PARIS, France (CNN) -- As part of its Eye on France coverage, CNN is asking its viewers -- including the French living in France and abroad -- about what defines the nation today.
1) In his victory speech, President Sarkozy said France had turned "a new page" in its history. Do you agree?
2) What do you think most defines France's reputation around the world?
3) Is French culture still alive today?
4) Who are France's most influential people?
5) What do you think is unique/distinctive about the French?
Here is a selection of your responses:
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 have lived in France for almost eight years now. As an American I still find it hard not to compare the differences between our two countries! What I believe is that the French people have a very distinct serious belief that that they have the 'right and privilege;' to do as they please.. and no one can tell them to do otherwise....that is of course, unless they are 'forced', by the government to do so! As American I grew up respecting rules....such as traffic laws, pedestrian laws,, dog poop laws; etc. Here in France, they do have 'written laws'; and they try to 'convince' their population to abide by them, by posting 'psychological freeway , or street messages' but there is very little physical presence for law reinforcement! Oh, the police stand on the corners once a month , and on holidays, to get their quota for law breakers, but the rest of the time there is very little visible patrols! Yes, this is a country a strikes.. Every month..there is .. some group that is not happy! When you see doctors, nurses, firemen; and ambulance drivers, and even students go on strike, it gets kind of ridiculous. The trains always, without fail, strike about the same times every year.. always for the same reasons! . I believe the French are not a happy people! They hold to a very strong belief that they have the 'right' for the government to give them always MORE than they alredy have! They are never content with what they have! Maybe is goes back to the world war years..; and far beyond that! When the basic 'rights' of the people were very very limited to the royalty, and . I guess that when the monarchy was abolished and the people began to have more freedoms, they thought that now they could have everything..; and it's still like that today! I do love France, but their people need to learn to calm down, and learn how to respect laws and the rights of others as well! Kim KNOPP Toulouse
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 an African American citizen, born in Snowhill, N.C. and raised in Seaford, DE. I have been living in France for 17 yrs., have experienced the Mitterand regime, the Chirac regime and now the Sarkozy regime. I can truly say that as an entertainer, France has given me opportunities that I would have probably never experienced in the US. The thing that marked me most when I first arrived in this country was the lack of people of color in publicity, on the television and in politics. Fortunately, that is slowly changing; along with the general attitude of the people. Another problem was that noone wanted to speak English; therefore, I taught myself. They (the French) even compliment me on how well I speak the language!!!!
I truly love this beautiful country and needless to say, I am the envy of my friends and family back home. Keep up the good work informing the world about this magnificient place. Linda Lee Hopkins
I am an American expat living in England. I visited Paris last year with my husband for the first time. It was for our 1st wedding anniversary and I loved it. I found the French people to be courteous and the food was glorious. Paris was gorgeous and it is now my favorite city in the world. I know that the French sometimes get the reputation for being arrogant, but I find from my experience that this is just a stereotype. I have found as an expat in England that some people I have met here have stereotypes about what they think about Americans and I have proven them wrong and they have opened their eyes. So I think that people are individuals and you can't clump all of one set of people together and decide that that is how they all are. At the end of the day, people are people and there is good and bad in every culture. No one is better than anyone. So I have love for my homeland and for my new home here in England and I have massive romantic love for France. It is truly the place for romance and beauty. Dori
I am French but live abroad for more than 7 years. I travel a lot with my job (I am right now in Bogota for 3 weeks for a business trip) and saw few of your reports. I think what you do is great with this program and I find your concept quite interesting. Well done Hala Gorani, Fionnuala Sweeney & Team!
1) I really think so. We need to change anyway. France has to adapt to the globalization, to the flexibility of the markets, to external influences. It makes me afraid to see a French member of the European Parlement (answering your questions) who is not able to speak a decent English. This person is able to give you an internal perspective of the country without opening his mind to the world. I think it is the main danger of France: those people not speaking languages, not opening their mind to different cultures, not believing in a flexible economy. That is what Sarkozy wants to tackle and I hope he will succeed.
