• achievement, winning
  • content, happiness, work
  • happiness
  • Happiness, comfort, energy
  • happiness, creativity
  • happiness, fulfillment
  • happiness, fulfillment, self-confidence
  • happiness, setting an example for others, helping others
  • hard work, determination
  • Job, Happiness
  • medal, friends, career
  • money, betterment, happiness
  • money, clinic
  • money, control, friends
  • Money, Job, House
  • persistence, attitude, mind
  • pride, competition, winning
  • Pride, Money
  • stairs, money, influence
  • bonheur, ascension
  • bonheur, avenir, futur
  • bonheur, fierté, satisfaction
  • but, se dépasser, plénitude
  • choix, effort, possible, discipline
  • confiance, la joie, courage
  • confiance en soi, bonheur, satisfaction
  • courage, modeste, félicitations
  • Dans quel domaine ?
  • effort, passion, persévérance
  • efforts, travail, récompense
  • fier, mériter, à l'aise
  • fierté, toujours
  • fierté, élan, tremplin
  • joie, travail, reconnaissance
  • le prix, la joie
  • orgueil, courage
  • pression sociale, réconfortante
  • réalisation, bataille, bonheur
  • succès, fierté, bonheur
  • sûr de soi, travailler, master 1
  • travail, étude, but
  • vie,
  • épanouissement personnel, professionnel
  • étude, carrière, passion


It’s interesting that so many MIT students included tangible indicators of success, like money, while the French students had words that relate more to feelings of personal achievement & pride, and nothing at all related to money. And I’m glad so many people include happiness as one of the first things they think of when they think of success!

Il est vrai que les étudiants français n’ont pas associé la réussite à l’argent alors que beaucoup d’étudiants américains ont mentionné “money”. Y a-t-il des relations culturels ? Mais au même temps, il y a pas mal de français qui ont mentionné “travail”.
La réussite de travail, c’est quoi ? C’est réaliser le rêve ou le projet ? Ou gagner l’argent?

Yes, it is a pretty interesting contrast– the Americans think of rewards associated with success, while the French students think of the work, dedication, and effort needed to get there. My best guess is that it may have to do with the American Dream; in America we consider “success” as having a good job, being financially stable, and all of that. In France it seems that there may be more nuance; perhaps there are many ways to be successful. It may be a concept that is associated with personal satisfaction and hard work rather than anything tangible. I would really like to know, in French culture, what makes someone successful?

I get the feeling that the French perceive success as a process: it takes hard work to get there (travail x4, effort x3, but x2, etude x2, discipline, perseverance) and it may not end with the success (carriere, trempling, ascension). Contrary, on the left side success is perceived as a conclusion (money x6, winning x2, achievement, medal). Another repetitive word in the French side is pride. Is pride very important to the French?

Bonjour !
L’hypothèse de Solshine est très intéressante. C’est vrai que vous avez une forte idée du rêve américain : votre réussite est d’avoir un bon travail et de rester stable financièrement.
En France aussi on chercher à avoir un “bon” travail. Mais “bon” ne signifie pas le travail qui gagne beaucoup mais le travail qui fait plaisir et donne de la fierté, je pense. Chacun donc considère différemment un “bon” travail. Pour la question de Yael.bronstein, je pense que la fierté est très importante pour les français. Il me semble que les français mettent plus d’importance au mental qu’au matériel. Il y a une relations avec la remarque de Yael.bronstein : des français associent la réussite au processus et des américains associent la réussite au résultat. Est-ce que la fierté est très importante aux états-unis ?

I think my own personal thinking is along with the French. A “good” job isn’t necessarily one that pays a lot, but it is one that makes me happy. We have a saying in English, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” I strive to reach this in my own life. I want a career in which I will be happy to go to work everyday, and feel that I am making a difference in the world. I think pride is seen as positive in the United States. However, sometimes pride has a negative connotation. You have to find the balance. I think that the mental preparation and work behind success is important, and I wonder why the American side is so focused on the outcomes. Even my own response was focused on the outcomes of pride, especially happiness.

Thank you for responding to my question, yurikolyon! I think that it is a very good attitude to have; focusing on what will give you the most personal satisfaction and pride rather than what has the highest salary. Students in the US are discouraged from pursuing jobs such as art, journalism, acting, music, etc. because they are not considered stable career choices. Even if the student is passionate about it, they are encouraged to have a more “practical” backup plan– is there a similar attitude in France?
To answer your question, I agree with purplepuppies. Pride is a generally perceived as a good thing but can have a negative connotation relating to arrogance or looking down on others.

I also agree that too much pride can be thought of as a bad thing. Though too much of anything is usually a bad thing. However, taking pride in your work is important. I think this ties into the idea of doing something that you enjoy. Personally, I feel that in order for me to be successful I need to find a job that makes me happy, and it has to be work that I can take pride in doing. It doesn’t necessarily have to pay amazingly, but it would have to pay well enough for me to live. Though, I don’t know if everyone here in the US would agree with me.

