Intercultural differences : what the French like the best! (#7)
More on typical French values....   ...and how Americans react to them...
  • Being Different : the French do not feel uncomfortable in situations where they are alone against everybody else. For them, it is rather a presumption of being right. Needless to say that "consensus" is not an objective...

  • Intelligence : the French highly value intelligence in itself : you can always say that you admire someone who "failed everything but is so intelligent" (an example is former media tycoon Jean Marie Messier) ; this comment (like the following) is indeed a stereotype, but there is certainly something useful in it to understand the French.

  • Logic : for the French, there is nothing more important than being logique and they pride themselves on being cartesians (from 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes, a natural symbol of clarity, rationality and reasonableness) i.e. intellectually consistent as opposed to pragmatic. Even if your conclusion is pragmatic, efficient, cost-effective, etc..., when a Frenchman says "it is not logical", do not expect him to agree with you until you have addressed this objection. Remember the classical joke about the French : "the facts do not match the theory : let's change the facts". Read about the metric system.

  • Universalism : the French believe very sincerely that France brought eternal values to the world : the Rights of Man, democracy, equality, etc... and that this is acknowledged worldwide. They think that the State must ensure that no mercantile interest should spoil what they have to bring to the world : that is why , for instance, education must remain public and cut from the economic world. Read an anecdote about the "superiority" of the French university over the American university. One can say that the reason for most of the tensions between the US and France is that each of them want to promote a form of universalim and these two universalisms are different.

  • War : the French love quarelling, class struggle is omnipresent in their political life, they do not believe that a win-win situation can exist ("If you win, I lose") : do not expect to reach a consensus easily.... Roman and Greek writers already gave the same comments about the Gauls.

  • Writing : The French value writing and presidents and politicians publish books, often on non-political subjects : in the middle of the Iraq crisis in 2003, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin published an 800-page book on poetry (Eloge des voleurs de feu) while he was having all his nasty arguments with Donald Rumsfeld (and a few others...). In the 2012 presidential election, 160 books by politicians were published in the last two months before elections.

  • See a comparative poll and some examples of curious (for Americans) French behavior and see a poll illustrating that free enterprise and market economy are NOT among French values !

To more on typical French values ...

DID YOU KNOW THAT......? Tocqueville wrote : "The French demand equality with liberty and if they cannot have it, they still want it with slavery".
  • Criticizing Americans.... The French love to criticize (read about it) but our American friends hate any criticism against them or against their country ..


    Every time I say to an American that it is impossible to criticize America or Americans, he/she does not like it at all and often becomes very angry.

    Isn't that funny ?

    There must be something true in this statement

    Why is it impossible to criticize America or an American ?(credit)

I see several reasons to try to explain it :

  • (I'm trying to make the reader feel relaxed...) America is often right and the American society has many impressive positive aspects, so why criticize it ? American kids are taught that it's the best country in the world and everybody wants to come and live there : any criticism is an attack on their American-ness (if you criticize France, I don't feel personally offended…) ;

  • America is a big country and many Americans do not know the rest of the world and do not speak foreign languages : anybody from outside saying something negative can only be wrong (see my insularity test) ;

  • America is a "black or white" country and Americans do not like nuances (see intercultural differences) : for them, if you criticize one thing, it means you criticize everything and if you criticize, it means you hate the country or the person, therefore you are an enemy, etc…;

  • In America, there is a very strong "collective spirit" and most Americans take personally any negative comment about their country, particularly coming from a foreigner (and, even worse, from France!).

  • (an additional reason) : in France, criticizing is positive, it means that you have reflected on something and it is generally seen more constructive than negative ; in France, the whole educational system is based on criticism ;

  • To illustrate it, read some of my (negative) comments about some aspects of the US or of American behaviors and see how much you hate them (about colonies, about the way Americans eat, ...)

  • Read about Cyrano de Bergerac and criticizing the French!

  • More to come…

DO YOU KNOW THE "SYSTEME D" ....? It is a very popular concept, often used by the French to get through a complicated and/or a bureaucratic situation (D stands for " débrouille " i.e. to sort out ) ; the French use it a lot.

To related pages : intercultural(#1), more intercultural (#2), intercultural management(#3) and the image of the USA(#4), an insularity test (#5), more intercultural (#6), more intercultural (#7), American artists the French like the best (#8), America and the world (#10), etc...


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For more on intercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's 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

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)


Together or separately, Harriet and Philippe speak about Intercultural Differences : click here for information.

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