2) The culture of the debates, the ability to enjoy life & the famous 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite'. Unfortunately, the reputation of strikes & rigid administration is true but we are not the only ones! I think that we deserve our reputation to do things well: luxury (YSL is a great example), artisanat, food, wine and amazing lanscapes.
3) The French culture is still alive but is changing. Our immigration, coming mainly from our past colonies, brings a fantastic mix of influences. We really need to take benefits of this. I really think we are not aware how lucky we are to sit at school close to children from different roots (North & West Africa, Asia,...). We need to capitalize on our strengths. We are all French and we need to change the country together & equally. Please dont focus only on Paris. It would be like giving a picture of the US with New-York. Paris is a wonderful place but French culture & identity comes as well from Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg, Lille, Rennes & the countryside!
4) I believe every French person has his own influence & responsibility. We have to stop expecting everything from the President & his government. I think the most influential people in France today are the ones who want to change things, to make this country a better place, to open their mind and to keep their strong identity.
5) Our way to think that what is French is better, our ability to complain while we have everything to be happy & our accent! Vincent Guinebretiere
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
1) In the event of a new president, normally a new chapter unfolds. A new president, a new personality, a new way to cope with the hazards of life. As to Mr Sarkozy, he seems to be trying on his new presidential mantle, but it doesn't exactly fit.
2) I think that for millions of people around the world, France is the country of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the bedrocks of democracy.
3) Of course, French culture is still alive today, just take a look at the global French speaking TV network TV5.
Another illustration of the vivacity of the French culture today, is the memorable national tribute to French West-Indian Poet Aimé Césaire, a national tribute followed by millions who love France and the beauty of her language.
France, the country of Lafayette, but also the country of Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Montesquieu, René Char, Patrice de La Tour du Pin, Oskar Wladyslaw De Lubicz Milosz...
4) Charles de Gaulle, Edith Piaf, Saint-Vincent de Paul... Their universally known names speak for themselves.
5) To be French is to be steeped in the process of creation, to be French is to display some kind of pragmatism coping with the world, to be French is to be a rebel, to be French is to go against the grain, like France masterfully did in 2003, opposing the war in Iraq. Teddy Crispin, French author, Germany
My name is David and I've lived in France for periods of up to a year. I speak French and I have many French friends. One of the things I find most distinct about the French are the ways in which thier culture is dealing with the effects of globalization and the integration of former colonials. Paris itself is a wildly multi-cultural city, and I mean this in two senses:
First, only certain parts of Paris are wholly "French" these days and in a tour of the different quarters of Paris -- not to mention the further out suburbs -- one passes from parts of town dominated by Algerians, Asians, and Africans.
Second, the effects of EU integration have increased the number of students from EU member nations, and the number of French going abroad. This has lead to a younger generation of native French that has travelled more and that speaks more languages. There is a popular movie entitled "L'Auberge espangole" that catalagoues the adventures of a young Frenchmen studying in Barcelona. It is available in American video stores. The French as a nation, of course, are having a conservative reaction to these trends of globalization and the integration of former colonials, but so is the Untied States and many other nations as well. Globalization brings many benefits but it also puts stresses on domestic institutions.
As for the French economy, it's not that they were once socialist and are now embracing capitalism. Rather, they've been a social democracy for the latter part of the twentieth century and have made some peculiar domestic choices as far as how to tax, and to incentivize SMALL business. The French do large multi-national coporations very well, but their rules make it very hard for smaller businesses to enter the marketplace. David Selby
Paris, just that one simple word and the images come rushing, pell-mell, of a beautiful, timeless city, the Champs Elysees, the Left Bank, Montmartre, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, which never disappoints, however often one has seen it. Paris is a magical city to discover for it has something to offer everyone: superb museum, wonderful shops, though some may just be for window-shopping, restaurants galore, walks along the River Seine, a cup of coffee in a pavement cafe... it is difficult to avoid the cliches when describing the City of Light.
If you have already visited the Louvre and Notre Dame and don't want to climb the Eiffel Tower again, then head for the Musee d'Orsay, in the former Orsay Railway Station. There are wonderful views of the Louvre and the Tuilenies Gardens from the roof of terrace. People-watching and food are two of Paris' favourite past-times. Order a creme and a croissant, and sit back and watch your French neighbours. The French do constantly and animatedly, read Le Figaro, L'Equipe for the foot ball results, or playing pinball, or talking.
