I’m not sure exactly how, but I’ve gotten pretty good at finding the English speaker in the room.
After everybody’s kissed everybody and the aperos have been distributed, conversation hums and I try to figure out how I want to play this night.
Sometimes, feeling free and adventurous, I’ll play offense: Tu es de Dijon?
(This strategy for finding English speakers is the most time efficient but sometimes painful.)
Other times, feeling content and confident, I’ll just watch the show and wait to be engaged.
(This strategy is the most pleasant, and while it hasn’t failed yet, quiet nights are possible.)
Conversations regardless are usually pretty much the same: America, accents, the presidential election, Mormonism. Occasionally something about Mongolia or monasteries.
Last night, I was watching the show, when my neighbor engaged. Another Raphael. Looked like maybe a muslim. We covered all of the above.
The he said something very unexpected: “My dad’s a Baptist preacher.” “Excuse-moi.”
It’s one thing to go to a French house party and find yourself seated next to another English speaker. It’s another thing entirely to go to a French house party and find yourself seated next to another Baptist preacher’s kid.
Who knew there were Baptists in France who looked like muslims and drank beer?
I do now and I think there’s a lesson in that.