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Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: What Makes the French so French

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  2,092 Ratings  ·  212 Reviews
The French...

-Smoke, drink and eat more fat than anyone in the world, yet live longer and have fewer heart problems than Americans

-Work 35-hour weeks, and take seven weeks of paid holidays per year, but are still the world's fourth-biggest economic power

So what makes the French so different?

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong is a journey into the French heart, mind and
Paperback, 351 pages
Published April 28th 2004 by Robson Books (first published May 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jessica Howard
Jan 10, 2008 Jessica Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, history
60 Million Frenchman is split into three sections (1) French history (why certain events helped make the French the way they are). (2) French system (detailed analysis of almost every aspect of current--as of 2000--French life). (3) Projections for the future.

I liked part one a lot. I think the chapters on the Algerian War and World War Two were particularly apt in explaining how the French mindset has been shaped in recent decades. Part two was good in spots, and reeeeally boring in spots. For
Jul 29, 2009 Helynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As indicated by the title, this 2003 study, written by Canandians Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, attempts to explain why French and American people like to disparage each other and how we Americans especially tend to be irrationally prejudiced against the French. David Lettermen is still making jokes about the French giving into the Nazis in 1940, and Groundskeeper Willie on The Simpsons has our young people calling the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." We seem to forget that the ...more
Dec 15, 2007 Louise rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Francophiles or wanna bes
True story: I love France. And sometimes really can't stand the French. Thankfully, the authors of this book kinda feel the same way. This book is a wonderful dissection of why the French are who they are and why we love them and are confused by them on a regular basis. The authors have done an excellent job of getting at the heart of what makes French government, culture and economics tick and really pinpoints the differences between France and other countries. I would have liked more compariso ...more
Dec 30, 2008 Atenea-Nike rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Atenea-Nike by: dad
Shelves: abandoned
So far, the book is proving to offer interesting insight in the mind of the north americans, not the french. I know the french. We're neighbours. I go there often. A couple of my best friends are french. France makes sense to me. The french make sense to me. The book, therefore, is for me an experience in reverse psychology - undestanding the mindset the authors come from that makes them write the way they do about the french. The things that surprise them or that they deem worthy of writing abo ...more
Bob Adamcik
I read this as part of a trilogy I've tackled by expatriate observers who have lived in France. The others are "A Year in the Merde" and "A Year in Provence." It's really just an exercise in self-discipline. Having been in France for over a year now, I hear myself being critical from merely anecdotal evidence, and I don't like it. So I decided I should see how other observers have found France and see in my observations match up.

So far, I've only completed this volume. I found it useful and int
First of all I'm indebted to this book for introducing me to Marcel Aymé who I probably would not have discovered otherwise. I loved Le passe-muraille (The Man Who Walked Through Walls in the English translation), a book of fantastical short stories set in or inspired by life in occupied France.

This book however is not great. It starts strong but eventually becomes more like a textbook. The personal anecdotes and biographical sketches are great; numbing detail about things like the civil code le
Apr 03, 2017 Diz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, culture
This book takes a look at French culture through the lens of politics. The values that people hold in France are highlighted through the way that they organize themselves politically. The authors include historical examples and personal anecdotes to back up their ideas. If you're looking to learn about the political system used in France, this goes into detail on that.
Jan 20, 2009 Suzanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-theme
This book is a detailed study of the French as products of their history and culture. Although claiming not to be a history book, it uses French history to explain how the French spirit developed, and how it influences the civil, political, and social structure in France today. As the authors, two bilingual Canadian journalists, claim in their introduction, it is not a story of the renovation of a house in Provence; it does, however, contain the story of their two years in France and what they e ...more
Oct 27, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not light reading -- this isn't a trivial book, despite the humorous title and cover.

