The American Dream

Le rêve américain

astronaut, hamburgers, flags.

Capitalism, literature, new start

Cowboys, Texas, Content


equal, fair, unbiased

financial security, employment, success

freedom, capitalism, idealism

freedom, equal opportunity, pursuit of happiness

freedom, inspiring, over-emphasized

freedom, opportunity, choices

goals, achievement, worth

idealized, prevalent, false

laughable, lie, convoluted

making it big, fool's gold, stressful

money, cars, women

money, glory, fame, power

money, hardwork, upward mobility

myth, misleading, difficult

nightmare, untrue, idealistic, old-fashioned


Opportunity, equity, justice

poverty, "rags to riches", gold

rewards, hard work, justice

Rich, Successful, Effort

success, fame, invention, work

success, rich, powerful

the West, mountains, buffalo

white picket fence, two car garage, obsolete

working man; factory; melting pot

"self-made man ?!"

argent, "un nouveau monde"

argent, maison individuelle, équipement ménager .

argent, réussite, fête, los angeles

argent, succès

avoir un rang, belle villa, avoir beaucoup d'argent.

Devenir célèbre; la liberté;

haute consommation,


La grandeur. Travailler pour vivre. Fuir un pays en guerre pour y trouver la paix.

La réussite pour tous

libre, riche, entreprise


Mérite, Difficultés

mondialisation, consommation

New York, travailler, changement

obama, liberté

Obama, liberté, réussite

Objectif, New York, Bonheur, Richesse

possible, rare, espéré

réussite, rapidité, argent

réussite, richesse, pouvoir, travail

réussite. richesse.

richesse, études, Hollywood

richesse, réussite de la vie professionnelle



It's interesting if one considers the context in which these associations were made. For example, while the american students highlight a few positive aspects of the American Dream, many of the words call its validity and practicality into question. So it makes me wonder, whether the French students were thinking about the American dream as an abstract idea that exists and the american students were considering how much this has come true. 

Also, several people mentioned Obama as an association and I was wondering what their thoughts were about what led them to that association. 

Another person said "work for life" which I think is interesting because in comparison to some other countries, Americans work much more, and seem to always be working towards something. I wonder whether that aspect of American life is also part of the American dream. Any thoughts?

Just from reading their responses, I wasn't quite sure how the French students felt about the American dream. While they were nearly all in agreement that the American dream involved money and success, I wasn't sure if they considered these things to be worthwhile goals in and of themselves. There were a few positive comments about refugees and liberty and happiness, but I'm curious how the French feel about money being such an important part of the American dream.

I was not at all surprised by the negative comments of some of the American students. Sure, there are the occasional stories of people coming from working class families and making millions of dollars through hard work, but these stories are so few and far between that many Americans get disillusioned by the American dream. Most Americans also feel that there is more to life than making money and being successful. They agree that living the American dream would be a positive experience, but they know that money will not bring happiness.

The American responses to "The American Dream" captured our idea of the term both in its abstractness, "the pursuit of happiness, opportunity, success and freedom;" as well as in its more concrete manifestations, "astronauts, the West, buffalo and hamburgers."  It is a complex term though, and one that is often invoked in politics as an undeniable truth, however vaguely defined it is. 

The French responses seemed to focus more on the ideas of consumption, money, work and greed, which may be how are country is perceived around the world, but many responses also chose to mention Obama, hope and dreams.  I find that I identify more with the latter terms, in that "the dream" is really about opportunity, mobility and achieving your personal goals.  Obama is definitely a perfect example of that.  Has he changed the perceptions of America and our "dream?"  If the underlying principles of our country are individualism, hard work, competition and striving, what are the principles that French society rests on?  Is there a collective national "goal?"


Both American and French students talked about money and success, the obvious componants of "The American Dream".  I wasn't surprised to find quite a few words with negative connotations in the american response section.  For people outside of the states the american dream is just that, a dream.  Here it's a myth that brought many immigrants into already impoverished neighborhoods and cities.  Many people in the early 1900s who came here with nothing did not find what they were looking for.

It appears to me that the French have a more idealized version of the American "dream".  Of course, it is a dream and by definition it should be utopic.  The French relate it to success and money, they think it is a positive concept.  On the other hand, the Americans have a slightly less postivie opinion.  It seems as if all Americans had been taught what the "American Dream" was, but none of them actually believes that it is true or that the stereotype can be the ultimate dream.

Le rêve Américain constitue à priori une sorte d'objectif, de but à atteindre, avec de la réussite professionnelle, de l'argent, une famille, etc ... C'est pour cette vision, je pense, que les réponses Françaises sont assez positives dans l'ensemble.

Certaines réponses Américaines sont plus réservés envers ce rêve Américain, qui à l'air selon eux, d'être une fiction, un mensonge. Peut être est ce parce qu'il est difficil de le vivre, et qu'en fait, il ne s'adresse qu'à un léger pourcentage d'Américains ? Il y a t'il beaucoup d'Américains qui pensent vivre ce rêve ?


I don't know about most Americans but I think of the American dream as an idea of the past.  I think of it as something that immigrants thought they would have when they came to America and when they got here life was not easy and the streets were not paved with gold.  I think in some ways America was the land of opportunity but that doesn't mean that everyone who comes here is going to get rich and live happily ever after.

Do Europeans consider "the American dream" as something that still exists today?  Do other Americans?

Is there such a thing as the "French Dream", le rêve français? I've read that there is a fairly high level of immigration to France from North Africa and former French colonies. Are these people attracted to France for the same goals that are in the American dream?

I think the idea of "the American Dream" is still prevalent today to a certain extent. Obviously no one thinks that our streets are paved with gold. But we still celebrate people who work hard and make something of themselves. Americans are still most impressed/obsessed with people who grew up with "nothing," overcame various hardships, and became successful. 


Je pense que les européens, sont attirés par les Etats-Unis, moi même j'aimerai beaucoup y allé un jour, mais il est vrai que comme l'a fait remarquer Jared, le niveau de vie en Europe Occidentale fait que l'on peut aussi avoir une sorte de " rêve Européen " nottament lorsque l'on voit l'immigration croissante des populations Africaines vers la France, l'Espagne, l'Angleterre etc ...

Mais je pense que quelque part , beaucoup d'Européen croit au rêve Americain, même si la réalité fait qu'il n'est pas aussi facile de l'obtenir.

Pensez vous que parallement au rêve Americain, il puisse y avoir un rêve Européen ?


You have raised a very interesting point.  What, I wonder, does the "European Dream" of which you speak look like?  In what ways would it be similar or dissimilar from that of the US?


Il est difficile de le dire, car l'Europe du fait de sa grande diversité culturelle, ne constitue pas non plus un modéle unique.

Mais il est aussi possible en Europe, d'accéder à une vie agréable, car ici aussi , le travail engendre l'argent.

Il serait peut être assez similaire au rêve américain, sachant que la chose qui différencie peut être les deux pays sont l'organisations des villes, plus récente aux USA, plus ancienne en Europe.

Quel est ton point de vue sur cette question ?

I wonder whether what is commonly referred to as the American Dream actually shares common threads with a goal that is universal (at least in most countries), regardless of nationality or ethnicity, the hope to be financially comfortable, live a happy life with family if you choose and enjoy certain rights and freedoms....