Two of the commonest phrases heard – no problem, whether there is, or whether there isn’t – it’s an automatic response, and often untrue. There’s no water/power/connection – il n’y a pas de problème. The lock on the front door is broken – no problem.
C’est pas facile (which is how it is said), on the other hand, generally is true, because life is not easy, and there is a constant stream of real life stories to illustrate this. People live on such narrow margins – or even negative margins – that the slightest problem can become a big one.
If your bike gets a puncture somewhere along the road, and you don’t have the money to repair it – what do you do? And how do you get to work, or home? And who looks after your child meanwhile? And if you use your remaining money to get home in a taxi, how do you then buy food for you and your child? And if your boss keeps promising to pay you, but actually doesn’t, but you still have to pay the rent, and the power, and the water as well as the food – then no wonder you come to work not having eaten… And then your mobile is stolen – so how do you contact your boss to urge him to come and pay you? Because you don’t have enough money to go to the Telecentre. And so it goes on – reminding me again of all the things I take for granted, and that, whatever frustrations I may occasionally feel, for me life is easy.
Society responds, a bit - if your bike packs up near where you work or live, the bicycle repair men will know you, and will fix it for you, because they know you will pay when you can. If your friend has any credit on her phone, she may text your boss for you. Another friend may give you some food, if they realise you have not eaten.
Goodness, this is making me hungry – time to open my fridge and see what there is for lunch.