The annual Fête des Lumières in the wonderful city of Lyon, France takes place this weekend. I’ve been the past four years and will be there again this weekend, along with millions of other visitors (in addition to the local Lyon area population of 1.8 million or so).
NB: This post is not intended to spark cultural tensions but give cultural insight. Of course, surveys are not perfect measurements, but they can provide perspective. I’m just sharing an interesting article here for cultural awareness, not to criticize the US or France.
The French have a reputation for being quite chauvinistic, but my time living here has showed me that they are not any more arrogant than my fellow Americans. In fact, the recent Pew Research Center survey, called the “The American-Western European Values Gap”, reveals quite the contrary.
Responding to the statement “Our people are not perfect but our culture is superior to others”, only 27% of French think French culture is better than all others. For the US, that number was 49%.
What could this say about Americans? I think overall we are less informed about world events and different cultures than European nations, and it shows in the numbers. So I believe this attitude is based on lack of experience abroad and lack of cultural perspective. That’s just my opinion though, not Pew’s conclusions. What do you think?
Another interesting statistic is that in foreign affairs, there is more isolationism in the US than in France:
52% of Americans polled said the US “should deal with its own problems”, 39% said the US “should help other countries”.
For the French, these numbers were 57% and 43%, respectively.
Poll finds French not so chauvinistic after all
Published: 18 Nov 2011 10:15 GMT+1
France’s reputation for chauvinism took a hit on Thursday from an opinion poll that revealed that only 27 percent of its people think French culture is better than all others.
In fact, 73 percent of French respondents to the ongoing Pew Research Center survey of US and European attitudes disagreed that “our culture is superior to others,” the polling institute reported.
Forty-nine percent of Americans believed US culture was the best, even if “our people are not perfect,” followed by Germans at 47 percent, Spaniards at 44 percent and Britons at 32 percent.
But, when set against past surveys, it appears “Americans are now far less likely to say that their culture is better than others; six-in-ten Americans held this belief in 2002 and 55 percent did so in 2007,” the pollsters said.
“Belief in cultural superiority has declined among Americans across age, gender and education groups.”
Americans were most likely to consider freedom to pursue life’s goals is most important (58 percent), while Germans were most likely to view success in life as being determined “by forces outside our control” (72 percent).
Pew based its findings from random telephone interviews in March and April with about 1,000 respondents in each country (Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the United States) with 3.5-4.5 percent margins of error.
The entire survey appears on its website, www.pewglobal.org.
AFP (fr) (email@example.com)
Today is the 30th annual Fête de la musique (Festival of music), a French tradition across the country. Despite the rainy weather in Paris, expect bands in the streets (in addition to pubs and bars) of all different flavors.
Learn more about the agenda at the website above.
For those not in Paris, there are many concerts elsewhere in France. Check with your local tourism office or city hall.
In Paris today, there will be some delays on the RER suburban rail lines, notably RER B, which connects downtown Paris to Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport. Information below from RATP’s website.
Mardi 21 juin 2011, État du trafic à 9h15 : Trafic normal sur les réseaux Métro, Bus et Tramway.
Préavis du syndicat CGT concernant les lignes A et B du RER zone RATP :
RER A :
Trafic quasi normal.
RER B :
1 train sur 2 entre Denfert Rochereau et Robinson / Saint Rémy-lès-Chevreuse.
Pas de trafic entre Denfert Rochereau et Gare du Nord.
Prévisions pour la journée :
RER zone RATP
RER A :
3 trains sur 4 en moyenne sur la journée
(interconnexion maintenue à Nanterre-Préfecture)
Voir les horaires détaillés
A partir de 20h30 et tout au long de la nuit jusqu’au lendemain matin : Trafic assuré à 100%
RER B :
De 16h30 à 20h30 : 1 train sur 2 entre Denfert Rochereau et Robinson / Saint Rémy-lès-Chevreuse
Voir les horaires détaillés
Après 20h30 et tout au long de la nuit jusqu’au lendemain matin, 1 train sur 3 entre Denfert Rochereau et Robinson / Massy-Palaiseau / Saint Rémy-lès-Chevreuse.
Nota: Des précisions vous seront communiquées à partir de 9H30 pour le trafic en heures creuses (entre 10h30 et 16H30 et après 20H30).
La RATP met à la disposition de ses voyageurs
un numéro vert : 0 800 15 11 11 et pour les téléphones mobiles : wap.ratp.fr
This article comes from Expatica and talks about the behavior of “ugly Expats” rather than the stereotypical “ugly American” image.
You’re probably familiar with the expression “Ugly American,” a pejorative and stereotypical term for US expatriates who alienate the locals with their loud and disrespectful behaviour. It comes from the 1958 book The Ugly American, a cautionary tale that tells the story of corrupt and ethnocentric American bureaucrats in Southeast Asia.
One of the characters in the book characterizes Ugly Americans like this:
“A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They’re loud and ostentatious.”
Ugliness: it’s not just for Americans anymore
This being the age of globalization, it seems unfair to single out Americans as the champions of boorish behaviour abroad. In the spirit of inclusiveness, I’d like to propose we retire the expression Ugly American and replace it with Ugly Expat. Cultural disrespect is an equal opportunity sport, after all – one the entire world is eager to play.
The habits to adopt if you’d like to be an “ugly Expat” are below. They are also the habits to avoid if you want a rich cultural experience. I advise the latter!
I have many French friends (indeed, my girlfriend of three years is French) and believe interaction with the locals is key in my experience here. Not only does it help my French language skills, it helps me understand the different cultural perspectives that are at play here. That does not mean I do not mingle with expatriates, as I actively do. I just don’t limit myself to a certain group.
