children, parents, love

Friends, Turkey, Holidays

happiness, mother, emotions

important, frustrating, helpful

important, love, support, necessary

life, love, support, friends

love, care, friendship

Love, Care, Prudence

love, care, reliable

Mom, Love, Peace

Mother, Father, love

parents, love, appreciation

parents, safe, love, relatives

safe, nostalgic, warm

sharing, love, motivation, home

warm, silly, kind

amis, repas, temps libre

enfants, parents, frères, soeurs

foyer, valeurs, liens

frères, seurs, parents, soutien



important, rassurant, cocon

imposée, liens, respect

parents, enfants, foyer

parents, mariage, enfants

pension, naine, photos

proches, valeur, agrandir

Racines, différent, similaire

soutien, amour, aider

soutien, personnalité, bonheur

vacances, dispute, noël


Les réponses sont très similaires, mais les Américains mis «amour» plus souvent que le français.

Qu'est ce que "naine"? Je suis curieuse combien des reponses sont sur la famille proches, et combien est sur la famille agrandir.

I noticed that the descriptions provided by the French students were more objective than those provided by us. You described family as a certain combination between people and things (both certainly related to family), while we tended towards people and feelings. I think that maybe the definition of the family institution is somewhat different in both cultures. For example, some could define family as what it is physically (parents, brothers, sons, etc.…), while others could refer to it as what it contributes emotionally (love, support, guidance, etc.…). I would like to know what is your criterion for defining a family member. Is it a mere biological relation or does it transcend into the realm of emotions felt towards different people?

As with the other commenters, I noticed a high-level difference between the French and American answers, as the French tended towards the literal interpretation and gave synonyms, while the Americans preferred emotional interpretations. The most distinct difference, the sheer magnitude of the difference in mentions of "love," particularly jumps out.

I noticed that one of the French students included "pension," which could imply that perhaps boarding school is more common in France, or more broadly that French children spend less time with their parents or feel a more transactional as opposed to emotional bond. To the French students: what do you perceive as your relationship with your family and the family's role in your life? How does this change through childhood and adolescence?

I also noticed that the American students used the word "love" much more frequently, and I wondered if perhaps there was some difference between the American and French usages of the word.  I know that in general, the word "love" is very overused by Americans.  In fact, a common critique I have heard is that while many people talk about how they love movies, food, and various mundane things, most people hesitate to use the word "love" with people.  I was wondering if in France, the word "love" is taken more seriously and used less?

I also noticed that while many people included "parents," very few people mentioned children.  This could be because most of us are fairly young and are not thinking that far into the future yet, but it may also be because we are students of fairly competitive schools.  At MIT, most people are very focused on their careers, and while family-work balance is a topic that is discussed frequently, the question of whether family-work balance (especially for women) is actually possible is highly disputed.  I was wondering, is this as much of a problem in France as it is in the United States.  Are there any laws regulating things like maternity leave?

Le plus frappant c'est l'utilisation du mot amour qui n'est pas du tout utilisé côté français alors que "love" apparaît très souvent côté américain. Je suis assez étonné car je ne pense pas qu'il y ai de différences profondes entre les utilisations française d'amour et américaines de love.

Je pense cependant qu'en français le mot amour est, dans son utilisation, uniquement utilisé pour son sens profond (amour d'une personne : amant, famille), alors qu'il a peut être, pour vous américains, des utilisations plus légères au quotidien ?

@Hannah Gramiling:

A mon avis, dans l'enfance, le rôle de la famille (plus particulièrement des parents) est clairement de guider l'enfant, de l'élever. A l'adolescence ce rôle est toujours présent mais s'ajoute un nouveau rôle : la famille doit aussi soutenir l'adolescent. En effet, après l'enfance, on est assez grand pour avoir nos propres idées, nos propres opinions et nos propres choix : il est donc important d'avoir, à travers sa famille un soutient moral et relativement objectif.

Plus tard, à l'âge adulte, le rôle de la famille est toujours de se soutenir multuellement. La seule chose qui change est que les enfants, une fois adulte, peuvent avoir le même rôle de soutien envers leurs parents que ces derniers avaient auprès d'eux.

Je me demande, si pour vous aux Etats-Unis, cette vision est la même.

@ Jorge Rosario

At first glance I would define family as a group of people who are related by blood or law. For example, there are people I do not interact with often but still consider as family and I consider my uncle's wife as family. It does not have to involve emotions, but I know they would certainly help me  if needed. Fortunately, I do have feelings for most of them. I would say love and support mostly come from my close family (parents, grand parents, siblings, uncles, cousins).

@ Samantha

I believe you are right and family tends to be uniquely defined by a blood/law relation. However, there are people who consider others as family even if not under this category merely due to friendship, feelings, … It may be possible that one culture strictly adheres to blood/law, while the other does so as well but also allows feelings to be used as a criterion (i.e. sincerely consider a friend of your parents who you know since your infancy to be your uncle).

@ Johann

I think the meaning of “love” is strictly used for the expression of romantic affection. Nevertheless, I would say that we tend to use the word “love” in additional ways other that when referring to the feeling of affection. For example, we habitually use it as a verb when talking about “liking” an object or place, or even a person without being expressing any type of romantic feelings. However, I believe that this happens with “aimer” in French as well. 

@ Johann

In America, It is true that we recive support from our parents in our adult lives. It definitly changes when you have children. I am not sure what the specific change is, as I do not have any children, but watching my own family, my parents relationships with their parents is quite different than my relationship with my parents. Over all parents support you throughout your life, but at a certian point they take a more subtle role. 


This is actually something we discussed in class.  While American parents do try to guide their children a little, their role is less about teaching and more about giving unconditional love and support.  In the U.S. there is this idea that "you can do anything you set your mind to."  Therefore parents, rather than enforcing rules or teaching their children about society and reality, teach their children that they can grow up to be anything.

I thought this section was particularly interesting since there was such a large discrepancy between the American students' opinions and those of the French students. It was hard for a lot of the students in my class to understand that French parents do not express their "love" for their children as openly as they do in the U.S. We finally contended that French parental love is implicit whereas American parental love is very explicit.

I am still curious though, have any of your parents ever said "I love you" to you? Or have you ever said it to your parents?

@Robin & Caroline

We actually did talk about that in class too, and it seems to me that you are correct. French parents consider love to be implicit and tend to teach and "enforce" the rules and values.

When we talked about this with our teacher, she told us that over in the US, people tend to be a lot more expressive. She told us that one of things that most surprised her was the way people greet each other here. While we shake hands with men and kiss women on the cheek, it seems that you guys tend to hug more than we do. Of course there are exceptions to this, for instance we would hug / kiss family members, and we often only shake hands with an unknown women.

Globally I would say that we don't express love as much as you do, but when we do, it has extra meaning.