The relationship between France and the United States has often been tense, with one side often criticizing the other for some perceived cultural shortcoming. In recent history, certain popular elements in the United States have begun to label France a nation of weaklings as a result of France’s failure to back the US-led invasion of Iraq. France, in turn, has accused the United States of being aggressive and arrogant. However, a quick perusal of some of the most well-known French quotes will show that France and the US actually have a lot of similarities in thinking and see things the same way. Here’s a sample: you be the judge.
Renard (English) has been quoted:
“The truth is well worth spending a few years without finding.”
This translates to English as “The truth is more valuable if it takes you a few years to find it.” Although we don’t have the exact equivalent in English, we have the idea that if something is too easy, it’s easy to take it for granted.
As a mirror of what is considered the “Protestant work ethic,” consider this quote from the great French writer and philosopher Voltaire: “Work takes away three great evils: boredom, vice, and necessity.”
In Spanish: “Work frees us from three great evils: boredom, vice and misery.” Don’t we have similar values in the United States when it comes to work?
And in this quote from Banville, we see what we think is the very American idea that it’s good to take risks, because “nothing risked, nothing gained.”
In French, “And those who do nothing are never wrong.” The English translation is “Those who never do anything, can never do anything wrong.”
This quote is a good indication that the French probably place similar values on getting out of your comfort zone and just trying, whether or not you’re sure of the outcome and even if you’re afraid to do so. Doesn’t sound so weak to me!
And finally, in a takeoff from our glorified American who “… marches to the beat of a different drummer,” Roland has been quoted as saying, “The world calls those who are not mad at common madness mad.” This translates as “Crazy are labeled those who take no part in common madness.” If that’s not a call for people to follow their hearts and do what’s right, something Americans hold dear, I don’t know what is.