While in France for language school, I really went out of my way to speak even more because I was always looking to improve my conversational skills. The French are generally less outgoing than Americans, so sometimes I caught people off-guard with the attempts at conversation. Sometimes I embarrassed myself with silly mistakes in the language. But all in all, it was beneficial.
And now that I'm in Cameroon, I've discovered that people enjoy friendly chit-chat quite a bit more than in Europe or even the US. It's still an opportunity to practice my French and now maybe I can also pick up some new cultural tidbits with each conversation.
Yesterday, I was in centre-ville Yaoundé with a friend going to look at a car. It's the busiest part of town with tons of traffic and people going in every direction. It can be sensory overload.
|Rond Point de la Poste, or Score Circle...the center of Yaoundé.|
He smiled and wasn't sure he understood. So he asked if I needed Euros before I went back home (I took this as a compliment of my French, that he thought I was European). I said, "No. This IS my home! I live here!" And then we shook hands and laughed a little.
As a man trying to conduct business (not sure if it's legal, doing currency exchange on the street like that...but whatever...), he certainly made a logical assumption that I was a good person to approach. It was fun for me to be able to trump the typical and share a laugh - and then a bit of conversation. And it was fun, even if in the context of a joke, to call Yaoundé home. It doesn't quite feel like that yet, but it's getting there. A few more days like yesterday and it will soon enough.