I apologise for my president in English and French
January 31, 2017 5:37 PM   Subscribe

I want to make buttons that says "I apologise for my president" or something to that effect (along with a US flag, so it's clear which one I'm talking about), one in English and one in French. Do you have a snappier way of saying this? What's the best way to say this in French?

I am considering, "Je suis désolé pour mon président" and "Je m'excuse pour mon président", but alternate ways to express this sentiment are also great. I speak very tiny amounts of French.

These are primarily for travel to Paris and London. (I'm also wondering whether I should go with the American spelling or stick with "apologise".)
posted by Margalo Epps to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"Veuillez m'excuser pour mon président" is a bit more formal. it's more like "Would you please forgive me for my president?"

Surely the answer should be "mais non!"
posted by dis_integration at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2017

If you wait a bit, Marine Le Pen's France will probably be quite Trump-friendly and you won't have to apologize for anything.

Seriously, if you want to walk around covered in badges, ones tied to specific causes would be more effective. I lived in London during the time of Bush, and no one cared if I personally voted for him or supported him. As an American, you're complicit.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:25 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with betweenthebars, I don't think this will have the effect you hope it will. In fact, it will probably put people off. If you get into a conversation about Trump, that's a good opportunity to apologize personally. I have found, after years of traveling in Europe, the less you stand out the more you blend in.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:35 PM on January 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Anyone you interact with in Paris is going to be able to read the English version, but this is going to come off as deeply weird. I would leave off US flags completely and wear pins for things you believe in (e.g. Amnesty International would be a recognizable logo anywhere).
posted by AFABulous at 6:48 PM on January 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: As has been pointed out above, it's not a good idea. Besides, the French will look down on you for wearing a political button, regardless of what it says. Utterly de mauvais goût (think poor taste). They will like even less that you think people in France should care about US politics, when their own presidential election race is in full swing.

Now, if you must, here are some options:
i. Américain/e mais anti Trump
ii. Je ne suis pas Trump
iii. Je ne suis pas mon Président (this one, with the US flag)
posted by Kwadeng at 12:41 AM on February 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

perhaps off topic, but it sort of broke my heart when i bumped into a bunch of american kids backpacking in Spain that initially told me they were from Canada, lest they be thought of as dang 'mmericans! So they had this idea that if they stuck Canadian flags on their packs and stuff people would be warmer towards 'em.

i was like but duude you guys are so chill – represent the U.S. of A as you are.

you don't have to apologise for him, but for sure condemn his actions. i think many get where you're coming from, we have all sorts in power on this side of the puddle that don't exactly make us proud either
posted by speakeasy at 4:25 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's a lot of this kind of thing going around the developed world at the moment. Here in Britain we've got Brexit, the FN's polling far too well in France's presidential race, and the US has Trump. So everyone's totally used to probing fairly quickly to see whether someone's part of the lumpenproletariat or the metropolitan elite when they meet them.*

Speaking for Britain, you'll be fine. Informed people are informed. They'll probably bring the subject up commiseratively once they're confident you're anti-Trump. Less informed people, well, you can't preempt how they'll react.

The one Trump thing that will provoke British people that I've seen is to use the word "king" or "monarchy" to indicate tyrantry. I'd be happier not to have a queen, but it's pretty upsetting to have it implied we're not a democracy just because she exists.

*Excuse classist language, but I think it's the best way to show how farcical & divisive the modern anti-competence movement is.
posted by ambrosen at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, that's pretty clearly a bad idea. Is there something else it'd be a good idea to wear in the UK? I think it will be warm for a pussyhat, but maybe a button? Any ideas for what?

And yes, I'm well aware of the the "pretend to be Canadian" way some people will go. As tempting as that is, I'd prefer to represent my country better, with some sort of anti-Trump activist something. Though apparently in France I'll just have to stick with being quietly polite -- I don't speak much French, so I won't be getting into political conversations with people unless they switch to English (it's just beyond my abilities) and I won't be so rude as to start out speaking in English to people in Paris.

If you wait a bit, Marine Le Pen's France will probably be quite Trump-friendly and you won't have to apologize for anything.
That's heartbreaking. I'm sorry I've been so inward news-focused lately that I didn't know that. I hope you all can keep that from happening.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:01 AM on February 1, 2017

I lived in France for the last years of the Clinton administration and much of the first year of the W. Bush administration (a period that included the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy, but not 9/11).

While I agree with Kwadeng, generally, that the French (and really most of the EU, UK included) have a pretty strong distaste for American government affairs, that is not the case in times of crisis. My friends and strangers who knew or suspected I was American had no problem asking me serious questions about the U.S. government after the embassy bombing, especially. The following week I had to make a trip to Cambridge, where people were very actively and angrily demonstrating. I didn't feel unsafe, but at the time (I was 19 years old) I didn't want to be seen as an authority on American aggression. I didn't know how to begin talking about it, about the shame I felt, about the lack of control I felt over the circumstances as a new voter living abroad. Had I worn an American flag with an apology on it, only the flag would have been seen, I suspect. I would have been put in the position of being approached about my country, and I couldn't handle that at the time.

