DARE TO ASK: The French dislike us? For real?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do the French dislike Americans?
Patricia C., 56, Texas
Perhaps from a different (older) perspective, we Europeans see something in
the U.S. which we don't like. One of the main reasons I dislike the U.S. is its
refusal to join the Kyoto agreement. Plus, since the Cold War, America has
strived to be the ultimate capitalist state, and in Europe we're a bit more
socialist about these things.
Rosie, 16, United Kingdom
Could it be George W. Bush?
Gary, 48, Houston
The French dislike us because ... Iraq is in chaos now. It's not only the
French, there's a lot of people in the world that hate the U.S. and Americans.
Sarita, 14, Apex, N.C.
Many Americans are great, but that's too often a surprise, because the vocal
lot tend to be obnoxious and self-centered. Their superlative intonations are
irritating attempts to make their rather banal comments more convincing or
interesting. The natural attitude that Americans bring with them when traveling
makes the average foreigner want to hide.
Oliver, 37, Australia
We went to France once. You have to walk through the Louvre, Notre Dame still
uses an organist and Versailles has no animatronics. Like we're going there over
Busch Gardens next time.
Some people actually study this excuse for a major, history-changing Western
European republic with the world's sixth-largest economy.
Jeremy Shapiro, director of research at The Brookings Institution's Center on
the United States and Europe, says Franco-American discord goes way beyond the
whole "we hate that you invaded Iraq" thing.
France, wouldn't you know it, has pride. Then we came along.
"France senses itself as a universal nation, with a creed worthy of spreading
. . . But the last century has not been kind, and then we liberated them in
World War II, which could never be forgiven," he said, only half-joking. "For a
proud nation, it's the worst thing you could do."
France resurrected itself to just one rung below a superpower, and because of
its extraordinary accomplishments, there's a "prickliness" about its place in
"We view ourselves as the leader and that other countries should follow, but
France says democracy is a participatory sport - that they have the capacity and
right to help decide which positions the Free World should take," Shapiro said.
So while the French do have a love-hate relationship with U.S. tourists - who
Shapiro notes can be "spectacularly clueless and don't speak the language" - in
large part, American policy, not people, is what rankles the French most.
Then again, the French, perhaps being French, have a love-hate relationship
with themselves, as well: A recent Harris/Novatris poll found 44 percent of
French people think poorly of themselves, vs. only 38 percent of U.S.
respondents who had a bad view of them.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his