How to Avoid Being the "Ugly French"

Seminar Paper, 2010

13 Pages, Grade: 2,7



1. Introduction
1.1 Living Like God in France?
1.1.2 The French Vice

2. Do You Like the French?
2.1 France and Germany – Pretended Friendship?
2.2 French Boycott in America

3. Cultural Analysis
3.1 Five-Dimensions-Model by Hofstede
3.1.1 Power Distance
3.1.2 Individualism vs. Collectivism
3.1.3 Masculinity vs. Femininity
3.1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance
3.1.5 Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation
3.1.6 Resume: How are the French?

4. Case Analysis
4.1 C´est beau la bourgeoisie
4.2 “Only French, s´il vous plaît
4.3 Political faux-pas
4.3.1 The Roma Affair
4.3.2 Turkey Joining the EU
4.3.3 French Cars for France
4.3.4 Sarkozy’s Migration Policy

5. How to Avoid Being the
5.1 Arrogant French
5. 2 Xenophobic French

6. Sources

1. Introduction

1.1 Living Like God in France?

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Moulin Rouge, red wine, champagne and 365 sorts of cheese – for many people France seems to be kind of a lost paradise. The “appreciative” of our neighbours, their savoir vivre1 and the food traditions exert a big fascination on other countries. Their distinctive culture marked the French stereotype particularly and has worldwide left strong impressions.

The typical French has dark hair, wears a beret, carries a baguette under his arm, a bottle of wine in his hand, and smokes the representative Gauloises. Additionally, he is attributed characteristics like “awesome lover”, “charming” or “romantic”.

After that, there is France’s countryside, its sunny south and the Côte d’Azur. The exciting cities, small villages and beautiful beaches attract tourists like no other region in Europe. Germans consider the rural idyll of the Provence their favourite holiday resort as well.

With Paris in particular, most women will associate another conception of France: Noble textiles, clothing industry and fashion; in the end, the French even invented a term for upraising fashion to art: Haute Couture2. Coco Chanel, Christian Dior or Yves Saint-Laurent are only a few of many popular fashion designer. However, this liability to style and elegance is accompanied by another big cliché:

The famous vanity of the French.

1.1.2 The French Vice

In earlier times, Paris was seen as the cesspool of vice in Europe; the French, above all the aristocracy, as decadent and corrupt. Today, it would seem that most of the French population believes itself lofty and superior in the world. By other nations in fact, with an ironic undertone there is often spoken of France as the "Grande Nation". As opposed to the idea at the beginning, the French are habitually perceived as arrogant, nationalistic and elitist.

In the following, we subsequently will have to evaluate especially this custom to its verisimilitude. Firstly, it is shined a light on France’s image in international relationships, followed by an analysis of the French culture. Later on, it will be examined France’s behaviour patterns and its consequences referring to recent political issues. As a result, we will be able to give a response to the question: “How to avoid being the ugly French?”

2. Do You Like the French?

2.1 France and Germany – Pretended Friendship?

France is not only Germany’s geographical neighbour, but also interrelated in cultural, economical and political issues over many years. As the German government strongly emphasizes, there is - despite the Roma-Conflict - an “unaffected, impeccable friendship” between the two countries. On January 22, 1963, Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle signed the Franco-German treaty of friendship in the Elysée Palace in Paris. After an initial fear of the power of a united Germany, a long hereditary enmity and bloody wars, this has brought France and Germany more and more together.

In contrast, regardless of the mentioned cooperation they alienate progressively in daily life. Only few German students want to learn French, reversely the number of students in France learning German decreased dramatically. Also the German embassy in Paris is worried. Despite the special tendency for travelling abroad among Germans France occupies only the third place.3

2.2 French Boycott in America

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President Jacques Chirac ordered the French Secret Service to collaborate closely with the United States. However, throughout the Iraq war running up in March 2003, the French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin e.g. turned into a prominent critic of the George W. Bush administration and also President Chirac was later known for his frosty relationship with Bush.

Afterwards, it even came up to public attempts to boycott French goods in retaliation for perceived French "active hostility towards America"4. Notwithstanding the attempt had little impact, anti-French sentiments increased suspicion of the United States among the French public, just as anti-war demonstrations caused a similar situation of distrust of France in the United States. By 2006, only one American in six considered France an ally of the United States.

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Relations between France and the United States have become much more friendly after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected President of France in 2007. However, subliminal reluctance of France among the American population is not completely nullified, as in other countries, like Germany, neither. Usually, dissension is an ocurrence caused by cultural differences, respectively by a lack of cultural understanding. In order to analyse French culture and find out singular characterisics, we will ensuing use the culture theory of Geert Hofstede passing every step of his Five-Dimensions-Model.

3. Cultural Analysis

3.1 Five-Dimensions-Model by Hofstede5

3.1.1 Power Distance

The Power Distance Index (PDI) describes, to which extent unequal distribution of power within a cultural entity is expected and accepted. In cultures with a higher index, hierarchically higher positioned persons can reveal their social position without any justification.

Exactly this is the case in France. Hofstede’s PDI covers a range from 0 to 100; from a low to a high acceptance of power. For France, he calculates the value 68. This value exceeds the west European average considerably and predicts hence a relative high dependence of the citizens to the state (fig.1).

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Hofstede’s assumption can be substantiated by two facts:

- The centralisation of power in France, with Paris as political, economical and geographical hub;

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The importance of social classes regarding the history of France6 and the bourgeoisie (à 3.1).

The tendency to a distance of power and hierarchy is also to see in the organizational structure of national companies. In many French family companies or PME (Petites et Moyennes Entreprises = Small and Medium-sized Businesses) is even today only a single Patron in the top management, distinguished by a special kind of authority due to paternalism.

3.1.2 Individualism vs. Collectivism

This bipolar cultural dimension describes the relation between the members of a society. In countries marked by collectivism people are born in a firm, close group, which means protection but also loyalty, whereas ties in individualistic countries are looser, which also means more self-responsibility.

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With 71 points on Hofstede’s scale, France is clearly in the area of individualism. As contrasted with Asian cultures, this result is rather usual for Western countries. On top, the value does not even differ very much from Germany’s individualism index 67.

3.1.3 Masculinity vs. Femininity

This dimension points out, if assertiveness and authority, or humility and emotion predominate in a society. Moreover, masculinity denotes clear gender differences, whereas femininity allows an overlap.

When we think about the French glamour, delicacy and noblesse, it will not be surprising that France reaches only 43 points out of 100 on Hofstede’s scale, which means a tendency to femininity. In addition, this point reinforces very well the claim of French vanity, as this is rather considered to be a feminine characteristic.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


How to Avoid Being the "Ugly French"
The FOM University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg
Intercultural Competences
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ISBN (Book)
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avoid, being, ugly, french, culture, intercultural competence
Quote paper
Nadine Ghanawi (Author), 2010, How to Avoid Being the "Ugly French", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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