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Languages and travel books

Some people pretend to master foreign languages because they can articulate two pseudo-sentences. Be careful if that is your case, as this can easily backfire. I have indeed come across this article from the BBC that describes the foolish adventures of a British tourist in Eastern France.

The first mistake might have been to visit the North-Eastern part of France... What was she doing there in the summer, seriously?

But the most hilarious part of the story lays in the fact that this modern Phileas Fogg was to learn that you should never extrapolate what's said on the tin. She indeed got locked in the Town Hall where she thought she could rent a room for the night.

This tourist should have known that in formal French a hotel refers to a large public or private house, the equivalent of a mansion if you want. When wandering in a city, you can thus come across "hotels particuliers" which are bourgeois private houses but also the "hotel des impots" (the tax office) or in our specific instance the "hotel de ville" (the city hall). Hotels -those were you can rent a room- are only called so by extension in reference to the fact that they are huge places owned by one landlord. They are certainly the most common hotels and refered as such by every living soul. Nonetheless you still ought to be careful when looking at a map, or you might have some unconfortable experiences...

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