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Phrase of the week-13 January 2012

Je vous ecoute

The first time I heard this expression I was sitting at a café and the waitress came up to my table and said “Je vous ecoute”. That’s it. Just those three words and just stood there waiting for me to say something. No,“Vous desirez quelques choses?” or “Vous avez choisi?” Nope. Now, of course, being a native English speaker I quickly made a literal translation to just, “Yaah, I’m listening to you” (I put the yaah in there just cuz that’s how it seemed) and took it as something pretty abrasive to say to a customer. To add to it the waitress didn’t really seem all that thrilled to be there that day so I ended up chalking it up to her not having a terrific day. Okay, no problem. I’ve had those days myself.

I don’t think that in my wildest dreams I would walk into a restaurant in The States and the waitress/waiter would walk up to my table and only say “I’m listening to you”. I’m not sure that would go over  too well.

Well, since then I’ve been to several restaurants and café’s where waiters/waitresses have said this so I guess it just must be the phrase to say and it’s not rude after all. Sometimes for us foreigners, it’s just hard to tell. I have slowly become accustomed to hearing it and now it doesn’t seem rude to me.

It’s kind of along the same lines as when you’re in a store and you’re at the check-out and when you go to leave the cashier says, “Allez. Au revoir”. The first time I heard that I was like dang they’re saying “go! bye!” as in, “get the heck outta my store”! Of course, I was jumping to conclusions, but it took me forever to figure out that this was not rude to say. At the time, it just seemed rude for some reason to me.

Well the other day, when I was at the market at the check-out, the cashier says to me as I rolled the basket pass the counter trying to empty its contents, “Je vous ecoute”. Now I just stopped and stared at her cuz 1) this is the first time I had ever heard this while not being in a restaurant and 2) I wasn’t ordering anything so I didn’t know what to say. Therefore, I just stood there looking at her with a confused look on my face (you know, the deer in the headlights kind of thing).  A couple seconds went by and I just shrugged my shoulders and went back to emptying my cart.

Well she says to me again “Je vous ecoute”. At this point, I kind of frowned, thought about it, and then just said the first thing that came to my mind while looking straight at her which was, “Bonjour”, thinking that I forgot to say it and didn’t want to be rude.

Then she said back, “Bonjour, je vous ecoute”. What the heck! Was I on a hidden camera show! What did she want me to say? Then as she saw that I had no clue what was going on, she finally said, “Combien bouteille de l’eau?” as in, “How many bottles of water do you have?”. Ohhhh, that’s what she was waiting for!

See I had a few water bottles in my cart and I hadn’t yet got to the point of putting them on the conveyer belt. Normally I buy a few of those heavier 6 packs and I peel off the bar code, give it to the cashier and tell him or her how many I have without them asking. This time I only had a couple of bottles so I was just going to put them up there for her to scan through. They weren’t heavy and it was easy to have her scan so it never occurred to me that she was asking me how many water bottles I had! Why didn’t she just ask me how may waters I had?? I think she knew I was a foreigner and she was trying to trick me. Well it worked. Score one for the cashier!

So now I know that when I’m in the market and I hear,

it really must mean “How many waters do you have”! If they try to ask me that and I don’t have any water, I’m really gonna be lost 🙂

Oh the wonders of the French language! Gotta love it and learn it!

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