French- American Relations (#11)
 What the French do not understand about America...   The French and President Donald Trump
What the French do not understand at all in America and with Americans, apart from what is explained by the difference in size and wealth of the two countries, is often linked to the American view of morality in social life. Here are a few examples: (credit)
  • Inequality : the French are shocked by the level of economic inequality between Americans, as compared to Europe (see figures)

  • A society very hard on people : one of the most recent examples being the subprime crisis with million of people losing their house or a country tolerating million of people without healthcare : both unthinkable in France ; see my columns "sub-prime, stupidity and selfisfnes" and Socialized medicine? Give me a break.

  • The American obsession about identity and particularly sexual identity and the vision of the society as a set of very different groups (as opposed to the French illusion of the nation seen as one single group) and, more generally speaking, the concept of political correctness.

  • The Prohibition : a moralizing constraint on everybody's life (which of course did not work... as anybody cynical would have predicted)

  • Native-Americans : excellent lecturers about colonialism or anti- semitism in other countries, Americans generally refuse to discuss this issue. Same comment about anti-Black racism.

  • Environment : the USA not signing the Kyoto protocol abd withdrawing from the Paris agreement, when they are among the largest polluters (3 times more CO2 per inhabitant than the French : see detailed figures and page environment)

  • A certain form of naivety, like for instance believing the story of massive destruction weapons in Iraq ...

  • Violence, the incredible number of firearms owned by Americans (with 4,4% of the population, the USA own 42% of the firearms of the world) and the (weekly!) mass shootings in the US (see my column).

  • More to come

  • The French were genuinely surprised by the election of Donald Trump. He does not correspond to the image the French have of a head of State : too vulgar and rude, enjoying anything flashy and dumb shows, uncultured and using a limited vocabulary , too rich and too show-off, mixing his public life with his private life, etc. The two previous French presidents, who were like him (to a much lesser extent), Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, had the worst popularity rates ever and were not re-elected or did not run. In a nutshell, whatever their opinion and his policy, the French expect from their president to be somebody they can be proud of vis-à-vis other heads of state : clearly, to convey the image of a powerful king. Charles de Gaulle was excellent in that role and so were his successors, particularly Valery Giscard d'Estaing, François Mitterrand and Emmanuel Macron. He must, also, represent a certain form of intellectual superiority (having written books on something other than politics like G.Pompidou who wrote an excellent anthology of poetry or F.Mitterand or Gaulle, authors of highly esteemed books). They must be capable of spontaneously adding a literary quote to a boring speech. Of course, they must pretend that they scorn money and money-makers.

  • All over Europe, the reactions to his election were very negative and a comparative poll (January 2017) found that negative opinions about Trump scored more than 80% everywhere except the UK, with France and Germany particularly high.

  • The only political parties which expressed a positive appreciation of the newly elected US administration were the populist parties : Front National (FN) in France (now called : Rassemblement National-RN), Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) in Germany, Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) in Italy, Partij voor de Vrijheid (PPV) in the Netherlands, Freiheidliche Partei Osterreichs (FPO) in Austria, etc.

  • Among Donald Trump's statements and decisions which were the most ill-received in France :

    • threatening Iran to bomb 52 cultural sites (Jan.6, 2020) : it reminds everybody the Talibans destroying the giant statues of Buddha in Bamyan and the Isis terrorists methodically tearing down the ancient city of Palmyre
    • his constant support of Brexit and his interview with the Times (Jan.15, 2017) saying that other EU countries should follow the example of the UK
    • repealing Obamacare, when millions of Americans having no health plan is something the French do not underestand about the US
    • announcing the US withdrawal from the Paris Aggreement about climate change (June 2017)
    • declaring, during the fire of Notre-Dame cathedral that the French should use airplanes to throw water on it (April 15, 2019)
    • More to come...

What Americans do not understand about France and the French ...  
  • this page is under construction

Certain things are particularly difficult to understand for Americans because the two cultures and the two histories are so different. Among them :



To related pages : History 101 (#1), more French history (#3), the Gallic background (#4) and French revolutions (#5), American firms in France, etc.

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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