I had a funny experience today. At my work (the Saga Museum in Reykjavik), I meet a lot of people from all around the world. Not that surprisingly, a lot of people come from the continent of Europe (especially Germany and France). Today, I had a French couple who was looking a little bit posh and uptight coming to my Museum. They asked me in French where the entrance to the museum was. I told them that “I’m so sorry but I don’t speak your language, do you know English?” and they looked at me as if I was an subterraneous alien from Mars or something and then continued to talk their French with me. French is according to me one of the ugliest languages in the world, and I wouldn’t wanna learn it even if I was going to get paid for it, so of course I didn’t understand a thing what these people were telling me.
Then a man behind them in the line told them with the broadest British-Londonish accent you could ever imagine; “I’m sorry lads, but I don’t think he understands what you are trying to tell him”. And the Frenchman is turning around, looking angry and then telling him to shut up (in English). I then tell the couple that they can go inside for half the price if they go inside without the audio guides in the MP3-players which are included into the entrance fee. They say “OK” and then go inside.
The British man is looking at me with an irritated expression on his face and tells me that “they are always like this – the French” “if you go to France they will ignore you if you confront them in English and here they expect everyone to speak French, it is ridiculous.”
It looks like that the old tensions between France and Britain are still going strong after all. Even though it was 570 years ago The Hundred Years’ War ended. 🙂 Actually, it goes even farer away than that. The background to the conflict can be found 400 years earlier, in 911, when Carolingian Charles the Simple allowed the Viking Rollo (originally from Denmark) to settle in a part of his kingdom (a region known afterwards as “Normandy” (the region of the Norse men)). In 1066, the “Normans” were led by William the Conqueror (the Duke of Normandy) and conquered England, defeating the Anglo-Saxon leadership at the Battle of Hastings, and subsequently installed a new Anglo-Norman power structure. And to be honest, the term “Hundred Years’ War” was a later historical term invented by historians to describe a series of events. Maybe these “series of events” are to continue even in our contemporaries.
So they do. At least in the queue to my Museum …