Remarks before comparing French or American cultures:
France has 18 regions and each of them has its own identity :(http://www.cartesfrance.fr/carte-france-region/carte-france-regions.html)
America has 50 states (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states) and each of them has its own identity and for America each of them can have its own interpretation of the law.
This is why when speaking about French or American particularities, at the risk of giving a caricatured image, I shall draw a portrait of behaviors said “normal” in each country.
Also because societies are changing, countries are changing, people are changing, especially under the new technologies of communication as cellphones, emergence of new geopolitical challenges as the waves of refugees from Africa, making what was considered as true yesterday becoming obsolete quickly.
These are more reasons to have somebody on your side to help you to identify and decrypt the new codes and customs.
a. The implicit
⁃ The French norm is the implicit, meaning that the word is different from the object, the significant is different from the signified. “This puts the communication on the level of the relationship more than on the content ‘(Pascal Baudry; L’autre rive) and this is why the French language is the official language of diplomacy: there is always more to understand than what is said.
⁃ One of the consequences of the French implicit inclination is that French are more attracted to what is complex, more abstract, less pragmatic.
⁃ Because of the impregnation of the Catholic religion, and also because of many wars, it is not only very rude to speak about money or about your richness, but also certainly unwise.
⁃ French people don’t lie more, but they prefer more often to respond to a question by another question or to change the conversation.
d. Body parts
⁃ French people consider that their body is one, and not a sum of parts, and they put privacy/modesty in their way of thinking, feeling and living. Indecency will depend on where the body is exposed and not if the body is exposed.
⁃ France has a Catholic background very heavy and it is still the first religion with 65%, followed by a growing 9% of Islam. More and more Christians are inactive (4.5% go regularly to the church) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_France)
Other particularities that include the respect of hierarchy, the French attitude in front of women, the importance of fashion and style, the cuisine, and so on… In the work place some particularities are often a reason of miscommunication and failure.
a. The Explicit
⁃ The American norm is the explicit, meaning that the word is the object, the map is the territory. One of the consequences is a better transparence (check and balance) and a binary culture. True or false. Importance of having a taxonomy where there is no room for interpretation.
⁃ The pragmatism that is making the American more practical than the French culture.
⁃ Dollar is the smallest common denominator that makes it possible to compare everything, and even in the East Coast among WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) it is considered as rude to speak too much of your wealth.
⁃ Do not lie is the norm and if everybody remembers Bill Clinton’s impeachment, not everybody knows it was because he lied to the Congress by affirming he did not have sex with Monica Lewinski.
⁃ This implies that trust will depend on your sincerity.
d. Body parts
⁃ The relation to the body is very different, because for the Americans the body is made of parts meaning that some are taboo and others are just parts.
⁃ Americans are prude even if online pornography is a flourishing industry in America.
⁃ Religion is always present in America, and all the different religions are represented with a majority of Christians (cf; http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/)
Other particularities of America have a strong influence in the relationship with France.