| Emails from our Web Page
visitors (thank you for writing!)
|| Some rather aggressive
- Mary : I am finding your website to be very amusing, but cannot decide if it is "tongue-in-cheek" or factual. (April 2013)
- "I've read it over and over and am still fascinated" (April 2012)
- Dani : "I have recently happened upon your website and sincerely wish I had found it before my first, and even second trip to Paris. It has definitely helped to explain some of the behaviors I found incredibly odd while there. I now see it is truly the cultural difference. Thank you for putting the site together and providing the insights you have" (Oct.2011).
- Annie wrote : J’ai trouvé votre site par hasard, et je l’apprécie énormément. Préparant un cours de civilisation française, grand nombre d’informations que vous présentez me seront utiles. La manière dont vous présentez de nombreux thèmes engendre le dialogue, et procurera beaucoup d’animation dans mes cours, j’en suis certaine !" (Aug.2011)
- "Your educational resource has been linked to from the ide@s Portal Web Site. ide@s is a searchable database of high quality educational resources for Wisconsin's PK-16 educators to access for integration into curriculum and classroom instruction. Thank you for your commitment to high quality education....." (July 2011)
- Jeanette (British Columbia) wrote : "With films, histories and literature, I have worked towards understanding what I experience in France. Your website is a tremendous help, and I appreciate your broad, balanced, often witty point-of-view". (Jan.2011)
- Thomas A. : "This site is very helpful for me when dealing with my French manager and the French management team." (Sept.2010)
- DK (Canada) wrote "je n'ai rien trouvé de plus riche ni de plus amusant pour moi comme pour mes étudiants que votre merveilleux site. Je vous en remercie profondément." (Sept.2010)
- Dr.Antoine S. : " I teach French culture at Mount Royal University…....I found your site about Understanding France very informative and well written. I believe it is one of the best and most comprehensive sites I know of about French culture and society." (May 2010)
- Hilary G. wrote : "the very best website I have found not only for helping us prepare for our trip but in giving me insight into another culture, and I spent a very pleasant and informative hour today learning about food, attitudes, and lifestyles, …..Thank you so much for your website - I wish everyone could read what you have to say, for I feel your approach something that is desperately needed if the world is ever to get along…." (Jan.2010)
- Joff wrote : "What a great site. I get really hooked when I start reading and spend a lot of time on it. I'm an Asian who grew up in the United States and have been teaching English to French people for three years now. Your website really helps me understand the French culture better and makes me more interested in it." (Dec.2009)
- Robert F. (North Carolina) : "...And you can be sure I will be trying to get Americans (who mostly know nothing of the rest of the world) to look at other lifestyles and cultures and consider if we wouldn't do better to try to learn something new! ..." (Aug.2009)
- Anthony (a Frenchman) wrote : "I read you site
with one of my (American) francophile friends. He said it is
full of insight into the French psyche and that it helped him actually
to get an idea about his own behavior and response towards some
of my ways in our friendship"
- Patricia wrote (after several nice comments) :
"...two little pieces of constructive criticism :
wish the pages were better designed,
so that they would better represent your country (center of fashion,
beauty, etc...). I also wish the content of the link to "current
issues in France" were updated a bit more recently. I'm
sure you have a limited budget which does not allow for a full-time
editor to update such things but nevertheless..." (2008)
- Evan wrote "...the information is presented
in beautiful way (NDLR : this is very indulgent!) much
like walking though the streets of Paris, this information is
gleaned as I navigate through the pages and links. As a new expat,
it is very helpful in so many levels..." (Nov. 2007)
- Isabelle wrote : "I'm a French woman
living in Montreal .... and I want to tell you that I really
enjoy reading it! No clichés and judgements. Respect of
both cultures (French and American). It's really refreshing.
It helps me accepting my own culture (French) and the North American
culture as well. And when I read what you write about the US
culture, I see many similarities with the Quebec culture. I think
there are many common aspects in North America. It helps me a
lot to understand the relationships I have with my Quebec and
Canadian colleagues. It's hard to tell you how I feel excited
by reading your website. For example, I really appreciate when
- "For the French, the prohibition of the Islamic veil in
schools (2004) is NOT a law AGAINST religious freedom, it is
a law FOR religious freedom".
