PittGirl: Parlez-vous Pittsburghese?

My very un-French-like take on France.

We’ll be touching down in Pittsburgh in approximately 20 minutes, where skies are cloudy, temperatures are holding at 33 degrees and snow is falling.”

If my mind-reading powers are up to snuff, it was at that moment that every Pittsburgher on the airplane performed mental math—adding up their savings, job prospects, an assortment of life factors and the average spring temperatures in various points south of the Mason-Dixon Line to see if their relocation plans could become a reality before next winter (assuming this one ever left).

After doing the math and ending up with a figure in the negative trillions, I grabbed the US Airways Magazine out of the seat pocket in front of me and began flipping through it, looking for something to take my mind off the fact that, in 10 minutes, we would be landing in Pittsburgh where it was snowing … in April.

The humanity.

I found a travel article titled, “10 Ways to Look and Act Like a Local in France.”

France. Le sigh, as they say.

I’ve never visited France, but I sure would love to be French—who wouldn’t?

My impression is that all French women are model-thin with long hair that smells of hazelnut and angel wings. Their lips are perfectly pouty. They exit the womb with a tiny French manicure. And they apparently receive lifetime couture wardrobes from the priciest fashion houses—simply because they were born in France.

It’s kind of like how we’re given a Social Security card. Here’s a little blue card with a 10-digit number we made up just for you, Mary. Custom-made, insanely expensive wardrobe for you, Sabine.

And don’t get me started on the French men. Look at Adonis over there weeping at his gross inferiority.


With that preconceived notion of the French in mind, I read the article just in case I calculated a positive number when figuring out the likelihood of moving to France. If I ever move there, I’ll need to fit in, after all. I wouldn’t want to be an annoying Yinzer standing in a Parisian café, loudly asking, “Hey, yinz guys know where I can get some chipped ham up in ’ere?”

Rule No.1: “To act like a true French person, you must go to the store almost every day. Pick up the essentials you need for that day’s lunch and dinner, and go back the next day for the same purpose.”

The piggish snort I let out after reading that paragraph was decidedly un-French-like.

According to the author, the French do not buy one week’s worth of groceries—or in bulk. As a card-carrying member of a warehouse—where I like to stock up on everything from disinfectant wipes to dog biscuits—this part of living in France didn’t sit too well with me.

I wondered if I could bypass this rule and grab the economy-sized package of toilet paper. And if anyone gave me a scolding look, I’d just say, “Parlez-vous yo no espeako la Frenchisa.”

Rule No. 2: You must savor each meal. “Eating on the go is a big no-no and will solicit looks of disgust from many of the French.”

Here in Pittsburgh, we’re a fast-paced, hard-working bunch. For most of us, breakfast is what we can carry to our cars or eat on the bus without eliciting stares. Lunch is often a race against the clock, too.

I worried that the next rule the author would tell me was that there aren’t school buses in France, and, instead, children ride their thoroughbred stallions to school. If I have to add the cost of even a semi-decent horse to my mental math …

Rule No. 3: I learned that drinking a soda in the street is another huge no-no and that wearing sweats in public “simply isn’t done.” I assume the French would haughtily backhand the soda can out of my hand without so much as a s’il vous plaît.

Realizing that I spend a decent portion of my life throwing on sweat pants, grabbing a banana (read: cookie) to eat in the car on the way to dropping my kids off at school then heading to Sam’s Club to buy enough aluminum foil to wrap the Statue of Liberty three times, I closed the magazine on my notion that living in France would be a dream.

The French can keep their superior DNA, slow meals, perfect clothing and daily grocery trips, and continue to drink soda in shame in their dark kitchens. As the plane touched down on the tarmac in the middle of the ridiculously heavy snowstorm—in April (!)—I smiled and welcomed myself home to Pittsburgh, the Paris of Appalachia.

Categories: PittGirl