United States


development, the big kid on the playground

American flag, states, freedom

big, diverse, melting-pot

bipartisanship, poor economy

capitalism, inequality, arrogant

consumerism, capitalism, liberty, false

country, leader, diverse

expansive, diverse, freedom

fat, home, unique

fifty, north america, washington d.c.

ignorance, lack of intimacy

influence, cockiness, decadence

nation, Obama, crisis

New, World Superpower, Influential

Obama, big, elections

open, possibilities, individual

opportunity, diversity, freedom

opportunity, education, freedom

opportunity, superficiality, motivation

powerful, insensitive, wealthy

Pride, Flexibility, World Power

Texas, New York, barbecue

étoiles, santiag, country

Californie, Obama, hamburger

Espace, architecture, inculture,

force, pouvoir, terrorisme

grandeur, attraction, influence, arrogance

le drapeau, gros, voiture

Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Orlando

new york, l'histoire, business

New-York, Obama, américains

New-York, Route 66, hamburgers, Truman State University

pays, mondialisation, culture, pouvoir

pays, rêve, grand, puissance

puissant, pouvoir, multinationalité

rêve, amis, loin

Rêve, construction, projet

Statue de la Liberté, Base-ball, Dollars

superpuissance, obama, grand territoire

union, règne, futur

USA, Obama, drapeau

Washington, films, immensité, hamburger


I noticed that many of the responses from the Americans were pretty disparaging. I think many Americans are ashamed of the negative way our country is perceived by a lot of the world, so we include words like "arrogance, superficiality, cockiness" to indicate that our country does deserve some of those labels and we don't always agree with the way the U.S. interacts with the rest of the world. 

I thought it was funny that many of the French students mentioned hamburgers because I immediately thought of cheese when asked about France. I also thought it was interesting that many of them used the word "dream" -- is it the dream of seeing America or the idea of the American dream (building a life, business, family)?

Indeed, I think in the MIT bubble, where America's most well-educated meet, most Americans are indeed aware of America's recently declined international reputation. They seemingly use negative stereotypes to forestall the anticipated prejorative comments. Funnily, there are nearly no negative comments from the French side!

Although there has been a lot of unjustified US-bashing in the European mainstream media for years, news got a much more positive spin after President Obama's election. The vast majority of the European populace just loves him. Anyway, it appears as if our French counterparts formed their own mostly positive opinion about this great country.

Furthermore, "New York" is a highly frequent term. When many people in Europe think about the US, they only think about the two coasts, namely New York and California, and nothing in between (with Chicago being a notable exception). A likely cause are TV series and movies which often show these two geographic locations.

Therefore, when people from France come to visit you, make the effort and show them other parts of the US such as the midwest or the deep south. They'll be in for a memorable unstereotypic trip!

The association of America with the word "hamburger" makes me laugh, considering that is something I don't really consider an important part of what America is all about.

Also, I found Obama being mentioned so many times to be very interesting. The average American would not think of Hollande as an important part of French culture.


Yes, I found the hamburger association interesting as well. Do you think it has something to do with McDonald's? I bet they're responsible for introducing many parts of the world to hamburgers.


From what little I've traveled in France, I get the impression that the French and the Americans have very different approaches to food. Maybe we should do a taste-testing experiment to explore this! :-)  

I think it's a little sad that McDonald's is the ambassador for American culture abroad...but, at the same time, I find it really difficult to think of something to replace it.  Our country is large and quite diverse, so it's hard to find something (other than than fast food, etc) that exists everywhere.  I would also consider  sports (particularly the NFL and college football) a unifying theme for many Americans, and find it interesting that only one person mentioned anything sports-related in their reponse. 

Come to think of it--sports championships are an excellent portrayal of the stereotypical American arrogance many of us are embarassed of...we have the "World" Series, which is just the U.S. and a few Canadian teams.




