being unique

capitalism, self-expression, independence

creativity, freedom, refreshing

creativity, independence, nonconformist

different, separate, unique

egoism, liberty, rights

egoism, opinions, determinism

egotistical, self-motivated, uncooperative

freedom, creativity, independence

freedom, different, creative

improvement, selfishness, knowledge

independence, creativity, style

Intelligence, Independence, Reliability

myself, style, expression

painting, composition, essay

personality, creativity, originality

self, alone, singular

Trait, relative, necessary

unique, people, independent

uniqueness, alone

Uniqueness, Free-thinking, self-centered

West, liberty, consumerism

égoïsme, confrontation, liberté

égoïsme, individuel, unique

égoïsme, malheur

égoïsme, personnel, négatif

égoïsme, protection, "perso"

égoïsme, seul


égocentrique, ville, américain

compétition, singularité, unique

contemporain, modernité, égocentrisme

Egoïsme, soi, compliqué

Egoisme, seul

européen, façon de penser

fermeture, orgueil, personnalité

français, société, actuel


Personnel, Egoiste, Négatif

problème, égoïsme, France, gérer

Solitude, calculs

style, l'indépendance, uniquement


It's interesting that a large number of the French students associated the word "individualism" with "egoism" and "self-centeredness". On a second thought, however, I think that the majority of countries in the world would probably think of individualism with a negative connotation. American children are raised to be independent thinkers and individuality is stressed. However, in other countries, the team or group is prized over the individual. In addition, in America, personal excuses and reasons are okay, while that may not be the case in other cultures. Still, while many of the French students associated individualism with negative connotations, as an American (though Korean by heritage), I think freedom of individual expression and creativity is important. 

Je trouve étonnant que l'individualisme soit si positivement connoté aux Etats-Unis. C'est vrai que pour nous, Français, c'est vraiment une notion moderne comme beaucoup le disent et très urbaine puisque les gens font de moins en moins attention aux autres surtout en ville, malheureusement. Pour les américains par contre, c'est une qualité d'être individualiste et même une condition au succès, apparement s'occuper des autres freine l'ascension sociale.

Ne pouvons-nous pas grimper les échelons de l'ascension sociale en portant de l'intérêt à l'autre?

Autre idée, dans le milieu rural d'où je viens, si quelqu'un est individualiste, il reste seul dans son coin et risque de ne pouvoir trouver quelqu'un sur qui compter au moment où il en aura besoin. L'individualisme peut mener à une réclusion et à la solitude.


Je suis très très surprise du contraste entre  les réponses françaises et américaines. Je ne pensais pas que l'individualisme était aussi bien perçu aux USA, même si je comprends qu'il apparaisse comme la condition de la réussite. Je trouve ça bien malheureux !

Et dans le même temps, je suis surprise de voir autant de critiques du mot "individualisme" par les français, car je trouve que notre société est carrément individualiste ! C'est étrange de voir qu'on critique (comme avec "égoïsme") alors qu'on EST individualiste.

Anne-Gaëlle's comment about individualism leading to seclusion /loneliness is interesting, and both Anne-Gaëlle and Caroline mention that individualism seems to be a criteria for success. Perhaps there are times when individualism is good and when individualism is bad.

I think in America we see individualism as having self-motivation and self-determination...not to the extreme, though, where we jeopardize others in the process. Although it does happen, I don't think we are a fan of it. Rather, we aim to move away from doing something because that is what what everyone else is doing. We want to be able to have the skills and ambition to be independent. As Raina mentions, we are taught to be able to form our own opinions and think creatively, and this creates an environment of competitive individuals (in a healthy way).

However, I do agree that this idea does not work when in a group! This kind of thinking, although it could empower a single person to be a better person, could harm a group effort. Thus, we learn to put our individualism aside and think for the benefit of the group.

Is this kind of balance encouraged in France?

