This morning when I was brushing my teeth, I noticed a label on a bathroom cleaner bottle that was hard to miss since it had a big universal symbol of “Attention”, an exclamation point in a red box. What I read was Mention de Danger and thought “What a polite way of warning people that you shouldn’t pour the contents of the bottle into your eyes.” Can’t you just hear an Everglades tour guide saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I just mention that you will be in danger of death from alligators, snakes, and other wild creatures should you step off the path that we will be following.”
When we lived in the US, one of our favorite TV shows followed house buyers both within the country and then around the world in search of their dream homes. We were always amazed when American parents, looking at multiple-story houses in France, for example, would remark that a house was too unsafe for them because their children might fall out of the the upstairs windows. How have generations of European children managed to survive while living higher than ground level?
We think that here people are just expected to take some responsibility for their actions, including their own safety. Twice a day we cross the Aude river on a bridge that has no guard rails—it’s just you and the water below. Further upstream there’s a dam with nothing at all to keep you from going over the edge should you venture too closely. Inside those thick walls of the castle above us are walkways paved with bumpy cobblestones and the stairways can be uneven as well. We don’t feel at all unsafe; you just have to be aware of your surroundings and with all the natural beauty and history around us to marvel at, that’s pretty easy.
For one final Mention de Danger, that generally translates to Hazard Warning by the way, should you come to France, especially to the south, you may be in danger of wanting to stay. Rest assured, this won’t be your final warning.