Well, I’ve not exactly been churning out the posts have I?
Anyhoo, the season is now over and we have more time to ourselves so maybe more time for posting we shall have to wait and see. And today’s post is on the subject of time.
In France it would appear there are three possible answers regarding the length of time something may take.
The first is the shortest and is used when you may be travelling somewhere or when you are waiting in for someone. No matter how far you have to go or how long you might be, the answer is 20 minutes. Everybody is 20 minutes from their destination, even if it is the other end of the country. If you are waiting in for a contractor the answer “20 minutes” equates to “today”;
Customer – What time will you be delivering my fridge?
Driver – 20 minutes
Customer thinks – Oh Good, they are coming today*.
If that conversation takes place after 4pm it is quite acceptable to mean possibly tomorrow morning.
The second time period is the stock answer when ordering anything that has to be delivered from another site. The answer is “two weeks”. Everything here is delivered in two weeks, whether that in reality means tomorrow or some time in the next year. (Usually the latter unless you are purchasing an unimportant knick-knack for your home in which case it will definitely be tomorrow). No matter how outlandish the item is you are ordering, in fact the more outlandish the better, it will be delivered in two weeks. That could be a sofa, a pygmy hippopotamus, an item that is in the stores next door. Basically, two weeks means it is something that probably exists.
Customer – I’d like to order a customised Peugeot 3008 with all the extras that you have printed in the brochure? Will I have to wait long?
Dealer – Not at all, it will be here in two weeks!
Customer thinks – Great, as long as my present car gets through another 7 or 8 months I should be ok.
The last time frame is not so much a verbal answer as the all purpose Gallic shrug. It is used when, annoyingly, they have run out of something mundane at the supermarket or DIY shop. Now, one might think that correct answer to the question, “when will you be getting more beetroots in?” would be two weeks, but no, you will receive a shrug. Now, in England, that would just equate to, “quite honestly, I couldn’t give a monkey’s and if you think I’m going to walk to the other side of the shop to find out you’ve got another think coming!”. In France they are much more helpful with the use of the shrug. What they are actually telling you is that, “Yes, I apologise profusely on my own behalf, that of my family, the company and the regional government, it is most annoying that we don’t presently have any. If only I had beetroot at home I would bring you some round from my very own kitchen. We have ordered some, but you must understand that the beetroot farmer is having a hard time of things and almost definitely he is presently blocking a road somewhere near Paris in protest that a shop somewhere near the Swiss border has sold some beetroot sourced from an entirely different country. The farmer should be back tomorrow as he has a flight booked so he can get back quickly, however, the air traffic controllers are possibly on strike as the government refuses to stop all planes flying in French airspace during lunch hour, (12-2), and how is a poor Frenchman to survive if not taking in a three course meal with coffee, cheese and biscuits, in the middle of the day?”. The shrug has conveyed all that and you then have to take a considered decision whether one comes back tomorrow as the shelves will be full of the beautiful purple stuff again or give up beetroot altogether as it unlikely ever to be grown again in France. There is no alternative to those two extremes.
Customers 1 and 2 – Can I order a further 1 metre of the plinth for my kitchen you kindly supplied earlier this month?
In-house Kitchen Designer – Certainly, we will order it today as the warehouse doesn’t have any left.
Customers 1 and 2 – (panic, hoping the answer coming up will be two weeks) And when will it be here?
In-house Kitchen Designer – (Looks at screen, loads 45 consecutive screens of information, shrugs)
Customer 1 – returns next day, still not in, and the day after, not yet, everyday for the next three years……..
Customer 2 – accepts his fate and rips out his new kitchen, the following day purchases a brand new one (all except the final end board for the run of cupboards), gets home and receives a phone call from the helpful guy in the warehouse to tell him the good news that they have just found one metre of plinth for his kitchen.
We have now finally got our heads round all of this and so we might find it somewhat irritating on occasion but it’s just how it is and there’s no point in getting upset about it as it’s just gone 5pm and there’s a bottle of Blanquette chilling in the fridge……
Should you ever find yourself in France I hope the above will be helpful. And just to let you know I will be posting another article here shortly, almost definitely in two weeks!