The American Dream

Le rêve américain

classic, still relevant

different, unique, struggle

freedom, job, success

goal, success, money, stability

Growth, Entrepreneurship, Capitalism

hard work, desire, opportunity

home, family, success

hope, opportunity, escape

house, career, family

house, dog, job

idea, immigrant, equality, opportunity

immigration, dead, outdated

Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola, wealth

Meritocracy, MIT, Hard Work

money, unhappiness, consumerism, capitalism

not everyone can achieve it

outdated, traditionalism, unreal

real, family, independence

rich, freedom, independence

success, achievement, performance

success, hardship, fighting resistance

success, power, wealth

argent, liberté, fascination

étudier, bon poste, casino

business,wall street,entrepreneur

chimère, fantasme, libre entreprise

espoir, mirage

film, passé, cow-boy

Grosse maison, grosse voiture, idéal

Hollywood, la réussite

idiotie, illusion, capitalisme, argent

Illusion, accomplissement, ancien

liberté, réussite, ambition

liberté, réussite, argent

Los Angeles, film, réussite

maison, travail, enfants

Mensonge, argent, utopie

réussite, bonheur, richesse, liberté

Série télé, Consommation, Argent

statue de la liberté, l'Ouest, melting pot


voiture, argent, businessman


This is pretty controversial, apparently. While the Americans consider the American dream to be often associated to both hard work AND money, the French often have a negative view of it: superficial, illusion, idiotic or utopic were often reflected in the list. However, some phrases talk about accomplishment and, interestingly, freedom. Why is it that we (not always, but generally) think of it as something that is worth pursuing, while they see it as some hollywood-esque enterprise? (lol, cowboys). Is it really that worn out?

I think that more and more in the modern times, Americans as well as many other people are beginning to see fault with the "American Dream".  More and more are people seeing the negative consequences of Americans doing as they please in order to acheive the American Dream.  I was impressed however to see that there was a large similarity of words between the Americans and French.  

It's interesting that "The American Dream" is tagged in so many different ways.  In school, I've always learned about the American Dream in the context of the middle class, and most of the American responses seem to relate.  On the other hand, I suspect that the French respondants have associated "The American Dream" to references from news media, reality TV, and other popular culture.

Je trouve surprenant que les étudiants Américains (sauf un me semble-t-il) parlent de ce concept comme existant réellement alors qu'en France, certains mots sont plutôt négatifs et laissent penser que ce n'est pas possible (chimère, illusion...) Je suis d'accord avec Amanda lorsqu'elle dit que les Français ont des références via les médias et non une vraie vision des choses. Mais, du coup, qu'est ce que le rêve Américain pour des Américains?

C'est exactement cela Amanda. Pour nous, le rêve américain est représenté par Wisteria Lane et ses habitants parfaits, entre autres idées reçues. A mon avis, tout cela est surfait et beaucoup trop idéalisé, une dépense importante d'argent qui amène jalousies et hypocrisie.

Y a-t-il beaucoup d'américains qui arrivent à cet idéal?


Wow, I did not realize how different the views are for "The American Dream"! Many Americans think of it as anyone, no matter their race/religion/societal demographic, can lead a successful life in America. That last part is a little fuzzy - I think of it more as personal fulfillment, while "success" sometimes is interpreted as getting rich, living in a large house with a white picket fence, or other Hollywood-like stereotypes - maybe that's why people outside the US have such negative views?

Here are some examples of "The Dream":
- an average person who loves baking and quits their 9:00-5:00 job to turn their passion into a successful business
- a first-generation college student who earns a degree despite coming from a rough home/childhood
- Obama's story is even cited as an example of "The American Dream"

I think there are definitely plenty of these success stories...granted, there are some criticisms now on whether "The Dream" is still possible with how our economy is doing.

I think my personal interpretation of the "American Dream" is a little different than that of most. When I hear or read those words, the first image that comes to mind is that of hordes of immigrants waiting in line on Liberty Island, awaiting a new life in America. Or the view of the Statue of Liberty from the deck of a ship. 

The original idea of the "American Dream" came from the opinion that, like Meera said, anyone could come to the US and work hard towards a better life for their families. I tend to view this in a historical context, so I sort of agree with the responses of "outdated," "illusion" or "passé."

A votre avis, le rêve américain tend-il à disparaitre ou au contraire attire-t-il encore plus de gens dans ce contexte de crise économique mondiale?

To Anne-Gaëlle:


As a descendant of immigrants myself, and given the fact that I lived abroad for a while, I can say that the American dream is not completely dead. It has just... reshaped. While right now the US is going through a tough economic crisis --and here people tend to look at it as if it were the end of the world--, it is nothing compared to most countries, where the idea of coming to the US is synonym of progress. Yes, it is not the same as it was twenty years ago, but still doable, and still many people leave their homes and countries behind, hoping for a better future --for them, and for their children.