It is clear that there will be a great deal of walk on foot to the banks of the Seine, along the river, under the bridges, watching the slow barges and old men quietly fishing. Follow the rural Canal St. Martin, where lock-keeper operates nine canal gates. Pere Lachaise, Paris' largest cemetery, where memorials commemorate as Baron Haussmann etc.
It is a City of France every one wishes the city they live in to be like. Great people and impressive planning. TSR Murthy
1) As a French expatriate (DC) I would totally agree with the president's statement. We are embracing free market economy, and France is opening more to the world. Under President Sarkozy's leadership, France is back in the international game. Our unique culture, history and philosophy are now melting down with more capitalism. We also understand now that the French diversity is not only the right thing to do but it also good business sense, which is a great thing when we know that we have almost 15% of minorities in the whole France .
2) Culture, history, fashion and gastronomy and unfortunately, arrogance and lack of customer service.
3) Yes, very much, not only in the French schools abroad but also in every major cities in France
4) Probably the President Sarkozy because he hates the old French Status quo mentality.
5) I lived in France for 20 years and they can complain about anything, which is very unique in the western world. Alex Cournol, Washington DC
I think President Sarkozy is making an attempt to improve life for all people in France. He faces many challenges and still has a lot to do. But I like his attitude and willingness to try new things. France's reputation is defined by its literature, its art, its history - both good and bad, the beauty of the country, the fabulous food, and its amazing citizens who have an opinion about everything and will be happy to share it with you!
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
1) I do and I don't. I do agree that France has turned "a new page" in that Sarkozy is taking a much more aggressive approach to government than did Chirac, but I don't know that his policies are all that different fundamentally from the previous policies in the French government.
2) 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.
3) I think French culture is still alive today, but more often than not, in a form that's been assimilated into another culture. For example, here in the US, wherever you find a perfume or makeup store, it's probably carrying a "French" name, or some derivative thereof. Many of our beauty products were, or still are, being developed in France. It's still the Mecca of the culinary world, and all the best Western chefs study in France for at least six months. French culture is one of the foundation cultures upon which many of our modern societies are built.
4) I think that France's most influential people are, of course, Napoleon (his impact on history is immense), Charles De Gaulle (likewise), Coco Chanel, the immigrant Muslim population as a whole (the French government's concern with the welfare of this minority group is admirable- the American government should take notice), the Socialist Party (responsible for their socialized healthcare and retirement, as well as the interest the government takes in the welfare of the citizens), and, unfortunately, the unions, who tend to strike frequently (the SNCF in particular).
5) 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
I think France is a country full of art for those that enjoy art. It is the people that ruin its reputation. They are not friendly and they think they know it all. I have visited Paris several times and found the people want to be in charge. Most of Paris people don't have any Christian values. The French do not have family time at meals. A couple comes in from work, feed, bathe and put the children to bed. The adults eat about 9pm. I know in the US some have gotten away from having family time with dinner. I think that is one of the best times to spend with your children. A lot of us in the US are still trying to teach our children Christian values, which along with education is the best gift you can give a child. I think most of Paris is atheist. Robert Alm
In his victory speech, President Sarkozy said France had turned "a new page" in its history. Do you agree? Not at all. France is still stuck with its prejudices, it is very difficult for certain people to find a job. Also past 45 years old, if you are unemployed you are probably going to stay in this situation, or you may find a menial job. If you are not born in the upper class your options are going to remain limited. Let us ask the common person what is on their new page? High prices, unemployment and a dim future, that very much resembles the same old French past!
What do you think most defines France's reputation around the world? If you talk about the country: everyone loves the food, the culture, the castles and Paris. I must confess this is The country for the best food in the world. The most beautiful castles and villages. Unfortunately the French are all too aware of the wonderful aspect of their country! If you talk about the people, this is a different matter. They are most of the time unfriendly, self important and spend their time complaining. They also are snotty, and France is the country with the WORST customer service in the world. It looks like they are doing us a favor by showing up for work and if you expect someone who is courteous, pleasant and willing to help, then they might think you are in the wrong country.
