I was just up in Paris visiting hotels for Expedia.com (I write those Paris hotel descriptions), and had many, many conversations with hotel managers worried about losing their American clientele. I thought this letter, from the Best Western Bretagne Montparnasse hotel in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, summed up exactly what I’d like to say to all Americans who ask me, “Should I come to France right now? Don’t they all hate us?” Hope you enjoy! — Heather
Dear American Friends,
These last few months, politicians and the mass media on both sides of the Atlantic have been bashing us with two versions of the same story: Frenchies are arrogant traitors poking America in the eye! Americans are a bunch of war-happy loonies looking for world domination!
Folks, let’s put the show on hold, and think together for a minute: who is holding the microphone for dear life, and pounding the message with a tremendous whack?
Not you, not us. Not the little people. But journalists and politicians.
Politicians will always put their own interests before yours – remember ‘Follow the money trail – and journalists love the sound of their own voices, and a good controversy – whether rooted in fact, or totally fabricated.
The truth is we, French people, like American folks. Beyond our pride of being French, we greatly admire the American people. We always have.
We know that we owe your parents and grandparents a great deal of gratitude. They paid the price of war with their lives on our beaches, and on our land. We are deep in their debt, and our streets will long carry the names of American generals.
But our admiration goes way beyond, extending to your entire culture.
We love your music – blues, jazz, musicals, rock, hip-hop, what-have-you. New Orleans’ legend Sidney Bechet was our hero when he was still little known in America. Louis Armstrong is arguably the best-known black musician in France. Jessye Norman, one of your greatest opera singers, sells out concert halls when she graces us with her presence. And Elvis still reigns as king in the heart of all those who listened to him in the fifties and sixties.
We love your cars and motorcycles. Ask about Cadillac and Harley-Davidson around here, and you will get an instant smile.
We admire your movies, as witness box office successes such as Saving Private Ryan, Back to The Future, Casablanca, and Unforgiven in France. And in our minds, John Wayne and Gary Cooper are still true heroes.
Our teenagers adopt your casual wear, just as their parents fell for Levi’s jeans.
We also smoke more Marlboro, Philip Morris, and Camel cigarettes than you do, guys!
Cheeseburgers and Coke did not originate in France. Yet, judging by sales of sodas and fast food here, we are addicted to them. So much for the journalistic myth of snooty Frenchies only eating French cuisine.
And English is still the first of our second languages.
The truth of the matter is, we simply adopt a lot of America’s goods and customs.
And another truth is we like to receive you folks amongst us.
Over the years, we took notice of your commendable efforts to speak French. Yes, some of us won’t tell you, but we generally appreciate your efforts to address us in our language. We also try to better our English skills (please don’t laugh at our accent).
We appreciate your polite, non-intrusive behavior when you come to visit. We cannot say that all of us Frenchies behave as well when we visit you. We gotta try harder.
All of us who have travelled abroad know that the cultural differences which exist between Americans and Frenchies can be resolved which a smile and a good word. There cannot be any lasting misunderstanding between two peoples of goodwill.
You are very welcome in our country. We have many good things to offer, we hope some of them appeal to your hearts and interests.
You are welcome in France. Don’t listen to tall tales to the contrary. We the people are not our ‘governing elites’. You folks are not your government or the press.
Let’s remain friends.
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.