I agree with Adrian.  My parents also came to the U.S. as immigrants who initially lived in poverty.  But through hard work, they were able to work their way up the socio-economic ladder.  However as people have said, this is only half of the American Dream.  Many people believe that it is becoming "rich".  


My main question for the students in France is do the citizens of France place such a high value on wealth, so much that could possibly be the "dream" of their people?

I feel that, like Adrian states, the American Dream has been reshaped.  To quote Walt Whitman, one of the great American poets:

This is the America, and the Dream of America, that is poised now to emerge. Amid the chaos, amid the tension and loss of hope, amid the war and devastation that has become the very norm of our national collective life, this Dream is being given shape and form.  As yet, it lives only in the hearts of individual men and women; but slowly it will gather in the march of legions.

The American Dream is based on the multifaceted history of our nation's immigrants, that of coming to the United States, working very hard day in and day out, and finally suceeding in whatever evdeavors they set out to.

I think the American dream is still very much alive. It can be the immigrant coming to the United States, growing up in East LA, Brooklyn, or some trailer park in Texas, going to school and succeeding, and finally getting a degree.  (I'm probably repeating Meera's example).

I think that while the concept of the American dream and what it encompasses is different for everyone, there is some common ground in that it involves improvement. It is a sense of being more than what you are and attempting to reach your full potential. While the specifics of how this is achieved or what this means may have changed, whether it is being wealthy or simply achieving freedom, the simple idea of the American dream is still alive. It is a powerful symbol of what we can aspire to be & the fact that with determination we can reach it. 

I agree with the examples and examples that my classmates have given.  Just as Brigette said, I see the American Dream as something to work for.  Something to motivate us through many years of school and many hours at work.  

I want to bring up Zachary's question again and slightly rephrase it.  Is there a common aspiration for the French?  Whether it be wealth, good health, family, or something totally different - what is it that you work for?

Je pense que le rêve américain est un concept qui est cultivé par de nombreux exemples de réussites tels que: steve job, zuckerberg, portifs, singers...etc. Les gens ont besoin de croire en une réussite possible dans un pays qui se dit donner la chance à tous.

La France ne cultive pas cette idée de réussite, d'argent, de reconnaissance. Ce sont des sujets un peu tabous. En france on n'ose pas étaler sa richesse, montrer à outrance la réussite.

Peut être devrons nous être un peu plus fier de ces francais qui réussissent, ce qui donnerait cette motivation, cette envie qu'on les américains.

That's so interesting!

Why is it that those subjects are taboo?

It all comes down to the idea of how do you want to live your life, and what do you want from life. I noted that most of the French (though this is more related to "Success") associated the notion of success to peace and tranquility.

Is it because your goals are different than ours? What are your goals?

C'est vrai que la réussite sociale est souven tabou en France. Les chefs d'entreprises ou entrepreneurs sont souvent catalogués comme des "exploitants" de salariés/ouvriers au bas niveau de salaire. Je pense que c'est surtout le décalage entre les plus pauvres et les plus riches qui pose problème.

Concernant nos objectifs, j'ai l'impression (mais peut-être que je me trompe) que la famille est revenu au centre des préccupations des Français et que la réussite famille/carrière est difficile en France (surtout pour les femmes)

Et vous, comment percevez la réussite d'une femme et peut-elle lier facilement travail et famille?

Wow, I'm learning so many new things! 

Laurence, your question on whether Americans think that women are able to balance a career and a family is a classic one. Some people have strong opinions that no matter what, it is difficult to do, and, if that path is pursued, either/both are going to be compromised in some way regardless. Others, however, firmly believe that a women can "have it all". There are so many opinion articles, interviews with top women executives...I don't think there is a clear stance on this is something that a lot of women in America worry about.

But that doesn't stop most women in this country from trying, haha! 

So if success is a little downplayed in France, where does your motivation come from (kind of repeating Amanda's question - what do you work for?)?


Being from the west coast, I have a certain appreciation for the American Dream, or at least the idea of the self-made man. Sucessful people who came from nothing resonate a lot more with me and that's kind of at the heart of the American Dream I think. It's not saying "if you work hard enough you'll get rich" so much as "we want america to be a country where any kind of person can be successful through hard work"

As most people have stated, Americans typically view the "American Dream" and hard work as the road to success (typically monetary success) and eventually happiness.  So I think a common American viewpoint is that if you work hard, you will eventually earn money, become rich, and become happy.  Of course this is not representative of many Americans, but it seems to be a prevalent idea.


Anyways my question for the French students is how would you describe the French road to happiness, if one exists.  I realize this could be a broad and inaccurate statement, but I was wondering if there exists a general French idea towards happiness.

Echoing what previous people have said, I believe that the American Dream is not dead but has drastically changes over the past decade.  I think it's also something that is unique to every person.  I think that there cannot be one overarching theme for the American Dream.  It is ridiculous to state an "American Dream" and have everyone aspire to it because not everyone has the same ideals. For some people, simply living a happy life, whether rich or not, could be considered succes.