Feb 182009

(asked by Wendy from Santa Ana, California)

So! What do they really think?

Wow, that’s a big one.
You’re aware that -more than ever- there are as many answer as there are French people, aren’t you?
If you had simply asked “What do the French think about Americans?” I could have answered with the usual batch of clichés and stereotypes: “they’re fat, they have no culture, they’re stupid, they’re warmongers, they eat crap, they don’t know anything about the rest of the world, they’re obnoxiously loud” (am I forgetting any?) but no, you mean business, you asked “What do the French REALLY think about Americans?”

So to be able to properly answer this question, we’re going to do things a little bit differently today. I am not going to answer the question (at least not right away) and I’m going to ask the French people that read this blog to tell us what they really think about Americans.
I want your real personal opinions –remember it’s about what you really think- not a list of generalizations (I can do that by myself).

Of course, I thank you all in advance for contributing so helpfully to this blog (without you guys I’d be stuck on that one).

More Questions Answered:

  46 Responses to “So what do the French really think about Americans?”

  1. anxiously awaiting responses!

  2. Interesting way to go about getting this answered!

  3. c’mon, don’t be scared.

  4. I will be the first ? A very freindly people, a little bit arrogant with the french, our country, our history. French bashing is shameful. Freindly individually but arrogant as a nation. But, they fought on our soil , we share the same values. Some big misanderstanding very often because frendship has not the same value for us. We are allies , good or bad. It is the more important. My English is not very good, sorry !

  5. Having met Americans abroad, I would say the following:

    * You will easily make a connection with an American person. If you meet in some place an American that you don’t know, having a conversation is easy, you’ll speak about a great variety of subjects, etc.
    * However, it has always been difficult for me to build a real friendship with an American person.
    * If you cannot distinguish British and American accent, you still can distinguish the people, for most American people always start their sentences with “you know”. Some of them also use the word “like” to replace commas, which is really irritating sometimes.

    About the Americans in general, I have no opinion because there are over 300 millions. But whereas they all are different, I think that the French as well as the Western Europeans, for the most of them, wonder how their Republican party can gather so many adherents and how the NRA can have so much funds.

    As for the stereotypes that you describe, I have been quite lucky and did not find any stupid or fat American, but I never went to the US, and probably American expats are not a good sampling of the whole population of the US.

  6. At their best, confident, energetic, uncomplicated - what you see is what you get. They can be terribly nice, and don’t do sarcasm or undermining the way other nationalities can.

    At their worst, and maybe having primarily encountered Americans as tourists in France and England isn’t the fairest way to judge - very ill-informed about other places, under the impression Europe is some kind of theme park designed for them to ‘do’ on a ten-day tour, unsophisticated, under the impression that only other people have an ‘accent’. Oh, and with some bizarre kinds of evangelical Christianity. (Someone explain ‘True Love Waits’ to me.) A tendency to wear clothes that say which university they go to, and funny shorts and sportsclothes things in the city, like they’re in pyjamas. Some of them seem enormously picky about food, and seem to have gone to Paris in order to look for brands of things they eat at home, and go crazy when they can’t get the right cereal. Some of the college-age Americans have a very weird attitude to alcohol. The weirdest thing is that they want to be friends right away, and they tell people so much about themselves right away.

  7. Gee…. I wish these French people knew me and my friends! I think they would get a WHOLE different impression of Americans- things not yet touched upon here…. Oh well… I think maybe Eva knows me somehow… : )
    Good topic. Hope to hear more from the French folks… Also… where in France are these commenters from? Just curious… Ben, you’re welcome to come to tea with me and the gals if you’d like… Promise it won’t be to Starbucks!!! : )

  8. I am not French but my very good French friend thinks that the Americans he has met are generally very materialistic and tend to judge others by their monetary worth. Some like to talk about money way too much [which we find quite vulgar!] and many lack in education sometimes regarding manners and courtesy. Culturally, most are not as sophisticated as Europeans…and they don’t seem to read good literature very much!

  9. Hi Leesa! I’m living in Lyon for your curiosity!

    But just answer honestly, don’t you find that the prefix “you know” is widely used in oral language in the US? (Like you could say many French people suffix their sentences with « quoi »!)

    For the rest of my commentary, I don’t think to have expressed any opinion on the American people. My second point is not about the Americans, it is rather about me and them: I summarise my experience which is not very rich with American people.

    I would be glad to join you for a tea when I come to Paris… of course! Starbucks or not

  10. From Paris, though I live in London now. I met Americans most often as tourists in both cities, and as students when I was studying in the UK, though I also lived in the US for a short time. The observing of the sweatshirts/clothes with writing is mostly from the tourists - I find it funny they dress for the beach with those flip-flop sandals and shorts in the middle of the city (not even just for Paris Plage…) I can’t imagine wearing those things, like you are advertising your university or city!

    The desire to tell you so much about themselves is mostly from Americans I met as students. I forgot the discomfort with the body thing, too. Although so many of the students would talk about having to share student rooms with another person having sex, sometimes in a bunk bed. I find this also very weird. And stories about ‘Greek’ fraternity clubs, or something.

  11. I’m the first anonymous. I met some US students in Spain some years ago in Spain.( To improve our Spanish) . They were very nice , the girls too , you can’t imagine the questions ! I was astonish, speechless ! They ask me why and why , and I didn’t understand ( I was too young !), but NOW I see what they meant, They heard so much stereotyps in their country about us !! Did they learn in their university to have “l’esprit critique” ? I don’t think so. But the girls liked me so much with my accent that erm .. well … yes, american girls are …wonderful !!!! I like american women. I know them very well now. They are fantastic ! ( so sorry !)

  12. As an American, I can enlighten you you on the college aged individual’s perspective (or lack thereof) on fashion. To the lazy college student who either is too hungover to dress him/herself properly or more likely does not know how to do his/her laundry, fashion = sweatpants + flipflops + coach purse. Said flip flops may be substituted for Ugg boots. Ugg boots in summer or flip flops in winter are not faux pas. Basically the less you care, the cooler you are…. horrendous.

