art, france, food

arts, history, culture

Barcelona, France, Germany

continent, place, location

continental, grey, alps

culture, art, food

culture, food, Euro crisis

cultured, beautiful, scenic, architecture

davinci, voltaire, renaissance

Development, history, simple

exotic, relaxed, traditional

fashion, food, history

food, Merkel, beautiful

foreign, traveling, food

foreign, yummy, travel

France, culture, history

historic, castles, travel

history, adventure, travel

history, art, castles

multinational, historic, diverse

Socialism, Beautiful, Old

Western, Imperialist,

afrique, asie, amérique, euros

Communauté, Monnaie, Continent

continent, euro, langue française

Continent, pays, ouverture

continent, union, pays

France, Paris, EU

France, union, euro

la france, l'espagne, l'Italie, la grèce

nation, citoyen, multiculturel

Origine, peuple, culture

pays, continent, relations

plurilinguisme, diversité, partager

tradition,innovation, culture, crise

Union Européenne, Bruxelles, libre circulation

Union européenne, crise, politique, économie

union européenne, langues, étoiles

Union, continent, culture

union, liberté, droit

vieux continent, euro, frontières

voyage, frontière, démocratie


The words used had an overall positive connotation. There is also a big difference in the way we view Europe. For the Americans, the focus was on the art and history, something I think the words 'castle', 'renaissance', and 'architecture' strongly suggest. It is as if we focus on the pleasures that Europe has had to offer throughout the ages, as 'travel' appears often, suggesting Europe as a vacation spot to endulge ourselves in its history. The French, on the other hand, used words that describe the diversity and the status of the European nations in the present. We see this with words such as diversity, economy, politic, languages, etc. Also, Eurpean Union and union appear a number of times. 

I did notice crisis and tradition as French words, something I think only they could write because we cannot identify ourselves with the continent. I also saw innovation and it left me thinking, is it because of countries in Europe that are in the forefront of current advances, or because of the past when they have been the founders of many ideas throughout their history (what they have already innovated, as would befit the concept of art)?

I agree with Sebastian's analysis; I think Americans view Europe through the rose-colored glasses of the past. We focus more on the historical/cultural significance of the continent and less on the current state of affairs. 

Again, this may be my cynical self speaking, but I wonder how much of this is due to American's general lack of knowledge on current affairs. I bet that if you were to ask any Average Joe who the French president is, or what the economy is like in Europe right now, they would have no clue. I feel that part of this perspective we have is due to our general ignorance of world news and current events. 

I'll agree with Sebastian's comment regarding Americans' ignorance with respect to current European affairs.  At the same time I believe that most of the positive connotations stem from the perception that Europe has shaped/ molded most of the course of history for the last 800 years.

As for the French words I would say that they give a realistic picture of most societies nowadays: multicultural, innovative.  I also find it surprising that the conceptof the European Union has become entrenched into the French mindset as being wholly representative of Europe, being that it was established only relatively recently.

J'ai été agréablement surprise de constater que du côté américain, il y ait eu si peu de mots négatifs sur l'Europe ("grey", "euro crisis" une seule fois). Evidemment, l'histoire apparaît beaucoup plus que du côté français, puisque nous avons un passé bien plus long, nous avons donc peut-être tendance à oublier cette richesse culturelle.

Vous remarquerez que les préoccupations françaises sont d'ordre économique (l'euro, la crise), et l'Union européenne est une notion politique qui fait maintenant partie de notre quotidien, de notre inconscient collectif.



I can certainly sympathize with flo's statement. Having been born and raised in Europe myself, I do sometimes tend to forget Europe's cultural wealth and beauty and tend to focus more on the problems, such as the Euro Crisis. If you go and look at the words that were submitted for the 'United States', you can sort of see the opposite picture. Many Americans pointed out problems, whereas the French thought of the touristy things. Do you guys think that this may just have to do with the saying 'the grass is always greener on the other side', or do you think it's just our general lack of knowledge of other countries?

Throughout the European Union's existence, I think the word 'Europe' has become a synonym for the 'E.U.', much like 'America' is a synonym for the U.S. (though, strictly speaking, that's not right either). That's why I suspect many of the French students thought of the E.U. when they saw the word 'Europe'.

With respect to Paula's comment, I do sometimes find the lack of general knowledge here in the U.S. striking, though I don't think it's quite as bad as she portrayed it. I think most American's are aware of the current economic situation in Europe. But I do agree with her general argument.

To answer Sebastian's question, I think many people connect Europe with innovation because of both, past innovations and current advances. For example, Germany and other European countries are to this day considered technological powerhouses.


