Impermeable + sang-froid in French
Faire de son mieux - to do one's best

Meme pas peur - the French phrase you've seen all over the media this week


Screenshot from the online magazine - sent to me by Antonia, who discovered the French Word-A-Day blog after googling the même pas peur expression.  

Recently, my word journal received a surge of activity after people all around the world began to google the French expression même pas peur. The popular French expression, featured here in January of 2013,  means You don't scare me at all!

You can learn more about the "Not afraid!" expression, and hear its pronunciation, here.

It is a fitting response to those who would try to manipulate our emotions. Perhaps the biggest thing we have to fear is fear's ability to alienate us from one another.  Let's promise to not let that happen. One way is to share our stories. Here is mine.

by Kristin Espinasse

(The following was written in 2014. My mother-in-law has completely recovered.) 

Driving alone toward Marseilles, my pint-size Citroën was whipped to and fro by the Mistral wind. Passing a semi-truck was a chilling experience, but when cars swept by to my left, au même temps, I gripped the steering wheel in terror.

Wouldn't it be ironic to crash on the way to hospital? Just when I began picturing myself in bed beside my mother-in-law--sporting the same drip system as she--I shook my head, putting the brakes on an overactive imagination. I was not destined to be Michèle-France's hospital roommate. I was going to be her visitor!

Only, arriving at St. Joseph's réanimation wing, I learned visiting hours were over. In the salle d'attente, I waited to know whether hospital staff would make an exception. After all, I'd traveled far to get here--and even kept calm looking for parking when the hospital lot was complet!

Flipping through a fashion magazine, waiting for the staff's answer, a murmuring of Arabic tickled my ears. Two women seated en face were in a lively conversation. Every so often their sentences were peppered with French. 

The older woman wore a traditional dress and a head scarf and her daughter (?) faded jeans and dyed blond hair. She looked my age, le quarantaine. I set aside the magazine. Why look at models when you could admire the real thing? Authentic women! 

"You are mixing languages," I laughed, entering the conversation.

The blond smiled and her mom lit up. Thick gold fillings in Mom's teeth sparkled along with her smile.

"I do the same," I assured them. "Only in French and English--when I talk to my kids."

My waiting room friends giggled, and I thought to tell them about the wonderful movie I'd seen the night before: La Graine et le Mulet by Abdellatif Kechiche. Only I was quickly riddled with doubts. To  suddenly bring up an Algerian-Tunisian film... wasn't that, after all, assuming? Or dumb or ignorant or flippant? Along the lines of "Hey, I notice you're North African and I just saw a North African film!!!

Et alors? As if guessing or alluding to another's culture was a no-no. The tricks the mind plays on us to keep us silent and alienated one from the other! So what if I put my foot in my mouth? What was important was to reach out! 

"Where are you from?" I blurted, only to die a twelve-second death when the daughter hesitated.

(One-thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three....)


"Oh, I hear Algeria is beautiful," I squeaked. 

One-thousand four, one thousand five... my new friend was looking at me silently. If she was seeing my thoughts, she was now picturing my great French aunt, who carried around a razor blade in her pocket! A war bride in Algeria, she was poised to slit her childrens' throats, then her own, rather than be killed by a native during la guerre d'indépendance Algérienne. It was a matter of dignity.

The shocking thought was but a flash, part of a great Kaleidescope of images that churn in my mind as it sifts life's experience. Here, now, with the bottle blond and the gold-toothed grandma, a new set of images swirled into the technicolor machine, a mind ever hungry for understanding.

Soon (back in the waiting room) a lively conversation began. As barriers quickly dropped talk turned sentimental. "I don't understand why we all can't get along," the bottle blond from Algeria said. Live and let live. We need only respect one another's religions.

Hallelujah! Inshallah! This was my kind of conversation: away with the small talk, get right down to matters of the heart. But just when we were getting to the soul of things, my telephone rang. It was my mother-in-law trying to talk me out of coming to the hospital.

"Too late," I said, "I'm here. Now if they'll only let me in to see you!"

When I hung up the phone, the women across the room were in an excited conversation as they turned to me. "But you should have told us your situation. Come!" said the younger woman, guiding me over to the door where a note was posted to the wall."

"You need to call this number and they will let you in!" she said. 

"But I've missed opening hours..."

"Tell them you've come from very far away!" And, with a smile and a wink, my new friend added, "Arizona, you said? Yes, tell them that!"

Our eyes embraced as we said goodbye to one another. We had so much in common, least of which our homelands in the desert.


To leave a comment, click here.


Paris window (c) Kristin Espinasse

A picture (taken in Paris) that reminds me of my mother-in-law. I can almost see the stylish interior, inviting us inside for a taste of some delicious olive tapenade. Read a favorite story "Mal Barré" (Up The Creek) about my French mother-in-law. Click here.

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Pam Kurtz

Beautiful story. Thank you. In these sad and frightening times, it helps very much to hear stories of common humanity and goodness. Most of us, the world over, want the same basic things, don't we?


Hi Kristin,
Lovely story! I was wondering what the saying meant too! I thought it meant Together, not afraid. Thanks for the explanation! Praying for our world!

Kathleen from Connecticut

It brought tears to my eyes. Yes, we need to reach out to all mankind no matter what their enthicticisy, or religion. We can not let fear guide us. We must continue living our pas peur.

Sh'reen Morrison

Dear Kristin,

Well - did they let you in ? A question from Arizona !

Love to you,


Leslie grabowski

Lovely story, Kristin, of tolerance. Relaying this sort of an encounter is so needed today ... these days... As the media overloads us with images of conflict. Let us keep in our mind's eye the image of cross culture peaceful encounters, such as that which you share with your readers, in hopes that one day it will be " the new norm"!

