A very british pastime


I moved to Reunion in 2007, and like any person moving to another country I tried to find a piece of home here. Cheese and cucumber sandwiches, for example, was easy to reproduce here. Football is as big in Reunion as it is in the UK, even English football is popular. There’s one English pastime that I can’t reproduce here, however. Complaining.

In England, when you see a friend on the street and you stop for a chat, the first thing you should say is «How have you been?» the second thing you say is always «Terrible weather we’re having, isn’t it?». This is because we Brits love to complain.

Like I said, I arrived in Reunion in 2007. One of the first things I did was to try the local cuisine! I had never heard of rougail saucisse, so I didn’t order it. Instead, I went for a riz cantonais. It arrived, and it looked great. I had never tasted riz cantonais before, but I had tasted «burnt» before.

Yes it tasted like the chef put it on the hob, and then went for a cigarette break. I took it to the manager and complained. The guy seemed really aggressive about it, the way he was acting it was obvious that he had never received a complaint before. He didn’t charge me for the meal, but he made me feel like I was depriving his children of a Christmas present, or something. I’ve never been back to the place since.

In St Pierre, there’s a very famous household goods shop, that sells everything form televisions to nails. Recently they have put automatic barriers between the car park and the road. Barriers which open automatically when you enter the car park, but need a code when you exit. A code that appears on your receipt after having bought an item. But what happens if you decided to not buy an item? Well, after coming face to face with the barrier, you have to re-park your car, get out, and head back to the shop. Bloody hell.

I did this recently, and told the lady at the reception desk that the barrier system was «penible». She responded with: «It’s not my fault, I didn’t put the barrier there!» Ah, but that’s the point! If the owner was at the reception desk, I would have complained to them! But since they’re not there, I have to complain to you, and it’s your job to pass on the message!

No, complaining is a very British pastime. Perhaps I should save my complaints for when I go back to the UK on holiday. At least then I can finally complain about the weather!

Vocabulary : to complain – se plaindre • how have you been? – qu’est-ce que tu deviens ? • burnt – brulée • hob – plaque • guy – mec • to deprive someone – priver quelqu’un
nail – clou • car park – parking • item – article • bloody hell – bon sang ! • owner – propriétaire • reception desk – l’accueil • to pass on – transférer