• bland, cookie-cutter, same
  • boring, houses, SUV
  • Boring, Monotony
  • cars, driveways, house, picket fence
  • Clichés, Pluriculturalisme, Avenir
  • family, populous, residency
  • green, quiet, nice
  • home, rich, Westchester
  • homes, community
  • homes, trees, sidewalks
  • Homogenous, Dull
  • house, garage, lawn
  • houses, cars
  • Houses, Grass, Quiet
  • Middle-class, safe
  • not diverse, upper class
  • quiet, green
  • quiet, peaceful
  • Rich, White
  • secluded, comfortable
  • sidewalks, playgrounds, dogs
  • Summit
  • uniform, quaint, child-friendly
  • 13, Enfance, Calme
  • Autour, beaux-quartiers, immeubles
  • Autour, urbain
  • Autour d'une ville, Extension
  • Clichés, Pluriculturalisme, Avenir
  • campagne, montagne, nature
  • discrimination, propagande
  • Diversité, isolé
  • Emeutes, drogue, rap
  • fêtes, amis, superbe
  • Immeubles,délinquance
  • pauvreté, misère, besoin
  • Périphérie, zone
  • Rap, Précarité
  • Sale, délinquance, pauvreté
  • Tour, Immeubles
  • train de banlieue, calme, Tout l’argot des banlieues
  • transport en commun, criminalité
  • Urbanisme, cités


I think that a lot of students on the American side are from the suburbs: it’s where they grew up, went to high school, and where their family currently lives. In the US, living in the suburbs is kind of part of the “American Dream”: you hope to be able to do well enough in life that you can move out of the city into a nice, peaceful neighborhood to raise your family. It seems like maybe a lot of the French students come from the city/Paris versus the suburbs, so they have a worse idea of what it’s like. On the French side, there are a lot of negative connotations like mentioning drugs and poverty.

To the French students: Where are you from? Are the suburbs in France all very similar in terms of socioeconomic status?

In the American perspective the suburbs are cookie-cutter. The people are typically rich, green, less diverse, and typically safe. In France it appears to be the opposite with the suburbs. More urban, poor, diverse, and less safer. This may be based off of the country’s histories. Where in the US the rich left for the suburbs, in France the rich probably went to the cities or they were pushed to the suburbs.

I wonder if this is true? How did this division between classes and specific separation between the suburbs and cities occur?

Pour vous, les banlieues sont des lieux sûrs, paisibles, ou les riches hâbitent. Chez nous, le mot banlieue représente la pauvreté, les minorités, et a une connotation très péjorative.
Parlons-nous bien des mêmes banlieues? A quoi pensez-vous que cette différence est liée ? Les banlieues aux Etats-unis sont-elles toutes si calmes et riches?

Hi Rémi. I will respond to your question above. I had to ponder about that same thing myself, as I was just as surprised you were.
I then read the following response under the “Elite” tab that seemed pretty insightful to me.

hanine asked: Pourquoi quelques américains associent-ils le mot Elite à […] “Suburbs” Ça me paraît bizarre.

This was a response (by tasha): […] since the US doesn’t have good public transportation in a lot of places, only people who have enough money to afford a car live out in the suburbs. Also, since there is more space in the suburbs rich people will buy properties with lots of land and very large houses.

Props to him/her for the response.

I believe we are speaking of the same suburbs, areas that are further away from the city, but because of differences in culture and customs, the people who end up living in these suburbs in the US and in France come from different backgrounds. I think a lot of what impacts these differences are the points that labradoodle brought up, but there is also the added fact that cities in France are much older than American cities, so as the cities expanded, houses were added to the outside of the city, and only the wealthy were able to keep the houses they already had or buy the houses in the center and the poorer people were forced to move to the outskirts. In America, most of the time, downtown is a much more commercial area with tall office buildings that are not conducive to nice living, so the wealthy bought the nicer houses further away.

Suburbs in America were pretty much invented in the 1950s after WWI. After the war, white middle-class Americans wanted to settle down and because of the economic boom they had the ability to do so. Suburbia as we know it today was born and so was the white-picket fence concept of the American dream. This coincided with the Second Great Migration and a flux of immigrants, so cities were becoming quickly overpopulated. Those who could afford to move out of the city and commute to work did, and that’s why we now associate the suburbs with upper-class whites. Today, the suburbs almost always have better school systems than the inner cities, because in most states property taxes are what fund schools. So lots of people move to the suburbs to start families so that their kids can get a good education and have a bright future.

