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French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France Paperback – May 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Distribooks; 3 edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964668424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964668423
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Let's face it: the French have gotten a bad rap. Mention that you're considering a trip to France and everyone will warn you about rude waiters, supercilious shopkeepers, and snooty concierges who won't give you the time of day--and worse, pretend not to understand your high-school French. Not so, says Polly Platt, author of French or Foe?; "The French are generous, exhilarating friends," but they are different--wonderfully so. The trick to getting along in France is understanding the culture and learning to accept it on French terms instead of your own. Though the book is designed primarily for people who will be living or working in France for extended periods, the lessons Platt teaches about manners, attitudes, and culture are invaluable for even those visitors just passing through. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I recommend these books to anyone visiting France.
Art Lover in Michigan
My congratulations to Polly Platt for an excellent and insightful decoding of the French people, their culture, history, behavior and language.
Mark Frobose Behind the Wheel
Very insightful about the French personality and culture.
Art Travler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 148 people found the following review helpful By M. Lindner on March 28, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book before we moved to France in 2004. The only edition I could find was the 2nd one. Granted, the new 3rd edition has come out, which I hope contains some corrections, but in the 2nd edition (written in the late 1990s) lists Mitterand as the President (still!) and Jaques Chirac as the Mayor of Paris. Considering this had changed several years before the 2nd edition came out, it made me question what other outdated information was in the book.

When I first read through the book, I thought it was excellent. I honestly thought it was going to prepare me for life in Paris. It certainly freaked me out completely, and I thought for sure we were going to be completely lost in this "proper" world with rallyes, snobby dinner parties, and having to forge close relationships with the cashiers at our local grocery store.

Our son attends Maternelle, which is where Polly Platt says a "rigorous and demanding" education begins. Not true!! I was actually afraid to send him to a school where teachers would talk down to him and force him to sit still for hours. Instead, his teacher is the sweetest woman, and the children spend their days painting, learning songs, reading, and playing. . .much like an American pre-school. In addition, whenever my son says "Bonjour Madame" to a woman in the store or on the street, they are always surprised, and quick to praise both of us. It is not something that is common, and children at the age of 2 (unlike stated in the book) do not usually do this.

After living in France for two years, I picked this book back up, and was frustrated with the poor advice. Polly Platt truly envisions herself as part of the upper crust of Parisian society, and most of her advice is ridiculous, at best.
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122 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Ahh! on May 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
As an anglo saxon with a French boyfriend, living and working in Paris, I often found myself thinking, "Oh. NOW I understand!" while reading this book. Several friends have complained about the unorganized, rambling nature of "French or Foe" but if you are like me and merely reading it to learn rather than to hunt for specific information, that shouldn't be a problem.
My biggest complaint? Platt's clear desire to impress upon all her readers the fact that she is of a certain social milieu. The name-dropping throughout begins as annoying but quickly becomes embarrassing. Yes, Polly, we are very very impressed that you know endless numbers of top-ranking foreign service people, CEOs, and all other sorts of rich and famous folk. But I, for one, would be more interested in hearing their tales mixed with some about the experiences of more 'common folk'. Also, Platt seems to assume that her readers all share her social aspirations and often wastes pages which could be used for more practical information, I was quite taken aback when she described the "Rally," which is a sort of French Cotillion where teens of the french upper crust meet other rich teens. Platt claimed that American mothers in Paris are dying to get their daughters into a good Rally, then explains the difficulty of doing so, all the while broadly hinting that her children were, of course, accepted into them. I couldn't believe it! No anglo saxon parent I've met here would give a hoot about having his or her child in a Rally. Again, I think Platt often writes for an audience who makes up a very small percentage of her readers.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By PAUL on June 20, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
28 years of teaching French, French culture, French history; 32 trips to France for business and pleasure; dear friends in Metz, Rueil-Malmaison, and Rennes; acquaintances in Toulouse and I STILL learned lots from Polly Pratt's delightful little book "French or Foe". Highly recommend to anyone travelling to France, especially for the first time, either for tourism or for business. Very important to read, re-read, then commit to memory the sections on everyday protocol. Polly's advice is right on the money. The French aren't just like Americans, but simply speak another language. There are some chasms between our values, based upon history-driven life experiences, and it is well to have an appreciation for those differences before leaving the USA. A lire! Amusez-vous, et bon voyage!
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a must for anyone planning to live or work in France, especially if they have school age children. after twelve visits to France, I can say with confidence that Polly Platt understands the French and explains the differences and the basis for those differences. She covers everything from business conversations to schooling, history, food, family matters and social interaction. It is not so much a How To book as much as a Why book. If going to France, read it, you'll need it.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have lived in Paris for thirteen years, and "French or Foe" is the ONE book I recommend to all the new arrivals I meet. Yes, even those who already speak good French, which makes a lot less difference than you might think to the culture shock. That is because this book is the most directly helpful. The advice in "French or Foe" can make a real difference to your everyday happiness if you live or travel here, especially if you are having a hard time. There are few people, indeed, who could extract no useful information from this book; even they will at least have some good laughs, since the book is full of funny and usually enlightening anecdotes. My French friends who have read the French translation say they all learned something about themselves!
The fact is, some things about France will always be difficult for us "Anglo-Saxons" (as the French call all native English-speakers), no matter how assimilated. Human nature may be the same everywhere, but the basic assumptions of our two cultures are very different. I'm sure things are hard for the French in America too. But Polly Platt's book makes the hardest things easier. She gives you practical advice and clear reasons why the French behave in puzzling ways.
For example, in America if you complain to a store manager about a store employee, the employee is very likely to get into trouble, and you will certainly get an apology. In France, the store manager will try to put you in the wrong. That is because in France, it is almost impossible to fire someone, so the manager will have to live with the employee for a long time to come, and is better off antagonizing a single (foreign) customer.
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