adorable, six, decisions

close, caring, name

Genealogy, traditions, blood

Happiness, trust, relax, distant

happy, large, siblings

home, protection, free time

house, warm, yard, swing set

hugs, comfortable, home

Important, Caring, Available

important, irreplaceable, dependable

love, altruism,

love, care, affection, support

love, care, lifetime

love, home, acceptance

love, home, caring

love, home, childhood, memories

love, support, home

Love, Support, Relationships

love, support, vacation

mother, brother, love, cousins

mother, father, grandparents

parents, brother, support

parents, siblings, home

parents, sisters, home

respect, open, not judgmental

The most important thing in life

together, love, problems

amour, enfants, aide

écoute, joie, aide

Base, communauté, fraternité

cocon, entourage, relationnel

cocon, recomposé, solide

comfort, présent, la base


Equilibre, épanouissement, réussite

fondement, parents

foyer, parents, partage

lien, soutien, conflit

Parents, entraide, repas

parents, frères, fêtes, confort

parents, patrie, repas de famille

repas, conseille, amour

sécurité, soutien, respect

soutien, aide, heureux

soutien, amour, repère

soutien, descendance, proche

soutien, liens, origines


I felt that both sets of students had generally similar sentiments towards their families.  All words used were generally positive, including love, support, caring.  It was interesting to me that the American students used the word love to describe their families much more often than did the French students.  The French students seemed to look at their family more as a support system, using words like support, caring, aid, security, comfort and base, while the Americans used more emotional words such as love, affection, irreplaceable, warm, adorable, and "the most important thing in life."  This likely reflects a different family dynamic in France compared to America.

For the American students, love was the most frequent word associated with family. However, French students only made three references to love in association with family. What connotations does the word love entail in french culture? As an American, I use the word love freely when referencing my relationship with my family, friends, and objects that I feel strongly towards. Are the french more reserved when using the word? Why would very few french students associate a family dynamic with love?


Pour ma part, je pense que le mot amour a une connotation amoureuse. Je ne l'emploie que très peu et j'ai du mal à dire je t'aime à quelqu'un car c'est quelque chose de très fort. Cela vient sans doute de mon éducation. Bien sur que j'aime ma famille mais je ne suis pas habitué à le leur dire.

Si je dis je t'aime à quelqu'un, ce sera nuancé: par exemple: je t'aime bien ou beaucoup.

Après je pense que s'est dans la culture française mais je ne voudrais pas m'avancer en ne me basant que sur mon expérience personnelle.

Et dans votre cas, comment se fait-il que vous employez love aussi souvent? Est ce que le mot garde un sens très fort?

I think the reason why love is used more often here is because the word is not pre-assumed to have a romantic connotation. I think this makes it easier for people to use the word because of the absence of this pre-assumption.

As Baris initially pointed out, the French used a lot of words that seemed to describe their families as more of a support system. Is there any particular reason why this is so?

Another reason might have to do with a person's upbringing. Personally, I only use the word "love" with family or really close friends that I consider to be part of my family. This came about, though, because throughout my life family was always emphasized. Furthermore, phone conversation between family members always ended by saying "I love you and take care." And so, whenever I think of family, I immediately think of "love."

Does the typical French family use the word "love" as often as I described?

I always say "I love you" to people in my family. My parents told me they love me all the time when I was growing up, so that's probably why I say it in return. Aside from family, I used to only use the word "love" in the romantic sense. My friends would say "I love you" to me and I didn't know how to respond, and then my friends would get upset. Now I use the word "love" much more freely, but it still feels a little uncomfortable. 

My question is not really related to this topic of conversation, but here it is: How big does the French family extend? For me, my support group is my parents, my brother, and one of my grandmothers. I see my cousins about once or twice a year. Are your extended families (cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.) typically close to each other? 

In Chinese culture, we don't express our feelings directly, and of course, we never say "love" to our parents or friends. We think, if you truly love someone, you should rather love them by taking actions than just saying it. Many old couples never say love to each other, but clearly you can see they love each other so much.

I at first felt very surprised that Americans use the word "love" so often. But after a while, I agree that it's important to let people understand your feeling, including love.

Fabien, you bring up a great point. Saying something too much does decrease its meaning, but I think that "I love you" is an exception. In a family, "I love you" means unconditional love, support, and strength within a family. But if I say "I love you" to my boyfriend, it means something entirely different. I think it's not how much you say the words total that matters, it's how many people you say the words to and what the context is.

Sometimes in America you'll hear someone say "I love you!" after someone does something wonderful for them. While that may seem a bit strange, in that context, the words don't have nearly as much meaning. In all honesty, we probably do use the phrase too much, but the words can have deep meaning in other contexts. 

Thinking about it now, it's also odd that we use the word "love" for things - in the same way that we might for people. As in, "Oh my god, I love that movie." Which, as Danielle mentioned, can sort of make the word lose its meaning. 

I noticed that several of the french responses included "meals," whereas none of the American responses did. Why is that? I know, for my family, when we are all home we try to have family meals, but often different family members are too busy or not on the same schedule, and we rarely all sit down together. I feel like eating on the run is very common for Americans, and I wonder if this is the same for the French. 

I am Kenyan and we typically have larger families and greater interaction with the extended family than I have seen here in the USA. Is this the case in France? How common is it to live with members of your extended family for long periods of time, and do you get to know them at a personal level?

Fabien, are there other words that you consider in the same manner as "love"? 

