n'importe quoi

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I yearned for a French life, but blew my chances the first time around! Read on... 

n'importe quoi (nem port kwah)

    : anything at all; "whatever", "yeah, right!"

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Dire que les Français ne sont pas accueillants aux Anglophones, c'est dire n'importe quoi! To say that the French are not welcoming to Anglophones, is nonsense. 


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

  "Girl Friday"

In 1993 I found myself back in the Arizona desert, having been deported there by one disillusioned Frenchman. Jean-Marc and I had tried to live together—lasting a full ten months—but all that sizzling chemistry that fueled us in the beginning eventually fizzled out, and our Franco-American romance was over. Jean-Marc's mind was set. To prove it, he bought me a one-way ticket back to Phoenix!

Back in Phoenix, I busied myself picking up the pieces of a life I had quickly left behind. The cold, current reality was I needed to find a job, illico! But what was I qualified for? I had a French degree... but no skills!

I didn't want to go back to being a receptionist, and I hated working at the department store... though I loved my customers, who bought both girdles and g-strings from me (I wasn't personally familiar with either culotte before going to work at Dillard's lingerie department). My customers taught me so much and, just before leaving my summer job--to begin my semester in France!--I received a touching letter of recommendation from the most eccentric, glamorous, and mysterious of my clients (see the "complicité" chapter--you can read it for free by doing a search inside feature, here).

No, I didn't want to go back to those jobs. Come to think of it, if I could somehow sidestep the employer thing altogether... that would be ideal!

I wanted more than anything to avoid a train-train or run-of-the-mill existence—especially in regard to employment, which represents the largest part of one's waking hours.

Self-employment, then, became my goal. Yes! Only by working for oneself could one experience freedom! Only by being one's own boss could one work creatively! Only by calling all the shots could one, say, skip out early for a double matinee, large popcorn with extra butter, and a coke.

Suddenly, I had an inspiration...

I could be a "girl Friday". Better yet, I would be my own girl Friday! 

A girl Friday got to do a lot of things. No two days the same! Variety would be the spice of this new (if newly failed...) life. 

I had a car, which was about all I needed, along with the adrenaline of a fresh warrior! Now all I had to do was to decide what I had to offer: what to put on my Girl Friday menu?  Just what, after all, was I capable of? So far I had been good at failing a relationship, but never mind... time to pull up those bootstraps (even if the heartstrings needed a good tug, too!).

Let's see, what were my skills?...

I could help type up papers
I could clear out one's clutter room
I was good at washing cars
I might walk someone's dog?
I could run errands... 
And I sure knew how to apply make-up! (Perhaps offer makeovers???)

....Not to forget that I had a knack for complaining—I had been good enough at it to "win" a one-way ticket out of France!—so perhaps I could offer to "argue one's case" somehow—that is, without having to go to law school. No time for that. I needed to earn some cash!). 

I might not be skilled or trained in any one area, I thought to myself, I might have even neglected these chores in my very own home, but no looking back now!, there were many things I could do! and, in the doing of them, I might just forget, petit à petit, all that I had left behind in France. I might even forget him. (Would Jean-Marc ever give me a second chance?)

Bon. Never mind. I was set! All I needed was a name for my company" (My very own company!!!) But what to call it? It should be something French, non? Never mind my French dream had come to an end, all too suddenly.... 

Because, as Girl Friday, I would be proposing to carry out a variety of jobs, it occurred to me to call my new enterprise "Anything At All". Better yet, why not be fancy—and use the French equivalent! But just what was the equivalent? Would "Anything at All" translate to "N'importe Quoi"? I'd heard the term somewhere before.

N'importe Quoi seemed to mean something along the lines of "You Name It!" (perfect for a service-oriented company, non?), but I still had vague doubts about the actual translation. What's more, was it prudent for a 24-year-old woman to offer "Anything At All"? Even in English the meaning might be misconstrued....

Despite any doubts, I thought to go ahead with my business-cards order. I could just see the finished product! The card would read, in bold print, "N'importe Quoi!" and there, to the lower right, my name: "Kristi Ingham" with the title "Your Girl Friday". 

                               What my business card might have looked like... Yikes!

Some girl Friday! I never even got around to my first errand: visiting the printer. Instead, I took the first paycheck job I could get, and spent my run-of-the-mill existence in a quiet airpark office, nursing a broken heart. 