Mc Donald's est en effet un des ambassadeurs des US en France, malheureusement. Ils ont été les premiers à venir en France et ont donc influencé la représentation que se font les français sur les US. Cela justifie également l'absence de toute réponse ayant trait au sport, puisque pour les français, les américains mangent plus qu'ils ne font de sport.

Comme le dit Jonathan, nous sommes très influencés par les séries TV qui nous montrent ce côté idéal des US. Trouvez vous que les séries TV reflètent bien la réalité ou pensez-vous que ce soit stéréotypé?

Thanks Anne-Gaelle for your response. While perhaps not everyone plays sports in the U.S., watching sports is very common. "Tailgating" college football (american football) is, at least to me, an essential American experience. 

U.S. tv shows never reflect real situations with regards to income. They almost always show characters living in beautiful apartments and wearing expensive clothes, but working as waitresses, struggling artists, school teachers, etc. In the U.S., those professions don't earn the income necessary to live such a fancy lifestyle. 


But tell me, what U.S. tv shows do you all like? Right now, I love 30 Rock and Grey's Anatomy. Any French show someone could recommend to me that I could watch online? 

I believe that the United States is too diverse to be accurately described by single phrases.  Due to our multifaceted history (countless immigrants and diverse landscapes) this country has varied personalities.  I will admit that New York City is an adequate microcosm of the United States.

It is interesting to note that in some neighborhoods of the largest cities in the United States Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese are heard more frequently than English.  Univision (a Spanish television network) is now the 5th largest television network in the United States.  Soccer is gaining a large viewership within the US and "Gangnam Style" is now the second-most heard song in the US.

At the same time, for many parts of the United States, a lot of the stereotypes persist.  Coming from a suburban/rural part of Texas, I can say that high school football is king every friday night, barbecues can be expected all throughout the hot summers, the UT vs A&M rivalry is intense, and that more people drive pickup trucks than cars.

Hi again Anne-Gaelle!

I think it depends on what television shows you are getting the view of America from. If people in France watch, for example, Jersey Shore and form the opinion that Americans behave this way, then this is inaccurate! I do not really have a lot of time to watch TV, so I can't really give you an example of an accurate show. Most reality shows that people watch, however, are fairly stereotypical, unfortunately.


Also, like Melissa mentioned, football is a very American thing. I remember feeling streme pride for my country everytime the national anthem was played at the start of football games when I was in high school.

Hi all,

In response to Anne-Gaëlle's question, I think American TV shows tend to show extremes.  The people are either unrealistically perfect and wealthy, like Melissa mentioned (this usually occurs on the dramas and sitcoms), or they are are some of the most embarassing representations of Americans that the producers can find (Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo).  I think the people on Law and Order are probably more realistic, but I am not an actual crimefighter, so I can't be sure.  :)

I agree that watching sports (usually while eating) is a big part of American culture.  I think the sport of choice also depends on the region--while football is popular in my hometown, hockey is even more so.  Where I went to college (I am now a graduate student), it was expected for everyone to go to the university's hockey games every weekend. 


J'ai été aux Etats-Unis pendant mes études, et c'est vrai que j'avais été étonnée de l'engouement pour le football américain.

L'Equipe de France de football a un nouvel entraineur, il oblige maintenant les joueurs à chanter la Marseillaise pour l'exemplarité, chose qui ne risque pas d'arriver aux Etats-Unis. Car même s'il y a quelques commentaires négatifs, les américains respectent les traditions et leur pays.

Pour parler séries et gros stéréotypes, je pensais plus particulièrement à Glee.

Pour répondre à Mélissa, j'ai un peu de mal à conseiller une série française qui vaut le coup d'être regardée... Mais je préfère les séries un peu scientifiques (les experts, Bones...) et les français ne sont pas du tout doués pour ça. A voir avec les autres français qui s'y connaitraient un peu mieux!