- "Warning ! Working few hours does not mean working badly
(the hourly productivity in France is one of the highest in the
world) or working poorly (the quality of manpower is good and
working well is prestigious"
These statement go beyond the stereotypes people have. They help
me not to be ashamed of my own country, France. It's a GREAT
job!! To me, this website really helps to create peacefull relationships
between cultures by accepting each other differences without
judging them or comparing them in terms of inferior/superior."
- Angelica C wrote : "I came upon your site
by accident, and I am so glad I did!I cannot express how many
times someone has approached me asking the same questions or making the
same generalizations that you respond to on your site. It is always difficult to try to answer
these questions in only a few words so now that I know of your
website, the next time someone asks me a question or makes a
sterotype, I will be sure to refer him or her to your site!"
- Mary D.
: "I love your site,
which I fell upon & have just about every article tagged
to print & read at leisure before our next trip.
What I find amazing is the reaction of people to your site!!
Travel surely is about experiencing the differences in the world,
for the similar, familiar & "safe".
G., from California wrote
to her Congressman : " Dear Congressman Cox: The closing
of the American Cultural Center in Paris -- a most-visited city
in the world -- is truly a sad occurrence. How can we just walk
away from all those opportunities for cultural and educational
sharing with people from all over the world? Surely, education
is still the key to understanding among people? How can we get
started on reopening the American Cultural Center? All best wishes
for a world characterized by knowledge and understanding,"
B. (a French student
at Harvard) : "Je viens de le parcourir dans tous les
sens et le trouve remarquable, tant dans sa pondération
que dans sa profondeur. Je vais m'efforcer de le faire découvrir
à mes camarades américains (...) : beaucoup me
sidèrent par leur incompréhension de la France
et leur fréquent dédain. " ("I just went
all over your site and I think it is remarkable in its moderation
and its insight. I'll try to have my fellow students visit it
: many of them amaze me by their poor understanding of France
and their frequent contempt of it".)
- Jenny P. from Australia : "I am a French teacher
in Australia and have enjoyed your Letters for several years.
From time to time my students read them to learn about the French
way of life. Each year I visit France and in alternate years
I bring a group of students, spending a week in Paris, a week
at our sister school in Brittany and a week in another region.
Of course they all fall in love with France and can't wait til
they're older and can return independently. Have on ly recently
had time to visit your website - wonderful. Will be recommending
it to my students. Thanks so much for helping me "keep in touch" between my visits."
T. from Sète :
"As a French woman married to an American ...... I have
been thoroughly disgusted, depressed and, mostly, hurt (basically
feeling betrayed) by the anti-French diatribes and "jokes" (are they actually
funny?) coming from the other side of the Atlantic. ...... So
I just wanted to tell you that your site helped cheer me up a
little. Thanks! I'll be sure to pass on the link to my remaining
friends in the States (yes, I even lost a couple American friends,
both usually nice, college educated people who came all the way
to France for our wedding ten years ago, after I got nasty emails
from them, on of which said that "the next time we invade
France, it won't be to save them!)."
R. from Oakland CA :
"I was working for Harvard University on an international
project that brought me every month to Paris. Since my younger
and only sister had never been to Europe, I decided to bring
her to Paris as a birthday present. A colleague had recommended
a particular restaurant to which I decided to take my sister.
My French was hardly fluent, especially when it came to culinary
terms. When the menu came, my sister said she wanted veal. I
saw veal on the menu and ordered it, along with a bit of lamb
for myself. After the soup we were biding our time when I noticed,
just at eye-level, a jiggling (I swear!) greyish-greenish mass
of something sitting on a plate pass by. I remeber thinking to
myself : "Lord, what on Earth?" just at the moment
when the waiter turned and set the plate in front of my sister.