Is French culture still alive today? Probably, and especially in France. Who are France's most influential people? After all the coverage in Paris Match! CARLA BRUNI
What do you think is unique/distinctive about the French? Their willingness to STRIKE. Their constant grumbling. Chanel and Pierre Herme! To let you know I am not a disgruntled tourist, if I am an American now I was born French! Lyne, Oregon
In his victory speech, President Sarkozy said France had turned "a new page" in its history. Do you agree? Most definitely. France seems to be much more open, less hard line and working toward the future rather than being stuck in the past. It's difficult for the president to move a very entrenched country in a new way because there are certain institutions/customs that have been the same for many years. A friend of mine is a lawyer who is working on 1 year contracts until he and the law firm agree to a regular contract. In the past, it was very difficult to fire someone so once they were an employee, their performance was less of an issue. Sarkozy is trying to change that entitlement mentality. Also, France has become a non-smoking country in many ways, although I believe they are doing so kicking and screaming. I wish him much luck and believe that if anyone can make significant changes, he can.
What do you think most defines France's reputation around the world? Good food and wine. Many people would also add that the French are rude, not friendly and very isolationist. I don't agree!
Is French culture still alive today? Absolutely. I respect and love the French way of life, the beautiful language and the wonderful food. The French people are really very unique in that they seem happy to be French, to do the work that they do and take pride in their culture overall.
Who are France's most influential people? At the moment, President Sarkozy. Mrs. Sarkozy was brilliant to dress and act conservatively when visiting England. It went a long way in recovering the image that the world had during the months leading up to their marriage and the trip to the British Isles.
What do you think is unique/distinctive about the French? Their independent streak, which is part of the reason that Americans are irritated by the French and love them at the same time. We are like them in many ways. We want everyone to speak English just as the French want to continue with French in France (I agree!) We think that there are many things that we do better than anyone else and so do the French (and they are correct). I've discovered that a few niceties (in French) go a long way in recognizing a Frenchman or woman and opens the person up. Americans forget that we are visiting FRANCE and the reason that we are is because of the things I've mentioned above and not because they are a "branch" of the USA. Karen Kraft
France used to be the symbol of elegance, class, fine food. Unfortunately, the identity of France is changing. Islam is taking over and destroying the country one step at the time. By electing Sarkozy, most people were hoping that he will take a stand against the so-called religion of peace and put a stop at the invasion. So far nothing has been done and on top of it. Sarkozy promoted a Muslim women at the highest office: Garde des Sceaux.
City by city, France is falling in the hands of Islam. Mosques are built all over. It sounds like the French people living in France are not aware of the danger but the French who live outside and come back once a year in France are shocked and heartbroken. Churches in France are empty. Priests are an endangered species.
The other day, in a Baptist church in the south of the United States, I heard a pastor requesting missionaries to go to France. Who in the right mind would have ever thought that one day America will consider sending missionaries to France.? The land of Lourdes the land of Jean Marie Vianney. Sarkozy may have good intentions but it is not enough. One says that it is never too late.... but for France the clock is ticking and the next 4 years are going to be the turning point.
It is a good thing that Sarkozy is turning his eyes to America....... Maybe some conservative people are going to support his work. When an actress like Brigitte Bardot is taken to court for having told the truth about the danger of Islam, it is sad. Where did Freedom go? Rosine Ghawji
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.
Recently I replied to a blogger, ex-francophile, who was disappointed at the French attitude around the Iraq war. Below is my answer to him. In it you may find an answer to what makes us unique.
Dear Monsieur Mudd,
Ah! Your article made me so nostalgic for the things you call "French things". You cite some, I could cite many many more, that make my heart burn, and twist, and heavy when I reminisce. You see I am French. A French expatriate living here in America. And let me tell you, what you love is what I miss. However, what you regret, is what I understand, what I smile at with understanding love, like a mother smiles at the ponderings of her growing children.
