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French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France
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French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  487 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Polly Platt's title French or Foe? is more timely than ever, as the Franco. American alliance frays a little more with each day, the exchanges more vitriolic than ever before. Her book has long been the reference for what it is about the French that rubs Americans the wrong way, why the Franco-American alliance has difficulties, and how to handle French people.... and find ...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Culture Crossings Ltd (first published June 1st 1994)
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Apr 30, 2011 Vanessa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Vanessa by: Madame Kathleen Matchunis
Overall, this is a good resource and I wish I had read this sooner. At the same time, reading it nearly a year into living in France allowed me to assess the info through the lens of my own experience. There are some serious flaws in the book, though, not all of which are the author's fault, i.e. this book was published in 1994 and a lot has changed since then.

The bad stuff: besides being nearly 20 years old, the book is horribly Paris-centric and obviously aimed at an audience of white anglo up
Is a very interesting insight to French Life and behavior. Contains a lot of information on the history of France and how it relates to their culture and behavior. I liked specially the first half of the book, but I dragged during the second half. The reason is that the book is targeted to a high-society, bussiness manager public, and I'm neither. So I could have lived without the description of the dinner party behavior and the very long chapters about how the enterprises operate. I also think ...more
Brenda Cregor
Before we left for Paris, my friend, Amy, gave me this book to read. And thank goodness!
I tend to be loud and over-friendly.
Me? Really?
If I had not learned to be more "French", I might have prattled away on the subways, tried to make jokes with strangers, or turned up my nose at the dogs I saw inside the grocery stores.
When our other traveling companion and I found ourselves separated from Amy, or dear guide and translator, our first night in Paris, we used the knowledge gained from th
Polly Platt’s French of Foe? is a mixture of valuable insight and suggestive pompousness. To give her due credit, the first chapter is full of useful information and essentially contains all that you will need to know from this book. Soon thereafter the book descends into name-dropping and gives all the tips you’d need to know if you were visiting with the upper echelon of French society. Much of what Platt reveals about French culture seems to be outdated and of little relevance to the middle a ...more
Living with the French can be very difficult if you're not prepared or open to learning about their history, language, and culture. Platt welcomes you to France by giving a brief history of the country and explaining cultural norms that will seem odd to Americans at first. By the end of the book, if you have applied everything you've learned, you may have more French friends than Americans! If you have lived in France you will be able to relate the l'Administration, l'exception Française, the Fr ...more
Jun 09, 2007 Kari rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people moving to France
Shelves: expat-in-france
If I had read this when I arrived in France, I could have avoided a lot of frustrations, anger and tears. Platt's explanations make sense of the French to Americans.
This is the best book to read if you are working or staying in France for awhile. You will learn why the French
1) Are always turning out lights and insist that you WON'T ruin your eyes if you watch TV or read in the dark.
2) Never leave a meeting to use the restroom
3) May show up to a scheduled meeting with nothing accomplished from the previous meeting.
4) Are serious about a classical education
5) Have the best behaved children in the world
6) Are never going to let you in to their circle unless y
I had read French or Foe just before going to live in France for about a year. About a week after I got back to the US, I picked up the book once again to see if what Polly Platt says in the book corresponded to my experience. There are a few points in the book that seem to be about right, but there are plenty of times where she is absolutely dead wrong. I hope that people don't read the book believing every word of what it says about the French people.

Example: The book says that every French m
Marissa  Pineda
This book starts out by saying that the French aren't all the stereotypical things Americans think they are, and if you can understand where the French come from culturally, you'll find they are just wonderful. Well. I already thought the French were wonderful, so I picked up this book just to see what "stereotypes" were going to be explained away. Unfortunately, the attempts at explaining and clarifying to Americans the French worldview were lousy. If I had not already had experience with Frenc ...more
I found this book really informative about how the French think. I looked back on last year's trip to France and saw how in some cases I instinctively did the right thing, and in others how I could have taken a different approach to make things easier (even though I thought the French were very agreeable and helpful anyway). Although I didn't agree with her on every single point, on balance it lent a depth of understanding that will certainly be useful for the next trip. And it was fun to read i ...more
French or Foe is a must-read for anyone who is planning to travel/work/live in France, more especially Paris. Just a good comprehensible understanding of some basic cultural differences which will make your trip/stay much more all-around pleasant. Even if a person is not planning on any of the above, it is still a good read, just for getting a good grasp on another culture.

