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What do foreigners/tourists think about France?

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On June the 3rd 2008, CNN has started an interesting survey entitled “Your opinions on France“. CNN has been asking its viewers, including the French living in France and abroad, about what defines the nation today.

Here is a selection of what people have answered:

  • “For the last six years we have had the good fortune to live in Paris for about four months each year. When we first came here it rapidly became clear to us that the French reputation for rudeness and America bashing could not be further from the truth. In our experience the French people have been more than friendly and accomodating to two Americans who didn’t even speak the language, an experience shared with almost all our American friends who have spent any time here. The Americans we know who criticize the French people the most are generally those who have never been here. Our experience living here has opened our eyes to a world we could have never seen if we never left the US. Living abroad should be required for anyone who wants to understand the entire world stage.” Richard Pluta and Patricia Mistove
  • “I am an American who does NOT live in Paris – I live in beautiful Brittany. I also could go back to Los Angeles or New York and find work much more quickly and that pays more, but I just adore the culture here and the approach that the French have toward everything from science to art to history to making bread which is thoughtful, thorough and philosophic. I adore the architecture, the respect for the environment in general, and the way of life is simple and yet very rich and fulfilling. Every region in France has its own rich history that can be very different from Paris. I have often been asked by the French if I live here because of “amour” – I usually respond with yes. I fell in love with the boulanger – bread ! Thank you. (I do hope that CNN covers another city in France – so many Americans seem to think that Paris IS France – it’s a bit like thinking that NYC IS the United States….)” J. Natalie Schmitz
  • “I’ve learned to have a great deal of respect for the french. For one thing they are very compatible with us Venezuelans, in that they enjoy life and don’t make a fuss about things that don’t merit one. Parisians may be regarded as arrogant (although I never felt they were) but, come on…If I had something to do with the existance of that city I’d be arrogant too!. The rest of the french are simply delightful from any point of view. In general, sometimes I think that the french do everything better than anyone else (With the probable exception of salsa dancing). It’s the attitude, I guess. France is magnetic and intoxicating, as is the french language. The reason why France is such a big Fire arms producer escapes my understanding, however. All in all, the french have historical debts to humanity (not more so than many other countries, though) that may be artificially diminished by their glamourous ways. Of course, humanity owes a lot more to the french than they are ready to acknowledge. At the end of the day, it’s their respect and regard for all aspects of culture that most amazes me. If I had to leave my country, which I hope never happens, I’d most likely try to go there. Thanks and Keep up the good work.” Carlos Peláez, Caracas, Venezuela
  • “I am a Canadian living in France. I came here with the hopes of living here after living in Los Angeles for 8 years. I have just completed a Masters degree at French institution. My bachelors degrees is Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts with minors in Philosophy and Political Science. I have over 10 years of professional experience in marketing and business development. Having lived here for almost a year I can tell you that the backward ways of administration are frustrating to the French and foreigners alike. I hope that Speedy Sarko can force changes in ways of starting businesses and taxation. I have met so many people that have gone to the UK and other places because they simply cannot afford to conduct business here.

I could go back to Los Angeles or even New York and get a well paid job. But the culture is what keeps me here. You can live in Paris for years and still feel like a tourist. There is so much history and culture.

But we all struggle a bit with the reality that France could be much more competitive in it’s way of conducting business and welcoming foreign investment. At the same time, for workers, France affords a certain stability. France is a wonderful place to live. But is the grass always greener on the other side? That remains to be seen. Hopefully Sarko will be strong enough to envoke progress.” Kimberly E McCabe

  • “Oh, yes, French culture is definitely alive and well. I see many influences whenever I shop here at home and welcome it.

I think Charles de Gaulle certainly personified France to many people, but there are fewer and fewer people around who can remember his influence. Of course, Napoleon, the kings, the whole crew of French revolutionaries, authors, artists, actors/actresses/directors. All have had an influence on French culture and history. And, of course, French couturiers keep France in the headlines, too. Currently, I would say that Sarkozy is the name that would come to the minds of most people when they think of France.

I think the people of France are what makes France so distinctive. I have always been treated entirely kindly and well in France. They do not laugh at my struggles with their beautiful language but instead appreciate the fact that you try and will help you out gracefully and kindly. Wherever I have traveled, I have found a kind welcome and extraordinary efforts to assist me with anything I needed.

I do not find the French rude or arrogant nor their service poor but friendly, welcoming, and gracious in every way. And if you show an interest in their language, their art, their history, their cities, you’ll be educated fully and enthusiastically! Vive la France.” Doris Matousek

  • “I think that, unfortunately, the misconceptions and prejudices of others most defines France’s reputation around the world. For example, most people cite the perceived rudeness of the French in Paris. Though I’m an American, I have never experienced this- in fact, I’ve only found them to be polite and helpful. I’ve always made the effort to try to “fit in” to their culture while visiting in France, and have always attempted to speak French. Every time I stumble, I’ve been greeted with an English response- just making the extra effort to try to interact in French has opened so many doors for me. On the other hand, though, every time I visit New York, I’m treated rudely and as a backwards “country bumpkin,” even though I look, talk and act no differently than most of the rest of the population of that city. (…)

I think their regard for aesthetics, whether they be art, cuisine, music, poetry or architecture is quite distinctive- everyone in the country has at least a passing acquaintance with the more “beautiful” aspects of their history and culture, and can appreciate a good bottle of wine, a fine painting, an excellent meal or a simple poem. Their pace of life is more relaxed, and places an emphasis on the family- their schools and businesses close for at least an hour and a half at noon so the family can come together for a meal.” Jerry C. Diaz, Pennsylvania

  • “Dear CNN, Thank you for portraying my country. I am a French expatriate living here in the U.S., more precisely in New Orleans (for the past 12 years). Although I have grown accustomed to the American Life, and respect deeply the United States, its history and the values it stands for, I still miss my country and it is not without heartache that I reminisce of life over there.

What makes France unique? It is so hard to pinpoint it. From our varied landscapes have emerged throughout the centuries such an incredible number of great philosophers and authors (from Voltaire and Rousseau to Sartre and Beauvoir), artists (Gauguin, Rodin, Monet and countless others), creators (Chanel, Dior, Gauthier), Chefs and exquisite meals. But more than all, what makes France special, behind this remarkable backdrop is the French “Savoir Vivre,” the appreciation of life in its littlest forms, such as a great cheese and a glass of wine. It is also L’Amour. The French are a very passionate people. So are Italians would you tell me. But the French seem to find passion in everything they do, be it in Love, Couture, Cuisine, Intellectual Debates, Politics…Maybe that’s what makes us unique.” Ludivine Foley, New Orleans

If you want to read more about what people think about France, please visit the CNN website: http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/05/27/france.responses/index.html

As a French citizen, I agree that many foreigners/tourists tend to think that Paris IS France…I have even met Indian people who told me: “Oh you are French!! You are from Paris…I love Paris !!”. Even before asking me, they had already assumed that I was from Paris !

Even though Paris is said to have the most beautiful avenue in the world “Les Champs Elysees”, I disagree that it is the best place to visit in France. Paris has to be seen at least once for all its historical monuments and particular atmosphere but there are many many more wonderful places to visit in France! For example, the French Alps should be on your list!

One response so far

One Response to “What do foreigners/tourists think about France?”

  1. Brian Andersonon 09 Apr 2013 at 6:08 pm 1

    We traveled in Paris in May 2012 and met a couple of great unofficial French ambassadors who sat at the table beside us in the street cafe. Their friendliness and love of France came through. Great attitude! We had an unforgettable evening of eating, drinking and many laughs

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