The socialist French, the defenders of the "acquis sociaux" (acquired social rights), the 35 hour work week inventors, they are French, but they are not "all the French"; just like the Iraq War proponents, the Pro-Bush, the Hollywood starlets, are so American, but not all American. We actually have a new President and new government, more pro-American now -- that of Nicolas Sarkozy! Rejoice: he is the best of both worlds. He understands the successful nature of the American work ethics but still defends the French right to free thinking. Because isn't this what you love? Our free thinking that liberated us from our Monarchs and their so-called "God-given" privileges over the masses; our free thinking that keeps us vehemently opposed to the globalization of the Wal-Mart and Mac Donald's culture; our free thinking that still thinks Haute Couture is so much more "Ouh la la" than shorts and polos, and that a good Camembert on French baguette beats a hamburger any day.
How could we remain the French that you, and others, love so much, if we opted for everything American?
Most French do not hate America. They just can't live the way we do here in America. Take my word: I have been trying for 10 years. And yes I still miss those long lunches and dinners surrounded by family and friends; I miss those same friends and family dropping in just because, un petit café peut-etre?, I miss those lengthy philosophical and political debates that ornate many lively dinners, and I miss Paris, and the Seine, and the Pont de L'Alma -- oh, I reminisce of passionate embraces over the Pont..., la Provence, the Mistral, and the French Lavender..Did I say St Tropez, Le Lavandou...oh, non, I should stop now, but one more thing, cher Monsieur:
I am from Normandy. I grew up 20 minutes away from Omaha Beach, and Utah Beach, where your grand-fathers sacrificed their lives to save us, the French. And WE WILL NEVER FORGET. In every child's history book, le 6 juin 1944, will always be that Day that changed the course of history. It is anchored in any French person's mind right there with le 14 juillet 1789! So please, do not call us ungrateful -- we are grateful to the Americans who died for us le 6 juin 1944 and the days that follow, and will always remember. The American Cemetery in Colleville Sur Mer, recently gained a new addition to help commemorate your sacrifice 63 years later. Disagreeing with the culture America has been slowly adopting, thankfully criticized by her own too, does not mean we are ungrateful. In which preposterous way could it be?
So please Monsieur Mudd, keep loving all French things -- and know that deep inside, our two countries do love each other. Meanwhile, a little trip overseas would be appropriate for each of us. Ludivine Foley, New Orleans
Fortunately, France avoids simple "absorption" of ideas and technology imported from other countries. The people consider each step in any conversion to be made and don't change unless they feel the change will be profitable or will encourage progress or improvements in their lifestyles or standards of living. For this reason, I don't think France will ever be willing to turn a new page very quickly, whether Sarkozy is President or not.
I believe that the French are most known for having new, sometimes progressive, sometimes backward-moving, ideas, but they have trouble applying the ideas or getting them accepted on a national basis. They also know how to make the best use of their time by understanding the relationship between relaxation and productivity.
The country was, and still is, the diplomatic center of the world. In business affairs, they are always the best negotiators. It is rare when a Frenchman openly embarrasses a colleague or visitor and he tries to make all guests at ease.
French culture is very much alive today. French society today doesn't have the financial possibilities that many other countries have to turn out fabulous technological movies, etc. However, they shine in any sociological/psychological portrayals. Music and art groups still exist and are encouraged, even though the schools no longer have required classes in those areas. Any concert or art exposition is well-attended. Most French people know a certain amount about politics and history that they can use in discussions.
I can't say who the most influential people in France are. France is an extremely individualistic country where most people think for themselves, but don't really try to influence others. Their goals are not usually in that direction.
People become leaders in France ONLY if they can convince hundreds of people to follow them, which is quite difficult. French people are as varied as the French landscape.
The French are extremely knowledgeable and interesting people, always ready and willing to discuss any issue. There is racism, but not on a national scale, only located in specific areas. The French are very accepting of "different" styles and new modes (clothing, toys, etc.), even though they don't look into or prepare for the future, as such. France is a country that considers the past a wealth and doesn't really observe the future. The present is future enough for them. One example is, when you leave a village in France, there is a sign informing you what village you've left. But, there aren't any signs telling you what the next village is, as you can find in Germany. Diana Pursglove (American, living in France, working in Germany)
My name is Jonathan, a now US citizen who lives in the US but who was born and raised in France. I have had the oportunity to look at France from the US point of view and as an outsider but still with the mind and the heart of a true frenchman. These are my answers to the question that you have asked.
