In this, the second in what may perhaps evolve into a three part series of off-the-cuff surveys with Frenchwomen on what they think of us, their responses go from the sublime to the slanderous.
I think a bit of context is order this time: I interviewed women from the ages of just-turned-40 to 91. It makes the responses more interesting than ever because their points-of-view cross three generations, including of course those who experienced World War II.
Not everyone has been to the States, all have friends or acquaintances from and traveled through Great Britain. Many times impressions come from films, newspapers, magazines and books. No matter what informed their opinions they do not hesitate to expound upon them.
(Remember we’re all clustered under the “Anglo-Saxon” umbrella for convenience.)
Here we go. . .
Benedicte: In my experience the English and Americans are hypocritical in business. They say one thing if it’s to their advantage and if the situation changes so does their attitude. I don’t see much loyalty toward their colleagues.
I do admire the way American women don’t hesitate about getting divorced when they’re not happy. Nobody does divorce better than Americans.
Mimi (never been to the U.S.): Anglo-Saxons are most definitely not Latins. They have a rigor and a discipline we don’t have.
I think America produces les belles femme, often un peu pulpeuse, which I think is very appealing.
For me there is a strange dichotomy, a sort of ambiguity with American women. It’s essential for them to be married, yet they pride themselves on their individuality and independence and then fight all the harder for it inside their marriages. Strange.They’re not comfortable unmarried and society I think further makes them feel that way.
I don’t really believe in feminism, but I admire the way Anglo-Saxon women have fought so fiercely for their rights.
English women have a reserve we don’t have, which I respect. They seem to revere tradition, which I think is important. As you know our relationship as a country is historically complex with Great Britain, but my personal encounters have been nothing but pleasant.
Josephine (91-years-old, visited the U.S. once and has had many English friends): None of them is sufficiently well-dressed. They simply don’t have that French elegance we so admire. They’re not soignée truthfully.
I’m an extremely open person so I always go toward others which has made for excellent contacts wherever I am.
Juliette (83-years-old, worked for decades in the U.S. and is now back in France): I find young American women far less polite than the young men.
As much as I loved living and working in the States I must say I never got over being shocked about America’s obsession with money and how they measure and judge one’s character by how much money they have or have recently acquired. It’s dreadful.
Aurore (40, married to an American; they live in France): Let me say up-front: I love Americans and in particular all of my husband’s family. They are frank, say what they think and don’t care or live their lives worrying about what other people think.
They’re kind and generous. Sometimes one feels ‘out of sight, out of mind’ because many don’t seem to be very good at staying in touch, but the minute we’re all back together again it’s as if we saw each other the day before.
When we visit my husband’s cousins they have such exuberance it’s contagious. I think it’s great the way families do sports together during the week or the entire family goes to watch a child’s baseball game.
The women pretty much wear whatever falls into their hands as long as they’re comfortable. I was raised differently and although I have a sort of admiration for that attitude, it’s not me at all. Maybe they’re more comfortable in their skin than we are.
On the other hand, I think women in New York, for example, have that too perfect look as if they’ve spent hours on their hair, make-up, clothes. It seems artificial, a brittle facade.
In couples, even married couples, I feel and see a certain prudence, a reserve that we rarely see here. One must be very careful with what might be construed as seductive innuendo, which we think of as fun and games — no one is ever offended. I notice rarely after a certain age do couples hold hands walking down the street; touch one another in a gentle, affectionate way like a stroke on the cheek or a hand on the shoulder. And perhaps what surprised me the most was when I see couples sitting very properly at opposite ends of a sofa.
Marie (has an English daughter-in-law whom she loves): It’s simple, I adore the English and the Americans. If it weren’t for them where would France be today? The courage, conviction and loyalty they showed toward us. How can anyone ever forget?
I love the individualism and esprit of independence that runs through their veins.
If I were to have one negative comment it would be: I detest the culture of money over all else — the mentality of Wall Street and The City. It’s tragic.