An update: Author Polly Platt passed away December 26, 2008. There is a lovely tribute to this phenomenal woman at http://fr
Laura Haas
This is such an important book for understanding the French - it really made my trip that much better (that and speaking French). Highly recommend anything by Polly Platt.
Peter Bourdelle
Polly Plat is a Gem! Great insights into the French, that I should've learned years ago, And the 10 magic words, after "Bonjour, monsieur/madame" = "Excusez-moi de vous deranger, mais j'ai un problem"
Always say hello & goodbye, and word-for-word (Humbly) Excuse me for disturbing you..but I have a problem. Done well, even slightly exaggerated, if you can pique their interest, they'll go out of their way to help. And believe it or not, Don't SMILE, unless you are flirting... Amazing insights.
Even though this book was frequently recommended, I put off reading it because I feared it was a French version of The Undutchables which I didn't much like. Of course, there was a lot of truth in The Undutchables and it was quite funny, but it was rather mean-spirited in its approach. In contrast, French or Foe offers a realistic look at the differences in world views between Americans and English (among others) and French. It's respectful of all sides and offers positive advice for understand ...more
Informative, but is really more focused on Paris. Great tips if you're going to live/work in Paris, but not very indicative of being elsewhere in France.

There are some informative tips for living in the country, but city-specific or prefecture-specific info is lacking. I lived in Reims (90 mi NE of Paris) and most of the things written in the book are not true.

It would be like a foreigner moving to Pittsburgh and reading a book about living/working in New York or Chicago.
John Otto
This is THE book to read before you visit France. There are some good, practical tips on how to get along with the French. They work marvelously. Although it was written about 15 years ago and is a little dated, the character of the French has not changed that much. Reading the book before you go can literally make the difference between not understanding why the French are so rude and stuck-up and having the time of your life.
If you've ever wanted to know why the French do what they do then you should definitely read this book. Platt covers many facets of French life a visitor would encounter: male/female relationships, entertaining, the office, education, food, a little history and even more. It is a few years old but there are some great basics here that any visitor to France would do well to know. A fascinating look at France and its culture!
I laughed at the first chapter, "Do not smile!" The Carnegie book I just finished had smile as one of the most important things to do. Just not in France I guess.

Most of this book is really good. Some chapters in the middle get bogged down with a bunch of business stuff. It was fun to read about all the differences between France and America and a little background about why.

Mark Terry
Much more fun than I anticipated. We got this as preparation for a trip to France, and I found that it explained quite a bit. It's funny how you just assume that other people think like you do, despite language and cultural difference. Platt wrote this primarily as preparation for people that will be spending much longer in France than we did, but it was enjoyable as a quick prep.
Another vacation read in preparation for our upcoming trip to France. I think there was plenty of useful info about the French in there. They aren't unfriendly, they just don't waste smiles on folks they don't know, it would be insincere. I tend to feel the same way! I ended up skimming the end of the book which gives advice to business folks working in France.
This book had so many giggle out loud and read out loud to anyone listening parts that my husband will probably not even have to read it now. Super informative, but a little bit pompous (lots of namedropping on the part of the author- and Paris-isms). The author does a nice job of describing the nature of French culture to shape actions and responses...
Not the best writing in the world, and repetitive at times, but worth the time. This book answered some questions about French culture that I didn't even know I had. Gave me things to think about, in terms of life here, as well as life in France. Now, where is that Parisian job so I can put all my new knowledge and understanding to use?
I never could de-smile myself, so I looked like a goon in France, but I remember the Magic Words ("bonsoir, madame, excusez-moi de vous deranger, mais j'ai un probleme...") were very useful. No one is rude if you start out this friendly!

This book was loaned to me by Tom Kangas before my college study abroad.
I love this book! It is a great conversation-starter with French people, who refute its claims (and then live up to 99% of them!). Be warned, however, that Platt wrote this book about a very particular Parisian uber-class whom most of us will never meet when visiting or living in the "real" France.
This book was recommended my study abroad adviser who spent a year in France when she was in high school. She said that this was the most accurate description of french culture she had found, so I figured it would be a great pre-departure read. Hopefully the tips will be helpful!
Oct 19, 2009 Deb marked it as to-read
Recommended by someone we met at a B and B in Ashland as the best preparation for a successful trip to France. Did you know that shopkeepers will not greet you when you enter their store? Makes sense to me--you are entering THEIR space, seems it's your responsibility to do the greeting.
Katie Hawkins
This book is extremely helpful if you will be spending an extended amount of time in France (or perhaps a short vacation). However, there are some parts that are a bit dry, and a bit repetitive. If you are a sensitive patriot, steer clear.
Extraordinarily educational and fun to read. I don't know whether to like the French or think they're nuts. They certainly have many things to admire, especially the respect they show parents. Makes me want to go to France.
Recommended reading for anyone interested in cross cultural relations. This book completely changed my impression and understanding of French people and culture. There's tons of quality information. Excellent read!
I know I should wait until we get to Paris to review this one, but it was so playful and funny that I thought I would put it in now. I will update when we get back.
Update: Added a star after our trip - spot on!
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