@Remi I think the difference in our definitions of “suburbs” stems from a completely different Post-WWII timeline for our urban planning. While West Europe was rebuilding it’s major cities, America was expanding outwards. You should look into phenomena like “white flight”. It should explain a lot about the role of the suburbs in the evolution in American population.

@PhysicsMajor, en France, les quartiers que l’on appelle “banlieues” n’ont pas toutes été construites après la seconde guerre mondiale, mais principalement dans les années 1960, 1970 pour loger la population grandissante des principales villes (exode rurale et immigration des pays proches ou des anciennes colonies). A cette époque les banlieues n’avait pas autant de problèmes qu’actuellement.

Pour répondre à aokello et kashlgh:
Je pense que nous n’avons pas la même vision des “banlieues” même si la définition doit être la même (une banlieue, c’est le territoire qui entoure un centre-ville En France). Le terme “banlieue” est à connotation péjorative en France car il fait souvent référence à des zones assez défavorisé, pauvre, ou l’insécurité régne. De ce fait, les français ont donc certaines craintes vis-à-vis des banlieues et une vision plutôt négative.
En effet, il existe en France certaines zones dans lequelles la pauvreté et la violence sont plus marqué qu’ailleur (en France, il y a généralement une différence de classe sociale entre les habitants des ville et ceux des banlieues). Les médias Français se focalisent alors sur ces cas pour généraliser la situation dans les banlieues et diffuser une certaines craintes dans l’esprit des français.
C’est pour cela que contrairement aux américains qui voyent la banlieue comme un “chez-soi”, nous avons plutôt tendance à y voir les discrimination, la pauvreté ou encore même la violence.
Pour répondre à kashlgh, j’ai grandi en banlieue, pour moi, cela représente donc aussi mon “chez-moi”.

Thanks for the nice comment labradoodle!

acheknoun, do you think growing up in the suburbs was a disadvantage for you? Also, since the suburbs don’t seem to have as good of the connotation in France, are you ever hesitant to tell people where you grew up? Apologies if these questions are too personal. Sometimes people here in the US do not like to talk about their upbringing, especially if it wasn’t considered the “standard” american upbringing (meaning middle class, good access to education, usually both parents are around, etc.) and I don’t know if this is also a topic that the French do not like to discuss.

To other American students: Do you think that for us, “inner city” might have the same connotation as “banlieue” does for French people? We typically do associate “banlieue/suburbs” with quiet, peaceful, well-to-do places - and when we speak of poverty and violence, we often refer to the inner city. (If so, this is actually a bit ironic, “inner city” is the opposite of a suburb geographically speaking!)

mhk, I think the “inner city” and the “banlieue” definitely have very similar connotations if not the same. In high school French, we watched a movie about high schoolers growing up in a ” banlieue” and it definitely seemed a lot like the “inner city”, maybe slightly wealthier but not much. It seemed that kids growing up in the “banlieue” faced the same issues that inner city kids face in the states - trouble with the police, drug influence, etc.

@acheknoun Thank you for the response! I see what you mean about the different connotations. I guess the French idea of suburbs is kind of what Americans call the slums or the ghettos. I wouldn’t say that “inner city” has the same meaning because it’s in the city and so geographically that wouldn’t be an applicable definition. I suppose that these differences reflect differences in the geography of France vs. America; in France, the only major city is Paris so immediately the idea of suburbs is associated with the neighborhoods surrounding Paris, but in America we have a lot more cities so “suburbs” is a lot more general of a term. Is this a fair judgment to make?

I agree with erbri that “inner city” and “banlieue” have very similar connotations. I think it would’ve been interesting to see what words we all associated with the word “city,” because in America cities typically have both extremes, the richest and the poorest (or at least New York). Do cities in France follow that trend?

