The American Dream

Le rêve américain

constructed, consumerism, pleasure

dreams, reality, success

fame, fortune, happiness, success

freedom, riches, happiness

General Motors, success, famous

Great Gatsby, immigrants, unpromising, hardship

home, security, freedom

land, car, money, family

Live Freely and Comfortably

money, fame, fortune

Money, Jobs, Good schools

money, success, stability

NY, freedom, cosmopolitan

opportunity, dangerous, distant

opportunity, employment, happiness

Poor, hungry, driven

rags to riches, hard work

rags to riches, making a name for yourself, hope

Self-fulfillment, Individual, Archaic

social class, work, family, independence

success, hope, future

success, wealth, happiness

success, work, grandparents

The Great Gatsby, boats, mice, black and white movies

The Great Gatsby, unobtainable

wealth, family, mobility

white fence,

argent, évolution, pétrole

argent, facile, illusion

argent, pétrole, pouvoir,

Autodidacte, argent, pouvoir

Bill Gates,illusion pour beaucoup,riche

excès, illusion

illusion, argent, déception

illusion, cliché, rêve

Illusion, excès, attirant

illusion, sélection, cinéma

liberté, possibilités, renouveau

mort, illusion

n'existe plus

palace, argent, rare

précarité, guerre, illusion

réussite, argent, autodidacte

réussite, argent, bonheur

réussite, idée, opportunités

self-made man, possibilité, réalisation

Travail, famille, argent


Il est intéressant de voir que pour la plupart des Français, American dream rime avec illusion! Ici, nous avons l'impression que le rêve américain est une sorte de propagande pour diffuser une belle image des Etats-Unis. En réalité, beaucoup de choses sont inaccessibles à ceux qui viennent de milieux sociaux défavorisés, notemment à cause d'un système social quasi inexistant.

Qu'en pensez-vous? Est-ce comme cela en réalité ?

I was surprised by how many people said the American Dream is an illusion. It is true that not everyone has the same opportunities to achieve their goals, but there are some people who make the dream a reality. We see them on TV all the time. I think the American Dream exists, but it is not a promise for everyone. It takes a lot of hard work to make it come true. 

Is there a similar idea in France? Why do you work as hard as you do?

Being a foreigner in america (I'm Korean) I feel the american dream is somewhat overrated. Looking at the examples of American Dreams, I feel it does exist but somewhat too craved for when it is very rare to actually achieve sucess, as you've said.

From my knowledge, France also has many immigrants. Then is there also something close to the American Dream in France?

In the forum written from MIT, The Great Gatsby appears three times. The novel is the most typical example that portrays the american dream. If there is something similar in France, is there also a famous novel that symbolizes such idea?

IF there isn't anything similar to the american dream, what is the idea of success in France? Since it's not a capitalist country, I feel it would not be necessarily wealth.

I am Mexican American and my parents immigrated to the US to find that American Dream. I do believe it exists to many people and that it is possible as I have seen my own parents achieve it and because of them, I am at MIT now.  Even though I have seen it through not only my parents and some of my family who is here in the states now, I do believe that it is very hard to achieve it.  Many times I have seen students in my situation that fall straight through the cracks only to arrive in prison or death.  Also, my parents did not get to the position where we are now overnight, and where they are now is not all nice and pretty.

Pierre, you mentioned that it is a way to promote a beautiful image of the US and I agree with that.  There are many stories, books, publications, etc. that mention this American Dream, but I believe that although it is a reality for some, the many that are left behind are not shown here in the US because sometimes the media denies us the truth.  That being said the American Dream for many people who immigrate here to the US is not fulfilled in their life time, but in the generations who follow them.  I just happen to be lucky and show my parents that all their sacrifice did not go to waste.

In France is there such an idea as in the US?  France is a lot smaller as well, does this make it much harder for immigrants to take part in a "French Dream?"

I also think the American dream is overrated and very difficult to attain for people who come from a lower socio-economic background. For these people, it is easy for their children to fall through the cracks. 