To answer Sven's question, while it is true that there is likely a general lack of knowledge about all that is happenging in other countries, I think that people generally at least have an idea of what is occurring. The fact that americans seem to portray Europe in such an artsy, historical sort of way might be them portraying their idealized version of Europe. I've been to Europe through the MISTI program and I know that people from the US always want to hear all about Europe and what's there, whereas if you say you did an internship in the mid-west of the US americans might not be quite so interested. Hence, while it may be a combination of both lack of knowledge and "the grass is greener on the other side", the latter probably has a very big influence on people's perceptions of Europe. 

I think I understand flo's comment on forgetting the history. Although it would not be forgetting as much as focusing on other aspects of life in a certain place, such as focusing on the problems that arise in a nation, much like Sven stated. 

A word that seemed interesting (perhaps because it appeared only once) was Origine. Any particular reason why that word was chosen?

J'ai été surpris de voir, du côté américain, très peu de mentions à l'Europe. Du côté Français ce mot est très recurrent. Dans la liste américaine on remarque seulement deux mentions "multinational" ou "euro crisis" ce qui n'est pas très positif. Seulement la France et l'Alemagne sont citées. Ceci serait lié au fait que, dans le contexte actuel, ces deux pays sont très impliqués dans le combat à la crise? Ou encore: ce concept d'Union Européenne tel qu'on entends en Europe n'est pas une idée forgée?

Je pense que les réponses et les analyses des américains sont très influencées par leur niveau d'étude et donc de réflexion. La majorité des américains ont une idée plus floue et superflue de l'Europe.

POur les français c'est avant tout les relations entre pays, la situation économique, la politique, la diversité culturelle. Les américains ont une vision plus historique, géographique, culturelle (mode, nourriture...)


With respect to Henrique's comments, I think he is right in proposing that France and Germany are the two countries mostly mentioned by americans, because these are the two countries that are leading Europe in fighting the Euro Crisis. I'm not sure whether that's a good or a bad thing though.

To answer Sebastian's question, the word 'origine' may be mentioned, because Europe was the origin of western society.

I was also a little surprised to find the word 'exotic' on the list. For me Europe is about the farthest thing from exotic. When I hear 'exotic', I think of an island in the Caribbean or in the South Pacific. Does anybody have any suggestions as to why this word came up?

With respect to Sven's question as to why "exotic" was used (it wasn't me),  I would say that to some Americans /students at MIT Europe might be exotic in the sense that the lifestyles are vastly different from one area to another.  To someone growing up in the deep South or California or the Midwest certain aspects of European society might seem "exotic" (different forms of government, the population density, Pamplona bull runs, really small cars).

I like how the word "plurilinguisme" appears on the responses from the students at ENS Lyon.  I think that this is one of the most distinguishing features of Europeans themselves.  Here in the United States most students in public schools are required to learn a foreign language (Spanish, French, German, Chinese, etc), but many students forget what they learn from lack of practice.  On the other hand, due to the geographical proximity and interdependence between European countries, it becomes a necessity to learn and use more than one language.

I agree with Brice. Americans do have a broad view of France. Then again, France being a major touristic location, it would be difficult to associate France with its detailed status when movies and documentaries about France talk only about, for example, the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, etc. What reaches the US is also influential on what ideas we can generate of what lies beyond. Maybe it's the same the other way around?

To answer Sebastian's question, I do think it's the same the other way around. While I also agree with Paula and Sven that the average American is kind of ignorant of what really goes on in the world, I think the same can be said about an individual of any country. Unless you've actually lived in the country or have some sort of strong association with it, it's typically difficult to see the substance and the problems that lie beneath the food, colors, and music.

Je vais répondre a Gerzain pour son commentaire en haut pour dire que justement, c'est par le fait que l'union est un évenement plutôt récent que c'est le mot auquel on pense en premier quand on invoque l'Europe et non pas la culture, c'est disons, le sujet qui est toujours d'actualité!

As people mentioned earlier, countries such as France and Germany seem to dominate the associations of Europe.  In America I think that this is often true.  However is this true as well in France and other countries of Europe?  Do certain countries somewhat culturally dominate Europe to other Europeans?  This happens to an extent in America since certain regions and their people are more well known.

I actually think that the countries which dominate one's perceptions of europe depend on his or own connections. Having grown up in the commonwealth, I've always had the wild idea that England and the UK in general are preeminent pieces of europe.

I agree with Kieran. I think one's own connections are very important in determining one's perception of Europe. I do actually also think that the UK is a very imporant part of europe and the european union. However, I think the reason that it was not mentioned so much here is because it hasn't been in the news very much recently. The news have been dominated by France and Germany fighting the Euro crisis. The UK has very little to do with that, since it's not part of the Euro zone (though I must say it's not for the lack of trying to influence the management of the Euro crisis).