Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Are the French Anti-American?

Tuesday March 22, 2005 – Grenoble, France – I have been fascinated by French society ever since I arrived in this country as an exchange student almost seven months ago. At the age of 60, I had decided to learn a fourth language, and I choose French. In two years, I completed three years of college French at Arizona State University near Phoenix. However, French is taught poorly at ASU. I realized that I would have to come to France if I were ever to learn to speak the language. I enrolled in a student exchange program, and here I am.

I did not have as many prejudices about the French as many of my friends in the U.S., but I had some. I knew the French in general do not hate us, as so many Americans believe, but I expected some negative encounters. I was not at all prepared for the warm reception, even from the Arabs that I have met.

I once walked into a room that was occupied by four Algerians. After we exchanged greetings, they asked were I was from. A bit hesitantly I admitted that I was from Arizona in the U.S., and I prepared myself for a hostile reaction. However, their eyes lighted up, and they jumped up to shake my hand. One of them said he had a cousin studying in Tucson, Arizona and that he had a special fondness for the United States. Another pulled out a camera and went to find someone to snap a picture of the five of us together. They were delighted to meet someone from a country that they said they all aspired to go to.

Most of the French that I know here in Grenoble are young university students who may not be typical of the French population. I take several classes in which I am the only person who is not from France or one of its French-speaking former colonies, and I am always warmly received. The French read in the newspapers, just as Americans do, that French have an antipathy for Americans, and like Americans, put far too much faith in what the media tell them. Occasionally a French person will apologize to me for the anti-American attitude of other French people in the mistaken belief that I must have encountered it. However, I have not been able to figure out just who these anti-American French people are. I don’t seem to have met any of them..

Granted, almost all French people dislike President George W. Bush, but they do not confuse him with the American people. They are baffled by Bush’s reelection, and they do not understand why the U.S. went to war in Iraq. However, they like us Americans, even if they do not understand how we could re-elect a man that they consider to be a bad president.

I find the French as a whole do be more tolerant and understanding than Americans. Do the French have faults? You betcha! We will talk about those in another entry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a french leaving in Washington DC and I agree. Media portraying is often exagered ..

check out www.understandfrance.org, it is an interesting site!