The French seem obsessed with ...

Les Français semblent obsédés par ...

bread and living easy.

clothing and fashion; superficial appearances; homogeneity in their country

equality, keeping immigrants away from France, and bread.

fashion, maintaining their culture and remaining a major influence in the world.

fine cuisines.
enjoying their time.
saving money.

food, love, and enjoying themselves.

food. wine. nuclear energy.

good food, wine, cheese, and nice scarfs.

good lifestyle

High culture, fashion, and love.

leisure and rights

living a more relaxed life, with no stress and better conditions.

Not working, according to what we've talked about in class. Apparently they also like fashion and food.

the presidential election recently.

their culture/language,
good food.



avoir du temps libre, une famille et être reconnu socialement.

l'amour, les relations humaines, la justice et l'égalité



la culture.

la grève, la cuisine et le temps libre

la laïcité, les droits de l'homme,

la mode.

la vie quotidienne.

le travail,
leurs enfants,
le vin

les droits des travailleurs.

les vacances

les vacances, l'argent, la grève

leur niveau de vie

leur place dans l’Europe, le combat syndicat/patronat, la sécurité

leur situation sociale (marié, en couple, célibataire...).

échapper au travail.

les vacances

ne pas travailler,
la météo


For Americans, the French are obsessed with food, fashion and living life leisurely. For the French, they are obsessed with culture, vacation and rights. Do Americans think this way because of the way the French are portrayed in movies or are the French actually obsessed with food, fashion and leisure? Is it wrong for me to think that the average French must have good wine, cheese and bread, wear beautiful clothing and live with minimum worries?

The French opinion seems to be that they are obsessed with their family and food. The Americans think the French seem obsessed with fashion. I think this is because the Americans the most influenced by French fashion.

Is fashion truly a part of French daily life?

Is history and culture very important for France's national pride?

Je sais que l'image du français est celle de la baguette, du bérêt et de l'accordéon, mais dans les faits, ce n'est pas du tout ça. La Haute Couture est effectivement présente en France mais chez une population extrêmement restreinte, et les personnes qui se promènent dans la rue sont généralement habillées de la même manière que nous sont montrés les américains à la télévision.

En ce qui concerne la nourriture, cela touche déjà un plus grand nombre de personnes, mais je ne sais pas si l'on peut dire que ce soit une généralité. Il est vrai qu'il y a beaucoup de vins et de fromages en France, que le pain est très répandu, mais nous n'allons pas en prendre à chaque repas dans des quantités énormes comme no peut le voir dans les films.

En ce moment, les français sont justement assez inquiets de leur avenir avec la crise économique.

En ce qui concerne l'histoire et la culture, cela est encore une fois présent chez une population restreinte, je pense. C'est effectivement une fierté, mais je pense que cela peut être applicable à de nombreux autres pays.

It seemed like many of the French responses focused on strikes and workers' rights; combined with the many responses like "ne pas travailler" and "les vacances," I'm guessing that many French are lobbying for working less? If this is true, then it would make a lot more sense why the French seem to think Americans are obsessed with work, based on their responses to that prompt.

Also, it seems like the French also included more responses about personal life, like romantic relationships and families. Is this related to the reasons behind the workers' conflicts?

Je partage l'avis de Jean Baptiste, en effet, nous ne nous habillons pas tous chez Dior ou Yves Saint Laurant, très peu de français le sont en fait ! De plus nous n'avons pas tous de bonnes bouteilles de vin ou des réserves de fromages dans nos caves. Cependant, ces éléments font partie de notre culture, et nous avons donc peut être une vision différente de celle des américains sur le vin, le fromage ou la mode.

Mais en France comme partout ailleurs, la plupart des gens s'habille chez H&M, Zara et autres...

Nous avons aussi une culture du droit du travail assez présente et c'est pourquoi nous en parlons beaucoup.

Il paraît que nous ne voulons pas travailler, est ce que vous pourriez approfondir ce point ? Nous aimons en effet (comme tout le monde) avoir du bon temps, se reposer, etc... Cependant, nous travaillons tous pour gagner notre vie, et la majorité des français ne se tourne pas les pouces en buvant du vin et en mangeant du fromage...

It seems like many people are hypothesizing that overall differences between American and French responses can be traced back to the fact that French people value personal life and fun more than Americans, who focus a lot on work. However, given that Americans also seem to put more emphasis on finding personal fulfillment and excitement in their jobs, maybe the real difference is in the definition of "fun"?

In other words, the things French people consider fun are pretty much mutually exclusive with work, especially if good eating is a favored hobby. Americans not only have hobbies they enjoy outside of work, but it seems like more Americans also try to look for jobs they consider fun, and are willing to give up stability to find work they really love. So maybe it's not that Americans sacrifice their personal lives for their careers, but simply that the line between the two is more blurred, and Americans try to find enjoyment in both areas?

The French seem to have a much less hurried life. It seems like they are always striving for rest and relaxation in their life. Americans, on the other hand, seem to strive to have a busy life. We like to talk about what we are doing with our time. 

In France, does what you do with your time seem define you as a person as well? If not, what does?


I agree that Americans expect the French to be obsessed with bread, cheese, and wine, and also that it was surprising when the French responses included very few responses regarding food. 

While I was living with a French family in Paris they indeed had bread and cheese at every meal, so why do the French not list them here?  Perhaps it is because the French think of bread as a staple and cheese and wine are so commonplace that they do not consider it an obsession but instead a normality.

Clearly, both the Americans and the French view the French as being more focused on good food, fashion and love than work. The French responses suggest an attitude that life should be savoured, not blown through to see who can make the most money and have the most toys.