    My freshman year in college, I was harassed by fat girls in my dorm who wanted to know why I was “dressed up” to go to class. I was wearing a cardigan and jeans that fit… I also took a shower- not cool.

    These same morons who cannot find their soap and shoes in the morning, will get all skanked out and glitzy when it’s time to hit the bar or participate in some shallow fraternity/sorority affair. Unfortunately this attempt at fashion is worse than the former… believe me- you WANT them to keep their sweatpants ON.

    American kids continue to dress this way, and are outraged when they learn they cannot dress this way in the work place, or when foreigners scrutinize them… it’s hilarious.

    Oh- and about us being proud of our universities (wearing them, telling you where we went, etc.) that’s just because ours are better than yours

    • @ Red:
      I’m sorry, I was just reading this for fun and out of curiosity, but you’ve insulted me and I’m sure I’m not the only one, as the way you’ve portrayed American college students does not accurately represent the vast majority of us at all. I’m currently a junior in college, and I can say firsthand that you’ve taken the worst aspects of us and exaggerated them out of proportion. Let me tune them up a bit for the people reading this that aren’t familiar:

      1) Yes, I will agree that drinking is very overly abundant in American college, and in many cases to a very unhealthy degree. However, the ones that drink to the point that they can’t get dressed are the very irresponsible ones, and probably the ones about which people complain behind their backs about having to babysit. It is not typical.

      2) [Most] American College kids do their laundry. [Most] American college kids take showers and have reasonable hygiene. I say “Most” because yes, every dorm you’ll find “that” kid that doesn’t shower, or doesn’t do laundry. And that same kid will be the one that smells bad all day, and people won’t sit next to and will just avoid in general. Again, it is not typical, and in fact frowned upon.

      3) American college kids do have a more casual dress. I will admit that. However, you again exaggerate this to the point of saying that we go to class in sweats and flip flops? I don’t remember ever seeing anyone in any of my classes wearing sweats. And if the weather would cause you to wear sweats, then why would you be wearing flip flops? Anyone reading what you posted should immediately question it. Maybe you were just letting loose a little steam from your freshman year here, so I’ll forgive you that. Typically what I see people wearing are jeans (they usually fit, although you’ll occasionally see the student with jeans that are a little to big, or too tight. The whole “saggy jeans” get-up is more of a high-school gangster look. You don’t really get it in American colleges), tennis shoes, and some sort of hoody.

      4)I’m one of those college students that don’t go to the bars or Frat parties, so I can’t tell you too much there, apart from when my friends leave to go there, they’re typically wearing the same stuff they wore to classes. That is: jeans, tennis shoes, hoody/jacket of some sort.

      5)Americans take pride in the college they attended. ESPECIALLY if they were into sports. If you go to Texas A&M and your football team is playing against the Oklahoma Sooners, you want your college’s football team to win. And by golly, you’re gonna let the world know it. Texas A&M is where you go to college. It’s where you’re earning your degree, it’s where you’ve met most of your closest friends you’ve ever had, and it’s pretty much where you live. What’s wrong with buying a jacket with it’s name on it? Although, apart from big sporting events, if someone’s wearing a shirt that says their college’s name on it, they’re almost never wearing it simply BECAUSE it has their school’s name on it. Most of the shirts I wear, I just wear because it fits, and it covers me. As long as it fits and it looks nice, and it doesn’t have anything vulgar, I’m fine wearing it, and if it happens to be the shirt I own that has my school’s name printed on it, so be it. Bottom line: It’s not an arrogance thing. It’s someone that likes the school they went to, so they bought (or obtained for free by participating in some club) a shirt with the school’s name on it.

  13. I can confirm the “you know” prefix. I didn’t even realize it until it was mentioned, but after looking through my replies on this and various blogs, it is indeed used a lot.

    Also, I am going to go out on a limb and say most people who wear “Harvard” or “Yale” or (just because it is in my hometown) “Notre Dame” shirts are not, nor ever had been students of these schools. When I was in college, it was not sufficient to wear “Purdue University” shirts…my fellow students (mostly fraternity boys) wore ” Purdue Grandma” shirts. So, basically I’m saying that sometimes college shirts are worn to show pride for their school, some show support for their football team, and some are just jackasses and wear the shirt for no reason.

  14. Oh Frenchman!!! Didn’t you know that I was ONLY joking when I mentioned Starbucks… I was being sarcastic… I promise not to mention it again on your blog, though! Wouldn’t want you to start censoring me… YIIKES!
    For Ben- I am from L.A. and grew up in the 70s/80s.
    I am indeed in complete agreement with you in regards to the “ya know/you know” filler. It actually drives me nuts when I hear it over and over again as I had an acquaintance who used it after ever word he uttered. It was so annoying after awhile that I was no longer able to listen to him speak because all I heard was “Ya know, ya know.” I also get equally annoyed when I hear the word, “like” being used. But, at one point in my life (teenage years) it was ‘très à la mode’ to use “like” repeatedly if you were a teenager. I spend many years observing a Toastmasters group. This organization focuses on improving public speaking, so I was able to learn a bit from them- thankfully!
    If you are ever in the Paris area, I would be more than happy to meet up for coffee and introduce you to my very kind and down to earth American friends.
    Food For Thought: The kinds of experiences that French people with Americans. I wonder if when meeting travelers, tourists, students, expats would bring for a different type of experience a French person might generally have (I’m speaking her of meeting Americans here in Europe-not while they were living in the States and meeting Americans on home soil). I’ve done so much traveling in my life and have always found that the “travelers” I have met always seem to have an entirely different perspective and attitude than the average tourist or college student studying in France.
    Eva- I do have to agree with you about the style of dress. I’m from So. Cal and I’m a horrible example right now. I’m not trying to excuse it at all, but a lot of the So. Cal style of dress has to do with our So. Cal mentality, casualness, and hot weather. I do agree that is rather difficult to wear tongs/sandals here with the cold winter weather we have. But, I do pull out my Uggs when the snow comes out. They are just so darn warm!

