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Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2000
As a French citizen living in the States for now 10 years and dealing on a daily basis with intercultural communication, I found this book quite interesting.It is a good starting book for the one who studies intercultural communication as part of one's job. Even though some of the chapters are quite general and limited to some social environment, it will help the reader in going further in the subject. For me, it confirmed my decision to attend an intercultural management seminar. One of the most interesting remark from the author was how cultural analysis is probably more painful than psychoanalysis. I am in total agreement with this remark. Besides reading this book with lots of attention, I must say I enjoyed myself in reading about my own behavioral patterns as well as the ones from my American friends.
A book to read.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2002
This book presents impartially both French & American perspectives on some major topics in daily life (conversation, parent-child relationship, information exchange, blame, ...) through some simple daily cultural misunderstanding scenes. It shade some light on how both sides look at the same issue, and accordingly how they act, and how different they are! All is presented without some fancy theories, but in an elegantly concise and knowledgable way of an ethnologist.
I read the french version directly so I cannot comment on the quality of the translation. I doubt, however, that there would be important points lost in the translation as the author writes clearly and does not play with linguistic nuances.
I am not American nor French, but I have spent part of my life in both countries. This book brings back to mind the old experiences (both positive & negative) and provide some light on the questions I have on both cultures that I have finally come to love.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 1999
As an American who has lived in France for the last six years, I have a reciprocal experience to that described by Ms. Carroll. Over the last decade-plus, some details have changed (such as the use of the telephone), or her anecdotes reflect a limited milieu (as those about couples). Nonetheless, her well-taken point is that one needs to take a step back from situations in which cultural misunderstandings can occur. One needs to ask oneself, does this situation warrant a cultural analysis to be understood? That sounds academic, but it is very useful for avoiding hurt feelings.
Ms. Carroll gives many real-life examples which helps to render her analyses more concrete. Some of these are better chosen than others. However, I especially appreciated her argument that when a person from Culture Y says that "People from Culture X are like this", this sort of generalization is most revealing about the unrecognized presuppositions prevalent in Culture Y, and says nothing at all about Culture X. In my experience, this is true, both coming from me about France and from my French friends about the US.
Above all, this book could be enjoyed by expatriates (or ex-expatriates) of any flavor. It would be perhaps more fun for those who have lived in either the US or France for some time. I read it in French, so I can not comment on the quality of the translation, but trust that the author was able to supervise it since she has lived for so long in the US.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2001
I am french and about to relocate to the US in a few months. I have been several time in the US and faced to several social situations described in this book... This book is a revelation for me, making me suddenly figure out how so many times I have been stuck by cultural misunderstandings without even noticed them... I recommend it passionately !
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2001
While somewhat tedious and redundant in areas, this book was extremely insightful into some of the cultural differences between the French and Americans. Addressing many subtlties that wouldn't immediately come to mind otherwise, this book highlights the differences in communication styles and typical conduct in the context of friendship, and it also contains a particularly detailed examination of how American vs. French couples interact with each other. If you're planning an extended stay in France, or possibly re-locating, this book could definitely spare you a great deal of confusion and embarrassment.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 1999
I just looked this book up yesterday (it was recommended in another book about France), and I devoured it in just a few hours. I spent a year living in France, and want to go back someday (although maybe not to live), so I wanted to try to understand more about the French culture. At some points I realized what a huge undertaking this was: to truly try to understand someone else's point of view! Yet this book is immensely valuable as a guide. I can't say how accurate the descriptions of French culture are, although many of them seemed to ring true from what I remember. However, the description of American thoughts seemed quite accurate (which gives me more confidence in the French descriptions). I have to say that I appreciated the chance to look at my culture as if it were a separate culture; it was a distinctly odd experience, but good. I would recommend this book to anyone of either culture who at least desires food for thought, as well as some valuable insights.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1997
This book is a perceptive commentary on personal French-American relations. If you are American and have French friends, want to live in France, or learn more about the country, it is an excellent source. Having lived in France two years when I read it, I learned a lot about specific issues that had been an enigma to me. This book is a positive exploration of intercultural relations rather than like many other books of this nature that seem to emphasize negative aspects of international (personal) relations. Very worthwhile reading if you are at all interested in how Americans and French interact on a personal level. Written by a French sociologist with an interest in American culture. Interesting to get the French perspective, rather than the American one - which seems more prevalent in books published in the United States
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 1999
I read this book two years ago while trying understand the depths of the American culture which was not easy at that time because my English was rather poor. I guess that Mrs Carroll has made some interesting remarks, but sometimes extrapolated too much some of the habits that her friends had. Well, it's not easy to generalize things anyway so I gave a 4 stars rating although that her book doesn't apply to the middle American class or lower.. You have to notice that Mrs Carroll is living a little bit too much in an university environment so her ideas are not reflecting sometimes the whole truth. A good book anyway ! And yes, I'm a froggie !
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2004
This is one of the best books I've have read period. Raymonde Carroll has an unique approach, and the background to back it up. Have you ever wondered why French people have been judged arrogant by Americans? Why the Frenchs consider the Americans two-faced and not loyal? Well, this little book holds the answers. A definite read for the American going to France, and the French going to America.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2003
Fascinating to learn how cultural differences can lead to misunderstanding. Especially useful if you have French friends or relatives (or hope to!). I bought this book before a long trip to France and was glad to have read it before I left home. It made the trip more fum when I could spot cultural differences that I might not have previously noticed or understood. Chapters on "Conversation" - should you look people in the eye? - and "The Couple" and "Friendship" and "Obtaining Information" were especially amusing and instructive.
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