I agree with Fabien that love has different meanings in both countries.  Americans definitely use the term more loosely as we love many things, including foods, movies, music, and activities.  I feel that while we use love for so many things, it still has a very strong meaning in a romantic setting.  I feel that the word love is not really thrown around in dating, but is more of a serious feeling.  However, love is also used with friends and family, thought meant in a different sense.  I guess love has many implications ranging from innocent to serious and the interpretation of the word is based of the context in which it is used.

I think it is true that the word love is used differently in different cultures. I came from Vietnam, and I don't think Vietnamese people use the word love often in everyday conversation. It can indicate a serious feeling, but the word is also becoming very cliche.

I noticed that support was used a lot by the French students. My question is - after the child grows up and becomes independent, how much support does one get from their parents?

The usage of the word "love" in America, and its meaning, varies greatly by context in the US.  It can be a less serious word used in normal conversation.  For example, if you really like an object or you are talking in an exagerative tone, you could say you "love" something but just mean that you very much like it or enjoy, or it could mean the exact opposite if you are being sarcastic.  This connotation is much different than directly telling someone you love them.  Most people would not directly tell someone that they loved them unless they really meant it.  Also, the usage of the word love in a romantic sense and between family members is also different.  You may love your girlfirend and your mother, but the way you love them is different and this is understood by the context of the usage.  It seems like in France, because the word is mainly affiliated with the romatic sense of the word, it is not associated as often with family and is not used as frequently. 

Pour Akansha,

Pour la plupart d'entre nous nos parents nous aident à subvenir à nos besoins jusqu'à environ 23 ans, en fait jusqu'à la fin de nos études.On est très peu à avoir un petit travail à coté pour être totalement indépendant.Est-ce plus courant aux Etats Unis?

Il est vrai que lorsque l'on voit les réponses des francais, on remarque que les mots aide, support (sous entendu financier) reviennent souvent.Je pense que cela vient du passé, les grands parents pour la plupart avaient beaucoup de biens (immobilier par exemple) et aidaient financièrement leurs enfants (nos parents).C'est moins vrai maintenant car on est de plus en plus dans un schéma où les enfants vont être amenés à gagner plus que leur parents.

Quand je vois vos réponses je me demande si les parents aux Etats Unis laissent de la liberté à leur enfant.Est-ce des parents sur-protecteurs?


pour Cinjon, le mot amitié est fort pour moi. En effet, on a tous plein de potes, "buddies", des mecs avec qui on s'entend bien, avec qui on fait la fete .. Mais les amis, ceux sur qui on peut compter quoi qu'il arrive, qui sont toujours là pour nous ne sont pas si nombreux.

pour Lauren, la taille des familles et des liens qui les unissent dépendent vraiment des familles et je ne pense pas que se soit lié au pays. Par exemple chez moi, mon père a coupé les ponts avec sa famille qui est très vaste, alors que ma mère est très proche de sa famille qui est beaucoup moins importante. 

Sinon, pour revenir au support, Hugo l'a bien dit, très peu d'entre nous ont un boulot d'appoint en parallèle des cours. Ce qui est aussi du au nombre d'heure de cours que nous avons par semaine (environ 35-40). De plus, on compte aussi sur nos parent après la fin de nos études. pour l'achat ou la location d'un appartement, il est souvent demandé d'avoir quelqu'un qui se porte garant (caution) pour nous. c'est à dire que si nous sommes dans l'impossibilité de payer, notre caution devra le faire. Et dans les trois quart du temps, les parents se portent caution pour leurs enfants.

par contre, j'ai un préjugé sur la famille américaine, vrai ou faux, à vous de me le dire, mais je vois la famille américaine comme une famille très unie avec un père protecteur qui joue avec son fils au foot dans le jardin ou qui bricole sa vielle mustang et la mère au foyer qui cuisine pour la famille. J'ai aussi l'image d'une famille très pieuse.

Dites moi si je me trompe.

Je voulais aussi savoir s'il y avait des aides apportées par l'état aux jeunes mères pour leurs permettre de recommencer à travailler après la naissance de leur enfant, telles que des crèches, des aides financières? Est ce que beaucoup de vos mères sont femmes au foyer??

Car en France, en tout cas dans les gens autour de moi, il y a très peu de femmes au foyer. 

Fabien:  Where I am from in the United States, parents are mainly authority figures to their children when they are younger and are also very involved in a lot of their childhood activities, which I guess is mostly similar to your description.  That paradigm ends around the years of adolescence as parents become more of a source of advice and guidance.  My friends and I all had jobs by the time we were about 15 due to our parents wanting us to be more financially responsible.  From then on, our parents became less directly involved in our day to day lives outside of meals and housing.  Once high school ended and whether pursuing further education or not, it was expected that we become completely independent aside from staying in regular contact or emergency help.

As for having stay-at-home mothers, I cannot recall a single family I knew growing up who had a stay-at-home parent unless they were between different jobs.  Mothers I knew worked except for a month or so after having (each of) their children.  For most jobs in my area, the only help or guarantees that existed for new mothers were that they could have their same job back provided they would not take too much time away from work.

The portrait of an American family that Fabien depicted is one I associate as a media-driven ideal only.  It is one people I know some people desire but not everyone.  I am curious though what you (French students) think of that family and whether or not there is an idea of a picture perfect family in France.  If there is, what is it like?

My two cents on the use of the word "love":  I learned to associate love with having a passion for something whether it be an activity or person.  Though my family did use the word "love" a lot while I was growing up like many of the other American students, the family unit is something I never could say I had a passion for and so I have not yet used it in that context.