  15. Hello,
    I’ve been to the united states once. The people i met there were particulary friendly in san francisco, very open and eager to help you to get the best of their city - i also went to las vegas where i really experienced what i would call sense of fun (ludique) of the us tourists there - almost living the experience like kids!
    what i still didn’t get is why all the us people i talked to were so upset with the monicagate…so my idea on the us people to sum it up is they are often on the extremities of the line when i, as a french and european girl, views myself as more moderate…
    but i really enjoyed my stay there and hope to go again !

  16. As an American I want to respond to the comments about the verbal tics “ya know” and “like”. Please understand that it doesn’t just annoy YOU, it annoys US as well. In fact, I am guilty of using both of those placeholders but also consider them crimes against the beauty of the English language. It is difficult to break the habit of using them and find that they frequently slip into my comments without me being conscious of their presence.

    As for the casual dress… there’s no excuse for ugly leisurewear. My only defense is that sweat pants and flip flops are incredibly comfortable

  17. Hi,

    I’m a French expat’ and I’ve been living in Connecticut for three years now. I’m going to try and sum up my vision of Americans but it would be more honest to say : my vision of New Englanders because I realize that I would have a different experience in other parts of the USA.

    Americans are really generous. I started to feel this way as I was a guest in a family in Virginia when I was a teenager. I’ve kept feeling the same after I moved to Connecticut (in my thirties). It’s a stark contrast to political views on generosity and the general consensus that government isn’t supposed to assist people in need. As much I admire the bursts of charity like for the Katrina disaster, I’m flabbergasted how social issues are dealt with by institutions. I’m going to restrain myself from talking of medical insurance because it’s irrelevant to the present topic, but it’s really an alien world to me.

    Americans are easy to engage. Starting a conversation is usually not an issue. On the other hand, many of these conversations feel quite shallow. Often I’ve felt that what I’m saying is boring my interlocutors no matter how much I try to talk about something they can relate to. It feels like very rarely people are genuinely interested in exchanging views and opinions with a foreigner. There is something very lonely about being a frenchie in New England so I tend to focus on my family because there’s no one else around I feel really close to. Previously I was quite a party freak and I had no problem making friends, lots of friends. There must be something I haven’t got right yet about friends around here…

    Americans are straightforward. They usually don’t sugarcoat their opinions and are eager to express them bluntly. In my professional life I’ve enjoyed this a lot. Compared to the omnipresent double language during my career in France it’s quite refreshing. Now outside of my office I sometimes wish people had a little more restraint and tried to not hurt others with blunt statements when there’s no need to. But I’ve adaped to this and my skin is more and more like leather I sometimes wonder if by adapting to this standard of frankness I would have trouble reintegrating French culture. Time will tell.

    Americans are too lenient with their kids. At least that’s how I often feel. Under the pretense of doing the best for their children many parents seem to create monsters. Now, I’m all for childhood protection and America has been courageous in the way of dealing with child molesters, abusive parents, perverse teachers/priests etc… You’d say that many parts of Europe have quite a lot to achieve in this field. But it sometimes lead to another extremity where children become so sacred that an exceptional spanking (which I believe most kids need to experience at least once) is considered untolerable violence. Many American kids seem really irresponsible too. A bit like if they only start to have duties when they’re old enough for boose (slight exageration). On the other hand American kids are offered very little opportunity to experience freedom from their parents. It seems like their always supervised. Sex is taboo, alcohol is taboo, going places without adult supervision is taboo. I really don’t envy them and I feel so lucky that I was entrusted by my parents to be a responsible teenager as early as 14.

    Americans restrict their own freedom more and more. First it’s probably related to the fact that lawyers are so visible and omnipresent. Many conflictual situations in Europe are handled without using the full extent of the judicial systems. I’m still not used to seeing commercials for lawyers, or public call to start legal procedures on TV. Second there’s this tendency to forbid people to do stuff for their own good. For instance hitch hiking is forbiden. Walking in the street while drunk could cause you trouble, even if you behave yourself. Stopping your car to enjoy sight seeing is suspect when you don’t do it at the (rare) tourist parking lots. It’s like every time some jackass do something stupid and hurt people/themselves there’s a good chance that the whole population ends up deprived of this or that just because some retards don’t own an once of common sense.

    I think I could go forever but right now I’ve run out of steam. Hope it brings food for thoughts.

  18. I’m a Frenchman living in the US. Great blog and great topic. However, all here seem to categorize “Americans” as “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” (WASP), which is arguably the section of the population that travels to France the most. But let’s just not forget that if Americans are difficult to understand, one of the reasons is that they are so incredibly diverse. Would you all put in the same bag say a white protestant from Boston, a Catholic from wherever, a Jewish from Brooklyn, a mormon from Utah, a Cuban third-generation immigrant from Miami, an African-American from Alabama, an Asian from SF, a Native American and a hard-core Southerner from Texas? They’re all Americans, though.
    But the question asked is: as a Frenchman, what do i REALLY think of Americans? In my case, it’s 2 questions in one. What did i really think of Americans when i lived in France? And what do i really think of them now, after living here for 10 years?
    First question: uneducated. imperialistic. obnoxious with their money (think everything can be bought). ignorant about the rest of the world. crazy. really crazy.
    Second question: nice. friendly. easy going. charitable but unaware of the concept of solidarity. respectful of the law and rules in general. honest and honorable. still ignorant about the world they live in. still crazy. still really crazy.

    In a nutshell, a lot of my pre-conceived notions were right. But now at least I know why.

  19. hello everyone, im american and ive always wanted to travel to france…i agree that we dress well badly or most of us do anyways…some people actually look nice on a day-to-day basis….i personally love flip flops but only in the summer, as soon as fall comes around i take out my flats and for winter i wear my amazing uggs …but i usually try to avoid wearing sweats out in public..i always try to look good even if im just going to walmart..as for the "like"a and "ya know" thing well i do that all the time…its an unconsious habit…i really don't think we're that bad..only some of us…

  20. Hi guys. I really enjoyed reading your comments. I feel that France is one of the most beautiful places out there and I have some family who live there. As an American I feel that the experiences are different for all of us. And some of us do make America seem like this place full of dumb ditzy people.
    As an African-American teenager I think that we do need to try and make a better name for ourselves. Responding to "boulet" I know my parents were NEVER leinient on me and will NEVER be, so I have no choice but to shape up! x](but that's just my parents. I have friends who's parents know that they smoke and drink and don't care.)
    I believe that even though some of us may be arrogant and wear sloppy clothes; many of us are eloquent, can speak properly, and know what we're talking about.
    I really do enjoy France, the French language, people and culture and hope I can learn more!
    I hope my comments added something to this discussion!