It would take another decade or so (a move back to France—which would come sooner than expected, and the foundation of a French family) before I would fully grasp the meaning behind "N'importe Quoi".

Today I sit here at my desk, a self-employed writer, and shake my head sympathetically at the would-be Girl Friday of two decades ago. What a mistake that would have been to call one's company "A Bunch of Baloney" or "Rubbish!" (I cringed when I finally realized the exact translation of my would-be company's name!).

And what folly that would have been, for that failed girlfriend, or girl Friday, to have offered "anything at all"--when what she really should have offered was to share her dream.

20 years later and I am sharing my dream... of writing and living with my French loves (family, dogs, friends and readers). Thank you so much for reading!

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. Thank you for leaving a message, or even a petit bonjour.

To find out what happened next, you will have to read my book! Here is an excerpt, from the intro to Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language:

Back in Arizona I found a job selling scale-model cars for a small mail-order catalog, which turned out to be the perfect nurse-your-broken-heart job. Isolated and working in an over-air-conditioned office, I had plenty of time to think about my loss and to watch my French life flash before me: the cottage we had moved into just before I left, the weekends spent fishing oursins, or sea urchins, along the rocky coastline, and ... (click here to order the book.)

This book is especially apropos for people who are trying to find a way in life. Buy a copy for a friend. Order a few copies for gifts. Your book purchases help to support this French word journal. Merci. 

French Vocabulary

n'importe quoi = nonsense, rubbish; whatever

illico (illico presto) = right away

le train-train = life's treadmill

petit à petit = little by little

un oursin = sea urchin

Mariage Civil à la Mairie de Bagatelle
1194 - Mariage Civil à la Mairie de Bagatelle, in Marseille.


A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
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Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Sion @ paris (im)perfect

Oh gosh, I LOVE this story today, Kristin. So funny! And I was *just* talking about how to translate "n'importe quoi" the other day with a friend. There are English approximations, it seems, but I really think the French expression has a little something extra. I don't know, a je ne sais quoi about it :)

Jan Romeu

A thought provoking story today, Kristin. How frequently in life we don't realize what we've got until it's gone. Apparently both you and Jean Marc woke up in time to fix it - and as they say, "The rest is history!" Good for you!!


Dear Kristin, your story of today is a wonderful in-depth account of those struggles in one's life, a struggle to find the path that is right for us and those connected with us. Not always do we immediately find the right route to follow - the main thing is though that we continue the search and will not have to look back on that time when we are older and regretfully think of the chances we missed. There is a lot of wisdom in Non, je ne regrette rien, isn't it.

Bill in St. Paul

Great story, Kristin, but you didn't tell us what you did that prompted J-M to buy you a one-way ticket home. (I know, I know, buy the book.)

The phrase that caught my eye was "I might have neglected these chores in my very own home". Isn't it strange that it's more fun to go help someone else work on their house (painting, building a deck, whatever) than to do it at home?

Mike Hardcastle


Qu'est-ce qu'un blog super dès aujourd'hui! Il est vrai que le train-train de vie ne vaut pas un putain. Je suis atteint le sommet de la colline maintenant, mais un long chemin d'aller plus haut. J'ai eu un super mariage pour 46 ans et j'ai été assez chanceux pour trouver un nouvel petit ami, même si un autre 46 années sont trop espérer. Je ne donne pas de conseils mais je voudrais simplement indiquer à toute personne qui veut écouter, faire ce qui est dans ton cœur. Tout le reste c'est n'importe quoi.

And to everyone who hasn't read them buy the books, both of them, you will want to dip into them for years. And Christmas isn't far off; they make special presents for special people.

Linda R.

faire ce qui est dans ton cœur - quel bon conseil! Merci, Mike ... et Kristin... comme toujours.


I read your book and know how it all turned out! I didn't recall your dilemma over a new business name. What a great short story!

Leslie in Massachusetts

I completely agree with the sample sentence but I think a better translation would be "To say that the French are not welcoming to English speakers is nonsense."

Pat Cargill

I remember reading this in your book (which I revisit and enjoy from time to time) and thinking how you (both) must have felt at the time. Apparently it was a much-needed respite from the relationship and gave you time to clear the cobwebs of confusion and to allow the heart and mind to come together in accord. Fortunately for you and J-M, for your beautiful beloved children and for us! your blog-following francophiles, your return to
France followed and we all have been richly blessed.