I immediately recognized my mistake
: I had ordered the Cervelle de Veau, or calf-brain, not knowing
the French term in its enterity. Seeing her face blanche and
her mouth grimace as she slowly but dramatically drew back from
the plate, I switched dishes with her, telling myself that after
all, my grandparents in Oklahoma had eaten brains with eggs for
breakfast and I could do it too. I was determined to keep my
dignity in the face of what I perceived at the time as French
hauteur. So I cut the Cervelle de Veau into lots of tiny unrecognizeable
pieces, put on a brave face, and washed it down with an excellent
Bordeaux. The word "Cervelle" is forever imprinted
on my memory and with all due respect, I haven't been tempted
to try it since."
I sometimes receive very
aggressive emails which give more information about the people
sending them than they do about what these people dislike (hate)
in the site. I systematically answer by saying "thank you
for writing, please specify the exact points you are referring
to" - and I never receive an answer.....
- From a French visitor : "I did read your article about France educational system and I laughed so much.
It is such an evidence that you are talking about it without knowing anything of it.
You should be ashamed of yourself, because saying that our system is "absurd", telling the stupid stereotypes that american people have about France is not even close from something clever... What is wrong with you seriously ?
Laughing at us saying that changement is rare in our country because frenchies don't like it ! That was the stupidest thing I have ever read in my whole life... France is one of the most opened country ever, unlike the US which is one of the most racist in this world.
The fact that we are evolving far from your influence is a great thing trust me. I hope you will realize how childish your article is. " ( May 2014)
- From an (anonymous) American expat in Paris : "I recently read a passage on your site which struck me in the worst of ways. It was unfounded, it was ignorant, and it was at best a poorly constructed attempt at humor, at worst the ramblings of someone who is entirely out of touch with modern medicine. Yes, it was so outrageous and your prose was so crudely pieced together that I felt compelled enough to email you and make this point known." …then two full screens of harsh criticism of my column "The Ugly American Eater" …. "The only redeeming aspect of this miserable attempt at logic is that you do not shy away from your overwhelming biases against American culture, which I would find truly commendable if you had intelligent arguments to follow. Granted there are many Americans who have equally idiotic sentiments against the French as yourself, but I have yet to come across their websites. When I do, you can rest assured that they will receive an email as well." (November 2011)
- Austin D. (California) writes : " I find your opinions in the descriptions of the cultural chasm separating America and France to be pretty much what I generally expect from about any smug Frenchman--unfortunately." (July 2010)
- Jerica writes : "I stumbled
upon your site, and though i did not see much, i am very displeased
with what i found. I may be a college student, but my minor is
in French, and i have read more stuff contradicting most of what
you say than you probably even know about the damn country itself.
plus, unlike what others have said to you in their complaints,
aren't attacking America, you're attacking France. I find the country 100% better than
the US, and i haven't even been there!! How can you ruin the
perspective of how ever many visitors you have of going to or
living in the most beautiful city in the world!!! why don't you
save time and space and just say "France sucks, don't go."
that's what i get of ur site and i don't appreciate it."
- P.N. (a British journalist)
writes : "I enjoyed your website but I miss any mention
of the UK. There is no bilateral relationship between France
and the US; rather, there is a third planet in this solar system,
with its gravitational effects on the other two, yet one which
you completely ignore......Do you all live in some kind of Napoleonic
bubble? .....British liberalism can accommodate French absolutism.
But French absolutism cannot accommodate British liberalism.
Hence our mutual attitudes: geniality versus fear .....Be careful
that you export just French arrogance and not competence!.....I
think the UK is more accomplished than France - our best minds
are better than your best minds. But your average is higher.
We encourage creativity whereas you encourage a settled style.
Young French people come to London - old Brits settle in France.
Need I say more? London is the capital of Europe. Paris is a
lovely museum. .....You have put a lot of work into your website
but I still think writing about France for Americans while excluding
the UK is perverse. Well, not perverse - unfair. :) Americans
won't buy it.....You French piece of shit......"