Felt like I was back in one of my International Relations classes, probably upper division if not graduate. Very informative, and worth reading -- especially for anyone planning on spending time in France.
France stymies Americans. They eat what they want, but seemingly don't get fat. Their government is happily involved in health, education, industry, and business, but they have one of the most robust economies in the world. How do they do it? What makes them tick? Jean-Benoît Nadreau and Julie Barlow were dispatched by a government foundation to find out just that very thing. Having lived in France for several years and made a study of it, they represent their findings in the fascinating Sixty M ...more
Wesley  Gerrard
Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture a ...more
Poussinette (Sophie)
I'll start with the good points :
The authors have really tried to understand how we French function as a society, and to find explanations for it in our (very bloody) history. They did get a few very clever insights, and made me smile a few times in self deprecation.

Now the bad points : the book is presented as a pseudo scientific study. Unfortunately, the scientific demarch is hopelessly flawed.
Once the authors got a working theory, they twisted all their "evidence" to fit the pattern, disregar
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong often times feels like a Francenstein’s (spelling deliberate) monster. It begins well enough, offering insight into the “spirit” of French society, and indeed gives highly valuable information, especially regarding the French ideas of personal vs. public space, which every visitor should know. However, as the reader nears the middle of the book the work takes on a text-book quality, which becomes dry and redundant. To boost, what the writers pass as an anth ...more
Jo Haff
Dec 26, 2013 Jo Haff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Je comptais lire ce pavé, en me disant qu'en tant qu'étrangère vivant en France, j'aurais sûrement les mêmes points de vue que ce couple de journalistes en débarquant dans l'Hexagone. Ils font la comparaison entre le modèle français et le modèle nord-américain (États-Unis et Canada), montrant clairement les paradoxes français. Leur question de base était: what makes the French so different?
Le plus j'avance dans ma lecture, le plus je me pose des questions.
L'écriture de Jean-Benoît Nadeau et Juli
Nov 18, 2007 Christopher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
I was hoping I had found a book that was an in depth look at the culture and traditions of the French. This was more of a look at the government and political structures of France. Parts were so boring, I actually wound up just skimming the last bit of the book for something interesting to read.
Sep 22, 2012 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so poorly written and had so many grammatical errors that I couldn't read it.
Mar 25, 2017 Ellie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started off really engaging but the middle section is a right slog to get through. Incidentally the end section seems to be one long conclusion rather than adding much else.

A good book but could have done with being 100 pages shorter.
May 21, 2010 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: francophiles, francophobes, americans, british
Recommended to Vanessa by: JF
a lucid breakdown of the French and their society. i've just moved to France so i hope the information will turn out to be accurate and useful - so far, one Frenchman told my partner 'everything in the book is true!' and two others told me, with respect to the authors' (why isn't Julie Barlow credited as co-author in the GoodReads entry?) discussion of the French love of privacy, that it's actually perfectly okay to ask a new acquaintance what their name is or what they do for a living, contrary ...more
Jennifer Stephens
Mar 27, 2013 Jennifer Stephens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Nadeau & Barlow (two Canadians from Quebec) wrote this non-fiction book on French culture and government as an expose of the differences between North American and French mindsets. The book offers really compelling evidence for why the French think the way they do and have organized their society and government the way they have. It was a fascinating read and I really think it is a valuable book regardless of your current perspective on the French and their culture.

The underlying thesis of t
Feb 08, 2009 Alissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nadeau & Barlow give an insightful view of French culture, from an insider and outsider perspective. France is a tough nut to crack but their reportage is authentic (according to my numerous French friends, one loaned me his copy to read) and I concur with the authors on the few elements I am familiar enough with have something to say about.