Something I’ve noticed after looking at the words on both sides again–
At MIT especially, there can be a ton of pressure to fit a very narrow definition of success. It’s interesting that so many people list happiness as part of success, especially since MIT often makes people put school and their career goals before their health and happiness. A lot is set in store by what kind of internships you get in college and what kind of job, grad school, med school, etc. you end up at after college. To the French students–do you feel a lot of pressure to succeed in a certain way? Do you feel like there are specific expectations for your life after college?

I noticed many of the French students associated success with happiness and courage. It seems that for the French students success is more associated with emotional advances rather than material gain, which is what many of the American students answered. As a student, I’ve noticed that there is a lot of emphasis placed on obtaining a successful profession. I was wondering if the same applies to French students. I was also wondering if French students associate success more with people who are happy or with people who have a lot of influence.

Je vous remercie de vos réponses. C’est intéressant que la fierté puisse avoir des connotations négatives.
Je trouve dommage que les personnes motivés soient découragés à cause de la réalité sociale. Il me semble qu’en France aussi il y a beaucoup de personnes qui doivent abandonner leurs rêves pour gagner leurs vies. (Mais ce n’est pas l’échec, je pense. Car on peut constater que beaucoup de français gardent son passionne pour la musique, le théâtre etc. en tant que loisir :) )

En ce qui concerne la question d’ab11 016, je vais d’abord t’expliquer deux types d’écoles : les universités et les grandes écoles. Les universités sont publics et si tu passes le baccalauréat, tu peux renter l’université. Les grandes écoles sont privées et il faut avoir des bonnes notes au bac et il faut renter en classe préparatoire afin d’y rentre. En général, l’étudiant de grand école a plus de possibilité pour trouver un travail dans une “grande” société qu’un étudiant d’une université. Mais il faut investir beaucoup d’argent et d’effort pour arriver jusqu’à là. Et le stage est important pour eux. Du coup, je suppose que les élèves de grandes écoles ont une pression assez similaire aux étudiants du MIT.
Pour la question de Mr.Billingual, je pense qu’il n’est pas évident de savoir qui est heureux. Par contre, c’est plus simple de trouver quelqu’un qui a de l’influence surtout dans le monde du travail. La réussite s’associe plus facilement à la personne qui a de l’influence. Mais dans la famille et entre amis, on associe plus la réussite à une personne qui est heureuse :)

I am happy to hear that people try to keep hobbies that they enjoy. I personally find this to be a very important thing, and hope that I can continue to after my college years.
As for the distinction of MIT as more of a “les grandes écoles”, I would have to agree. MIT is a private school that people have to work very hard to get into. Though there are plenty of times were I wish I was at a different school, but those thoughts are usually short lived.
As for your last point I suppose I would agree that there is a distinction between work success and personal success. I know that, personally, I don’t necessarily have to succeed at work in order for me to consider my life a success, though succeeding at work can help me to feel like a more successful person.

Do you think that success is kind of an elusive quality in France also? I know that I’ve had long discussions with a variety of Americans and some others, and success is always a very vague idea. Perhaps this causes some inconstancies between what people immediately think of and would write down for the purpose of creating these lists and what they really think about it. More specifically, people have different levels of understanding of success and they don’t necessarily match up, creating a vague concept; yet mostly the first “levels” are represented in initial responses like the ones here.

Thank you for your response, yurikolyon2! I don’t think colleges in the US can be lumped into just two categories–we have state schools (and often several different systems within a state), small liberal arts colleges, “top tier” private schools like MIT…the list goes on. I agree with nofreepapayas that success isn’t very clearly defined in the US. But it does seem like for a lot of people, it just means having a perfect life, which means something different to everyone. For me, if I think of success as an ideal future life, I think of being married with kids, balancing my family with a job that keeps me challenged and inspired, keeping up with friends from high school, college, and after, and having enough financial stability to travel and send my kids to college without worry. That all sounds awesome, but if that’s how you define success, that’s a ton of pressure to put on oneself. I think that’s why so many people end up feeling like they have to choose between work and family if they want to be successful in either one.

Je trouve que ta définition de la réussite, ab11 016, comme un bon équilibre entre la vie familiale et la vie professionnelle, peut correspondre à l’idée que peut s’en faire un grand nombre de personnes. Le sentiment de fierté qui se retrouve beaucoup du côté français est je crois lié aussi à la difficulté, aux efforts, au courage, qui sont des notions qui sont très fréquentes aussi du côté français : la réussite est vue comme une ascension qui exige de la persévérance vers un but que l’on s’est fixé et non le but en lui-même.
J’aime bien l’idée de yurikolyon selon laquelle il y a deux types de réussite, celle de la vie publique, liée à l’influence et au pouvoir que l’on acquiert, et celle de la vie privée qui est liée au sentiment de bonheur et d’épanouissement. Pour moi, la réussite serait de parvenir à un certain niveau d’autonomie et d’indépendance
et de pouvoir réaliser quelques uns de ses rêves d’enfant.