Separate post on different topic

So I’m reading French or Foe, finally. I was buying Almost French on amazon and it showed me one of those “buy this and this for this much” links so I kow-towed to the marketing gods and bought them both. Almost French is not here yet but French or Foe arrived a while ago and I’m almost done with it. It is excellent and will be added to my shelf of American/French cultural comparison books.

I love this kind of book but I am wondering if I should take them with a grain of salt. Near the end of French or Foe is a section on French people’s experiences in the U.S. One of the author’s points is that they are usually surprised by the huge emphasis on money as a sign of success. She quotes someone and now I’m quoting her:

    “Ask a young Frenchman why he works, what he wants out of life and he will tell you, ‘To earn enough to live nicely,”‘ said Yvonne D. after two years in San Francisco. “Ask an American and he’ll say, ‘To make a lot of money.'”

Am I an exception here? Is it because my family has made its way into the middle class that I don’t think this way? Because I don’t know anyone who would give that answer. No one from Mac and no one from Texas. I can see how CEOs might say this. But they’re hardly average Americans. Any input from other Americans or foreigners here would be welcomed. In fact that’s kind of my goal in posting this.

Also she mentions that many French ex-patriates are surprised that Americans talk so freely to each other about their salaries. And in my (albeit limited experience) this isn’t really true. In fact I remember talking in a women’s studies class in college about how if we DID talk more about salaries, maybe the glass ceiling would be less invisible and easier to overcome.

So given my reaction to the statements about Americans I’m wondering if I should give less credit to the statements about the French. Which isn’t to say that I don’t still love the book.

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6 thoughts on “Separate post on different topic

  1. Casseeeeeeee says:

    My personal goal is to earn enough to one day earn enough to live comfortably, as in being able to go out to eat sometimes without having to stress out about it, and occasionally buying a pretty article of clothing that costs more than thirty bucks. I would say just about anyone’s response would be to earn enough to live nicely, but it’s very subjective what that means. That “make lots of money” thing might have been an interpretation on the part of the author, since Americans tend to be really career and goal-driven, and neglect spending time with loved ones and long lunches and wine to make it up to that next rung of the ladder. I don’t know. I always thought talking about salaries was a bit taboo, but I would have to compare it to other cultures to be sure. People talk about salaries here if they’re comparing different schools or companies as potential employers, but that’s the expat population, and I’ve never heard anyone talk about it otherwise–so about the same experience as America. I’ve heard that in China it’s a pretty standard conversation practice to ask someone how much money they make.

  2. That makes sense. We are definitely more work-oriented than the French. For me that’s not so much about money as independence… which they aren’t really on about either.

    Interesting article, L. I think that bon appetit thing is not true though. I’ve read before that it’s bad manners to say it but everyone I know does. Maybe if you are a real Paris socialite you shouldn’t, but how many foreigners really get that far… it looks like this guy worked with diplomats though, so possibly that’s the same atmosphere.

  3. laurel says:

    Yeah. I was going to ask if the saying hello to people in an elevator thing was true (remembering your experience with the doctor’s office) but then I remembered that all the elevators I ever saw in France fit

  4. laurel says:

    Oh crap. I broke it. What I had originally said was “less than 1” (with the less-than sign) which I guess the HTML couldn’t handle. Anyway, finish that sentence with “less than 1 people.”

    Um, then I said some other stuff about salaries and talking about jobs. Maybe the comment is saved somewhere and you can just edit out the evil less-than sign?

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