The French influence

The funny thing about Laos, is that you can quite strongly feel the influence of the French in the past. In Vientiane for example (the capital) street names are “Rue Something” (and more remarkably: there ARE street names, which is a thing rather absent in other parts of Laos), and for breakfast you can have a “chocolat chaud avec croissant et baguette” (a hot chocolate with a croissant and a baguette) that actually taste better than at a lot of bakeries in France.

But the French influence can especially be felt in the use of language: quite a big part of the population still speaks French (better than English) and especially older people can speak quite a good deal of it. The influence of the old European administration can moreover still be felt at public places (like the post office) and on official papers which are always at least written in Lao and French. The French at those places is however a grammatically correct one, almost a little bit astray from the one we can find when we talk to people on the street which is in general very touching.In general they speak slow and make some minor mistakes that add some local colour to the language. :-)

This week for example we went to have a noodle soup at a local market and the owner came to take our order in perfect French until he asked us: “Qu’est-ce que vous desirez comme dessert?” (What dessert would you like?) We looked at each other a little bit confused as in Laos there aren’t really any desserts and then especially not at a noodle soup place on the local market! But when the guy repeated the same question, some excitement arose: “Wow! They really have desserts? And we even have a choice? Cool!”

But when he continued his question with: “Boeuf ou canard?” (Beef or duck?) something started feeling wrong. Beef or duck as a dessert? And although at first we didn’t even realize that maybe the guy mixed up some vocabulary, because his French was quite good and because in South-East Asia we aren’t surprised anymore concerning food habits, it slowly came to on us that maybe he meant to ask which meat we wanted in our soup… :-)

But then in Laos, meat and dessert: same same? ;-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. ivaberthon
    Posted January 27, 2008 at 11:26 | Permalink

    Ce post appelle deux ou trois comments urgents :
    1- il ne faudra pas oublier d’ajouter la longueur des noodles avalés à votre calcul…
    2- Vera, pour te consoler de ta (petite) déception, veux-tu que je t’envoie un maxi pot de Nutella poste restante quelque part ?
    3- De ton côté, peux-tu m’envoyer quelques croissants laotiens, car ici à Valentigney ils sont exécrables… (pardon aux éventuels boulangers boroillots qui liraient ce comment :-)

  2. Posted January 29, 2008 at 13:54 | Permalink

    Merci pour l’offre de Nutella, mais on en trouve en fait pas mal (voila pour le chapitre “l’influence des Italiens… ;-) ). Et pour l’instant je me regale avec les croissants au chocolat et compagnie. :-)