@Kristen : je ne pense pas que nous représentions le français moyen (si tu compares à l'américain moyen qui ne penserait pas à Hollande). De plus, les Etats Unis forment la première puissance mondiale, ce qui justifie qu'Obama soit bien plus connu que notre président. Cependant, quelqu'un (américain) a mis Hollande dans le topic "France", comme quoi... ;)

Concernant McDonald's, je ne pense pas que ce soit l'unique raison de l'association du mot hamburger. On a été influencé aussi par le cinéma et la télévision depuis leurs débuts, quand on voit les personnages dans des "diners" qui commandent toujours un burger avec des frites. ça fait tout de suite très américain.

Pour les séries TV, il est vrai que nous avons une vision biaisée des USA, selon la série regardée. Mais je pense que nous sommes suffisamment intelligents pour voir que ce n'est en aucun cas la réalité ! De même, quand on regarde des films français, ils vivent souvent dans de beaux et immenses appartements haussmanniens dans les plus beaux quartiers de Paris.

Je ne conseillerais aucune série TV française car je les trouve très mauvaises. De plus, nous en avons aujourd'hui qui se calquent sur les modèles de séries américaines, comme par exemple "RIS police scientifique" qui est le copié/collé basse qualité de vos séries "CSI".

Je vous orienterais plutôt vers le cinéma français qui offre des visions un peu plus réalistes et mieux mises en valeur (dans les films récents : "Polisse", "Un heureux événement").

@ Melissa : je suis une grande fan de la série "Friday Night Lights", j'adore le football américain (bien plus que le football-soccer !!!) depuis que je suis toute petite, et j'ai lu de nombreuses critiques qui disent que cette série est très réaliste. Et à l'opposé, je regarde aussi Gossip Girl, mais je sais que ce monde là est totalement à part. ;)

Caroline: You have a really good point about why Obama is so well known around the world. However, I think that part of the reason Americans are unaware of politics outside of the United States is because this is not something that is often in the news here. Of course we often hear about things that are going on around the world that directly affect America and Americans, but not a lot about things outside of this.


Also, I love Gossip Girl! I would die to have Blair's wardrobe! :)

C'est d'ailleurs un peu ce qu'on reproche aux américains ! On dit souvent que vous êtes un peu nombrilistes, car vous êtes la première puissance mondiale et vous ne regardez pas au-delà de vos frontières. Le reste du monde ne vous intéresse pas.



Thanks Caroline for your response, I love Gossip Girl as well! It's definitely a dream world though. Haha, yes, perhaps you are right that we do not look beyond our own borders. I think that with the current economic environment, this is changing a bit. Many of us pay close attention to news of the "Euro-Crisis." Or perhaps this time just coincided with my time at MIT as a graduate students, where ~30% of the graduate students are international and so I'm learning a lot about other cultures. What do other American students think? Are we becoming more aware of other countries?


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You are totally right in saying that US TV shows do not reflect “average” American life because of the enormous income differences between fictitious characters in TV shows and real people. However, on my journeys around the world I met astonishingly many people who are completely oblivious about this and assume that the entire United States is New York City and everybody is rich.

Jonathan, I'm a big fan of ABC's The Middle and Modern Family, both of which I feel potray strikingly relatable American families. The Middle, as you would expect, does not make viewers think American families all live luxurious lifestyles - the family is intentionally a clearly middle-class one - and the same is true for Modern Family as well. I have also come across many people who are oblivious about American income differences, including my roommate.

Melissa, I agree that we are presently somewhat ignorant of other countries, but I believe that the increasing trend of globalization is forcing us to look beyond our borders; for example, many Americans are aware of and have opinions about Apple's decision to hire foreign labor to produce iDevices.

I love Modern Family because it is one show that has made an effort to show families beyond the white upper middle class married partents with at least one son and one daughter mold. What we really need though is a good show with more people of color! It's sad how the international (and perhaps domestic) view of the US is that we're all WASPs

Caroline: I agree!! I find this to be a huge problem as well because it creates a society that is largely ignorant of what is going on around the world, which isn't a good thing!