boring, wealthy, protected

cars, inconvenient, green, quiet

cars, white housewives, white picket fences, families

city, inclusive,

conformed, small, cozy

far, large, depressing

growing up, quiet, where families go

Home, Rich, Jewish

Homes, Trees, Outside

homogeneous, segregated, middle-class

houses, small, minivans

Lawns, Sidewalks, America

Neat, Quiet, Houses

Neighborhood, Houses, Commuting

neighborhoods, schools, children

outskirts, city, country, middle

Peace, Calm, Far

safe, comfortable, boring

scenery, small houses, farm

strange, necessary, development

underdevelopment, poverty, minorities

urban sprawl, "white picket fence"

chaude, Versailles, racaille

Cité, Agglomération, RER

continuité, tranquillité, richesse


Délinquance, Gangs, insécurité

délinquance, incompréhension, mépris

en dehors,

habitats, ville, bidonvilles

pauvre, diversifiée, difficile

périphérie, éloignée, quartier

Périphérie, Habitation, Calme

quartiers, pauvreté, insécurité



Ville, hlm, logements

Ville, Rural, Pollution



How far from the cities are the suburbs in France? In the United States, the suburbs are usually considered any town within a 45 minutes drive from the city (for commuters). The suburbs farther away for the city are mostly nice neighborhoods for the middle-class. Large towns on the very outskirts of the city seem similar to the suburbs you describe, but are usually just considered part of the city.

I find the clear difference in responses to be very interesting.  Whereas in America it seems like we associate suburbs with idyllic lifestyles, in France, banlieues seem to embody the polar opposite.  Is it the lack of highways and lower car ownership that make French people value living in the center more than in the periphery?  Is there something within the American psyche which causes Americans to want to live in artifically rural developments?  I'd be curious to also see what the "city center" means to both French and Americans.

I was also curious about the negative connotation on the French side, but maybe the American connotation comes from the Manifest Destiny idea and all the expansion we continue to do. Having more space maybe means you are adventurous and maybe even "American" enough to get the land.

De ce que j'ai pu comprendre, il semblerait que la banlieue soit pour vous le cadre de vie idéal. Cependant pour nous la banlieue est directement rattachée à la ville, elle se trouve dans la périphérie directe de la ville. Et généralement elle se compose de logements sous forme d'immeubles.

La plupart des banlieues sont plutôt pauvre chez nous, sauf certaines comme Neuilly qui sont des banlieues riches. La plupart des français cherchent à vivre soit en ville soit dans la périphérie de la banlieue

Are the buildings that you speak of in the suburbs apartment buildings?

 I know in the U.S., many people move to the suburbs to start families because it is quieter and it is less crowded, in addition to being safer and having better schools. Are the suburbs in France quieter, less packed, and more scenic than the city?

Although most people in America tend to associate the suburbs as an ideal middle-class place to live, I think can be quite the opposite and align more with the French in some places. I think people always believe the suburbs to be that way because there isn't an obvious display of poverty as there is with the homeless in cities. I think the suburbs are pretty similar to cities in terms of the economic makeup but have a more silent poor community. However, I think most major cities here are much more dangerous than suburbs and things are much harder to deal with because of such dense populations.

In the US at least, I think responses to 'Suburbs' are particularly affected by where one grew up (if that was in a suburb). I myself have a very clear image of what I imagine a suburb to be, and that may not be accurate at all. I imagine there is a great deal of variation in France as well, is this the case?

I saw the word "chaude" written in the catagory, but I am not sure what is the connection. I guess it doesn't refer to the literal meaning of chaude, but I am wondering what that actually means.

I thought this was a very interesting category. It seems, As Romain Picard remarked, that the two sides are starkly contrasted. While in America the suburbs are where the affluent part of society live, in France it is where the poor live. I thought it was very interesting how very different the words were and how one side used very positive fluffy words and the other very negative words

Dans ce contexte, "chaude" signifie qu'il y a souvent des problèmes dans les banlieues (drogue, voles, etc). Il est vrai que la vie en banlieue, n'est pas le cadre de vie idéal en France, mais ce ne sont pas toujours les plus démunis qui y vivent.


@Amber, les immeubles dont je parlais sont bien des habitations et non pas des bureaux.

What would be the ideal solution to such problems in France?  Better transport connectivity to the city center?  More job opportunities in the banlieue so people do not have to come to the city center?  More social programmes in the banlieue? 

@ Romain,

From what you have said I would think that the concepts of "suburb" in English and "banlieue" in French are really not the same thing at all.  This seems to be a case where the theoretical definitions of the words overlap, but in the actuality is different, and not just because our cultural views are different.

I have never lived in a suburb, but in my experience with them, they are not dangerous or bad places to live.  I feel that, here, if a suburb became over-run with drugs and theft, it would almost cease to be defined as a suburb.  We might instead refer to it as something else, like a slum.

@Christophe :

Je trouve certaines de tes propositions de solutions assez caricaturales :

-Plus d'offres d'emplois en banlieue pour éviter une affluence dans le centre ville : Les voyous qui commettent des crimes en centre villes n'y vont surement pas pour travailler.

Le problème des banlieues françaises est un problème d'intégration économique et social dans le tissu économique et sociale français. Je dirai que pour commencer à résoudre ce problème il faut d'abord résoudre le problème du chômage en banlieue. L'oisiveté est mère de tous les vices.

Let's try and find some parallels..

How large are the banlieues? I'm confident that the US also has bad neighborhoods, and also had issues with immigration and neighborhoods that are filled with certain cultures. But are the banlieueus blocks of houses, or whole cities attached to larger cities?

I don't think that the French have American-style suburbs (the extremely spaceous living communities, >1hour away from the big city). Do you have lots of commuters?

Is it possible that the suburbs the french talk about are the outskirts of cities and the suburbs americans talk about are small towns well outside the city.  The US does have poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of cities and I am under the impression that there are safe small towns in France farther outside the city. Is this correct?

@ Romain

I was more confused about what kind of builidings people live in in the suburbs. Are they more like apartment buildings (des appartements) or free-standing houses (les maisons)? We have many different types of homes in the US, and they often, but not always, reflect the socioeconomic state of their region and its residents.

@ Amber et nous collègues français

It's interesting you mention the physical form of the banlieue.  When I was an undergrad, there was a lot of talk during the Paris riots of poor design being part of the problem (not the only problem, but the generally inhumane nature of the architecture found in Paris's banlieue--similar to that found in many inner-city projects--was considered one contributing factor).  

I don't necessarily have a stance on this subject, seeing as I've never been to a banlieue.  But, some interesting articles below.

Would be curious to hear from our French counterparts if they feel this is a fair assessment, or if this is just hyped up American media ; ).


Oui pour nous la banllieu c'est bien la périphèrie des villes. Et oui biensur, il y a des petites villes loins des villes qui sont "safe" :)