Friday, March 5, 2010


Tonight, I was trying to get some stuff taken care of on the telephone, and I needed to call someone here in France.  As I am speaking with them, I realize I am getting the run around.  This happens a lot when you ask the question, "Parlez-vous Anglais?" to a French worker on the telephone.  Also, if you're polite with them.  So after a few more calls, my sister in law said she would call.  She deals with these kinds of people all day, so she'll strike fear into their hearts.  If they started to cry, she said she would put them on speaker phone. All she needed was the number.  So I start reading off the number in the standard American format, "Cinq, Cinq, Cinq, etc."  She is typing in the number, but she missed one.  So she goes again.  I start reading the numbers off again.  She misses the area code this time.  So I set the paper down, and my partner reads her the number.

My niece was also there and she was smiling a little, and then she asked the question, "Is that really how Americans read off telephone numbers?"

I said, "Yeah, this is pretty much uniform.  We read one number at a time, unless it's something that ends in a 5 or 0.  We'll read all four if it ends in two zeros too."

So it was then, I realized the problem.  French telephone numbers are not formatted like American numbers.  All numbers in France are formatted as two number groupings.  So if you were to see a number like, 22 32 60 45 19, it's read as "vingt-deux, trente-deux, soixante, quarante-cinq, dix-neuf."  It would break an American's brain to say something like "four hundred nineteen, seven hundred eighty four, five thousand five hundred twenty-two."  So for telephone numbers it's just what we do.  Just like French people say their numbers as the two digit versions. 

It was really fun to see her in action I have to say.  As my partner put it, "The problem is that you're too nice on the phone." 

1 comment:

  1. Little things like this just amaze me. So many cultural differences, tied all up in how you read a phone number!