Being at the cross-roads of cultural interaction can be confusing at times in terms of identity (which country do I call home?) but in the end I think it’s rewarding.
Keep an open mind when moving abroad. There will be awkward times, misunderstandings and sometimes discomfort, but that’s part of the learning experience.
1. Don’t waste your valuable time researching your destination or its people before you move – a country’s history or dominant cultural values are no concern of yours. And for heaven’s sake, don’t throw away your money on any of that cross-cultural training mumbo jumbo – everyone knows what a scam that is.
2. Likewise, don’t bother reading up on the causes and symptoms of culture shock, or how to alleviate it. That’s what Valium is for. (Pack lots!)
3. Isolate yourself. Shut yourself up in your compound/condo and refuse all contact with local people. If there’s an exclusive expatriate club nearby, rejoice: you’re saved! Choose your new friends with care, weeding out any prospects who have ‘Gone native’. (Being too chummy with the locals is a dead giveaway.) Successful candidates will have already aced the 12 steps and will embrace you as a kindred spirit.
4. Show off your wealth, especially if you live in a developing nation. Your baubles and fancy toys will breed admiration and respect among the impoverished masses, who will revere you as a role model.
5. Under no circumstances should you eat local food. They eat that unsanitary crap because they don’t know any better; you do. (You can’t be too careful – who knows what you might pick up?) If you’re offered anything unrecognizable, be sure to show your disdain by peppering your refusal with terms such as “dysentery” and “intestinal worms.” Gagging noises are optional.
6. Let everyone know how backward the country is, and how much better things are back home. I can’t stress this enough – never let an opportunity to compare the two countries pass you by. It’s your duty to teach the local populace a thing or two, and opening their eyes to their own inferiority will endear you to them. (Bonus points if you can insult cultural and religious icons or other objects of reverence.)
7. Speak your own language exclusively, especially if it happens to be English. (If the locals haven’t bowed to global pressure and learned it already, that’s their problem.) In a pinch, speaking very s-l-o-w-l-y and very LOUDLY should help them understand you. Trust me; they’ll love being talked to as though they were five years old. If they still don’t understand, throw your hands up in disgust and walk away, muttering under your breath. There’s some body language that won’t get lost in translation!
8. Don’t try to understand – much less accommodate – local customs. If it’s not The Way Things Are Back Home, it’s irrelevant. (Let them know they’re not fooling you with that siesta thing, for example. Everyone knows daytime napping is nothing but sheer laziness. The steaming midday temperature is just an excuse.)
9. Treat your household staff like the servants they are. They don’t need a day off, and you and I both know that hot water would only spoil them. Since it’s for their own good, I’m sure they’ll thank you later.
10. Social networking was invented for people stuck in godforsaken places like this. Spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, and email, lying about how much fun you’re having. Then log onto Farmville and spend some quality time doing whatever it is people on Farmville do.
11. Drink. A lot. It makes life so much fun, both for you and those around you.
12. Take your frustrations out on your husband. It’s all his fault, anyway. If it weren’t for his precious career, you’d be back home among people who matter, instead of wasting the best years of your life in this hellhole.
France24 lists the 35 sites around France that appear in UNESCO’s World Heritage site list. They include Mont St. Michel, the historic centers of Lyon & Avignon, Pont du Gard, the banks of the Seine in Paris, Fontainebleau, Versailles and Chartres, among other famous sites. The map below is from the original article on France24. All the more reason to visit this beautiful country!
According to the Washington Post, French food has been included by UNESCO on a list of cultural heritages around the world. While there are certainly rich culinary traditions in many countries (Italy, China, Japan, Mexico, to name a few…), it is true that French gastronomy is world-renown for its gastronomy that contributes to the country’s cultural reputation around the world. But it is true that the traditional French meal is facing changes due to globalization and the work world. Your thoughts on French food?
Excerpts below from the article (click link above to read entire piece). cheers, and bon appétit.
UNESCO adds French food to cultural heritage list
Edward Cody, Washington Post Foreign Service
November 16, 2010
“…The decision by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include French food among new additions to a list celebrating the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” came as no surprise in Paris. For centuries, people here have been convinced that nothing is so fine, so culturally satisfying, so spiritually uplifting as sitting down for a good French meal with friends and family. (Or maybe a lover, but that is another heritage.)…
…UNESCO honored traditional Mexican cuisine as well, although that fact tended to be lost in the din of self-congratulation in France over the world body’s acknowledgment of the country’s flair for orchestrating the perfect cascade of mealtime pleasures: from aperitif to appetizer, on to the main course, salad, cheese, dessert and perhaps fruit, with the appropriate wine bringing out the best in each dish…It was that ageless choreography – epitomized by Sunday lunch at Grandma’s rather than three-star preciosity – that UNESCO singled out as worth preserving for the good of the human race.
“The meal is a profound part of French people’s identity,” said Jean-Robert Pitte, the president of the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), who led the effort to win UNESCO’s blessing and explained the reasoning online. “This exists in a lot of other countries. But we have a certain form of gastronomy, with the marriage of food and wine, the succession of dishes, the way of setting the table, of talking about it, that are specifically French.”…
In fact, the traditional French meal has been meeting with growing indifference on its home ground as the demands of a modern economy encourage quick, alcohol-free lunches, particularly among the young. Sandwich consumption is rising by 10 percent a year, and experts estimate that only half of France’s 64 million people still sit down to eat regular family meals of the kind honored by UNESCO.
Nevertheless, a multicourse lunch with wine at an expense-account restaurant remains the most popular way to celebrate a contract, seal a friendship or pass along a tip. Lunch at Grandma’s is still imperative for many families, particularly in the provinces. Television programs devoted to cooking and dinner parties have also proliferated in recent years, generating a mini-renaissance of home cooking…”