Yes there are a few people who make it through, but I truely believe they are the lucky ones and with this economy it is hard enough for someone to find a job!

My parents immigrated to the US for education purposes and decided to stay thinking they would find the american dream.  Now they are building their house in Sudan and ready to go back "home". 

I know there is a lot of North African immigration into France, do they find a new life? I'm asking this, because all I ever hear about are riots and anger concerning immigrants.

I am from China and I went to Singapore alone for education(pre-uni and undergrad)  when I was 15. Singapore is an immigrant country as well as US. I guess the reason behind the American dream is not just the propaganda, but also the fact that there exist a mixed culture and people are more accepting to "outsiders". 

People from all kinds of background, every corner of the world might find US a melting pot of nationality because what a country/ patriotism means to citizens in an immigration country is REALLY REALLY different from a country with thousand years of history and the culture that comes with it. At least in my personal point of view, Chinese won't be that accepting to large population of immigrants. I would imagine it could be harder to mingle around European people if I am living there now. My friends studying in Europe are pretty much all quite isolated and stick with their own Chinese circle, at least compared to what I see here. Anyway, there are enough Asians in MIT so I don't feel completely out of place.


One more thing that surprises me is how many times illusion comes in as the 1st word in ENSAM students' answers. It would be really interested to know more about what Europeans think about US, in terms of power and global influence and also how Europeans place themselves in the world. My apologies in advance if I sound too political.

It is rare to see a true example of the American dream - small child works hard, grows up and becomes successful. 

I think the idea of the American Dream does exist, but sometimes much more slowly. My grandfather came from a poor family during the Great Depression, but he joined the army then spent eight years finishing college. He was the first in his high school class to graduate from a college. His life was much better than that of many of his classmates, and his children and grandchildren have been more successful. Sometimes the American Dream can mean passing on the success for younger generations. 

I don't think there is a magic American Dream where some fantastic opportunity falls into your lap. It's more of working hard to make your life better and hopefully passing that success on to children. Unfortunately, the cards some people are dealt makes it impossible for them to find their own "American Dream." Achieving "the Dream" is not equal opportunity. 

What is a theme French culture repeats in books that people rally around? In America, the them of "the American Dream" is repeated in books like "The Great Gatsby."




I thought it was interesting to see that the words illusion and money showed up so often in the French's perception of the American dream, yet these rarely showed up in the American perception.  It is surprising to see the association because the American film industry always portrays people from other countries wishing to immigrate to the United States because of the American Dream.  It is nice to see how other countries such a France truly see the American Dream now.  I believe that the American Dream is possible, however it is not easy to attain.  More so, I believe that the American Dream was much more powerful and possible to achieve in the early 20th century as opposed to now.  At this time, America was coming up in the world and for this reason was a great place to establish oneself.  I feel that with the US established as it is now, the American dream is harder to achieve because there is less upwards mobility in our society.  Now, I feel that the American Dream is more of a point of pride in the United States than a reality.  The hope of being successful some day is a major factor behind the American industry.

Does France have a large immigrant population? And do these immigrants have a "French Dream" if you will, which they wish to achieve?

On retrouve ca en France, bien ya beaucoup d'immigrés (on parle souvent du pays des droits de l'homme) et à leur arrivée ils commencent en bas de l'échelle. Pourtant, en classe prépa par exemple, il ya beaucoup de gens d'origines etrangères : je pense que cette motivation a grimper l'echelle s'est transmise entre les générations alors que le francais de base se satisfait de ce qu'il a. Or au MIT et en prépa, quand l'implication doit etre importante, la motivation est la clé.

Par rapport au USA, on a pas le French Dream par ce que ce n'est pas le pays aux meilleurs opportunités : la taille n'est pas la même et je pense la cuture n'est pas aussi cosmopolite.

I remember the former president Chirac was a very diplomatic person. One time I learned that the high rate of Muslims in France was due to the openness the Chirac government presents. Is that true?

