No matter how long you live in place, no matter how well you get to know the customs and the people, there are still surprises. Some good and some whatever.
Friday evening after picking up Boy1 from school and running a few errands, I was ready to go home. My in-laws were arriving for the weekend, I needed to start dinner, pick up the family room, and return two phone calls. I was neither stressed nor in a hurry, just a mom with a few things to do.
I started to turned down the lane that leads to our garage and quickly backed up as I saw that there was a truck blocking the way. At the end of the lane is our neighbor's house. Their front courtyard and our garage door were blocked by two trucks. I should mention that our neighbors are renovating their house in a really big way. I'll also mention that they're really nice and we get along really well. We use the familiar tu form to address each other, have drinks and crab dip occasionally, and always stop to chat when we run into each other. Their project has caused a few minor inconveniences but nothing bothersome.
From the top of the lane, I could see the neighbors and two guys who have been working on the stones of the front facade talking in the courtyard. I waved to get their attention. They didn't see me. I yelled, "Salut!" to the neighbors. They didn't hear me. So, I whistled. I know how to whistle well. Fingers in the mouth very loud kind of whistle. Everyone turned. I made the universal can-I-park-in-my-garage gesture. NeighborB nodded. So I waited at the top of the lane until the stone guys packed it up and moved their trucks.
When I finally got the car parked, the boys out, snack and book bag material in arms, I went to close the garage door. I saw NeighborB and said, "Hey B, I bet you didn't know I could whistle like that." She said, "I loved it but stone guys were offended."
I offended stone guys. What? I offended stone guys? They were blocking my garage and I offended them by asking them if I could park my car in my garage? Again, what? Why? How? I was nice to B while asking my questions - it wasn't her fault but surely there was something more to the story.
It was the whistle.
Maybe it's a guy thing, maybe it's a French thing, maybe it's a French guy thing, but stone guys were offended because I, a WOMAN, whistled to get their attention.
Later, I drilled unsuspecting husband about the whistle. He said that woman don't whistle here. It's not ELEGANT. Which is apparently offensive, nearly criminal even. (Although he did have the good marriage saving sense to say that he didn't mind at all that I whistled.)
Let me just say it again. You've got to be kidding me.