- Chris B. (New York) writes : " ..Far
from achieving success in your explanation, you have merely succeeded
in falling into the typically caricatured French stereotype,
disdain and hate for the United States, US films, and the people of the US...." (Jan.2006)
- Walter S. wrote : " as someone who has
enjoyed many trips to france and looked foward to more i must
say that reading your drivel has made me reconsider any future
trips. although i never met people in france who appeared to
have your biased views of america your comments re;religion ,
race are so far off base that they almost defy debate. how sad
you must be to have to write such trash. oh well theres always
italy ..... what do you acheive when you insult the americans
you are writing to in an effort to get them to see the glories
of france.must one dislike
g. bush,put God on the back burner admit that the u.s. is racist
( condi rice,colin powell, mayor of new orleans) country before
you grasp the reason d' etre of france " (Dec.2005)
- Tom from New York : "After reading
trough your website, I actually dislike the French more than I did before
reading it. Talk about
being conceited! I am not sure if this was your intention, but
this website seems very biased against Americans and defiantly
pro-French. I was hoping it was designed to explain the differences
between the two cultures to bridge understanding, but you simple
reinforce the usual stereotypes against Americans." (Dec.2004)
- Mark S. did not like the presentation of the French vision
of "laïcité" and wrote : "....I
would like to point out that America is the only country in the
world where there exists a true freedom to practice any religion......
Mr. Rochefort, religion and personal faith are two of the most
important elements in the world that will not decline with the
education of the population, but increase. Do not adapt a hatred
for those who believe in God, because not only are you demonstrating
a bitter disposition and a hateful one, but also an ignorant
recommend that you change your attitude and consider pondering
your life situation for a moment, and after having done so, re-writing
your piece on more intellectual grounds for your website." (Dec. 2005)
- Julien (a Frenchman!) : "I've just
visited your website... What you wrote is just mean and awful...
As a French, I feel insulted by the contents of this racist site...
French do like American people ! everything you say is wrong... well, actually this site made me
realize that now there's at least one.... (NDLR here : a very
vulgar word...) in America : you..." (May 2005)
- Sylvie (a Frenchwoman) : "...I just want to say
that 60% of your "comments" aren't true. But that's
don't know France. Actually,
you're full of préjugés and clichés (oh!
french words!) as we are about USA. But, I wanna add, your stupid
website aside, that United States and France are linked by history
and by political. So, please continue to do what you can do but
stop being an (expletive
deleted)..." (Jan. 2006)
T. : "u r wrong
and I hate you all"
(several messages of this kind ...) (March 2003)
- More to come (alas...)
Dear readers : OK for any letter, even very mean, if
you follow the key principle : first
understand, then, criticize
Some questions you asked
recently (and I tried to answer when I could)
- Anti-Americanism in France ?
- Kissing vs handshake in corporate
- Where can I find the Museum
- Getting married
- Playing basketball in Paris
- The Gay and Lesbian community
- The Jewish
community in Paris
- Fish restaurants in Paris
- More questions
about France and the French
Visitors' comments and
Thank you for any suggestions
you'd like to make : please email
us! Some of the recent comments and suggestions we received
refer to :
- More comments on history
- Improving the updating of the
- Giving more prices (Metro Pass,
Museum Pass etc...)
- Improving the design
- etc .....
- Emilienne (Boston) wrote : "...(moving
to France) would be a big change from Boston and a long way from
home! I was hoping to learn a little bit more about relations
between the two cultures from people just like those you've interviewed
on your website. I found the site incredibly informative, interesting
writes : "my
little girl has a school project and she needs to know : why
did the French put on more perfume rather than taking a bath ? Why did they not like taking a bath
? ... it is very urgent, thank you" (2008)
- Joshua P. : "I'm an Australian student
completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and I have
a passion for Napoleonic History. Naturally this has extended
to an interest in France; its culture and history. I hope to
travel to France one day but I must admit I was a little nervous
about the famous stereotype of haughty French citizens but after reading your website I can
better understand their behaviour, its motives and hopefully
roll with their punches ok :) The French certainly do seem to
be very unusual people but in some manner I think I can relate
to them a little bit better than I could with Americans due to
my more socialist perspective."
- PeggyMcA. : "One wonders why anyone would
even attempt to drive some of the narrow city streets of Paris
when the metro is so convenient ! While visiting Paris, my college-age
son and I were amused by the reactions of drivers stopped
behind delivery trucks, then jumping out of their cars scolding
the delivery man for blocking traffic as they followed him into
the store continually chastising him. America should take note
in the art of blowing off steam."