  21. As an American who has studied in Paris, I believe that the comment about Americans being ignorant about the world we live in is true in some respects, but not in others. Growing up in New York City, I feel everyone here seems to have a global mindset. America is so diverse, you can't judge all Americans based on some. That being said, I do not believe the French are all that more aware of what is going on in the world than Americans are. Yes, they may have studied more European history than Americans, but I constantly find that knowledge about the world around us, in the eyes of the French (and most other Europeans) means knowledge about Europe. Europe is one continent. Not the world. Get it straight. I feel that the immigration (and thusly racism) problems in France only highlight this aspect of their society- most French I have met are largely ignorant of the Middle East and Asia, two of the fastest growing areas of the world today.

  22. As a Frenchman who spent some time in my teenage years in two different upper-middle class American families, I have a pretty positive opinion of Americans. The people I stayed at were pretty stereotypical Americans: the first family were fat, entertainment-driven people and the second were more serious evangelical protestants. But getting beyond the stereotype both families were incredibly welcoming and friendly people. From this experience and my encounter with other Americans It seems to me that Americans are very easy to approach and get along with. But contrarily to other countries it is very difficult to tell when an American is your friend or when he's just being friendly out of politeness. This reinforces the stereotype that Americans are superficial people. In France when somebody doesn't like you you'll know it straightaway.
    Also this will sound like a cliche but most of the time I spent in the US was in LA (not the most remote place in the US) and most of the people I met there were particularly ignorant, especially when it comes to geography. I even met people there who didn't know where France was and thought that Paris was only the name of a famous slutty socialite.
    Moreover I found the American society pretty hypocritical: the evangelist family I stayed at did everything to maintain social appearances (we are a happy family, we love Jesus, our kids don't have sex before marriage, etc…). In reality it was obvious that the parents didn't love each other anymore but stayed together for social appearances, the father of the family smoked secretly cigarettes in the backyard at 2 in the morning (I spotted him several times) and their elder son who wanted to become a pastor confessed to me that he had sex with several girls, that he smoked pot and drank heavily but that it would break his parents heart if they found out.
    So from my personal experience I think that American are very friendly and accessible people (much more than us French who are incredibly rude and unfriendly I must admit) but they are quite ignorant about other countries (that explains by the fact that the US is so big it is almost a continent in itself). Moreover mainstream social customs influenced by puritan Christianism are definitely hypocritical: they try to go against human needs, urges and flaws. At least in France we are not such puritans. Who cares that Bill Clinton got a blowjob by a mistress honestly?
    But all I say derives from my personal experience. I am aware that the US is such a diverse country (probably the most diverse in the world) with different people coming from different countries with different attitudes and customs. It is difficult to generalize as I believe you've got the worst in the planet in the US but also the very best. And this is why, despite the fact that Americans irritate foreigners sometimes, the entire world admires the US.

  23. Hello, I am from America and have lived here my whole life. As an American citizen I disagree about that we do not have cultural awareness. I am still in school and have never seen the world, yet I know a great many things about other countries. As for the whole "trashy dress code" issue not everyone in America is like that. I go to a public school and not very many people I know dress how some people think. I agree about the fat issue though, we definitely need to eat better. And yes we Americans have culture, god damn it. It may not be the usual type of culture but its there. I think most hatred is out of jealously of our success. Yes we are overly confident and can be rude, but can't anyone be like that? besides not all Americans are "ignorant, confident, materialistic, etc" how can you be materealistic with no money? And i can't blame you for disliking since a lot of Americans are stereotypical about other countries. I am just giving my point of view from someone who's lived here my whole life

  24. I am an American citizen living in Paris. My significant other is an expat working in Paris and much of Europe. I would like to weigh in on the conversation.

    My impression of the French people is very good. I have not truly experienced the rudeness mentioned by most people. I believe that it's not so much rudeness as it is a different take on developing friendships. In the States we tend to be open to everyone and will waste time speaking to many at a party even though we are only really interested in a few of the people. We may never speak to any of these people again, yet we wasted much time communicating at the party. French would tend to avoid those who they aren't interested in for the sake of time. Both approaches have their plus and minus. The American way allows you to sample many people and get past first appearances and judgments. How can you truly know someone until you've engaged and spent time with them? The French way does save time and looks for more substantial and long term relationships. They are simply different ways and neither should be discarded so easily.

    I do believe that the eating habits of American society are dreadful and are leading to real issues in the future. Our economic system has created the "efficient" restaurant system (fast food) and food at the grocery has been optimized to last longer and taste good. This has led to a society where it is impossible to slow down and eat a well balanced meal. When you have 30 minutes for lunch and you want to eat, you will go to the restaurant that is cheap, fast and tastes devilishly good. There are few other choices. The fast food giants have their price points so low that it's cheaper for a poor family to go to McDonalds than it is for them to buy vegetables at the grocery store. Food portions have also grown. The economy created a "piggy" society and now we are seeing the repercussions. The number of morbidly obese people riding in those scooters has increased as has diabetes. It's sad. Businesses then rush to create pills and products and exercise plans that will supposedly help large people. Economics is to blame for the most part. The UK isn't immune from this either.

    There are many intelligent, hip and savy Americans. There are also many ignorant and bland Americans. I'm sure in France there are many different types as well. In Paris you will find many hip and well dressed people, but in a place like Le Havre or St. Denis you will see a different subculture. It's hard to characterize a people as there are so many subsets within. I try to clear my mind and just go with the flow depending on where I am staying.