Your story today is a reminder to persevere through the confusion and disappointments and to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Hum, I'll try to figure out how to say that in French...finding the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope.

Mille mercis, Kristin, and best wishes during this Fall Season, which is currently warm and sunny, (clouds/rain on the way) in SW Virginia.

Marianne Giordano

Kristin, I enjoyed reading today's story... and to learn a "new" french saying. I can just hear myself saying "N'importe Quoi" to everyone that gets alittle annoying....can't wait to use it. I also always love seeing Smokie's beautiful pictures....please send more.

Marianne G. Patterson, New York

Barbara Andolsek Paintings

What a wonderful telling of a 'true life' romance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it this morning. Thanks for sharing your life with us Kristen, lessons and all...

Sandy Maberly

You never strike me as anyone who would deserve a one way tkt. You wear such a calm demeanor for those of us on the outside. It's always interesting to look back over our own mistakes and know that we are capable of "owning" the problem and working things out eventually. We are all glad that you did!

Marianne Rankin

Kristin, you are not only so honest with your readers, I note again that it must have taken enormous courage to go back to France, and stay there. It was the right decision! Of course. But how many Americans could transplant themselves so well, and integrate French culture so much into their lives, especially after being given a one-way ticket back to the USA? I just love happy endings, which this one is. I've read your original book 2-3 times (once it nursed me through a bad case of flu, when I was in bed too sick to do anything else), and am enjoying rereading the second one. Are more in the offing?

Anyway, you have a real fan club with the FWAD followers, and I hope you will continue, along with snippets of French life, to give us stories about your family.

just penneys

Thanks for sharing such a sensitive story.
I also "earned" a one way ticket out of London a long time ago...Ha!
That business card was just adorable, and yes, you probably would have gotten too many jobs you weren't cut out for..Humm,
A joy to read always..


Bill, re why the one-way ticket home: on the surface, it seemed to be due to all my complaining (I had a harder time adapting to France than I thought I would...). But, looking back, I think we needed some time apart (or, as Pat guessed: "a much needed respite and clearing of the cobwebs!" before taking a life-changing decision!

Jeanne, I left this story out :-)

Leslie, I like your translation much better. I'll change the translation to "nonsense". Merci!

Marianne, thanks for asking. Yes, I am working on another story compilation. In fact, I think I'll go and work on that now. (Thank you for the motivation. Just what I needed!)

Merci, to all, for these lovely remarks and inspiring words!

Diane Dainis

Love the story Kristin. But having seen the way Jean Marc looks at you, I doubt it took him very long to send you a return ticket back to France. :)

Denise in the Pacific Northwest

All's well that ends well. And end well, it did. Although, who'd of thought the teetotaling gal would wind up queen of the wine domaine.

All the knowledge of previous experience sets us up for what is to come - heeding it ... well, that's another thing, eh?

Keep smiling -

P.S. - I like the fact that I can now easily see the new French word every time you update your blog. :)


I loved your post today...so much so, that I bought your book! I lived in Verona for a few years, and Audrey turned me onto your blog. Looking forward to reading the book to find out what happened next. All the best to you!

Vera Marie Badertscher

What a fun post, particularly since we know there is a happy ending. I am laughing at your business card==N'importe quoi advertised with underwear??


I think we all wonder at times if we made the right decision's in life. I have been doing it on a daily basis lately. Then I think if I had made different decision's years ago, then I wouldn't be where I am today. For the most part I am happy where I am today. You seem to have a wonderful life, living the way most of us can only vision in our dreams. Thank you for letting us live a little of our dreams through you.

Bill Facker

Write to remember .. write to forget .. write to heal .. write to regret .. write to leave your soul with those left behind .. your wisdom as well, and the best of your mind .. never write to write .. and Kristin, you never do .. no person has ever wasted one moment reading your words! Mahalo Nui Loa once again for sharing.


This is one of my favorite blogs, I love, love it. Thanks,


Always a treat to read your words!
Think I'll buy yet another one of your books!
Merci mille fois........Kay


amazing the twists and turns in our lives! I'm so glad you are living your dream in France and are sharing it with us! thanks for my new phrase n'importe quoi :)
amities, m

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