Americans are shallow…

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, by Eliane Karsaklian

smiling businessmanAt least, this is what the French think.

Case in point: “You arrive there and everyone treats you like an old friend. They talk to people they have never seen before; they ask you how you are doing today? And everything about you is awesome, amazing and outstanding. At first, you think they are laughing at you, but then, when you start enjoying it and thinking that you are best friends and that you are fully integrated, they disappear.

Every time I talk with French people who work with Americans, I hear some variation of the above statement. But what the French don’t understand is the difference between two words: friendliness and friendship.

Americans are friendly and welcoming, and that is what gives the French the feeling that they are easy to make friends with. And then they are disappointed because it was not about friendship. On the other hand, the French are not friendly (everyone knows that), because they are suspicious of everyone, they don’t make eye contact and don’t talk to people they were not introduced to by other people. But when they start connecting with someone else, they envisage friendship.

No wonder the French get confused. The concept of friendliness doesn’t exist in the French culture and thus, there is no word in the French language able to translate the idea of friendliness. Every time I try to explain the differences between both, the French are able to understand it but still remain suspicious. They don’t see the point in being so friendly if no friendship will follow. Conversely, every time I explain this to Americans, they understand it too, but they still keep thinking that the French could make some effort to be more civilized and welcoming with foreigners.

As a result, there are constant misunderstandings between the French and Americans. The French say that Americans are shallow while Americans say that the French are unpleasant. None of them is right or wrong. This is the way they perceive each other.

The most important thing here is that they both understand what the cultural differences are and why.

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