My question for the French students is do you think the French or the Americans tend to be happier? We have such different perspectives on the goal of life.

To deb:

Je pense que les américains et les français ont tendance à essayer d'être plus heureux, tout le monde cherche à être plus heureux. La différence réside pour moi dans le moyen de parvenir au bonheur. Il me semble que les américains cherchent à avoir un bon emploi qui est bien rémunéré pour pouvoir profiter après, et se projettent donc plus loin, tandis que les français vivent plus dans le présent et cherchent le confort et le bonheur plus dans l'instant présent.

@ Jean-Baptiste and Emmanuel, regarding fashion:

Some people at MIT dress like Americans you see on TV.  Others wear shorts and free T-shirts every day.    

Usually when I wake up half an hour before class after too little sleep, I'm happy to throw on jeans and a hoodie.  That seems to be true of a lot of people here.

I would guess that on average, French engineering students are still more fashionable than American engineering students. 



It's interesting that you say that. A lot of people think that Americans are immature in the sense that they focus on the present (i.e., they buy cheap fashion, run up credit card debt, etc.) But perhaps in America money is often understood to be a shortcut to "the good life."


I think the reason we are so focused on getting a good job and being successful is partially because it offers security regarding our happiness - it seems a lot easier to be happy if money is not a problem. A lot of us have expectations about how we want our lives to be, and what kind of things we want to be able to do that makes us happy, and a way to achieve that is by being successful and making enough money to do all these things. For me, I want to be able to travel a lot and sometimes go to very expensive, famous restaurants, and that is part of the reason for wanting to be successful.  I guess it is that even if we're happy now, we want to continue being happy, so we focus more on the future. 

It's an interesting question whether american or the french people are happier. I'd like to know. It may be that despite different life styles, there isn't, and that people are capable of being as happy and as sad as they are regardless of circumstances, type of job, lifestyle...not sure.


There probably is a study that answer this question. Would be very interesting to know. I think I heard that some survey showed that Danish people are happiest. it's hard to say why, but someone in that interview speculated kind of jokingly that it's because the Danish have lower expectations from life and are easier to please because of that.  So maybe that's the secret!

I think as Americans we are always striving to climb the ladder of success. Because the vision of the "American dream" is still thriving today, I think we all follow it as a sort of way of life. If there was not a possibility of monetary gain or change in social class, I don't think Americans would seem nearly as "materialistic."

What do you think of the idea of the "American dream?"

Emmanuel and Jennifer --


Jennifer makes a good point about the buy, buy, buy attitude of Americans, which reflects a belief that buying more toys this second will make you happy even when you either you are going deep in debt or you must stay at jobs you don't like for the big salary. Maybe our hedonistic sides in America have a lot to do with buying! When I think of how I will make myself happy in the now, in the moment today, I will be buying things! Mostly at Starbucks!


But I will also ride my bike to school (pleasure, no buying), meet a friend tonight (pleasure, no buying) and watch "Le Journal" (the French TV news show, which gives me the pleasure of at least believing that watching TV truly will help me learn a language, as so many people tell me is how they learned English!).


A happy life, it seems to me as I have gotten older, is one that has a good mix of both enjoying the moment and working for a future of even more lavish moments! This is a Baby Boomer generation phenomenon, which the latre generations have tweaked but also embraced.


So, Emmanuel, does it make you happy to buy things? Do you feel pleasure when you pay for something new? And do you have credit cards? Do you care whether you have the money to buy something?

La France est l'un des pays du monde ou il y a le plus de temps libre (vacances, RTT, réduction du temps de travail) ...

Mais des études montrent aussi que les Français sont les plus productifs du monde.

Un Français rapporte 25,15 dollars par heure, voici la suite du classement:

2 - États-Unis -> 24,64 dollars par heure.
3 - Royaume-Unis -> 23,22 dollars par heure.
4 - Canada -> 22,37 dollars par heure.
5 - Australie -> 20,63 dollars par heure.
6 - Italie -> 19,79 dollars par heure.
7 - Japon -> 18,89 dollars par heure.

Des chiffres qui montrent que les Français sont loin d'être des fainéants! ^^


je pense que c'est une piste intéressante. En France, la notion la plus proche du "rêve américain" est "l'ascenseur social". Mais si il a très bien fonctionné pour la génération de nos parents, on dit qu'il est aujourd'hui "en panne": globalement un enfant va reproduire le schéma social de ses parents. Devant ce constat (un peu triste), il y a moins de compétition dans les études et le travail qu'il y a 40 ans, car il y a aussi moins à gagner. C'est peut-être pour cela que les français n'ont pas autant tendance à gagner le plus possible que les américains : la notion du "tout est possible" n'est plus aussi présente.



nous avons quasiment tous une carte de crédit, et ça nous fait toujours plaisir de nous acheter quelque chose, mais cela nous semble inconcevable de dépenser de l'argent qu'on n'a pas sans y être forcés. Faire des emprunts n'est pas dans notre culture (ça signifie qu'on n'a pas su gérer notre porte-monnaie). Mes amis qui sont un peu justes financièrement réduiront leurs dépenses drastiquement plutôt que d'avoir un compte négatif.

Pour contredire tout de même Guillaume, nous avons l'habitude de faire des emprunts sur les très grosses dépenses, comme l'achat d'une voiture, ou d'un bien immobilier, où l'on peut s'endetter sur plusieurs années. Mais cependant, la grande majorité d'entre nous ne va pas demander un emprunt pour des achats de la vie courante.