can be taken to far, sometimes ridiculous, important to an extent

confidence, different, self-realization

dyed hair, freedom, good, being yourself

extracurriculars, hobbies, likes, dislikes

favored, defined

freedom, expression, creativity, ego

freedom, speech, rights

identity, autonomy, selfishness

independence, confidence, control

independence, strong-willed, hard work

liberty, capitalism, freedom

liberty, freedom, moral, independence

missing, admired, fun

nonexistent, fake, ambitious

opinionated, dress, searching

opinions, expression, freedom

personality, unique, defiant

respect, determination,

selfishness, accomplishment, liberation

solitude, selfishness, sadness

strength, lonely, successful

uniqueness, opportunity, free-spirited

auto-centré - individu -

égoïsme, méfiance, solitude

égoïsme, repli sur soi, liberté

égoïsme, solitaire , mode de pensée

égoïsme, voie, démarquer

égocentrisme, égoïsme, société actuelle

égoisme, modernité

capitalime, unique


défaut, qualité, personne

liberté, indépendence, confiance

malheureux, tue, blesse, gangrène

mauvais, solidarité, isolement

négatif, malheur, réel

négation du collectif,
système qui s'étend

occidental, société, égoïsme, fermeture

réalité, déception, nécessité

triste, inévitable, à combattre


The word 'individualism' obviously carries with it very different connotations for the French and the Americans. While the majority of the American responses were positive—correlating individualism to liberty, freedom, confidence, admiration, strength, and success—the French drew a much more negative picture of the term—relating it to egotism, isolation, defect, and even death. I believe that this is a function of a rather constitutional difference between the two nations. While America is a capitalistic nation, in which entrepreneurship and the notion of "being your own boss" are highly advertised ideals, France is a socialistic society, in which decisions are made in the best interest of the country-in which its citizens operate under the ideal of "all of one, and one for all". With that said, it is understandable that there exists such a difference between how we interpret not only the term 'individualism', but the concept as well. While Americans have learned the inherit value of independence, so have the French learned the innate value of cooperation.

How do you feel about what I've said? Do you agree with what I claim to be the origin of our separation in thought?

Je suis tout à fait d'accord avec cette vision des choses. Pour ma part, je vois en l'individualisme une connotation négative dans le sens où l'on se focalise sur l'individu d'où la notion d'égoïsme.

To me, it seemed as if the French saw individualism as a withdrawal from the collective society and isolation, as opposed to the Americans' view of individualism as a form of self-expression within a group of people. Is this a valid statement? Do you believe that individualism as you define it can be practiced within a group setting? Did the way in which the Americans responded to the word individualism surprise you?

I agree with Johanna: when individualism is selfish, it is a negative thing. It seems that in France, individualism and selfishness are closely linked. In the US, individualism is much more associated with our constitutional freedoms, like free speech and freedom of expression, freedom to own guns or freedom of religion. Also, individualism in the US is associated with being yourself, like choosing how to dress. This diversity is highly valued, especially in populated areas like Boston.

How do the French talk about the positive side of individualism? Are there words for "being yourself", "self-realization", or "self-actualization"?