I agree with Meera in that individualism does not work in a group and that despite learning that creativity and originality are important, we do learn to think for the benefit of the group. However, as Caroline mentions, I am also perplexed by the overall response of the French students. If the students associate the word "individualism" with such a negative connotation, does this mean that the students' creativity and personal style are meant to be repressed?

Also, there should be taken into account that egoism and individualism can have different connotations. There is the stereotype here that people that are more individualistic tend to be more successful, but, in my personal opinion, you always will need other people. Being individualistic means that you'll look for your own way, while being selfish will translate into isolation later on.

Ne vous affolez pas! En France aussi on apprend aux enfants à exprimer leurs propres opinions et à critiquer, pendant toute notre scolarité. D'ailleurs, ça fait partie des clichés sur les Français, non? Ils critiquent toujours tout à l'étranger, et en France ils font grève...

Je pense que le mot "individualisme" est devenu un faux-ami...peut-être pour des raisons d'ordre politiques et historiques relatives à nos deux pays? Après tout la France, c'est aussi la "sécurité Sociale", les Communards, les socialistes, les syndicats...on a probablement une culture qui fonctionne sur l'idée de groupe plus qu'aux Etats-Unis, pays de nationalités différentes, avec des familles dispersées sur un territoire immense, voire dans des pays différents, alors qu'en France on vit encore souvent dans la même région, et que le goupe est vu comme une force plus que comme une contrainte.

J'imagine qu'aux Etats-Unis on a cette idée du "self-made man" plus développée qu'en France, peut-être toujours parce que quand on arrive comme immigrés dans un pays, on n'a pas d'autres choix. Ca fait partie aussi du Rêve américain...

I think of "individualism" as celebrating the strengths that are unique to each person.  The strengths of the individuals can be combined to make the whole better than the sum of its parts.  As Flo mentioned, this relates to the American Dream--the idea of having this country that is great because it is a mixture of many individuals from many different cultures. 

Although we celebrate the individual in the U.S., there is the question of whether we also have a social responsibility to look out for the benefit of the nation as a whole.  This is a topic of intense debate, and I think it is the issue at the heart of our upcoming election.


I thought this was relevant:

I think that the american responses stem from their believe that they are only responsible for themselves, and do not have any obligations to anyone else. The downside of this is that very few people have any real sense of social responsibility. Sure, they'll donate $1 a day to some starving child in africa to make themselves think they're being wonderful citizens, but very few people believe that it is their responsibilty to look after (through taxes) the rest of their community. As such there is severe underfunding of education, healthcare, and social security programmes, the direct result of which can be seen on the streets around cambridge. It's very much an attitude of: "I can look after myself, if you can't, then that's your problem".

Yeah...elaborating on what Flo said, we (French and American students) are coming from different contexts, so perhaps our definition of individualism is a little different as a result. As Flo mentions, individualism is probably more accepted, and just plain possible, here in America, where each person has more "wiggle room". And yes, this directly relates to "The American Dream" and its ideologies. Great connection!

What is the French term for self-expression, being unique, following the beat of your own drum - the equivalent of American individualism? 

I think that individualism is taken out of context, at least for the Americans. They relate the word to Individual, and ultimately associate it with themselves. That could be why so many words talked about expressing oneself, similar to how everyone seems to think nowadays in the US. Though on the French side, I saw the word American next to ville and egoisme. Is that depicting a general view, or just centered on the idea of individualism?

While I didn't realize it when I first saw the word "individualism," after reading other people's comments and from what we talked about in class, the word "individualism" does seem a little vague. While Americans think of it as a word with a positive connotation, perhaps other countries don't because there is another word for what Americans consider to be "individualism." 

Je rejoins l'opinion de Raina ! je pense que le mot qu'on pourrait utiliser dans le sens que comprennent les américains d'individualisme serait "indépendance", sur ce mots je pense que les réponses des français seraient à peu près équivalentes à celles des américains ici.