Humor by Mark Bazer

I just got back from France. It was my 10th wedding anniversary, so I chose a week in Paris. My wife went to Barcelona.

And like any vacation to another country, it opened me up to the unique beauty of another culture while giving me a renewed appreciation for all I cherish about home.

My word, are you bored yet?

So, let's concentrate on the negative instead.

Because what international travel really does better than anything else is make you see all the things that we and the place we've visited get horribly, laughably wrong.

For example ...

It took me 37 years and six meals in Paris to realize that calling the main course on an American menu an "entrée" is not making us look too bright in the eyes of our furry French friends*. An entrée in Paris is, well, duh, an appetizer. The main course is called "le plat principal."

But you can imagine some American decades ago went to France, came back with the idea to open a restaurant, said to himself, "What was that fancy word them French called their food? Oh, yeah, entrée!," and we've been embarrassing ourselves ever since.

Please don't mistake this for a self-hating anti-American rant or a nod to the supposed sophistication of the French. Because when it comes to capturing America (a place Parisians seem fairly smitten with, actually), they get things far worse.

Here were my favorite America-obsessed T-shirts seen in Paris, in no particular order:

" "Nebraska Loves Me"

" "Hollywood F**king Hell"

" "Tornado University"

It turns out, unless there is a Tornado U. my high-school guidance counselor never told me about, that you can just combine any two English words and, voila, you have yourself a saleable T-shirt in Paris. It'd be like us having shirts that said "Poulet Bibliothèque."

Then there's the Indiana Café that, let me stress, our French friend we ate with chose. The place attempts to replicate foods native to Indiana -- i.e., mediocre bar food -- but its slogan should be: "Our burgers are served like our feelings over no longer being a world power: raw."

But the best part about Paris (other than The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Nutella) has got to be the French computer keyboards. You type a period by pressing SHIFT and the semi-colon key. A period! This and not the 35-hour workweek may explain why the French are lagging behind.

Please don't mistake this for an anti-French rant or a nod to the supposed keyboard expertise of Americans. We could innovate and bump the @ to non-Shift status, but we're a stubborn people, too.

Paris was -- is -- great, the buildings are beautiful, the people are helpful, the kids all love Joakim Noah, and the fresh dog poop on every sidewalk is delightful.

Heck, you could even say the trip opened me up to the unique beauty of another culture while giving me a renewed appreciation for all I cherish about ...

* French people aren't actually furry.

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