Yesterday, we took a little tourist ferry from one town in the Cinque Terre to another. People said that the small villages looked different from the water than from land, so we opted to test the hype. (Mostly true.) We bought our tickets and headed to the boat dock, which was just a slab of rock sticking out of the coast. The tourists around us were fairly representative of the area: about 60% English-speaking, 20% French-speaking, 10% Italian-speaking, and 10% everyone else. As we stood in line, chatting quietly to ourselves, a woman in her 50s appeared. She came up to me, and asked – in French, if I spoke French… or (3 seconds later) English. Except that the latter was also said in French, so it would not have been of much help to a non-French speaker. I said yes and answered her question, which was about the destination of the boat which had just arrived. Satisfied, she left to tell her friends what she had learned.
B turned to me and asked, ‘Why do people always assume that you speak their language?’ And it’s true: I had been speaking English – albeit quietly, with no indication that I spoke anything else. I was wearing jeans, hiking boots, a coral tank top, and a black across-the-body purse, so I joked that it must have been the pink shirt. Or maybe the tan? It certainly wasn’t my terrible posture. But B said, no, everyone just thinks you’re one of them. I suppose that can’t be too bad.