Can you imagine the reaction that either Bill or I would get if we went into a store in the US and said, “Could I get a tampon, please?” After the puzzled look disappeared off of the clerk’s face, she or he would figure that our wives had sent us out in search of a vital product and we didn’t have a clue where to find it or what we were looking for. Guess what happened yesterday when we went to the post office in Carcassonne with the exact same question.
No reaction. Nope, not a funny look, not a smirk, nor any indication that we had asked for something bizarre. What we did get was a “bonjour” and a rubber stamp on our receipt. As you may have guessed, in France when you use the word tampon in a government agency it usually means some sort of official acknowledgement that you’ve completed some task. The dictionary suggests that there are several other meanings, including the US drugstore version, but I doubt that we’ll need to know that. Too much information.
Surprisingly we haven’t made any big mistakes yet, at least not that people have told us about. We haven’t found anyone who really speaks much English, but that’s OK since we need to improve our French anyway. Now I know why there are Dunkin’ Donuts® in other parts of Europe but not in France. Here if you say that you’re going to dip or dunk your donut, biscuit, cookie, etc. it means to sleep around. I don’t think we’ll need that expression.