French and American… can you be both at the same time? - Intercultural Insights
Culture & Countries
French and American… can you be both at the same time?
November 12, 2015
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How do you combine being both French and American from an administrative, personal and cultural viewpoint?

Administratively, it’s completely possible. Many of us have two passports, vote in both countries and declare our taxes in both countries!

Two countries… Poles apart!

So how does a Franco-American or an American-Frenchman find peace of mind in life when this life is spread across two cultures? Without even noticing it, he becomes an expert in “code switching”, in other words he spontaneously moves from one way of doing things to another.

French and American: 2 different behavioural styles!

Although I’m just under the number of miles needed to use the Air France Lounge, I nevertheless speak to the hostess at reception, explaining with tact and modesty that I have just under an hour before my flight leaves and I need to check something on the Internet. She checks my account, confirms that I don’t have enough miles, and sees that the Lounge isn’t very busy. With a big smile, she lets me in because I asked her nicely. At the right time!

I try the same thing for my return flight, in Boston. Rather surprised at my request, the American hostess confirms politely and very professionally that I don’t have enough miles and therefore I can’t use the Lounge. But of course! We’re in Boston and I’d forgotten about the “code switching“. Nothing ventured nothing gained… says my inner Frenchwoman.

The United States and France: 2 different cultures!

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This anecdote demonstrates the fact that the United States and France are poles apart, on two cultural aspects in particular:
The application of rules:  strict in the USA / according to the situation in France

Professional relations: task-centric in the USA / people-centric in France

We know that in France, if you take the time to get to know someone things suddenly become possible. In the USA, using such tactics could be frowned upon.

Steering a course between the two can be tricky!

Nancy Bragard, intercultural consultant at Akteos, the leader in intercultural training

About author

Nancy Bragard

Nancy Bragard

A Franco-American intercultural consultant and a designer of processes and dialogue-enhancing solutions, Nancy displays a passion for human logic and intelligence in addition to all the inherent richness which comes with cultural diversity. Her approach provides a secure framework, ideal for encouraging the participation of those involved, with a view to fostering genuine dialogue and to facilitating the emergence of tacit and often unused knowledge and skills. Drawing upon the collective intelligence generated by participative methods, she promotes activities with a long-term impact as these are identified, shaped and coordinated by the stakeholders themselves.

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