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

4.1 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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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 alternate Paperback edition.
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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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 Considering this had changed several years before the 2nd edition came out, it made me question what other outdated information was in the book.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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
First, I found many aspects of the book interesting. I think Platt does a good job presenting the technical cultural differences between America and France. However, I think that readers should know what they are getting when they read this book.

This is for the upper class, and only addresses the concerns of the upper class and the business world. Immigrants who make up make up a significant part of the French population and yet the only space she reserves for them in her book is a xenophobic anecdote "...the guns that some immigrant ruffians of the suburbs produced to shoot at several of them recently" (at the bottom of page 140 to get it in full context). Arguably, immigrants have little to do with visiting or working in France, but then the fact that she had room to note the ruffians with guns from the suburbs is a little perplexing.

Her treatment of feminism is shocking as well. There is good evidence throughout the book that she not only condones female exploitation, but celebrates it as well.

Finally, so this review doesn't go too long, on pages 255-256 Platt expresses her classist undertone quite plainly. "...at the office you shake hands with practically everyone you see except the janitor..." who god-forbid could be an immigrant, and is definitely someone from a lower social class not deserving of recognition.

To sum up the book, I would recommend it to anyone planning business in France; I think it has some positive things to offer. However, this book is sexist and classist and I think readers should be aware of what they are reading.
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