Mar 5, 2015

How Do You Say First World Angst In French?

We spent last week in the French Alps for the kids' midwinter break. Which sounds much more sophisticated than it is. Not that it was a bad trip, but the sentence we spent last week in the French Alps for the kid's midwinter break just really doesn't convey the reality of family travel, which has plenty of reality in it, even in the French Alps.

Cue the battle with pretentiousness that is blogging whilst expatting, embodied in the use of the word whilst. 

Cue Gwenyth Paltrow: "Oh, we've just returned from skiing in the French Alps, and darling, it was just lovely. You've been of course? By the way, I'm a perfect perfectly normal person and totally get what it's like for the peons. I was just telling that to my 24-hour-on-call eyebrow stylist the other day." 

Cue me just telling an amusing story and calling it a day. 

We spent our last night in France in a tiny village near the Belgian border. For dinner, we drove down to the McDonald's by the highway. The official story is that there was nothing else around besides a Chinese Palace. The unofficial story is that after a week in France we were not even a little bit disappointed. We were giddy at the thought of familiar food, and a place where French kids do, in fact, throw food and get fat. 

The best part of McDonalds is that the sandwich names are all in English, even in France. So I approached the counter and started off our order with "un McRancher, s'il vous plait." Blank stare from the teenage girl. I pointed at the large "McRancher" sign, and she says, " ahhh, le Meeghraaahnshay?" 

[At this point, it takes the slightest second for my brain to register what just happened. Then there is a short pause while I'm sure we were both controlling the urge to laugh each other out of town.]

Oui. Le meeghraaahnshay.  

Yep, that happened. Tarantino totally nailed it

This after driving all day through French countryside that wasn't so different from the drive from Seattle to Portland, just minus a few Toyotas and volcanoes, and plus a few more Renaults and castle ruins, but still with plenty of whining, fighting, and poking from the backseat, amid stops for bad truck stop food (that's right, even France has bad truck stop food, a teaser for our bad American fast food dinner.) 

So when you're on your US road trip this Summer, and maybe feeling a little deflated that you're not traveling around Europe, just remember that even Europeans dream of visiting American National Parks. And when you stop in McDonalds for lunch, you can order a McRancher, and say it with a big nasally a, and curl that r like you're sneering at some pretentious expat writing her snobby travel posts. 

OK, kids, just act cool. Self-aware, not too pretentious, still grateful, not braggy. Like you're not at all complaining about having to vacation by a beautiful lake in the Alps, with random castles to take pictures in front of. Then we'll go to McDonalds, I promise.