Comparing US and French Cultures

Looking back at my experiences in France, I realize just how different our two cultures are. Furthermore, I found it very interesting how, after reading the text, both my parents, one being from France and the other from the United States, reflect the cultural values of their country to a tee. For example, my father has always been the authoritarian parent and my mother the authoritative. French fathers were described in the text as being an “in-control” type parent and using “direct-punishment”. He was the strict parent, and my mother, who practiced the typical parenting style used in the United States (authoritative), used a more balanced approach. I would have to say that having both styles of parenting during my childhood had positive as well as negative aspects to it. As described in the text, I did indeed experience more anxiety and withdrawal perhaps due to my fathers authoritarian parenting. However, the positive aspects were that I did well in school and had the utmost respect for my father. I was taught to respect and even if it was out of fear, it worked. As far as socialization agents and their influences are concerned, I have had plenty of experiences in France where the institutions proved to be very different than those in the United States. The schools were extremely strict. For example, when my sister and I were in the school cafeteria all the students were told to put their hands behind their heads and be silent. When my sister made a noise she was sent outside in the pouring rain (with a cast on, which could not get wet). They tied her shoes together so she couldn’t run away. Because my sister kept crying, they decided that the only way to get her to stop would be to throw ice cold water in her face. My parents were less than pleased about the occurrence and immediately took us out of the school. Furthermore, when I was in third grade, I remember the teacher spanked us with a wooden board because we went to the bathroom without asking. These experiences probably influenced my behavior in school for the rest of my life. I have always been extremely obedient in school and respected my authority. Another difference I have found between France and the United States is that in France, personal space is much smaller than in the United States. For example, when someone is talking to you, they are very close to your face and when I first moved to France this made me extremely uncomfortable. When I was in second grade I remember my teacher would always get so close to her students faces when she would speak. However, I soon got used to it and my personal “bubble” became smaller and smaller. Now I notice living in the states that people are sometimes uncomfortable with my closeness! To go along with that, the greeting in France is also much more personable. They give you three kisses on the cheek alternating cheeks per kiss. This greeting expression is definitely not found in the States. Another difference between the two cultures which goes along with the first difference is the fact that in France if you are sitting at a cafe, people just come right up and join you at your table. They are very sociable in France, but can be considered rude in other cultures such as our own here in the States. For example, when we were at a cafe in Florida, my sister and I were waiting in line to get our food. We noticed that our father had already seated himself at a table but with another family! They gave him dirty looks and proceeded to leave after he sat down. My father did not understand this reaction, which led to confusion for both parties. This leads me to my last and final thought: Ignorance of another culture can lead to fear and hatred of that group and sometimes can lead to violence. As described in the text, “this increasingly diversifying world has created a wonderful environment for personal challenge and growth, it also brings with it an increased potential for misunderstandings that can lead to confusion and anger.” For example, one day when my sister and I were on a playground in France there were a group of French children. They began to tease us calling us stupid Americans. A few moments later when my sister was at the top of the slide, a young girl proceeded to push her down the slide and my sister fell 2 stories and broke her arm. I don’t think I will every forget this incident because I believe it represents more than just children playing and being foolish. It represents the cultural divides and ignorance in our world, and in order to defeat such things we need to embrace each and every culture and our differences and learn from them for our own personal and societal growth.

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