@tasha En France, on dit souvent que n’importe qui peut réussir à condition qu’il fournisse les efforts pour, mais je ne pense que cela soit totalement vrai, car même si tous les élèves ont accès au même contenu, les conditions d’apprentissage et les ressources disponibles ne sont les mêmes. (bien sûr, cela est vrai pour tout système où il y a de fortes inégalités socio-économiques.)
Par exemple, lorsque qu’un professeur passe sont temps à dire à ces élèves qu’ils sont nuls et qu’ils ne feront jamais rien de leur vie, ces élèves auront encore moins envie de faire de faire de longues études (c’est quelque chose que j’ai moi-même vécu). De ceux fait, les élèves des “banlieues” sont souvent poussait à faire des études courtes, ce qui est dommage, car je connais beaucoup de personnes qui avait les capacités de faire de grandes choses, mais, qui par le manque d’avis et de conviction, ont essayées d’avoir le niveau minimal pour pouvoir travailler puis ont arrêtées des cours.
Personnellement, je pense que le fait d’avoir grandi en “banlieue” m’a été plus désavantageux qu’autre chose. Si je n’avais pas eu des parents qui m’ont toujours poussait à faire de longues études, j’aurai surement déjà arrêter. Personnellement, je n’ai pas vraiment de problème à dire aux autres où j’ai grandi, mais cela m’a déjà été désavantageux à plusieurs reprises (par exemple, lors de la recherche d’un stage ou d’un job d’été)

@kashlgh Ce que du a dit est partiellement vrai, en effet, la différence d’ambiguïté sur le mot “banlieue” peut aussi être dû au fait qu’en France, les villes ne sont pas aussi grandes qu’aux États-Unis, la séparation entre le centre-ville et la banlieue est peut-être mieux marquée mais c’est une erreur de dire que la Paris est la seul principal ville, Paris est la plus grande ville de France (et la plus connue) mais au final, ce n’est qu’une villes parmi de nombreuses autres.

I think @acheknoun makes a good observation in that the difference between definitions could have to do with the sizes of the cities in the United States versus France. If there is less definition between where the city ends and where the suburbs begin, then there can be different opinions based on what exact region you are talking about. In the United States, the “city” can often cover a very large region in which others may define certain sections as more like suburbs.

So we think that “banlieu” is pretty comparable to “inner cities”, but is there an equivalent in France for American “suburbs”? An area outside cities that is middle class, pleasant/quiet, and has lots of families?

@anogues If there weren’t as many problems then, what has changed? The economy? The demographics of those locations? Harsher laws? What’s going on here that makes them a modern-day word commonly associated with violence.

@PhysicsMajor Plusieurs choses ont changé. Avec la montée du chômage à partir de 1975 et des premiers chocs pétroliers, les français ont commencé à critiquer l’immigration. La situation économique national était mauvaise et comme partout, il y a toujours des boucs-émissaires . Au même moment la proportion de personnes d’origine étrangère a augmenté dans les banlieues car ces immeubles étaient le moyen le moins cher pour se loger. Avec l’augmentation de cette population, les autres classes sociales ont commencé à quitter les banlieues pour des pavillons . Ce phénomène a continué jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Les émeutes des années 2000 nous ont rappelé ce problème mais en réalité c’est 30 ans de politiques urbaines et de communautarisme qui ont crée cette image négative.

J’aimerais vous partager une musique qui me semble pas mal correspondre à ce sujet. Toutefois, l’artiste VALD est un peu extrême dans ses pensées, souvent pessimiste. Il n’est pas représentatif de la société française, mais il est possible de retrouver cette mentalité dans certains quartiers de France.

La première partie du morceau incarne une personne âgée qui a passé sa vie dans ce quartier, et a observé tous les changements qui en ont découlé. La seconde partie est celle d’un jeune qui habite dans ce même quartier.

Voici le morceau en question: https://www.

Je tenais à vous partager cela puisqu’il me semble avoir compris qu’américains et français n’ont pas la même interprétation de quartiers ni de banlieues.

I wonder if “suburb” might not be a good translation of the word “banlieu”. Do you think there is a better word that could translate this concept? I know people have mentioned “inner city”, but if this is really referring to a place on the periphery of a city then “inner city” isn’t a good translation since its literal meaning is false in this case.

It seems that the Americans think that America is controversial, but it also has freedom. The French students think that the U. S. has more power and money and fast food. It’s interesting that the French students don’t first think that the U. S. has freedom. The French students could think that the U. S. has freedom, but that France has more. Do you think that France has more freedom than the United States?

The Americans easily associate the U. S. with freedom. However, the French associate it with power.
Americans have a better or more optimistic view of the U. S. than the French.
I think the French students have an image of the U. S. as it is portrayed in the media.
What does the french media say about the U. S.?

The French talk more about places and Americans talk more about concepts of freedom/liberty. The Americans also generally have a positive sense of themselves while the French see more of the negative aspects of American society or the stereotype that is portrayed in media.
What do you know about “The American Dream”