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Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,347 ratings  ·  232 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 May 1st 2003 by Sourcebooks
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Jessica Howard
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, travel
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 rated it really liked it
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 F ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it liked it
Shelves: culture, politics
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.
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
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it did not like it
This book was so poorly written and had so many grammatical errors that I couldn't read it.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this highly enough. Smartly written insights on modern France but from a deep historical perspective. It's really really good!
John Jenkins
Jan 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
Canadian authors Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow lived in France from 1999 to 2001 on a fellowship to study why the French resist globalization. The result is “60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong,” which expands upon the initial assignment and attempts to explain how and why the French are different from Americans and other nationalities. They also describe how the French are evolving in what the authors portray as mostly positive ways. I like to use my kindle to highlight remarkable insight ...more
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Fred Sampson
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book, while slightly dated, a very good introduction to many of the differences between the behaviors and views of French vs Americans. I think it will be quite useful. I discussed some of my discoveries with my French language consultant, who confirmed much.

The only disconcerting issue I found is the authors sometimes use -- in English -- French words that wouldn't be familiar to many Americans. For example, the French "mandat" is equivalent to our "administration" when talking abo
Bianca Picinali
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
An engaging analysis of the French by a French Canadian couple living in France. Through carefully thought out topics of choice the authors use their journalism skills, research and personal conversations and experiences to deduce their conclusions. Their observations and comparisons are illuminating and enjoyable while their positive opinion of the french and delight in studying their subject matter is constant throughout. My most favourite part and takeaway message is the authors rightful insi ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great read that delves into why the French are the way they are. The authors do a stand-up job of mixing together their personal experiences while in France with the history of the country and the history and purpose of its forms of government through the centuries to explain why the French language is so important, why the more functional forms of government were formed the way they were, why you should greet your shopkeepers, and much more. While packed with information, this is a really dig ...more
Hilary Hicklin
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Richard Sweeney
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Just excellent. Taught me so much about French culture and their fragmented government.

Very interesting to learn, for instance, that police are all federal, i.e. there are no local police departments. So police see it as below their stature to ticket people for dog poop on sidewalks..

Also new French citizens are required to fully assimilate into the culture. So in their census they take note of no race, ethnicity, etc. All are simply French.

If you’re going to France — by all means re
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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
“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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