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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly pleasant
I am a Frenchman living in England, and was lent this book by an English friend. I was worried it might be ladden with stereotypes, as is inevitable, but was actually quite happy with the way the authors portrayed my native land. Obviously it isn't possible to have a comprehensive review of any country by spending just three years and 350 pages on it, but they did a fair...
Published on 25 Feb. 2007 by Amazon Customer

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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, could have been better
This book is billed as away of understanding the cultural vagaries that exist in our nearest neighbour. In that respect it does in part fulfil its aim BUT I wouldn’t want to take the book too literally. For starters the two Canadian authors focus their research around their own personal experience (based mainly around Paris) and the experiences of their friends...
Published on 9 Jan. 2006 by Chris Chalk


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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, could have been better, 9 Jan. 2006
By 
Chris Chalk "Chris" (Croydon, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
This book is billed as away of understanding the cultural vagaries that exist in our nearest neighbour. In that respect it does in part fulfil its aim BUT I wouldn’t want to take the book too literally. For starters the two Canadian authors focus their research around their own personal experience (based mainly around Paris) and the experiences of their friends and colleagues, who appear to me to be fairly universally middle to upper-class with the odd bohemian style artist thrown in for good measure. This is deemed to be a good cross-section of the population sampled, but look around you in England and ask yourself – is London the fairest representation of the entire country and its culture?
My other main bugbear is the amount of repetition in the book, points are made, emphasised, re-made then told one more time for good luck. This gets annoying. I know they are trying to drum the point into us but I did find myself skipping pages and feeling like I hadn’t missed anything. Anyway, did I tell you about the repetition?
Well, onwards and upwards as once you get past these petty annoyances this is quite a good book. It is no-where near as funny as A Year In The Merde but does have a light hearted side that makes it a damn site more palatable that it otherwise would have been. The insights into French (Parisian) culture and lifestyle are intriguing and they offer some wonderful paradoxes, most notable was the story regarding a strike by French transport workers who were aggrieved that a train guide died at the hands of street vendors. Well it turns out the guy died of a heart attack so the union stayed on strike to complain about stressful conditions. Were the public up in arms? Not a bit of it.
This book won’t give you a eureka moment but it will gently prod you to start delving a little deeper into French culture, it is not a hard hitting expose offers some easy reading that I certainly enjoyed for the time I read it.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly pleasant, 25 Feb. 2007
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
I am a Frenchman living in England, and was lent this book by an English friend. I was worried it might be ladden with stereotypes, as is inevitable, but was actually quite happy with the way the authors portrayed my native land. Obviously it isn't possible to have a comprehensive review of any country by spending just three years and 350 pages on it, but they did a fair job of it in my opinion.

I actually learnt a lot about the way anglo-saxons look at us, and gave me an insight in how both foreigners and I react in different ways. Overall very interesting, I can't remember any repetition that annoyed me. There were some shocking mistakes, such as the Norway and british GP errors.

To "Pas pour moi", there is an active volcanoe in France, it is the Piton de la Fournaise on the Reunion island in the Indian Ocean.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is like Roquefort cheese, 26 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
A book which should have been written years ago and is immensely helpful in defining the differences between the Anglosphere and the Francosphere, it is unfortunately full of "blue bits" - that is to say sloppy grammar, poor translation ("Alsatia" for Alsace!) and lots of inaccuracies - the most amazing of which is the assertion that Norway (the only country whose population refused to join the EU) became a member in 1974! Mistakes like this (and about the important topic of Algeria) seriously undermine its value. It needs a revised and copy-edited second edition. (Are there no copy-editors now in the Anglosphere ?)
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a chapter went by without a cliche, 14 July 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
Very interesting topic and also some interesting chapters, but the book is clearly about 100 pages too long, contains a number of errors, some already pointed out here.
Something that particularly annoyed me was the constant 'during our years in France not a week went by without a bombing or murder in Corsica', swiping generalisations that undermine the arguments and overall credibility of the book.
You will also get the 'didn't I just read this?' feeling as a number of things are mentioned more than once.
Having said that if you have ever lived in France you will now understand the smugness of all those who boasts about their diplomas from the 'Grande Ecole/ ENA/ IEP/ ESSEC etc'
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pas pour moi, 27 Jun. 2004
By 
John Carr (CoussacBonneval, FRANCE) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
I was disappointed by this book. It is predicated on the assumption that the USA is 'right' and that France, au contraire, is 'wrong'. It makes many references to an Anglo-American view of the world, but British readers will have little sympathy with the authors' advocacy of federalism and will see little difference between the incapacity of local government in the UK and in France.
The chapters on French history and the education system are potentially interesting but glib and original.
There are several howlers in the book. For example France has no active volcanoes, Norway is not a member of the European Union and it's preposterous to claim that 'In Britain, all doctors are civil servants'.
To be fair, the authors occasionally concede that a lot of what France stands for makes sense, but ultimately this book is an paltform for the prejudices of North Americans, written for a US audience and funded by a US trust.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars First impressions of France and her people - a privileged view from above, 16 Sept. 2008
Two and a half years of experience amount to a short time to study and write a book on "Frenchmen", or indeed on any people. There is throughout the book a historical background only to disguise its inadequacy in research and arguments, with a simplistic view and generalisations of the French people, institutions and the society based on facile first impressions and hearsay. For a book with an aim to help understand the French as they are, with due respect to both writers, this is cripplingly insufficient.

