Awesome # 177: Speaking in a Foreign Language, Even in a Panic

The train said Genève, and my ticket said St-Gervais les Bains. It was due to leave in 6 minutes, the train attendant spoke not a lick of English and information kiosks were proving to be nonexistent in France, let alone at Gare de Lyon.

I’d arrived at Paris’ Gare de Lyon station an hour early. Since it was my first time traveling on a European train, I decided to check out of my room at Caulaincourt Square Hostel excessively early so as to allow myself adequate time, given my potential for getting lost on Paris’ intricate metro system and for pre-train trip coffee consumption.

Last minute, I learned that I could actually get to Chamonix with a direct ticket, rather than the significantly more convoluted way that I was told I had to do so by the salesperson from whom I’d originally purchased my ticket – so I changed it there. However, it wasn’t explained to me that my new train route required that I transfer trains in St-Gervais les Bains.

Having been speaking primarily en français since I’d arrived in Paris, speaking the language had not been much of an issue. However, judging by a handful of prior experiences, add a bit of pressure into the mix and my ability to formulate even basic survival sentences in French usually does abandon me. That, paired with, what I’d discovered time and again since I’d arrived in Paris, the tendency for my basic survival questions to be answered with lengthy, complicated and incredibly fluent responses in a dialect of French with which I’d only recently become familiar, I anticipated being stuck in a bit of a predicament.

But not this time. In my no-longer-so-broken français, I’d averted the crisis and boarded the train – the correct train – with 3 minutes to spare.


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