Questions about France and the French (#2)

See also :

 A few more questions about France   How do the French see their own country ?


 What is the Euro ? The Euro is now the currency of 17 countries including France( UK, Denmark, Sweden and most newly admitted members do not belong to "Euroland"). The Franc remained in use until February 17, 2002 but it as a fixed proportion of one Euro (1 Euro = 6,55957 Francs).... As explained in a recent and brilliant book by T.R.Reid,the Euros can be considered, after only a few years, like an outstanding success and a major achievement for the building of Europe.
Why so many police in the streets? Given the number of revolutions in this country (1789, 1830, 1848, 1871, 1936, 1968, to name a few), the State is always afraid of trouble and riots in Paris. All the (many) revolutions in France started from Paris. This is why until the 1970s, Paris was the only city in France which did not have an elected mayor. Read more about French police.
 Why are French women so slim?  The answer is in French Fried (published in 2001) ! Read about the French woman and the Seven-S Rule....

 Following are a few commonly shared stereotypes of France as seen globally by the French.

  • A " Harmonious " country : the French always refer to France as the " hexagon " ; it is a fact that the shape of the country fits in a regular hexagon but the image is so commonly used that it must be seen as a sign that even the shape of the country refers to " harmony " and " regularity ". The French also value their temperate climate, i.e. not too hot, not too cold, etc, the mix of seaside, mountain and plains as proof that France's geography reflects perfection. Read some geographical facts.

  •   The rooster is the national bird, dating back to old Gallic traditions. It shows a genuine sense of humor to take such a stupid and arrogant animal as a national symbol. As Churchill pointed out, "no wonder the French took it as an emblem: it is the only animal who can sing with his feet in mud (he used another word...) and believe that he is the one who makes the sun rise..."
Why don't they speak English ? It would be easier for everybody.  Their language is extremely important for the French : children spend hours every day on grammar and dictations. It is socially crucial to speak and write well and, for years, the annual contest "La Dictée" (the dictation) was followed by millions on TV. Read about "l'exception culturelle française" (the French cultural exception)
 See more questions and try my French Quiz
  • Seing itself as the country "which invented the concept of Human Rights", France sincerely considers it is entitled to defend it worldwide and there is an implicit competition with the USA, which have exactly the same feeling !

  • An important country ! The French refuse to admit that their country is a medium-size world power ! You may consider it ridiculous (and you'll be right very often) ; but you may also consider it positively : the French did not give up and in fact, their influence is smaller than they think but bigger than it would be if they had given up exercising some form of leadership ! See French foreign policy and read Peyrefitte and Frischer.

 What a challenge to explain France and the French to Americans!  
  • A "modèle social" (social model) : the French are proud of their social protective policies (unemployment, health, education,..) and very attached to them ; they wonder why other countries do not emulate them.

Asked to speak on several occasions while in the States, Harriet Welty Rochefort is frequently asked questions about :

  • why are the French anti-America?
  • the Euro (it was down, now it's up),
  • are they as aggressive with each other as with other people ? Answer : no : they are worse. This is a KEY fact ! Read a quote about it.
  • freedom of the press in France (yes, there's freedom of the press!),
  • what kind of sports the French practice (the same ones we practice in the States except baseball and football),
  • what language the French use in French schools (French!!)
  • and the most frequently asked question: are the French rude (no, not really but it's more byzantine than that : see French Toast !!!)
  • The North-South split is deeply felt. The South is Mediterranean, close to the Roman roots, speaking languages deriving from Latin (they are called "regions of Langue d'Oc languages") when the North is Germanic, close the the Frankish roots (they are called "régions of Langue d'Oil" languages). The French have mutual stereotypes on both sides of the limit (which is the river Loire). More about the French splits.

  • See how the French see America.
  • More to come

DID YOU KNOW THAT.... The word France (and French, etc...) comes from the name of a Germanic tribe, the Franks, who, among others (Wisigoths, Ostrogoths, ..), invaded the old Romanised Gaul at the end of the Roman Empire. The Franks (the name means : "free") founded litlle principalities between what is now France and Belgium and progressively conquered the whole country and their king, Clovis, became the first King of France at the end of 5th Century.

  • Why are the French both arrogant and self-depricating?
  • what she thought about Mondavi wines coming to Languedoc Roussillon (opinion yet to be made)
  • Are the French happy ?
  • There were, obviously, many questions about how and what the French eat. Top query on that list was: How do they eat all that food and stay slim? If they read Harriet's last book, French Fried: The Culinary Capers of an American in Paris, hopefully they'll get the answer!

Speaking engagements such as these show two things: great curiosity about France and all things French, and how different the French really are - still - in this era of globalization (which the French call "mondialisation").

See a list of 112 questions about the French the US Army answered after D-Day to explain this strange country to the GI's.


Frequently asked questions 

In addition to the questions above, some FAQ are :

Examples of questions Americans ask and which would stump a Frenchman

when? what? why?
during a job interview, from the candidate "What is your health plan?" all employees must be affiliated by the employer to the national health program
during a job interview, from the employer "Do you have existing medical conditions?" it would be against the law (discrimination)
about politics "What is the President's faith?" the President is in charge of ensuring secularism in the French society
in a restaurant "Can I have a doggy bag" it would be considered rude and cheap (it's a DONT) (but it is slowly developing ...)
 in everyday life "It's one p.m. : are you hungry for a meal?" when it's lunch time, you have lunch, hungry or not
  more to come....  

Click here if you want to :

To related pages : more questions (#1) and why is France so different? (#3), geographical facts, questions for US diplomats and GIs, about irksome France, etc...

To table of contents

To top of the page 

Back to home page

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..)

To email me

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