beautiful, rich, trees, nice cars, family

calm, home

city, houses, sleeping

city, housewife, residential

drugs, countryside,

families, houses, quiet, mundane

green grass, cookie cutter arcitecture

green, cars, space

home, commute, city

houses, lawns, kids

Open space, parks, quiet.

outside, middle class, comfortable


plain, boring, quiet

quiet, quaint, safe

quiet, standard, not extraordinary

residential, not city, country

Rich, Outskirts, White

same, ordinary, regular, boring

trees, grass, large houses

urban, house, home

wealthy, Country Clubs, elite

where I grew up

93, cité, banlieusards

émeutes, mélange, difficile, seul, calme


chômage, abandonnée, colère

défavorisé, émeutes, maison,

extérieur, calme

pauvre, sécurité, violence

pauvreté, injustice, mauvaise éducation, immigrants

problème, péril

problèmes, tranquillité, repos, balade, voiture qui flambe

racaille, voitures brûlees, violence, émeutes



I found that there were many differences between France and the US in their associations with the word suburb. The French associate it with feelings of violence and injustice, with words like burn and riots. They hardly identify it as a place of calm and peace, as most Americans do. From other words that were submitted, I am guessing that the suburbs represent the inequalities in society that have arisen from poor education and social injustice. Do most French people think automatically of social injustice when they think of the suburbs? Or is it just a widely-held view among the Polytechniciens? I am also confused as to why the word is associated with unemployment and burning cars. In the US, people who are relatively affluent live in the suburbs. It is usually a very desirable place for people to raise a family. Is this the opposite case in France?

I was also amazed at the differences between the French and American word associations with "suburbs". I grew up in a suburban area of New York, and one could hardly consider it anything but safe-- friendly neighbors, white picket fences, apple orchards... hardly anything as dangerous as those that the French students noted. Have rioting, car-burning, and things like that always happened in the French suburbs, or is that more the result of short-term, current events?

I, too, was fascinated between the apparently huge differences in perception between the notion of suburbs in France and in America. It's true that in the U.S., for the most part, the suburbs are a very desirable place to live, their worst faults usually being "boring" and "ordinary." They are traditionally a place for middle class or even wealthy Americans to live. However, it seems that in France, they have quite the negative connotation. I was shocked to see so many words depicting really ugly situations like unemployment, violence, injustice, and poverty. Events such as car-burnings and riots were also evident in many of the polytechniciens' responses. I am curious; have the suburbs always been viewed in such a negative light, or is this more of a new development due to the recent riots?

I was also extremely interested in the differences between suburbs in France and suburbs in America. Are the suburbs large in France and do most people live in the suburbs? Are the cities large enough to accommodate all of the people? Suburbs are extremely popular in the United States and most people grow up in the suburbs mainly because they are more affordable compared to housing in large cities.

I thought this was one of the most interesting words to analyze because it revealed such a big difference! I grew up in a suburb of New York city and it was certainly anything but violent. Is it inexpensive to live in the suburbs in France? Many people here choose to live in the suburbs because they have a lot more open space and are generally more calm and quiet. This seems like quite the opposite from your suburbs! Where did you grow up?

I also found this word to have the most interesting results. Being a little aware of the situation in French I did expect to see this difference, but I had a lot of interest in viewing the responses. Most of the comments that I would like to make have already been made, hence I would like to give the perspective of a Greek student studying in the US. First of all let me tell you that the only comparison I can make is with Athens, as the other Greek cities are not big enough to have these characteristics.
This actually leads me to a question I had. Is the situation with the suburbs true for other cities in France also, or just Paris?
Anyway, I grew up in Athens and the association I have with the word suburb is really close to that of American students. If you exclude the very center of Athens with the financial district, the shopping/commercial area and the touristic area with all all the historic landmarks, the center of Athens is probably he poorest of the entire metropolitan area, with higher crime rates etc. On the other hand the suburbs of Athens have a lot more green, houses instead of apartment buildings and are generally richer.