France is a fascinating country. It is modern and familiar on some levels and can be totally different and unique in its organization, tradition and etho
Sep 10, 2012 Tara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting more of a "The French do this/The Americans do that" type of book, but this is actually a really good systematic primer into understanding the French--their ideas of The State, their concerns with federalism, language, education, political system and the elite. I feel I probably was supposed to have learned some of this "French culture" stuff in French class, but it flew by me. Definitely worth a read if you want to gain an objective insight into understanding the French.
Jan 19, 2015 Gayle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read, especially if you have lived in France. This explains a lot, and is recommended reading for all Americans.
Tim Martin
Aug 30, 2012 Tim Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, reviewed
France is a land of contradictions. It is nation where people have seven weeks of paid vacation a year, generally take an hour and a half for lunch, have one of the longest life expectancies on the planet, work in the fourth largest economy in the world, and have one of the finest health care systems in the world. It is also a nation that has one of the lowest rates of charitable donations in the developed world, where people expect the State to do everything because they pay so much in taxes, w ...more
Hilary Hicklin
Extremely interesting analysis of what French systems, attitudes and policies are based on with plenty of food for thought and a few moments of epiphany. Written by two Canadians it does sometimes mistake a French point of view for what is essentially a European angle as opposed to North American, and it already needs updating since its publication some 10 or more years ago (or at least the version I read - it may have been modified) in terms of the "success" of the EU and the Euro ...

Those quib
Jun 20, 2017 Sats rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Most of it I already had gathered from living there, but I kinda wanted to read over explicitly some of the things I liked and disliked and review my experience in France

The book was a bit boring to me in style but otherwise very informative, especially if you plan on spending any length of time in the country
This book was a useful (if overly detailed) companion for my first trip to France in decades. The authors are Quebecoise sociologists who went to France to write one book and came back with another. Fascinated by the idiosyncracies of French culture, they write about social mores, the educational system, politics, immigration, race, the French economy, and the dark psychological after effects of World War II and the Algerian conflict.

Sloppiness is a weakness. At one point the authors contend th
Apr 26, 2017 Volker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociologie
On en remplirait des bibliothèques, des livres sur les Français ou la France écrits par des étrangers. Certains de ces livres ont une durée de vie plus longue que d'autres, certains autres sont devenus proverbiaux, comme le "Gott in Frankreich?" par Friedrich Sieburg - même si l'on occulte le point d'interrogation.

Ici, c'est l'ouvrage de deux journalistes canadiens, dont un Québécois, et comme ils sont journalistes économiques, on échappe aux habituelles louanges des camemberts au lait cru. Paru
Jennifer Brown
Mar 02, 2014 Jennifer Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first glance it seems like this book would be a lighthearted, humorous look at cultural differences between France and it’s peers, an informal look at French idiosyncrasies we love and hate. In fact it is an in depth study (at one point sponsored by the Institute of Current World Affairs) of the entrenchment of French beliefs, values, and behavior based upon factors like the authoritarian centralized power of the French State, the effect of the War of Algiers on the French psyche, and the Fre ...more
Palmtree Gergana
Very funny but authentic description of French society, habits and of course the French uniqueness! I loved this book. Vive la France!
Chris Jaffe
This was a fascinating book about France and the people of France. It’s a little like Ruth Benedict’s book about Japan – an attempt to understand the people and its culture. But these are reporters (from Quebec), not anthropologists. And they got to live there for a few years.

They divide the book into three sections. The first part focuses on some key cultural traits and distinctive features of the French. This is the best part of the book. The authors argue we should like at the French as the
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Author, journalist and conference speaker, Jean-Benoît Nadeau has published seven books, over 900 magazine articles, won over 40 awards in journalism and literature, and given more than 80 lectures on language, culture and writing. His books include Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, The Story of French and The Story of Spanish, which he co-authored with his wife, Julie Barlow. He currently r ...more
More about Jean-Benoît Nadeau...

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“France has and will have political and economic problems like any other country. But it works. What makes it work is the harmony between the spirit of the French and the structures they have given themselves, structures that are genuinely theirs.” 1 likes
“France actually had the first ever pension schemes: the Invalides, a hostel built by Louis XIV and his prime minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619–83), for disabled soldiers.” 1 likes
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