In his victory speech, President Sarkozy said France had turned "a new page" in its history. Do you agree? I most definitely agree and we have no reason to think otherwise, after 12 years of Chirac, France finally reconciled with the US over the war in Iraq and beside that many reforms are happening right now to strenghten the economy and put France back as a dominent Nation in the world.
What do you think most defines France's reputation around the world? I think that France's reputation has grown around the world right now not only because of the renewed relationship with the US but the world as well. The month following Sarkozy's election have been nothing but traveling around the world making deals and strenghtening relationship. I'm sure the world has noticed.
Is French culture still alive today? I think France's culture has changed somewhat but remains the same in the essence of what France stands for. What i mean is that what France represents is most definitelly still here but it has modernized.
Who are France's most influential people? France most influential people is definitely Sarkozy, he's on every agenda and playing the role of the whole government all by himself. He handles internal affairs and International one's as well. It is wise to say that he is everywhere at the same time.
What do you think is unique/distinctive about the French? I think that France has the unique ability to come together when a certain part of the population disagree. As we can see there, there are many riots in the streets for every reforms that the president puts in place. It is of course good because there is a feel of brotherhood but bad as well because the country is paralized by these riots and can't move on without any reforms. Another reason why Sarkozy is at an all time low in popularity. Jonathan Bendavid
Thanks to Sarkozy, France is becoming a world leader again, still too many assisted in France (Socialist). France is a great country, and I am sure USA, England both need France to influence others countries. Vive la France, God Bless USA. Olivier Berthin
Hello, My name is Anna, and I live in the USA. I've heard about the program "Eye on France" from my French friend, who lives in Paris. I was so excited! I love this country, and plan on visiting it one day. I'm interested in learning more about it from your coverage. I wanted to learn French since I was at high-school. Now I finally managed to start studying (by myself), with the help of my friend, who was extremely encouraging! The French people, that I meet online, are very much surprised to hear that I speak French, especially when they find out that I live in the US. Many times in messages I got this :" L'americaine, qui parle un peu de français! Bravo!" Actually, I'm not American, I'm Russian, so may be that's why I love France so much! In the XIXth century Russia, French language and everything French was in fashion. Russian royalty spoke only French, and it was considered bad manners to speak Russian,,, Of course, things changed after the war with Napoleon Bonaparte, but Russian people still loved France, no matter what. When I think about France, I always picture the streets of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, L'Arc de triomphe de l'Etoile, Luvre... It's a fascinating scenery. Romance, love, cheese and wine.. that's what we come to France for. Paris is widely known to be the most romantic city of the world, and most likely one of the prime destinations for tourist around the world. French, is a language of love, I think that even if you curse in French, it still sounds sweet.
Is French culture still alive today? France made a huge impact on the world culture; literature, painting, philosophy, science. Every aspect of human cultural development was widely influenced by the brilliant minds of French people. French people that I admire, and that had influenced my life were Voltaire, René Descartes, Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert and Louis Pasteur. I can say that French culture is still alive today. Many things changes during the years, I think that cultures of many countries are degrading. Most people don't care about art, literature or music nowadays, all they care about is how their office is going to look, and how much money they're going to make. As people tend to watch more TV, and go to the theaters less, movie industry is booming, and France is hosting the most prestigious movie festival in the world. This proves that France still has great influence on the World Culture. There are still artists in this world, and as long as they create, perform, and show their work to the world, the culture is going to be alive! And I believe that France has as many talented people as any other country in the world, especially painters and musicians. What do you think is unique/distinctive about the French?
I don't like being prejudiced about people from different countries, because most of the time generalizations are not true; I talk to a lot of people from France, and they seem to be very nice. I think that most of the French people are like that, since my friend is French, and we talked a lot about French people (he was very objective, believe me).
I've heard a lot of things about French people, especially very nasty ones, like "they have the worst hygiene in the world, and they don't even use the deodorant," but I don't believe it. France was always popular for its perfumes, fashion, and culture.
