| Why is France different ....
|| The French and consensus
The French paradox, according
- "Imagine a country where
people work thirty-five-hour weeks, take seven weeks of paid
holidays par year, take an hour an a half for lunch, have the
longest life espectancy in the world and eat the richest food
on the planet. A people who keep alive their mom-and-pop merchant
class, who love nothing better than going to the public markets
on Sundays, and who finance the best health-care system in the
world. A people whose companies are the least unionized and the
most productive among modern countries, and whose post industrial
consumer society ranks among the most prosperous in the world.
You are now in France.
- Now imagine a country whose
citizen have so little civic sense that it never crosses their
minds to pick up after their dogs or give to charity. Where people
expect the State to do everything because they pay so much in
taxes. Where service is rude. Where the State is among the most
centralized and pervasive in the world and where the civil-servant
class amounts to no less than a quarter of the working population.
Where citizens tolerate no form of initiative or self-rule, where
unions ar so pervasive that they virtually dictate the course
of government and even run French ministries.
You are still in France."
- According to
Time Magazine (April 22, 2002), "France is different
because.... it sees itself as different" !
- Is there a French
? See some typical French
- Harriet Welty
wrote "After 20 Years in France, Still Part of the Foreign
legion" : read the article.
- Not so different
? America and France share a universal ambition. Read about this
- See what is
making the headlines in France and what's
only in France
- The French do not like market
economy ! According to
an international poll, France is the ONLY country, among twenty,
where the is a majority of NO to the question " Do you think
that the system of free enterprise and market economy is the
best for the future ? ". France : Yes=36%, No=50% ; USA
: Yes=71%, No=24%. See detailed
French think that "control" is better than "market"
but they are not alone and this view is largely shared
: see a very illustrative chart about it.
do not value consensus in itself and a French person does not feel uncomfortable
when he/she takes a position against everybody else (just consider
French foreign policy, and not only during the Iraq war...).
When you face this situation it is often better not to try to
make him/her "be reasonable" and "come half way"
etc... : it will only make things worse! This is why there are
so many transport strikes and why they are so surprinsingly well-accepted
: in 1995, after 3 weeks of transport strikes, when many people
had to walk several hours to their workplace, a majority of people
still declared they understood the strikers (who, by the way,
are relatively well paid and could retire at age 50 or 55).
In France, many
people feel that, if they agree with you, you fooled them
somehow and that the safest position is to be alone against
everyone else. Many aggressive little dogs have the same vison
of life in society... It is important to understand this attitude
: the French do not trust their counterparts and do not believe
a win-win solution may exist ; they do not like to compromize
There is no
translation for "checks and balances"!
Cogan cites Couve de Murville,
the French Minister of Foreign Affairs under De Gaulle, giving his instructions
to the French ambassadors "The important thing in a negotiation
is to defend one's point of view. An agreement can come as an
extra. The objective is not to arrive at a negotiated solution
: it is to defend one's point of view." And he adds later,
about a specific negociation : "For the first quarter of
an hour, I presented the position of France. From then, until
the twentieth hour, I presented the position of France. At the
twentieth hour, I negotiated the position of France". Wow!
: in France, it is almost impossible for the Right and the Left
to vote together, whatever the issue (in July 2008, President
Sarkozy proposed substantial amendments to the Constitution,
most of them if not all having been demanded by the Left for
decades : several deputies of his side voted against it but all
the Left, except one -Jack Lang-, voted against). A bipartisan
never happens : read why.
I heard Hervé Mariton, member of the National Assembly and former minister in the French Government, pronounce the following general statement : "One must always beware of a consensus : it always hide an ulterior motive". (Dec.2009)
- Says Robert
Rochefort (director of Center of Research for the Study and Observation
of the Conditions of Life, Paris) : "There is a certain
cultural attitude in France that considers work, money, success and business
important only in as much as they contribute to more important
things like family, personal happiness and quality of life.That
produces resistance to reform, especially when it comes to public
services." (see the French and the State).
- One of the most
important differences between the French society and the American
society is probably the fact that, by far, France is a much less
- In a poll, quoted
by Time (2002), asked about
- "what is
very important to succeed in life", the French answer :
Family life (85%), Love life (78%), Professional life (59%),
Friends (55%), Spiritual life (19%)
- and to the question
"a successful life means...", they answer : being happy
with what life has given me, both personally and professionally
(41,3%), feeling fulfilled in my personal life and limiting the
encroachment of work to a strict minimum (27,7%), striking a
balance between my ambitions and my ability to achieve them (22,1%),
having a successful professional career involving substantial
responsibility and income, based on my talent and hard work (8,3%),
no opinion (6%).
- More to come....
|To related pages : more (#1) and more
(#2) questions, questions for US
diplomats and GIs, etc ...
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Back to home
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..)
or separately, Harriet and Philippe speak
about Intercultural Differences : click
here for information.