Z. : "The first
time we were in Paris (years ago), we had dinner at Pharamond. I don't know whether it was naivety
or 'first time love', but we fell in love with the place. It
seemed to our innocent eyes--so Parisian. The food was good and
classic brasserie, and the service friendly without being obsequious.
During the meal, they allowed a rose vendor to enter--no pressure
to buy-- we felt it was charming. We plan to return ... I hope
it is 'unimproved'."
- Melissa H. : " I live in Tennessee in a
small town and have never really travelled out of the south.
I am a "woman of a certain age" whose children have
grown now. I became fascinated with all things French within
the last year and really started studying and learning. If my
neighbors in my small southern town knew of my interest, they
would laugh. So I get my French "fix" over the internet. .... Thanks for sharing
yourself, your life and your experiences with all of us." (July 2000)
- Anne S. : "I have to disagree with your
article specifically with respect to certain developmental health problems. My nephew, who is 10, is "autistic."
When his problem became apparent, French doctors believed that
it was a psychological problem caused by his mother's rejection
of him. Many years after this bunk had been rejected by American
doctors, they continued, and still sometimes continue to promote
these ideas. Even when they are reluctantly forced to believe
this is a physical condition, they treat him and his parents
with antipathy. I have come to conclude that the Freudians are
politically in control of the health system." (September 2000)
B. : "Your site
was very helpful for our first trip to Paris. Thank You. Must
note Willi's Wine Bar (and Maceo right next door, same owner). Yeah, it's a bit pricey,
but the food was amazing and the wine list extravagant and they
speak English and owner Marc Williamson is a doll!!!" (January 2001)
- Michelle M. from Australia : "Your site helped me
to have a wonderful day shopping in Paris. I read an instyle
magazine featuring Kristin Scott Thomas (actress) best things
to do in Paris. Your site helped me to find the places mentioned
in this magazine. I had a great day shopping at the Rue Mouffetard
and lunch at La Closeries. The next day my friend Neil proposed
in a horse and carriage at the Palace of Versailles. This was
the 5th May 2001. We married in Australia where we live and returned
to Paris for a week in September 2001. We boarded the Orient
Express in Paris on Oct 4 and travelled to Rome. Thank you for
making a dream come possible."
S. : "Just a
thank you for your column, which I always enjoy reading. I feel
the same way about Paris that you do, that it is full of magical, unexpected experiences and a constant delight. Reading your
colorful descriptions, always so full of appreciation for its
beauty, antiquity, and formality, both brings me back there and
makes me miss it terribly."
H. : "My husband
and I didn't know what to expect when we went to Paris last year....
it was wonderful! My only hope is that French people who come to
the States will be treated as well."
- Robert P.,
from Japan : " Hi! Thanks for the French lesson! Very
valuable information. Actually, I live in Japan, and I very much appreciate your comparison
between the French and Japanese. Could you please tell me some
of the reasons why you think this national trait may hold true
in the two countries? Anyways, thanks again. .... Great site!" (Jan.2001 Our answer : ".... Thank you very much for expressing your appreciation of our
site. From what I know of Japan (not enough) through Japanese
friends, business relations and business trips, there are several
important traits in common between the French and the Japanese.
Among them :
- the pride of their old culture and the importance of historical
references in everyday life
- both cultures do not like bluntness ; people prefer to make
themselves understood in a more subtle and indirect way , always
leaving a way to escape to the person you talk to and avoiding
saying NO (but making your refusal understood by the other person)
- certain forms of political life (not always the best ones)
and local life (Japan is the only country in the world which
has, with its --rather unsuccessful!-- Third Sector something
that compares with the French Economie Mixte)
H. : "I just
ran across your web site, and I wanted to thank you for setting
it up. I'm trying to figure out how to move to France, and am
having a bit of trouble figuring out the legal situation there. Your tips and bibliography are
very much appreciated."
|To related pages : the webmaster,
more letters (#2), etc...
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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
More on Harriet's
(excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)
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