The uniqueness of the French people comes from their language, in my opinion. The French language is soft, romantic, lovely and magnificent.
I wish you good luck in making a good coverage! And I'm looking forward to watching it! Anna Ermakova
As an European living in France and working in Switzerland, I'd like to answer the questions as follows:
1) The image of France is changing if only because there is an attempt by the new government to reform -- to adapt the country to a changing world. Until Sarkozy was elected, we had some 26 years (Mitterrand and Chirac combined) that the country was either moving backward or standing still; so in this sense ...
2) France is a difficult country to govern. People are basically very conservative and they complain a lot: they complain whenever things are not going right as well as when difficult changes are to be implemented ...This immobilism is also the breeding ground for revolutions; since it may be that if things cannot change gradually, they explode with revolutions ! (May '68 is not that far back)
3) Of course French culture is alive and well, and those comments are just bulls..t
4) It is not relevant to know who are the most influential French personnalities - as in any country, knowing who are the influencial people is not going to make a difference. The pertinent question is will France as a country have the ability, the will and the courage to adapt and keep changing and innovating in order to keep playing a role in Europe and on the international scene.
5) Even if the future is somewhat more incertain for France, it's still a great country to live in -- for the time being. In Dutch we have a saying (in other languages it may be similar) when you are enjoying yourself somewhere, that it's living like God in France; imagine, I'm Dutch and I'm (continuously) living in France (when I'm not abroad on business)! Dirk Hannema
Good morning, My analysis on France can be summed into 3 words : Nostalgia, Laziness and Reactivity. Nostalgia I feel France is having an opinion of itself based to an image of itself 40 years old. A powerful country, leaving ex-colonies on their own, having a long history as one of the world leader. You find it in the pride of History, love for our greatest French Idols (Marie Antoinette, Charle de Gaulle, Mai 68, Versailles...), love of our food and wines (The best of the World) and what was done before. Laziness or scare of the current situation. France does not react much to its lose of competitiveness, of leadership. No improvement in practice of english, no outstanding intellectual elite. Reactivity On a last point of view, a new France is emerging. For example, in finance, France used to be the old lady of Europe (as current finance in Italy) and it is not anymore. Some leaders in economy emerged from France within the 10 last years (Danone, Axa, BNP). To conclude, it is not that easy to say where France is going though. Damien Kiener
1) No I do not think that France has changed image. France is defined by "l'esprit critique", which means that you assess something based on its merits solely, and you don't let yourself be influenced by trends or the views of other individuals or the interests of other nations when making your assessment and subsequent choices. Thus, these is a certain image of France (among Americans particularly and nurtured by the American media) of a country which does not always want to follow others (i.e., the US) for a common good or against a common foe. Iraq, however, proved the French right and both the Americans and their British poodle wrong. It also proved that the American public should perhaps embrace some of those French ways and have a little bit more "esprit critique" when assessing what the American leadership "sells" them -- like the impossibility of having good and effective national health coverage. I believe that as long as France and the French keep this approach to thinking and making choices they will remain strong. The new French President is trying to change France's image along other, more Anglo Saxon dimensions that he claims are missing among the French (e.g., entrepreneurial spirit, value of work, less dependence on government support), but these are false claims. Look at the statistics and history a bit: France is one of the main exporters worldwide, and the French always valued workmanship (through networks of specialized trades). What the French President is doing is that he is making the problems found in the Public Sector that of France entirely: this is the sector which is most unionized, with most privileges and with most strikes. Yet, when you look at the French Public Sector, please keep your "esprit critique", for it is more efficient and modern that in most other countries, including the US. Examples: the railroads, nuclear energy and health services.
2) France will be strong if it stops doubting itself, and if it stops wondering whether going the "American way" would be better (as its new President wants it to). In fact, France's traditional skepticism with "silver bullet" solutions and its ability to look at thinks from different angles and for the long term (like the Japanese do) will prove it right. The rise in food costs and concerns about quality of "industrial fools" confirm the French sustained love (and readiness to subsidize) an agricultural system that keeps the farmers on the land, keeps villages alive and gets farmers closer to consumers via local markets where bio and quality attract buyers; the energy crisis and over-dependency of certain countries on oil confirms the French investment in nuclear as an alternative -- and the ability to avoid wars which aim only to secure sources of energy; the French mistrust for business in general confirms that unsupervised financial markets benefit a few and can cause collapses for all. As long as France remains independent in its thinking, and as long as France continues to embrace the sensible usage of technology to support a sustainable development that does not jeopardize its culture (and beauty), France will remain a model to many "envious" observers.
