The relationship between France and the United States has often been strained, with one side often criticizing the other over some perceived cultural deficiency. In recent history, certain popular elements in the United States have taken to labelling France as a nation of wimps as a result of France not backing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. France, in turn, has accused the United States of being aggressive and arrogant. However, a quick read of some of the most well-known French quotes will show that France and the U.S. actually have many similarities in thought and view things the same way. Here is a sampling: you be the judge.
Renard (French) has been quoted:
“La vérité vaut bien qu’on passe quelques années sans la trouver.”
This is translated into English as “Truth is more valuable if it takes you a few years to find it.” Although we do not have the exact equivalent in English, we do have the idea that if something comes too easy, it’s easy to take for granted.
As a mirror of what is considered the “Protestant work ethic”, consider this quote from the great French writer and philosopher Voltaire: “Le travail éloigne de nous trois grands maux: l’ennui, le vice et le besoin.”
In English: “Work delivers us from three great evils: boredom, vice and want.” Don’t we in the United States hold similar values regarding work?
And in this quote from Banville, we see what we think is the very American idea that it’s good to take risks, because “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
In French, “Et ceux qui ne font rien ne se trompent jamais.” The English translation is “Those who never do anything can never do anything wrong.”
This quote is a good indication that the French probably place similar values on getting out of one’s comfort zone and just going for it, whether or not you are sure of the outcome and even if you are scared to do so. Doesn’t sound so wimpy to me!
And finally, in a takeoff of our glorified American who “…marches to the beat of a different drummer,” Roland has been quoted as saying “Le monde appelle fous ceux qui ne sont pas fous de la folie commune.” This is translated as “Mad are labelled those who do not take part in the common madness.” If that’s not a call for individuals to follow their hearts and do what’s right, something Americans place a very high value on, I don’t know what is.