Nancy R. LoBalbo

Beautiful reminder that we are all one race--the Human Race!


I loved this story when I first read it in 2014, and I enjoyed reading it even more today.

John Backman

I long for interactions like this--and celebrate them when they come. They feel like a precious gift. Thank you for sharing this one.


A lovely story, Kristin! I think people all over want to connect!



If I may ask , what do you mean by writing "au meme temps"? if it is at the same time , you should say en même temps or au même moment.

Audrey Wilson

Meme pas peur ,when we go via Paris to London on the TGV & Eurostar in about 4 weeks time !
Lovely story Kristin . Did you get in to see your Belle Mère I hope she is not too ill ?
p.s to Nora my Mac does not have a 'c' circumflex .

Leslie NYC

I, too, am sitting here crying after reading this. It is a very timely story. It seems to me that you have a specifically American strength in bridging awkward gaps by caring more about making a human connection than about behaving comme il faut and remaining separate. It is courageous and human and lovely.


Soul touching! Encore, merci and boucoup d'love to you and yours.


What a gorgeous story - if only we could all get along like that all the time!!

Joan L.

I like it.... Meme pas peur. Isn't it more like "not even afraid" ?


I continue to pray daily for peace & understanding, but I feel your story brings to mind part of the culture gap. While my religion teaches following the laws & forbids cheating & lying, isn't that what the Algerian women were doing? They wanted to be the exception. That therefore means breaking rules. While I would do the right thing & obey the open hours that were established for a certain reason


what a wonderful story about your visit to the hospital! After reading it I feel un-international! Isolated.'s the right thing to do to smile and reach out. Of course you're talking about rational people--people willing to keep their sense of Humanity with them. When I saw the phrase meme pas peur I was thrilled -- leave it to the French to put the terrorist's threat in perspective so quickly and to respond with such a strong spirit. Thank you for your blog--I'm educated in more ways than language.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Me, too!


o...I use a french spell-checker on my helps...but It is ok, ahahah!


Our dear Kristi,
First of all,we thank God for your dear belle mere's recovery!
I very much enjoyed this story,and its message,
when I first read it in 2014.
But after recent events,it has become nothing short of powerful,and exactly what we needed to hear.
Thank you!
Natalia. xo


Dear Kristin,

Merci de vos mots sages. Oui, les gens de bon volunte pleurent, and parfois, nous sommes tous dans le desert. Je suis Americaine, et j'ai toujours aime la culture francaise. Maintenant, nous sommes tous Francais!

Judy in Portland, OR

Michael Schuyler

Peur, le grand ennemi de la liberté. Chacun d'entre nous vient tôt ou tard face à ce fléau. Quand j'étais un jeune homme au Canada le FLQ bombes de boîte aux lettres avaient caché tous tout partout au Canada en raison de la peur psychologique. Je suis encore entendre et il y a beaucoup plus de craintes à traiter parce que la peur est dure branché sur nous. Dieu vous protéger tout le monde.

Thank you for "Je suis American", Madame Liberte. Thank you for raising awareness. Thank you for "meme pas peur".
Merci beaucoup,
lee marx

Joanne Ablan

Bonjour, Kristin,
Bon courage!
Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi.

You reach deep into a reader's soul with your messages and the way you convey them.
Always an inspiration. Thank you...

Elizabeth Dawson

I enjoyed this immensely. Thank you.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Chris! 💛 Thanks to everyone who responded with such loving and kind words! 💛💛

Deborah Dovitch

Yes, we must NEVER let the fanatics win. They just ruin everything for everyone. There's so much lovely diversity in the world. If we could only learn to celebrate it instead of always being frightened the world would be a much nicer...and

Sherman Oaks,


I enjoyed re-reading this story.
Did I miss this typo: "le quarantaine"?
Anyway, it's "La quarantaine".

Bruce Bartrug

I love conversations like that. And one will never have them unless we drop fear and pretension and just smile and say hello. Nice, Kristin, and thanks for the anecdote.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks,  Nora. It may be a mistake. Ill re-read the story and eventually fix the error


Canada is expecting 25,000 refuges to arrive in the next few months. I hope I will get to know some of these people. Thanks for that great story.


Quelle historie, merci bien. I have a story about meeting Algerians while hitch hiking in 1964. With too little time and space I'll just say that despite the fear of that time he drove away and I waited for my next ride, both of us with a new friend.

Kristin Espinasse

No,  the women were pointing out a sign with a telephone number - one to call so that hospital staff could let me in. The women were not breaking the rules,  only pointing out the written instructions that I had not seen. The womans comment about Arizona was wonderful - for it was a rare moment when different cultures could share a moment of humor. Thanks to their help,  I was able to see my mother-in-law!


For some reason, when I click "here" to listen, I no longer am directed automatically to the recording. ???

Judi, Lake Balboa, CA

Chere Kristi,
I remember the hospital story and your shy but strong desire to reach out to women of a different culture. I loved it then and it was important to repeat it in this time and place. We are so isolated from others even sometimes within our own cultures, beliefs, countries. To reach outside has become almost a 'brave' thing to do as our fears often get in the way. Good to remember meme pas Peru and to just reach out! Thank you for writing this post!!

Judi, Lake Balboa, CA

Don't you love auto-correct!! :)

What a wonderful encounter! Perhaps women need to tell their governments how to behave. Your story is inspiring on a day to day level. Thank you for sharing it.


Dear Kristi: Thank you so much for your very heartwarming story It is so difficult not to be emotionally charged in so many different areas. I love the photo of your mother & yes, she is extremely brave. I like to think that at my age (75) I'm very much like her! Merci beaucoup always for your words & stories! Fondly, Ann

Douglas W. Hodgson


You gave me a lump in my throat... I also often take a chance starting conversations with strangers from other cultures.

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