    I will say one thing negative about French society. The bureaucracy is ridiculous. It seems that everything you do (order a utility, apply for a visa, rent an apartment) is made more difficult. So much paper work and waiting times. Here's one example. I went to the grocery store one hour before it closed. They want you out 20 min early so the employees can leave on time. Why not just say you are open until 8:30pm and not 9pm. During my checkout at the store, my credit card wouldn't work. The cashier was angry and wanted me to leave. I asked if I could call my friend who literally lived next door to come over and bring cash. She refused. I offered to put the items back and she said "NO WE ARE CLOSING…GO!". I found all of this counter intuitive. In two minutes my friend could have run over and provided cash. Problem solved for all. Instead she chose to make me leave and then she had to go put all the products back on the shelf (I had many) and the store lost a sale. My solution was win/win and hers was lose/lose. It seemed she just wanted to keep to the schedule and get out at 9pm. I have run into several small incidents like that one.

  25. Whoops - I am neither French nor American, but I hope I can provide at least some sort of opinion on Americans as I have met quite a few where I live.

    I love this blog, and I just have this itch to comment on this post, even though I am not French

    So I live in a tiny country, which nobody knows about, and go to an American university, and most of my professors are American!

    Now keep in mind that this is in my limited experience only, and everyone's experiences will be different.

    I agree with "Anonymous" - Americans are a very very diverse group of people, but most people tend to usually think of the stereotypical white 'anglo' American, which are usually the tourists in Europe (hence the stereotypes).

    So far, I have met quite a big variety of Americans:
    First and second generation Russian-Americans, Italian Americans; Asian Americans (South and East Asian!); Anglo Americans, Black Americans (I don't think the term 'African American' is technically correct to use, sorry); Jewish Americans; Arab Americans; Muslim Americans; an English woman married to American husband; Swedish American; South American Americans; etc…

    Now so far my experience with Americans has generally been nice.

    Like people said, it is easy to get into a conversation with Americans, and the depth of the conversation depends on who you are talking to and about what. Since I am in a university environment, the conversations are interesting and not shallow.

    As for the idea of the sugar-coating thing, well I agree that Americans like to be politically correct most times, and sweeten up the things they say. Many times the falseness shows through. However, I have also had many conversations which are very straight-forward and to the point.

    We get lots of exchange students from the main American campus every year, and I must tell you that they are not all into 'slippers and t-shirts' combo. Most dress normally and casual. You wouldn't say that they have a distinctive fashion style, but they dress normal.

    And most of them are also not fat or obnoxious. And when they come here, they seem genuinely interested in learning about the culture. However, I still find that they don't mix too much with other students here and stick in their groups. Maybe they are shy?

    As for the American professors, they try to make an effort to learn the local language, and they try to learn as much about the culture as they can.

    As for their language skills and literature, etc…hmnn… I do have to say that I prefer the English people when it comes to the English language. I went to a British school, where the teachers were all Brit, and they would ALWAYS say that American English is terrible.

    I wouldn't say it's terrible, but I do think that American television encourages people to use many dumb phrases which make the language sound repetitive and make conversations sound shallow.
    Of course, words and phrases like "you know" and "like" are so overly used that I feel like stomping over my ears whenever I here them. Remember when "whatever" was so popular? That drove me mad!

    I find that Brit English encourages you to be more diverse with your use of words and phrases and be more creative.

    I also found that many of the English courses we had to take in this American university were SO MUCH easier than the things we had to do in English in high school.

    I know that a lot of people get stereotypes about Americans from American tourists, but trust me, tourists of many different countries can be just as ignorant. Many tourists go to a foreign country thinking that they can have everything just so, and when that doesn't happen they start whinging. I have met many obnoxious tourists from all sorts of different countries, not just Americans.

  26. Now, if you will let me expand a bit more… I have also talked to many adults and students who have gone to the USA for a visit or as exchange students.

    Many of them tend to come back and think that Americans are workaholics and only like to live in a small bubble of comfort. They also class American society as being very isolated - i.e. no one really cares for others.

    I do not know how true all this is, since I have not been to the USA yet. Perhaps it is cultural shock? Has anyone else had this experience?

    From what I have seen so far, I agree that Americans are very focused on their work and seem borderline workaholic
    But I don't think there is anything wrong with working hard, as long as you don't neglect you health and family and keep doing other interesting things.

  27. I am an American doing business in Paris. Parisians and French in general are notorious for being rude. I have not found this to be true. Similiarly, American stereotypes are based in truth but really can't be generalized. The Ugly American tourist you see is ugly at home too, and thought of that way. We have various names for them (trailer trash, rednecks etc). The Americans who conduct themselves properly lie low and are not really noticeable.

    I think it is true that Americans are not worldy, though that is by no means to say they are ignorant. It occurs to me that I have traveled around the USA for decades, yet there are vast parts I have never seen. I think most Americans would love to see Europe and other places, a dream. But they want to see their own country first, and it's a life's work. And it is time consuming and expensive to travel, so many Americans don't travel overseas or even domestically unless they can drive. American diversity is mixed in, no longer regionalized like it was 25-40 years ago, so the country is similar all over. Except geography, one does not experience a lot change within the US borders. One can fly from Baltimore to Los Angeles and peoples' accents won't even be different in the two places. What if you traveled that far in Europe? Entire languages would change; people might even start looking different. Not in US.

  28. I am a French teen. My english isn't good at all, so bare with me! I have been to America a few times and this is what ive picked up. So the guys think they can just come up to any girl and get them instantly. Americans see what they want and will not stop until they get it. Generally I was expecting hillbillys (if thats how you spell it). But really what I saw was well educated people. Actually very good looking healthy people also. Girls are insane with keeping there figure perfect. Other wise they thinkmen will not like them? Anyway I really love America and wish to move there soon! Lots of them speak Spanish? But I guess I will say they do seem to act like they are the "best".

  29. I believe that I have a unique view. I am a native of French Louisiana. Here in this tiny part of the country, we speak French and seem to share the love of life (joy of living) that those in France do. And honestly, many of us want secession. We do not want to be Americans. We call other Americans “the anglos” and we do not share their culture or necessarily want it. I am not being arrogant or unkind, I am just saying that we prefer a different way of life that is more French. We eat good food. We drink frequently. We are not loud, obnoxious, and we do not go to formal dinners in shorts, a baseball cap, and flip-flops. We see Anglos as fat, rude, loud, obnoxious, uneducated, selfish, with no real desire to improve themselves.

