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||Thanks to this site, I now have a place to tell my frightful French story.|
It was 1989 and I was a little nervous, being 24-ish and on a solo business trip to France, and then a bit rattled from the drive through the "Etoile Charles de Gaulle" on the way into the office in Paris. But I was still pretty confident in my competence, my professionalism, and my masculinity. Until someone offered me coffee....
I politely asked if they had any tea. In Canada where I hail from, this is a fairly usual question after coffee is offered. In France, it produced horror and shock, followed by a round of sneers and supercilious little laughs.
After a suitably intimidating silence, my host replied "No, we don't have any, but perhaps you wish to ask one of the *women*. " This last word contained unspoken volumes regarding my evident lack of masculinity, naivete, and general unsuitability for the rigors of a serious business meeting in France between men. The women, it need hardly be said, were all clerical staff, in a separate room from the real men.
Bloodied but unbowed, I actually did beg a teabag from a friendly female clerk before proceeding to the meeting, where nobody took me at all seriously thereafter and mostly they all spoke french over my head.
From this humiliation I concluded that only women (and perhaps foreign poofters) drink tea in France. Or at least that this was the case in 1989. I think that this deserves further study, perhaps on this very Webzine...