07 March 2012

My point of view on living in France

Where I'm coming from and why your input is welcome.

Like Pavlov's dogs, we're conditioned by our upbringing and we react to the world accordingly. So, in this blog you're going to read comments from a particular American experiencing a particular bit of France. Other Americans will see their bit of France differently.

A bit of background:  My parents were from the Southern US (the Carolinas). My father's father was a hard-scrabble farmer all his life and my father was career Navy when I was a kid, so we lived all over and I don't have any roots to speak of. My degree is in math and I worked all my life in IT before retiring to France. Before I moved to France, I lived 20 years in Houston, TX, so I can say I'm from Texas. Now, I live just outside Bordeaux in southwest France, to be more exact in Talence, which today is a combination of university town, bedroom community, and retirement home.

So, why do I think I have anything to say to Americans moving to France? Hmmm...how about hubris? While I hope not, it's hard for the hubrister (hubristee?) to recognize when he's guilty of it. Actually, I've written and talked about this for several years and gotten encouraging reactions, so I decided to scratch the itch. You can let me know your reaction.

France has a good-sized American commmunity who come from all over the US, live all over France, and have moved for a variety of reasons. I invite you who have something to add to the conversation to jump in and help the rest of us better appreciate France and the French. Please note that this blog is moderated and the common sense rules of netiquette apply: no harassment, no violent diatribes based on ignorance and prejudice, no commercials, and so on.

Most of the books about Franco-American cultural differences have been written by Americans living in the upper middle class neighborhoods of Paris. It's true there are a number of things that are true about most French, no matter where in France, but there are regional differences and the France I know differs some from the upscale part of Paris - you'll read about some of the differences in this blog.

What do I propose to write about? There's no lack of topics to touch on and they're all over subject-wise. Here's a small handful: smiling in France, driving in France, going shopping, eating in, eating out, French politics (I'll probably get a guest writer for this one), clothing, good manners, going for a walk in my neighborhood, sustainable development in France, Baywatch and Dallas, French paradoxes, healthcare delivery, Franglais, how the French see America and Americans, and so on.

OK, enough setting the scene for this blog - let's get to it.

New thought 9 mars 2012
From time to time I'm going to make sweeping generalizations about Americans and the French with sentences that might begin "The French tend to ...".  You need to keep in mind that there are over 300 million Americans and over 60 million French.  Undoubtedly, there are millions of exceptions in both countries.

The Boston brahmins, Louisiana Cajuns, Appalachian hillbillies, Oregon environmentalists, Texas Hispanics, Chicago southsiders, and California valley girls differ in many ways, just as do those from the chic neighborhoods of Paris, the Chinese from the 13th arrondissement of Paris, the Bretons, the Alsatians, the Basque, and the Catalans.  Still, to simplify I'm going to point out what I think is true for most Americans and/or most French.  Just don't forget YMMV (Your mileage may vary)!


  1. Sounds good Harvey. Looking forward to it. Perhaps you can get the American media to follow similar rules of netiquette.

    A bientot Terry

  2. Well done Harvey, looks like its going to be very interesting and helpful.

  3. Great Harvey, I am really going to enjoy following your blog.

  4. Great idea! I am from another country too. It is going to be interesting to compare your experience to mine.