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4.4 out of 5 stars19
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 6 January 2009
This is part of a series of 'Speak the Culture' books on various countries, and suffers somewhat from the absence of a critical editor who really knows France. Clearly there are many hands in the writing, from stilted translation from the French language/thinking through good standard English (most of the book) to offputting slang. The text is very unbalanced, a last chapter seeming to consist of a page or two on 'everything else we haven't given a whole chapter to', such as politics, green issues, sport, 'la vie associative'. And don't expect a single word on the scientific and technological culture and achievements of the French.
Beware of all usage of French: spellings (e.g. 'functionnaires' for 'fonctionnaires', 'conventioné' for conventionné'; genders (e.g. pain Normande' for 'pain normand'); plurals (e.g.they can't decide whether it's 'Pays Basque' or 'Pays Basques' - in fact it's 'Pays basque' - no 's', small 'b'); and even translations "[the French] hide their savings in a sock (le bas de laine literally means the bottom of the wool." No doesn't, the expressions is 'les' bas de laine, which means woollen stockings literally, (and savings figuratively).
These are just a few of the many errors. But for a popular level book it's good fun, and even informative. Despite all I've said, it does constitute a useful overview of life in France today.
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on 13 February 2008
Whoever dreamed up the idea of turning the tired old guidebook format on its head like this should be congratulated.

Want a single volume that explains French culture, history, regional quirks, pride and resentments, manners and well just about everything in a single accessible volume? It doesn't sound possible but this book pulls it off with real panache. I couldn't find a dull page.

Also well worth a mention are some delightful and often very witty illustrations and cartoons throughout.
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VINE VOICEon 10 June 2009
OK - the entire gammit of French culture cannot be contained in a mere 300 pages, but this book is something I wish I'd had when I first moved here rather than having to do it the hard way.

It is a bit of a bluffers guide, granted, but there is just enough detail here to at least give one an idea of what is important and why.

The most useful parts for me where in the coverage of French attitudes to the arts and philosophy and the section "living culture" - attiudes to sex, race, social class and so forth - that can appear opaque to say the least to a stranger.

The only weakness was the food and drink section which, while it did contain a fair amount of useful information, did play up a little to the French stereotype of culinary chauvinism.

Overall a useful guide for those planning to spend some time in France (on holiday or for a longer stay) or anyone just interested in what makes the "sweet enemy" tick.
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on 4 February 2009
This book gives the reader lots of useful information about French life, culture, food etc but the lack of an index means it only rates 4 stars not 5.
Publishers - please take note and include one in the next edition!
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on 6 November 2007
An excellent book to learn about France for those thinking of going to live there, buying a holiday home there or just having a holiday.
All aspects are covered with depth, interest and humour.
Very enjoyable.
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on 26 April 2011
My wife and I moved to France seven years ago. We enjoy life here and this book has further revealed the French attitude to life, food, wine, politics and much more. A mine of information!
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on 4 February 2011
Good book and was very interesting in parts, as someone who is looking to learn more about France and it's cultures I found this a good starting point
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on 1 February 2009
If you love France or are thinking of moving there, this is absolutely indispensable. Even though I have been in France for 5 years, there were loads of interesting facts I didn't know or that made sense of baffling customs. Highly recommended.
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on 15 July 2013
I am so glad I purchased this book. I shall return to it, again and again! My visits to France were wonderful, my French is not so good anymore because I don't have anyone with which to speak the language. But there's a lot of useful stuff in this book, about the French people, the politics, the way of life today in France. I am grateful for this book!
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on 23 March 2013
This is a birthday present for my husband and he hasn't read it yet but after such glowing reviews I am full of hope for our future in France!
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