Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mulhouse and the rudest person in Alsace

Last Saturday, I went to Mulhouse (the closest city in France) with my roommates to have lunch at a German teacher's apartment and to see the city and maybe do a little shopping.
We arrived at the teacher's house slightly late after having completely misread the map, but she didn't seem to mind. Also there was her boyfriend and some other guy whose relation to her I could not determine (a friend I guess?). She fed us this potato with cheese dish that was quite good and all in all it would have been an unremarkable if pleasant meal except one glaring problem -- her boyfriend was a complete jerk (to me).
It may not be wise to post a complaint about the significant other of a co-worker on my blog, and I don't want to only talk about the negative things that happen. But alas, it's a story that has to be told. I honestly think he was TRYING to offend me, though I don't know why he would.
Things started off on a bad foot. When I was introduced as the American english teaching assistant, he said immediately, "Generally, I hate americans." Then he laughed and said he was joking. Though his comments throughout the meal suggested he was NOT joking. And supposing he WAS joking, why would would anyone think the best way to break the ice with someone is to tell them that as a rule, they are prejudiced against their country? But fine, call it an inconsequential social mistake.
Five minutes later, he asks me, in a demanding tone, who I plan to vote for in the upcoming election. I was a little taken aback, not so much by his question, but by the way he asked it. So I made a joke about how I was just surprised because in the US it is generally considered impolite to ask acquaintances for whom they voted. He just looked at me and said "This isn't the US, so tell us, who are you going to vote for?" Again, though I dislike talking politics, I have been asked this question since being in France, there was just something about the way he said it that made me uncomfortable.
But if it had just been these things, this wouldn't have warranted a blog post. It was the way he took every opportunity to say negative things about America. This is a basic problem of politeness, if he wants to hate America from the comfort of his own brain, fine. Constantly attacking a guest who doesn't speak his language fluently, is not. Supposing I hated Algeria (his parent's country of origin), I would never say so.

Things that were ACTUALLY said:
German Teacher: "[such and such] comes from America, doesn't it? A lot of things come from America."
German Teacher's boyfriend: "like war"

German teacher's boyfriend (out of nowhere, I don't think we were even talking about America): "Americans are crazy! They still have the death penalty, [... long list of things I didn't quite understand. I think something about crazy church people?, healthcare, etc], they are allowed to have guns." (this speech went on FOREVER, and I didn't really catch most of it. I felt so uncomfortable that I can tell you that people actually do shift in their seats when in unpleasant situations.)
German teacher: Do you agree with what he said?
Me: umm uhh (in my head: obviously not, even though I didn't understand a great deal of it)

GTB: Oh, I'd like to visit America
GT: Oh really? Where would you go?
GTB: I'd like to go to New York.
GT: What would you like to see there.
GTB: I'd like to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, and the World Trade Center.
GT: You know it's not there anymore, right?
GTB: Yes *laughs like he told a hilarious joke*
Me: that could not have actually just happened

It was so odd, because he was friendly and tried to joke with us. That I noticed, he didn't say anything rude to either of my roommates. It's weird because it seems like either he expected to join the I hate america party or that I was being singled out because of my nationality.
I left the meal feeling kind of odd about the whole situation.

The rest of the day was quite pleasant though. We went downtown, and though Mulhouse is nowhere as beautiful as other cities in this region, it still had some nice parts. It also had lots of shops, and though it took us a while to find the inexpensive ones, we eventually succeeded. I left Mulhouse with a brand new pair of very warm boots which I hope will be water resistant. And I ended the day with a snack of profiteroles (pastry stuffed with ice cream, bathed in chocolate sauce). A perfect ending for an interesting day.
Me and my roommates on the train. (Sylvia (Germany) middle, and Crystal (Panama) right)

Metal Sheep 

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