3) French culture is like the Polar Bears: it will become extinct if global warming continues the way it is going now. American culture by definition is popular and is propagated by huge marketing funds. French culture cannot compete on that level. American culture is also one that appeals to basic instincts and needs, and which to a certain degree is addictive. It does not try to make peoplo think, it just wants to entertain...Give a child the choice between feeding itself with candy bars or vegetables, and it will choose the former every time. Of course, the child will be obese within a few year. French culture needs to find its niche...it needs not to be "the most popular guy on the block". American culture dominates in terms of geographical reach and number of people exposed to it (...first because it is in English), but it is also the most despised, increasingly. Ferraris are the best cars in the world, and not everybody owns one, or can afford to buy one.
4) The millions of French which will tell the current president to either clean up its act or go. Don't get me wrong here: I don't want the Socialists back in power either. Sarko is a major disappointment. He makes be feel like we just elected Bush II...and that calls for a lot of reflecting on our part. How could we be fooled to that extent?
5) It is to be an intelligent pain-in-the-ass to all the others who believe anything they are told without scrutinizing a bit, and want us to be just like them. Patrick Coughlin
I'm 22, I live in France but I have been studying in Exeter University, UK, for a year.
1) When President Sarkozy said that, there was a huge hope in France, many people voted, he made a great score and his legitimacy was very strong. He was the president who was elected so as to reform France. That's why the people who voted for him felt that, yes, after all, everything was possible. One year after, of course, reality won. Lack of popularity, economical problems, star rather than political leader... Still, I think that he was right. For the first time since many years, the french have chosen a man who dares. Dares to be stronger than the pression of the demonstrators in the streets, dares to be modern, dares to be present everywhere at any time, dares to insult those who do not respect him, dares to change his opinion, dares to open its government to the opposition, dares to regain the trust of the voters who were interested by extremism, dares to fall in love, dares to be impulsive... A president that almost seems honest.. gosh, yes, something has changed in France. As for political, economical, law changes: he seems to do his best, and his government too. I hope that this new page will be entirely written in four years.
2) On the good side, France is still defined by its luxury products, beautiful historical monuments and charming landscapes (even if the reality is far less rejoicing, if we admit the fact that luxury products do not present many interests, that historical monuments can be founded elsewhere, with less crow in it, and that the landscapes are devastated by the massive construction of what we call "lotissements", that is to say poor concrete houses for middle class people). Many people also consider France as the human rights country... which remains quite a mystery for me. On the dark side, France is often considered as a country where people are dirty. French are known as those who criticise everything when they are in a foreign country and who tend to consider that nothing can be better than themselves. Eventually France is probably considered as a "declining" superpower, drowned among other EU countries, economically fragile, with a weak army but still with a very high opinion of itself.
3) It depends a great deal on what one calls "French culture." Let's just say that if French culture is the one of Hugo, Zola, the Lumière brothers, Pierre and Marie Currie, Ravel or Satie, French culture seems to be in a bad situation. French culture is today rather defined by its so-called "independance": streets artists, musicians sharing left-wing ideas whose favorite hobby is to criticize N. Sarkozy during their concerts, pseudo-literature that is always about the same themes (abortion, tolerance, drugs, alcoholism, anti-capitalism, all that with a bit of pornography), cinema that do not present any true originality, painters that cover old cars with pink paint... Although it is considered as culture, I doubt the value of it -- except the financial one.
4) I would say that France's most influential people are the lobbyists who are able to create a great pressure on the members or the Parliament, and the people who work for the education public service (particularly the teachers, who are not neutral at all in their way of teaching, and define their work as a role of constant opposition to the government).
5) Their lack of fantasy. Jennifer
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