    • Hi Matthieu and thanks for your comment (although I don’t know if you’re allowed to comment here as you’re not actually French. Just kidding. )
      Actually it’s the first time I “meet” a Cajun, so enchanté.

      I understand your disdain of Anglos, but for once I will “defend” the rest of America, as you guys are unlucky to have some of the worst Anglos there are as neighbors.

      Actually, I realized that I don’t know much about your culture, so if you care for staying around and give us your insight when you feel like it, do not hesitate (maybe you have a blog or something )

  30. America has over 300 million people.
    France has 65. Let’s just keep things in perspective here.
    Stereotyping 65 or 300 people is just silliness.

  31. As an American, I’m deeply offended with the perceptions Europeans have of us. We are a new country. The melting pot of the world. The American people have ancestors from all over the world.
    The people who came here were pioneers, adventurous and hard workers. We have accomplished so much as a country in such a short time. The US is always the first country to come to the aid of another country when needed. We are the most successful nation on the planet. Most of us are well educated and cultured. We also know much about the world and other cultures. I feel we are getting disrespected by a lot of the Europeans commenting. If you are basing your perceptions on tourists, you have to realize that they dress for comfort, so they can see and acquire as much knowledge about another country as they possibly can in such a short trip. Most of us, when living our everyday lives, dress to fit the occasion.

  32. Hello everyone. I’m not French but I feel like I have to point something out. This notice of American tourists out on the streets of Paris dressed like they’re at home by themselves is a bit misleading. I work in hospitality and can tell you that people from other countries dress in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops (or socks with sandals, ewwwww) when they come to visit here in the U.S.

    This includes people from France.

  33. Hello! I’m a teen from Southern California and I just had a sort of….traumatizing incident with a french person. Me and my freind were walking around in my hometown and then out of nowwhere he came out and started bashing us for being American and saying all of this stuff about u being fat and spoiled and how we have no sense of moral value. Luckily, my dad as right behind us and handled the situation by telling him to leave but we were just about in tears….and i kind of had a “woah” moment. It got me thinking ‘Is this how we look to the world? We look lazy and snobbish?? What was he even doing here, this is probably the most boring spot in California!!’ Now, I’m a girl from an inter-racial family who hasn’t had a whole lot growing up and I have been working my tale off to raise money to go with my school on a trip to France next week and after that incident, I was scared out of my mind to go. For the past two days I’ve been freaking out with phrases such as ‘oh my gosh! We’re gonna get there, and they’re gonna hate us and we’re going to get killed!’ running through my mind…well, maybe I wasn’t THAT dramatic, but still, I was freaking out. Then, in an effort to ease my mind, I went to google to see if this guy’s statements were the attitude of the whole country of France and I found this blog. I just wanted to say thank you, Frenchman, for starting this discussion because without all of the comments on here that , I would have canceled my non-refunable ticket and not have gone. I know this is gunna seem super strange to you..most likely…but you have no idea how gratefull i am for this blog right now… so thank you:)

  34. I am happy to see so many positive statements about Americans from people who have actual experience being around Americans, in the United States or abroad.

    When non-Americans make blanket statements about how stupid/ignorant Americans are (as so often happens), they’re being completely hypocritical. I love different cultures, I love to travel, and I have travelled widely in Europe and lived in Québec. But I have to say that it annoys me when Europeans and others imagine themselves to be so enlightened and so “above” Americans, and make statements about how ignorant Americans are. In making such a statement, the non-American speaker is revealing his or her own ignorance! It is impossible to make such a generalization about 300+ million people!

    Based on my discussions with many non-Americans, these foreigners are just as ignorant about true American society as many Americans are about other societies. Non-Americans imagine that they know a lot about America because they watch our TV shows and movies, and read about our politicians. But, even as an American, I can’t identify with what I see on TV! It is a fictionalized version of American life, and has never reflected true life for many Americans. I can honestly say that I have never seen a TV show which came close to depicting the experience I had growing up in the northeastern United States.

    Of course you can come to the United States and there ARE people who match the stereotype… but more people do not. Another problem is that people come to the US expecting people to be a certain way, and so then that’s all they see. And, many people come and visit and see only big cities. So, they see the people are are obsessed with making money. They see the homeless people. They read about crime or see it reported on the local TV news. And that matches what they “know” to be true about America. But, there’s a whole huge country which isn’t at all like that. There are frugal, peaceful people who are not materialistic, not religious, not militaristic, etc.. (Don’t get me wrong, I love cities too and I have lived in big cities and actually prefer to live in big cities, but I think the cities are where you’ll see conspicuous examples of stereotypical “American” traits.)

    Regarding issues about speech (“you know,” “like,” etc.)… these issues tend to be regional. Before the internet and cable TV (even when I was growing up in the 1980s/90s) the regional differences used to be much greater, but even now, differences still exist. The way people talk in Southern California is NOT the way people talk in, say, Maine. I admit that for a while I said, “like” too much (though not nearly as much as a lot of people do) but I’ve never peppered my statements with “you know.” I don’t know anyone who does. It’s a regional thing, not an American thing.

    And, about false niceness… it’s true, in general, that Americans smile more than a lot of other people do. People from some countries reserve smiles for when they’re actually happy, but Americans often smile out of politeness, although the extent to which this is true is, again, a regional thing. But smiles are just a form of body language. That’s different from the issue of “being nice” through speech or seeming to be someone’s friend when you’re not really. That is DEFINITELY a regional thing. In New England (particularly northern New England, which is quite different from Connecticut) we think of that issue as a California thing. Californians are all so easy-going and they have a million “friends” but they’re not close to them. New Englanders, instead, have relatively few friends, but the friends they have are real friends. People from northern New England are also a bit more closed than other people are. This is probably the area in which you’ll find the most people who WON’T smile at you if they don’t feel like it. They’ll also be less talkative, but more straight with you when they do talk. They’re also more likely to be sarcastic.

    I’ve always felt that in northern New England we’re rather culturally isolated from the US, perhaps more like English people.

