they spoke English. Many people didn't, but a few did and were actually glad of the opportunity to practice. A few people insisted that I speak French and I did my best.

Eventually, Pascal wandered off, perhaps sensing there were greener pastures. When I first arrived, there were maybe ten people standing around--by the end of the evening, it was about fifty!

I had several friendly conversations and got two contacts--both women!--out of the evening. I've met very few French women, so it's particularly exciting. See what happens when I'm not on the make? (It's kind of crazy not to be looking for men to talk to, though I never actually stop. I spotted several cute guys and talked at length to at least one, but I was fine with not getting his number.)

The first woman who gave me her number was super friendly and said she'd take me out to a jazz club next week--then apologized because the jazz clubs are much better in DC and New York. (Not if you never go to them, they're not.) I will call her next week--I'm excited.

She flitted off and I found myself in a long conversation with a young woman, Yuki, who was born in Japan but has lived in Paris since she was four. She apologized for her poor English, but she was the champion English speaker of the night. We really hit it off and we exchanged emails before I left.

While I was talking to Yuki, Pascal came by and said he was leaving. He didn't try to get me to come with him (he had another apero to attend), I think because he could see I was having a good time. I'm very grateful to him for bringing me--it was a real kindness.

Somewhere in there, we also spoke to a couple of African origin guys, one of whom was from Cuba. The other guy tried to pick me up. He didn't speak English and he started talking about different kinds of Middle Eastern and Indian food--I couldn't tell if he was offering to cook for me or to take me out. Then he asked for my phone number. It wasn't happening--how could I go out with this guy when we don't speak the same language? Plus, he was a little oily for my taste. So I did something outrageous: I said, "no." He didn't say anything, just turned and walked away. Oddly, this happened in the middle of my conversation with Yuki and she and her other friends didn't seem to notice.

One fellow asked me what the main cultural differences were between France and the US. He was distracted before I had a chance to answer, but I've been thinking about it ever since.

Here are a few:
  • All planning is last minute planning. (Anecdotal evidence: all of the French people I've been out with call the day of or the day before to make plans--including the one woman I've spent time with.)
  • Men are much more aggressive, but will back off quickly if you say no. Simple, sustained eye contact is enough to indicate interest.
  • Personal space is much smaller than in the US.

That's a few for now. I'll keep working on it.

Today, I have all kinds of social prospects that I didn't have yesterday. I'll cop to sending A. a text after a couple of glasses of wine, but he didn't respond. Bummer. I didn't go home and cry about it, I went home and slept.

Tonight, I have a happy hour to attend. Tomorrow, I'll see the Canadian if I hear back from him. If not, there's a meetup event I can attend. Sunday, I'm going with another group to an outdoor (classical) concert. It's all working out, one way or another.

I'm also booking my trip to Berlin and points East. I did it in pieces this time, so I have separate pending bookings for Paris-Berlin and Berlin-Warsaw-Vienna. The Vienna-Paris piece I can't reserve, I'd have to buy it TODAY. I'm not quite ready for that! Also, I've eliminated Prague and Zurich from the itinerary in attempt to save my sanity. I think this is a more manageable, but still long, trip.

Grateful for: chance encounters.

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