But that was almost 20 years ago. I'm prepared now. I wouldn't announce an apology via a flag or symbol on my sleeve--I would engage conversation in good company, or when prompted by a stranger. I would talk about the population dynamics of the U.S., about gerrymandering, about Citizens United, about the frustration and impotence that's been driven by the deeply entrenched and still growing wealth gap. France and the UK are not immune to these things, and the crisis is evident in both countries. If you'd like to engage with people, do so. Advertising your status via symbols is passive, though, and that won't do you any favors. Be active if the opportunity arises, if you care to. Ask the people you meet about the struggles in their own country. Find parallels. Look for common ground. That means so much more than symbols.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:24 AM on February 1, 2017

Also, I am not sure what you're trying to achieve with the anti-Trump buttons, but if you are going to travel abroad, you might as well use that opportunity to learn about the countries you're visiting.

Travelling broadens your horizon and helps you realise that the world has a myriad issues that people look at in different ways. A trip abroad is the perfect opportunity to leave your home politics where they belong: at home. Engage with the world in its diversity, learn about British and French politics, culture, history, food, etcetera, and go back home all the richer.

Don't be what the world hates the most about some Americans: that they're insular and care very little about what's going on in the greater world.
posted by Kwadeng at 8:55 AM on February 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

Kwadeng nails it.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:59 AM on February 1, 2017

Geez I've been living in France for 20 years and still make no bones about the reality that I'm American. I feel no shame for it – I wrote to my senators and reps against Iraq; they voted against Iraq. I voted for B. Clinton, Gore, Obama, and Hillary.

Feel free to do like I do and be the change you want to be in the world, which is to assume differences, and dialogue through stereotypes. In casual, everyday situations, no one bothers me for being American. No one assumes I'm a racist twat, largely because I don't behave like one. People assume a lot of other things, some tangential to my birth citizenship, others not. That's life. The only times I'm bothered for being American are in "deeper" situations (so to speak) such as in long-term relationships on the job. People feel absolutely free to play the "she's an intolerant closed-minded loudmouth, you know how Americans are" when it serves their purpose. And I feel free to write that on MeFi and joke about it with colleagues because it's so laughably untrue.

Anyway. Be yourself. Show people who you are. No need for flags or buttons, you are you, you do you.
posted by fraula at 9:43 AM on February 1, 2017

Response by poster: When I lived in Canada I was seen as the American and blamed for my country's politics except for the occasional times we could actually sit down talk about it. I'm not going to be traveling for all that long and I didn't think we'd necessarily get a chance for good conversations, especially anywhere I don't speak the language well. I was hoping to mitigate that somewhat, but it sounds like that wouldn't work. The reason I think people in other countries care about our politics as well as their own is because I've seen that the same protests are happening there as here.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2017

It's a pretty privileged thing to be able to escape a major part of your identity.

No one's going to physically attack you for being American. I walked around some of the supposedly-scariest parts of Paris this weekend speaking American English with a childhood friend who speaks no French this weekend and we were treated fine. Again, I've lived here for 20 years, every single day I go out and cross people, I've never had any issues traveling. It's different for life things, I can grok your Canadian experiences, I've had those too. But everyday tourism? There's no need to worry so long as you're behaving respectfully.
posted by fraula at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

You're resisting some very sound advice from experienced travelers here. Literally wearing your heart on your sleeve is going to put people off and they will find that their own prejudices about Americans are reinforced by your badges. No one's really saying get into conversations. We're saying don't be a loud, albeit non-vocal, American.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:05 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are people of all nationalities and many political stripes in London and Paris and you will meet a cross-section of them just dealing with travel.

The main thing about signaling to cosmopolitan people that you're one of us, as it were, is to give off a cosmopolitan vibe. That means you eschew overt nationalism or playing to nationalist stereotypes in speech and dress and conduct.
posted by spitbull at 1:49 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know too much about the travel etiquette stuff but a pin with Trump's face and a crossed out red circle through it would clearly signal your stance without adding anything more.
posted by eisforcool at 3:25 PM on February 1, 2017

I was in Paris as an intermediate speaker of French during W's term and no one wanted to talk politics, nor seemed to care that I was American (when I ran out of French words and had to switch to English). Dress nicely, be polite, greet them in French and you'll be fine. I would wager that most Trump voters don't travel overseas; if they did, they wouldn't have voted for a nationalist.

But if you really care what strangers think, there are lots of pins you could wear to signal that you're not "one of THOSE monsters" without mentioning Trump or America. A Greenpeace pin, rainbow flag, feminist slogan, etc etc. Trump is pretty much against everything other than kleptocracy, so you have a wide array of choices.
posted by AFABulous at 4:04 PM on February 1, 2017

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