And if it is, why is it that many immigrants wish to come to France when, as Eric has said, there are not as many good opportunities?

It is interesting how we think of the the American Dream.  All of us have some connection to this concept and to how we perceive it.

Eric and Pierre:  I am interested in what is your reaction to all our different views.  Some of us are sons and daughters to immigrant parents, and others are not, but most of us share this common view of the American Dream.  What do you feel about the diversity we have and our responses to this concept of a "dream?"


Je remarque que l'ensemble du débat a dérivé de "l'American dream" à la situation des immigrés en France et aux Etats-Unis. Peut-être pourrions-nous par la suite élargir le débat à la vision qu'ont les Américains eux-mêmes de "l'American dream", et à la vision des Français face aux possibilités d'ascension sociale dans leur propre pays. Qu'en pensez-vous ?

Pour répondre aux différentes questions, je vais me concentrer sur trois points: l'aspect historique, l'hypothétique "french dream actuel" et la question des opportunités qui sont offertes actuellement à nos immigrés.

Tout d'abord, je ne pense pas que le flux d'émigrés ait augmenté suite à l'investiture de J.Chirac. La France est une "terre d'accueil" depuis plus longtemps. Suite à la Seconde Guerre mondiale et lors les deux décennies suivantes (60's et 70's) la France a connu une forte croissance économique et avait un grand besoin de main d'oeuvre. Elle a donc fait appel aux populations (avant tout masculines) ses colonies. Cette relation entre la métropole et ses colonies s'est poursuivie par la suite et s'est "élargie". C'est Valery Giscard d'Estaing (président de 1974 et 1981) qui a par exemple institué le "rapprochement familial" et qui a mené une politique de plus grande ouverture envers les immigrés et leurs familles. Ainsi, Jacques Chirac (parfois surnommé "Chirac l'Africain") n'est pas à l'origine de cette ouverture, mais ne l'a que prolongé. 

Ensuite, sur la question du "french dream" et de savoir s'il existe. Je n'ai jamais entendu une expression équivalente en France donc je ne pense pas qu'il y ait un équivalent français. Il y a plusieurs raisons qui laissent à penser que ces deux "rêves" sont différents. Je pense que les personnes immigrés en France sont attirées pour des raisons différentes, que celles qui existent aux Etats-Unis. Pour moi la taille du pays n'est pas si importante. Ce sont plus les raison économiques qui poussent les gens à immigrer, et non des raisons géographiques. De plus, la France attire surtout pour des raisons idéologiques (les valeurs françaises, les droits de l'homme) ou historiques et/ou familiales (les conséquences du rapprochement familial, les relations encore très fortes avec les anciennes colonies).

Enfin, les candidats-immigrés n'ont probablement pas les mêmes chances en France d'accéder aux mêmes opportunités qui sont offertes aux Etats-Unis. Il est en effet aujourd'hui très difficile d'immigrer légalement en France (beaucoup plus qu'aux Etats-Unis me semble-t-il), en raison de la politique restrictive mise en place par notre gouvernement. Mais peut-être me contredirez-vous sur ce point. Les immigrés ont aussi des chances plus limités d'ascension sociale dans notre pays. On peut souvent constater une sorte de racisme latent ou d'indifférence face aux minorités visibles dans la vie quotidienne. On ne verra par exemple que très rarement des présentateurs "non blancs" à la TV ou dans les spots TV, et je pense que c'est un des points sur lesquels les Etats-Unis témoignent d'une plus grande ouverture d'esprit. Enfin, il y a le problème de la "reproduction des élites", qui fait qu'il est très difficile d'atteindre les meilleurs postes si on ne vient pas du milieu social souhaité, et si vos parents n'ont pas fait d'étude. Comme l'a dit Eric, il y a une certaine diversité en prépa, mais je pense qu'elle est extrêmement limité, et l'est d'autant plus grande quand on monte dans l'échelle sociale.

Voilà, j'espère avoir répondu à quelques unes de vos nombreuses questions.