To translate or not to translate the various French terms: this is the fundamental difficulty encountered by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau from the outset, the former anglophone, the latter francophone. Their decision to translate fully and literally for some of them, partially for others, and not at all for the rest, renders the book incoherent and at times, incomprehensible. So we have "Honest" men for "honnêtes hommes", so it seems; "the Mining School" without the original French name Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines (for civil engineers); "instituteurs" as "teachers" instead of the quite specific primary school teachers. There is no such organisation in English as the "Society of Nations", it's the League of Nations. Readers unfamiliar of France will be confused by the "Minister of Overseas", they mean not the Foreign Minister but the Minister of French Overseas Departments and Territories. "Attentistes" was taken for granted as "waiters", they mean not those we have in restaurants, but "wait-and-seers" ...

Certain categories of French do consider writers and journalists with higher esteem, Ms Barlow and Mr Nadeau at least got that right! They make no bones about telling us that: "We introduced ourselves as writers, and the invitations to parties, conferences, round tables started flowing in". Indeed, rubbing shoulders with the gentry certainly makes their social life more self-satisfying, it gives above all a partial and distorted view of the country and her people, it further undermines their credibility as objective critics of the society.

The most disappointing is neither of them can get some elementary facts right. Inaccuracies and approximations abound. The Irish Republic (Eire) was not created in 1922 (that was the Irish Free State), but in 1937. Britain, Denmark and Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, and Sweden in 1975, not in 1974 as they claim. Norway never did join as her people rejected the membership. The interest rate for the Livret A during their time in France was between 2.25% to 3.50%, it never was 2%. Other observations are true only to the extent of their standpoint, a privileged view from above. So we learn that "French don't lean on people's ethnic origins" without acknowledging discrimination and institutionlised racism are rampant in the society, or "French parents do everything they can to make sure their child won't go to university, but will go to a grande école, even the least prestigious of them". For the great majority of families, this is far from being the case. I also wonder if the French elitist education system holds them in such awe, why is there not a passing mention that the former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing is "also" a graduate of the ENA - the most prestigious if all, not just the Ecole Polytechnique? In France, this omission is almost a lèse-majesté! But the essential question of whether France was governed more competently by such technocrats was never asked. Finally, I have yet to work out what they mean by "Those who did work had, on the whole, better jobs"!

There is no shortage of books on the history of France in the English language, like those by Alfred Cobban. Contemporary France in its political and social context is well delved in and treated by the considerably more authoritative francophile John Ardagh, sadly died earlier this year, whose work is incisive and gives an excellent overview of the country's mechanism.
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62 of 73 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars But Two Canadians Can, 3 Jan. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
Words fail me, and evidently failed the authors of this plodding excuse of a book. Based on a spectacularly simplistic premise - aren't these French chappies weird - it attempts to show how amusingly strange the French are.
In doing this the two Canadians who have "written" this book have succeded only in demonstrating how weird they are. Extraordinarily lacking in factual content and with precious little insight, the book tells stories of the authors' limited experience of living in France. These tales are neither illuminating nor even remotely amusing. They use a thousand words when a handful would do, and ultimately only manage to show us, sadly, how insular, ignorant and self-important some North Americans can be.
Take an early chapter entitled "Meet the Aborigines". The idea is that the French are, get this, natives of their own country! Wow!! A whole chapter is devoted to the "insight" that the French live in the same country as their ancestors did and live with their own history and even pre-history around them. Breathtaking indeed.
As I read this book I became more and more angry that I'd actually paid money to read such twaddle. The book's title is promising, and initially seems flattering to the French. But the content is deeply patronising and a minor classic in casting its subject as "other". It totally lacks empathy or understanding in its portrayal of the French. What's more it's based on the flimsiest of evidence, and shows a paper-thin knowledge of a country and its people.
It ends with a postrscript devoted to a comment from a French person they met on a plane who came out with the immortal phrase "This country isn't what it used to be". Well I never! What an amazing insight! Frankly they could have taken a taxi ride in pretty well any country in the world and heard that old chestnut.
If you're planning to visit or live in France, you'd be better off buying a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide in advance. Just keeping your eyes and ears open, showing some respect, tolerance & understanding, maybe supplemented with a little empathy and enthusiasm and you can't fail to understand and enjoy France far, far more than these two.
With apologies to their compatriot Shania Twain:
So, you guys lived in Paris for three years?
That don't impress me much!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 60 Million Frenchmen, 1 Jun. 2009
By 
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
How can you write a book about the French and NOT write about their attitude towards food and wine, about the importance of terroir, the ceremony of lunch, the importance of dining en famille, the aperitif and so forth? This book misses the point in so many ways whilst it labours over small issues in a most irritating style. There are a few good points but these are drowned out by the bad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very silly and badly researched book. I strongly advise ..., 19 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
Very silly and badly researched book. I strongly advise anyone against buying it. I'm a dual nationality social scientist with a strong research background on France. They just seem to have got money to hang out with anyone who could be bothered to talk to them and then reported what they were told without any checing. As some of it concerned events I was personally invloved in, I was truly shocked by the blatant falsehoods. The authors seem to be a coupl of opportunistic self-publicists.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pas pour moi, 28 Jun. 2004
By 
John Carr (CoussacBonneval, FRANCE) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French So French? (Paperback)
I was disappointed by this book. It is predicated on the assumption that the USA is 'right' and that France, au contraire, is 'wrong'. It makes many references to an Anglo-American consensus view of the world, but British readers will have little sympathy with the authors' advocacy of federalism and will see little difference between the incapacity of local government in the UK and in France.
The chapters on French history and the education system are interesting but not original.
There are several howlers in the book. For example France has no active volcanoes, Norway is not a member of the European Union and it's preposterous to claim that 'In Britain, all doctors are civil servants'.
To be fair, the authors occasionally concede that a lot of what France stands for makes sense, but ultimately this book is a platform for the prejudices of North Americans, written for a US audience and funded by a US trust.
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