Are You ALONE? November 16, 2007Posted by gordonwatts in life, Marseille.
At least, I think that is how most Americans hear the question.
I’ve seen this happen twice now. When you walk into a French restaurant and you are on your own, they will sometimes ask “Vous-etes seul?” – “are you alone?” is the literal translation. The first time I saw the bad reaction was in Marseille. The fellow paused, clearly annoyed at the question, and said (in English) “Tonight, I am alone.” with strong emphasis on the “tonight” – as if to imply that he wasn’t normally alone and this was a temporary situation. The second time was just the other night when I was eating in Paris (seul). The reaction was very similar. It is as if the American guy takes it as a failure that he is alone and couldn’t find a friend or a date.
Of course, the question is much more benign than that, but the subtly is lost in the translation. They are just trying to figure out how many table settings to put at your table…