Question Tuesday, TAPIF Style

“Good morning, Hank! It’s Question Tuesday, the day I answer real questions from real Nerdfighters!”

Just kidding, I’m not John Green. But I have had people asking me a ton of questions lately.

I’ve wrapped up my first week as an English teaching assistant. I am working at two middle schools in a small city about an hour north of Paris. I’m not going to say the name because this is the Internet and people are creepy. This week, I became an expert in introducing myself. Most of my time was spent being interrogated by middle schoolers. In some classes, I would conduct one-on-one interviews where the students had to introduce themselves to me and then ask me questions, all in English. Other times, I was at the front of the room and they would call out questions at random.

Aside from the usual “What’s your name?” and “How old are you?” and “Where are you from?” schpeel, many students asked me some really intelligent, funny and thought-provoking questions. Sure, I got the American stereotype questions — “Do you like MacDo?”, where MacDo = McDonald’s — but I was pleasantly surprised at how articulate and thoughtful some of my students were in choosing questions to ask me. So, for my first post from France, here are my top six questions from the past week.

6. Do you have a boyfriend?/ Are you engaged?/ Are you married?/ Do you have kids?

No, no, no, and no. This is one that every single language assistant I’ve talked to has been asked. Answering this question was always awkward and embarrassing, maybe because the students had no qualms about asking. But hey, that’s one thing I appreciate about French people in general: they always tell you exactly what they’re thinking, even if they don’t know you. On my way home from school today, a high school girl who I’d never seen before called after me to tell me my skirt was riding up in the back. It wasn’t out of rudeness, just frankness. (Ha ha. Get it? France? Frank? … OK …)

5. Are the French as “froggy” as you anticipated?

No, they are not. For those of you who are totally lost, the French and the British have had a pretty fierce rivalry going on for centuries. As one of the English teachers explained to me, the British call the French “frogs” because they eat frog legs, which I still want to try. I understand why a French student would ask me this; traditionally, French students learn more British English than American English, though this is starting to change as more American movies and TV shows make it across the ocean. (Apparently, France has Netflix now! If only I could get it to work on my computer … ) As an American, I’m going to stay out of it … and become a mutual easy target for both French and British wit.

4. Who are your favorite YouTubers? 

This was such a refreshing favorites question! I think I listed John and Hank Green and Jenna Marbles because they were the only two I could think of on the spot. But a few others I love are the Fine Brothers, the Anima Series, JacksfilmsPostmodern Jukebox, and Matt Guion. Check them out if you haven’t already!

3. Which is more important to you: friends or family?

If I had to choose, family. As much as I love my friends — and believe me, I am blessed to call so many beautiful and loyal people friends — I have lost many good friends along the way, but my family has always been there. Above anything, I am so lucky to have such a rock-solid relationship with my family. My parents actually are two of the coolest people I know. Seriously. My sister and I haven’t lived in the same place for more than a few weeks over the past two years, but I’m so proud of her and I miss her terribly. And very few things can beat the four of us going out to dinner, splitting a bottle of wine, and talking about the important questions. I love you guys.

OK, enough mush.

2. Which do you like better: France or the United States?

Are you trying to make me choose between my children?

There are things I like and dislike about both countries — future blog post, maybe? An obvious win for France is their food. Cheese, chocolate, wine, and BREAD — need I say more? I’m also in love with European public transportation. It’s fast, inexpensive, modern, mostly clean and so much less confusing than the mess that is the New York City subway system. I also love that in many French towns, you don’t need a car to get around. I don’t feel as guilty if I have a pain au chocolat at lunch because I know I have a 20-minute walk each way to work. What I don’t like about France? The abundance of smokers. And of dog poop. Seriously. I don’t know if it’s because some French people don’t keep their dogs on leashes when they walk them, or if there are more strays, or what, but it’s everywhere.

As for America? Well, it’s my native land. I know how most things work. I understand the subtle cultural rules you only notice if you go to a foreign country. OK, we have better hamburgers, I’ll give you that. I love that my family and friends are here. I love traveling to different states. And I do appreciate living so close to New York City, especially when I see my French students’ faces light up with envy. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many awful things about our country and we have a lot of work to do to make it better, but I know that we can make it better. We just have to be willing to take the hard way instead of the easy way or the way that will make us the most money.

1. Why France?

This one is hard to explain. I’ve just always had a fascination with France. Maybe it has something to do with the hundreds of times I watched Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” as a kid. Or maybe it was the hundreds of times I watched Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” as a teenager/adult.

OK, I’m not giving Disney all the credit. It has to share the spotlight with Madeline.

In all seriousness, I am not a likely candidate for a francophile. I have no French heritage, and no one else in my immediate family speaks French. But for some reason, I was always drawn to photographs of Paris and to stories that took place in France. So when I learned that I could take a language class in eighth grade, I jumped at the opportunity to take French. I haven’t looked back.

So yeah, anyone who has the audacity to say that kids aren’t smart can shut up right now.

Merci à tous, especially those of you who’ve known me throughout my love affair with France.

À trés bientôt!

– Vicky

Question of the Week: What’s the most interesting question someone has ever asked you? Please tell me in the comments!