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Don’t Copy American Culture (Or at Least, Make It Better)

France has a love-and-hate relationship with the U.S. On one hand, the French admire exported American culture and products, but on the other hand, they are quick to point out that Americans are obese idiots who sleep with a gun under their pillows and don’t know the name of their own national capital city.

Donuts, cheesecakes and bagels are now easy to find in French bakeries. Most movie theatres are showing Hollywood blockbusters dubbed in French. Many American franchises are surprisingly popular, including Starbucks and Subway.

I’m not going to complain about the influence of American pop culture in France. After all, why not? I see croissants, proper French bread and European authors gaining in popularity on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean as well.

However, I hate the fact that many French decision-makers are seeing America as a blueprint for success.

I don’t live in the U.S. However, as a Northern neighbour, I’m privy to some information America-fuck-yeah would rather not share with the rest of the world. For instance, I know that the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee paid time off. The only federal law guaranteeing maternity leave in the U.S. is unpaid—and it only applies to some employees. The federal government requires a wage of at least $2.13 (! In 2018!) per hour to be paid to employees that receive at least $30 per month in tips. In every state but Montana, at-will employment is the rule and employees can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish “just cause” for termination), and without warning, as long as the reason is not illegal.

I’m not even getting into the unique and very questionable American healthcare system, for-profit prisons, gun violence or student debt—topics that are often debated in the U.S. but to which the rest of the world pays little attention.

So whenever I hear French companies stating they want to go for “U.S.-style management” or that the government is considering adopting some U.S. standard, I always want to scream, “Really? Are you positive it’s working for everyone over there?”

I honestly don’t think Americans are healthier, happier and more productive.

Many Americans are not supper happy with their healthcare system, labour laws or lack of welfare.

There are plenty of things the U.S. does very well and could be worth exporting to France. For instance, why don’t we ditch the photomaton, these ubiquitous photo booths, and have ID pictures taken for free on-site for driver’s licences, health cards, etc.? I don’t think I ever had to provide my own pictures in Canada, except for my passport. Why don’t French companies and government agencies have a toll-free number? I find it crazy that you have to dial a premium-rate telephone number to reach many government services in France. I wish the French public service was more user-friendly and more straightforward—any issue I may have had in Canada was solved easily but in French, a simple process often turns into an epic headache.

France could export a few things to North America too.

I always miss the bureaux de tabac, newsstands that sell magazines, newspapers, cigarettes, lottery tickets and a few snacks—but mostly, I miss cheap magazines. There’s a magazine for every interest in France—note “Miaou, the magazine for cat lovers” in the pictures below!

I also wish there were more local products in supermarkets in Canada. Big companies gained monopoly and you have entire aisles of Nestle vs. Danone vs. General Mills vs. PepsiCo.

I wish the arts were as important as “making money.” I wish the economy wasn’t based on tricking consumers into buying garbage. I wish people weren’t Gods as consumers, yet as slaves as workers.

North America and Europe can learn from each other. Let’s just not adopt blindly what doesn’t work that well overseas in the first place.

Cours Saint-Pierre, Nantes
Relay shop inside Nantes’ train station
Relay shop inside Nantes’ train station
Quai de la Fosse, Nantes
Mark buying his own “pain au chocolat” in a bakery Rue du Maréchal Joffre, Nantes
Mark buying his own “pain au chocolat” in a bakery Rue du Maréchal Joffre, Nantes
Mark buying his own “pain au chocolat” in a bakery Rue du Maréchal Joffre, Nantes
Le Bar Du Coin, Rue de la Juiverie, Nantes
Le Bar Du Coin, Rue de la Juiverie, Nantes
Le Bar Du Coin, Rue de la Juiverie, Nantes
Donuts in a French bakery Rue de la Marne, Nantes
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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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