The French responses appropriately reminded me of the movie "Banlieue 13." If anyone had seen this movie, was its portrayal of suburbs at all realistic? (It seemed to me a little exaggerated).
I find the suburb situation in France to be very similar to that of Ukraine (at least when I was there). Everyone wanted to live in the cities with historic architecture and cultural centers. There were very few things in the suburbs. I lived in the second largest city, but when I went to visit friends who lived in the suburbs, I felt like everything was very distant and deserted. People lived in high-rise apartment buildings and there was never-ending construction, which seemed to yield nothing. But now that seems to be changing because of the influx of what are called "new Russians" who are very rich and are buying out huge amounts of land.

I was completely surprised by the different results. I grew up in Upstate New York, a pretty rural area. I've always considered the country and the suburbs to be quiet, safe, and even boring places. In NY, the suburbs are where mostly older, wealthy people live;so, suburbs are relatively calm. Cities have more problems with violence, poverty, and political unrest. Are most French suburbs as you described? Have they always been that way?

Do the majority of French people live in houses or apartments? A hallmark of the American suburbs is rows of similar looking houses. Since we talked about the sitcom Desperate Housewives in another forum, I thought I would point out that the houses on that show, to some degree, are typical of American middle class homes.

Encore une fois, je ne peux répondre qu'en ma qualité d'élève étranger étudiant à Paris. De toute façon, il faut le dire, les connotations pour le mot "banlieu" ne changent pas du tout quand on passe de la France à l'Espagne. Lorsqu'on parle de la banlieu de Madrid tout le monde pense à des quartiers comme Vallecas, Móstoles ou Fuenlabrada, des quartiers qui sont dangeureux et en même temps pas très agréables à habiter. Ceci peut être appelé "banlieu". Par contre, là où j'habite ne peut pas être considéré comme banlieu. C'est ce qu'on appelle "urbanización" et c'est là, je pense, qu'on trouve la meilleure traduction en espagnol du mot "suburbs". C'est une zone un peu plus éloigné, peuplée de maisons et des parcs verts où on peut se promener et où on ne trouve que quelques actes délinquants par an. Les français ont évidemment associé l'expression "car-burnings" à cause des incidents qui se sont produits il y a un an à peu près... je pense que tout le monde s'en souvient...

Je pense que pour les francais, ce que vous appelez suburbs correspondent à des quartiers résidentiels et non pas à des banlieux. Les banlieux sont souvent des endroits de la ville où la mairie place les HLM, c'est-à-dire des logements moins chers, des immeubles avec beaucoup d'appartement. Ce ne sont la plupart du temps pas des quartiers avec des maisons, mais plutôt des empilements d'appartements. C'est une première raison qui explique que c'est assez mal vu. Mais surtout, je pense que la différence aurait été moins forte 2 ans plus tôt : en effet, l'an dernier il y a eu des émeutes dans les quartiers/dans la banlieue, et cela a été très médiatisé, beaucoup de jeunes ont brulé des voitures et comme c'est encore très récent, les francais associent très rapidement "banlieue" et "voitures brulées, violence".

Je comprends l'étonnement des Americains, mais il faut bien comprendre que l'on parle pas de la meme chose. Les banlieux ne correspondent pas aux quartiers résidentiels, "suburbs" des Americains.

I had a question about one of the items that appeared on the French list for this word. What is the significance of "93"?

I guess in America, the closer equivalent of "banlieu" is what we call the "inner city" and "ghettos". Those areas are ones where we associate a lot of crime, poverty etc to be.

Pour Holly. Le "93" est un numéro du département Seine Saint Denis à Nord-Est de Paris où se trouvent beaucoup de banlieues difficiles.

What is the layout of a typical French city? In what part of the city or surrounding areas would you find residential neighborhoods similar to American suburbs?

The "inner city" or "ghetto" that Samiksha has mentioned are often at the extreme end of poverty. I'm sure some banlieues are as well, but how bad are they really - are they comparable to those mentioned in the movie "Banlieue 13," or is that an extreme case as well? It seems to me that they are somewhere in between, but I am probably wrong.