    Regarding the “ignorance” of Americans, and the fact that most Americans don’t know foreign languages (an often harped-on issue)… I know this has been said before, but it bears repeating. America is a HUGE country, geographically. It is also geographically isolated from much of the rest of the world. This means 1.) we could travel for days and days by car and still be in the same country, with the same one language spoken. Europeans have an advantage in being so close to so many different languages/cultures. 2.) It is prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of Americans to travel abroad. And if you don’t live on the east coast, your flight to Europe will be very, very long. Most Americans think of a trip to Europe as a “once in a lifetime” thing. It’s a dream trip. I have been to Europe 10 times, as well as to other regions of the world, and I am highly unusual, even among my educated friends.

    What does this mean? Yes, Americans can lack knowledge (particularly first-hand knowledge) about the rest of the world. But in most cases, this is NOT due to arrogance and believing the the US is superior to every other country and that other countries aren’t worth knowing about. It’s due to geographic isolation and lack of ability to travel to another country. (America is seen as a rich country, but many Americans are quite poor - a fair number actually live in almost third world conditions, but no one realizes this. There are plenty of people who could never afford to even visit Canada or Mexico, and plenty for whom a “big trip” is just travelling to a different state.)

    The other thing… just as American PEOPLE need to be recognized as different from the government, the distinction between the PEOPLE (who usually have no say over school curricula, etc.) and the school system needs to be made. In most school districts, students cannot begin a language until at least 7th grade (age 12/13) and often not until high school (14/15). This is past the “critical point” of language learning, and it is not the fault of the students that they can’t start until this age. And then, while studying, students might be in class 50 minutes a day, with most of the class focused on grammar and vocabulary drills, not speaking. Students also have almost no chance to practice the language outside of school because they don’t have easy access to non-English areas (unless they’re learning Spanish in a few states with big hispanic populations.) My brother took 10 years of French and right now he can probably say his name, MAYBE order in a restaurant… if you don’t use the language, you lose it. And if you’ve never had many opportunities to use it, you probably were never very good at speaking it or understanding other people who are speaking it, even if your grammar is perfect and you have a big vocabulary. And then there is the fact that, frankly, the vast majority of Americans simply don’t NEED a language other than English. I don’t know the actual stats, but I would imagine the majority of Americans have never travelled to a non-English speaking area, again because of economic limitations. I think it is very unfair when lack of foreign language skills is chalked up to arrogance.

  35. Hello!

    Im french, Im 19, and I can say that here, America is not very loved. Its a paradoxe, cuz we listen and we look many things who come from US. US culture is everywhere, in Paris. Im just speaking with a Parisian point of view… Mine.

    I grew up in Paris suburbs (district 93, hard french ghetto). They “used” some Arabs and Black from Africa to rebuild our country after the 2nd World war, so now they live with us, in France, and they are French, cause they helped us. France as got many differently cultures too. Many people are muslim, or are coming from the “Tiers Monde”, Maghreb, Africa Subsaharian, China, East Europa etc (Im nativ French, but here, its not a big problem - shit is the same for all - (but racist exists everywhere).
    You have to know this to understand my reasons.

    In fact, we hate your world diplomacy, and your politics (under Bush administration, a bit same with Obama)
    Let me explain to you why. (with my bad english)

    Firt, your diplomacy.
    In France, many people didnt accept Irak wars. For us it looked like imperialism from USA to the world. War in Irak wasnt justifiate. You didnt wait ONU greenfire. It was Only for petrol. What’s more, your governement (French’s too, but less) is according all power to Israel, thats why Arabs country and many others considerate USA as enemy. Its the same in France. Here we didnt want Irak war.. And we saw that many americans think that we were coward because of this.

    Then, your politic.
    I think that many french are afraid about your politicals choices or way of life too.
    In France, the fight for political power is between UMP (right side, like your Democrate team), and PS, (they are socialist, actual leader of France). But there are other party too, like the ‘Left Front’ (more to the left than the PS), the Ecologists, the centrists…

    Republicans, are considerates like strong right, or extrem right in France. A bit like the National Front of Marine Le Pen. Democrats are more like UMP, or center.. But you can see that many Frenchs would be not represent in your system. The fact is that France is a moderate country, Republicans for us are not very moderate, but they represent half part of USA population!
    In fact, a Republican for us is a bit like a Socialist is for a Republican: the badest choice possible. Can you follow me ?
    Thats why many peoples (including me) think that half part of USA are thinking like Bush or Romney.. We dont appreciate theses ideas like lets guns in circulation, Romney wants to stop “avortement”, your justice is very strict if we compare with French one, and many americans are bigs… (scared again again and again).

    Personnately, I met american people, they were very cool. I know that Americans, like frenchs have many differents point of view. All of you arent crazy of religion (like they show us in TV*). I just can hope that the “american political fear” is not justifiate!

    Nice idea to put this blog, I always wanted to know what USA thinks about France! I dont know If you understood me.. It was hard to write Merci l’ami !

    *Last thing that I noticed: In the french TV, they show us stupids americans, of americans who dont like France. They show us many american programs too, but I think that it helps to makes a bad feeling beetween Frenchs and Americans.

  36. Hi, I’m french and i’m going to answer to your question. Please don’t blame me for my grammars mistakes.
    So, sorry to answer that but yes all the “clichés” we have about you american people, are found justified.
    I travelled in USA, i visited all the biggest cities on the West Cost. Morever i’ve got some american friends.
    So, first of all, you are a really nice and lovely people, but yes you don’t even what culture means. Of corse there is a part of the population who have the taste for theatre, opera, art, etc… But, the vast majority of the americans are just totally “incultes et tellement naifs”.
    When I see how the high school works on your country I say to myself : “Thank God in France we are above all those stupides considerations”. One of my american friend told me that yes it is exactly like we can see in your movies or TV series. There are differents portions of students, sportifs, intellos (nerd) etc… But that is so ridiculous and we can not even imagine a similar sitution in France.
    If you ask “l’américain moyen” to place a Européen country on a map world, he is not going to be abble to do that simple question.
    I know a lot of thing about American history, but how many american knows for exemple, that Franch did help you with the Independance War against Britain…
    I will stop know because if a continue I could say a lot again. It is a really intersting question. The same in the other is too?

