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

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France has a love-and-hate relationship with the U.S. On one hand, French admire exported American culture and products, but on the other hand they are quick to point out that American 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 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 pay little attention to.

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 a 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 art was 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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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

7 Comments

  1. I completely agree with you!!! One of the aspects I hate about the current Italian culture is how everyone loves everything American and despises every other European country. Instead of trying to take the positive aspects of German, British or French culture and organisation, everyone just says that their food is rubbish and that we cook so much better…
    But of course anything American or looking alike is considered “cool”. I am not saying that every American aspect is evil, but perhaps we should concentrate more on the actual positive aspects of a culture instead of stopping on its surface and taking that as an extraordinary thing.

    • To be fair, you do cook so much better than the Brits and the Germans. I’m not so sure about the frenchies, though. Ahah!! (I’m teasing, of course)

      • Hahaha that’s true, but to compare a whole country to its food is quite childish to me. I mean, Italy could learn so many things from the UK and Germany, but yet many Italians keep on focusing only on their cuisine XD
        Btw I love French food, it’s just a different cuisine compared to the Italian one, we focus on different aspects while cooking but I think both Italy and France have a great variety of dishes.

    • I completely agree! The weirdest thing to me is that exported US products/culture isn’t the greatest. For instance, there are American food products that are great, like all the squash in the fall, sweet potatoes, oatmeal/cereals, corn on the cob, etc. But Oreos, serious? Not the best cookies :-/

  2. I’d totally get into it without any subtelty: the US are a shitty country when it comes to about anything. I hate it so much. I hate the culture of money, I hate the lack of consideration for environment, human rights, women rights, workers rights, I hate guns, I hate that people are dying because they can’t buy medecine, I hate the lobbies. I wish none of this could come in Europe and in France: but it does (we’ve got a US lover president).
    And that said, you know how much I love the Americans and how much I love travelling in the US, and all the beauties, the incredible history and the complexity of this country. Yet I hate it almost as much.

    • I like Americans in general (I mean, it’s a big country… the usual mix of great and not-so-great people!) but I don’t think I’d be happy in the US. Sometimes I just wish we (as in, the rest of the world) could let Americans know that their system is shitty and they can do better. I had crazy chats with Americans who swear that society would collapse if they had more paid holidays/public healthcare, etc. And I’m always like “er… the rest of the world manages just fine…”

      On the other side, I do admire the way Americans are willing to take risks, always move forward or embrace new stuff with enthusiasm.

      But at this point, I don’t think many countries have much to gain trying to copy the US system in general.

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