  37. Hi Frenchman,
    Thank you for providing this forum. This mostly civil discussion is a welcome antidote to the usually nasty debate that follows this topic.
    First, I am a 30 year-old American from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have lived in a few European countries, spread out over 3 to 4 years of my adult life. I will try my best to provide some insights to a couple of the Euro/American relationship topics brought up earlier.
    I was surprised to read that some Americans here believe a homogeneous culture exists across the states. I find stark contrasts in political beliefs, religious practices, eating habits, and languages throughout different regions, and within regions (mostly a rural/urban divide) of the country. I will save commentary on this notion for another forum (hopefully Frenchman?) but it does shed light on some topics previously discussed. Let’s just say the U.S. is a very large, diverse country.
    So, on to the stereotypes…Do Americans not bother to learn the languages and geographies of other countries?
    I will regretfully agree. I am a geography fiend and find it appalling when an American can not point out large European countries on a map. And on a side note, I find that this problem, very generally, worsens the further south and west one travels. However, I do not think this stems from arrogance. There is a common saying, for example, about how one in California can “surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon.” This is true. One can also visit deserts, rain forests (not tropical), wine-growing regions, world class cities, etc. all in a half-day’s drive. This creates an insular vision of the world - such that California becomes one’s entire world.
    Also, I think this fact weighs even more heavily in Americans disregard for foreign languages. In fact, I think this stereotype is terribly overused. First, many Americans can make their way through Mexico or Puerto Rico using, albeit highly accented, Spanish. As well, many Americans can conversationally speak in the language of their ancestors, like Italian, Polish, Chinese and Korean. It seems that the bilinguism (ironically, is that a word?) found in Europe comes in large part from necessity. If one lives in western Germany, they better know some French if they want to travel a few hundred miles west. If one lives in Paris, they better know English if they want to do business an hour train ride to the north. It would behoove one in living in Denmark to know some German, and etc. etc. Although I do find some European cultural attitudes enhance their lingual skills.
    Which brings me to…Are Americans shallow and lacking culture?
    In short, I would respond, absolutely not. However, like culture itself, it is very complicated. The puritanical and frontier origins of the country shaped the American as fiercely independent (I would argue to a fault), self-reliant, and highly logical. They are less emotional than their European counterparts. This created both positive and negative aspects of American culture. On the one hand, they work hard and produce magnificent feats of technology, they are generally honest, and relatively very fair. On the other hand, Americans have a difficult time appreciating the wonderful languages, art, architecture and dramatic theater that envelopes the European continent. For example, the average person living in the state that developed Google Maps could probably not distinguish the difference between a main boulevard in Paris from a grand street in Munich.
    Interestingly, I find that the “highly logical” mindset of an American adds to their sense of humor; humor being an intended or unintended break of such logic. Likewise, one should not understand American’s propensity for laughter as shallow or naive, or even loud (Ok, Ok, they are loud). Americans enjoy, and even expect to laugh with friends and strangers alike, frequently. In contrast, I find Europeans enjoy speaking with one another about more serious, intimate topics such as politics, religion, and the very meaning of existence.
    So, I promise I will conclude…I think this last topic illustrates a crucial difference between Europeans and Americans which confuses all of us and creates many stereotypes. Inter-American relationships develop their connections through laughter, in which two people find happiness. I suppose this shapes the best part of Americans’ character; they are genuinely friendly. But I do understand how one could view this as a fearful relapse from reality; or loud, stupid, and downright silly. Europeans tend to make relationships through attempts to genuinely understand the other in all of its forms. This creates a solidarity among Europeans, connected by their love of the ugly and the beautiful. But I do understand how one could view this like an exclusive drama, open only to the “enlightened”; or stand-offish, pretentious, and conceited.

    I would love to further the discussion with whomever desires.

  38. A few months ago a french friend visited me here in southern California. One night I took him to a bar, and the rather dim-witted girl behind the bar bluntly asked him, “Is it true that french people all hate America?” I put my head in my hands. My french friend handled the situation brilliantly. He replied, “No, we don’t hate you. We think that you hate us more than we hate you. Why do you hate us so much?” The girl tending bar was flummoxed into silence.

  39. I am an American from upstate New York, and find this interaction to be very interesting. When the outside world tends to believe that Americans are uncultured, ignorant, and war mongering people I always find myself smiling. Mostly because the notion is ridiculous. Some think we are dumb and lazy and again I smile. I smile because it is such an overly simplistic view. The world is made up of continents, the continents made up of countries. Each country is made up of states, provinces, cities, and towns. And all of these things are made up of people. I find it funny that we all concentrate so much on our differences.

    Many people strive in this world to be different and then often find themsleves alienated, because they did not concentrate enough on what connected them to their sisters and brothers. I could tell you bland stereotypes of the French. They are pompous, rude, arrogant, and surrender. They all hate Americans and on and on and on. But is that what I believe? No. I see a country that helped us fight our revolution. I see a country that believes in freedom and values the beauty of the world. I see a country that is much like mine. A country that gave us the Statue of Liberty, our adopted goddess. If we are so different how come I see a heart that beats of similar purpose.

    We Americans are proud, arrogant, and many have a child like wonder of the world. This is why many of us laugh too loud, smile too much, are basically obnoxious. We take none of our freedoms for granted and feel blessed to be so prosperous. We work hard all week, month, year for our families and values. And when the work is done, when we feel like we have done our part to keep this experiment going we take a holiday. And when we are free of responsbility we let nothing hold back our enjoyment of our success. However that success is measured.

    We were an isolastionist country once. We did not wish to be dragged into the problems of the outside world, but we went through Two World Wars, a Marshall Plan, and a Cold War. We as a nation did not do this without error. We only did it the best that we could. Most Americans would absolutely love it if we didn’t have bases all over the world. But that is the path we have been lead down and it is a long road back to the way we were. Being American we will not backtrack to a past self, but carve a new path in front of us. We have no Idea where its going only that we will try our best to make sure it stays true to the American belief of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. It is all that We the people can do.

    My country did not cure the world of humanity’s ills and neither did yours. But in both these place people are free to choose the future they want; can choose to be better than the last generation. And we are also free to fail.

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