Ever see those random people walking around in shirts with Chinese characters and wonder if they know what it says? I have that experience a lot here with the French people wearing American shirts with English words on them. The greatest instance of this was when attending my grandfather’s church one Sunday and seeing a guy wearing something that more or less said “drunk and loaded.” Guy had no idea that he walked into a church with a shirts stated that he had a fire arm and was intoxicated. Go figure. This illustrates a larger point that American culture is hugely popular in France, and the rest of Europe from my understanding. It extends far beyond clothing into tv, movies, music, decor, etc. It many cases American cultures seem to be a hate or love kind of deal, but, for the most part, people love it.
I will paraphrase my dad when describing the American presence on tv: “All the most popular shows here are American. You can find French tv but it’s not very good.” This seems to be the truth as it’s consistently US tv shows I hear people talk about and watch. This goes from big budget shows such as the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to poorly produced soap operas. The goofy reality shows popular in states are over as well with shows like American Pickers, Aquamen, and the like being commonly played on TV. The audio of the original content is simply removed and replaced with a French audio track. Of all the shows that I saw my uncle watch during my time here one was produced in France.
Even with American TV being so all encompassing, I see the greatest amount of influence in Music. A simple example of this would be my little cousins’ dance recital. During this the kids danced to various popular songs from the radio and such. Out of about 15 songs I only remember one being French. Every other song was American.
The French do have some good musicians but the picking are truly slim. I extensively searched for good music so I could expose myself to more French at home but only found one artist I really liked. After a few french songs, you just find yourself craving classic American tunes. The good news is that the radio is full of them.
Music and TV make sense for cultural diffusion but America has creeped into the very homes of French citizens! That’s right I’m talking posters, picture, and even floor plans. My dad provides another example here as he explained how the open kitchen design became popular in Europe. Traditionally, the kitchen had it’s own door and was closed in to separate it from the room adjacent to it (generally the living room), but now styles have followed the American inspired open kitchen plan. That is a kitchen combined into the room adjacent. When my father moved from America to Europe he instituted this early on in his apartment and was told that that was a crazy idea. 10 or so years later and now every apartment has an open kitchen. Us dirty Americans have our hand in every piece of French life.
All the American influence leaves a question: is this a good or bad thing? Hell if I know, but I can share my thoughts; I have mixed feelings about it. I would say bad at times because I feel as if it makes France less unique and more like what I’m used. The threat of Paris losing it’s identity seems to loom in the background. But, for the most part, I see no harm in it. There may be plenty of American influence but the French pick it up and interpret it in their own ways. McDonald’s menu French menu variation is an easy example where they have adopted some typical French meals. It also creates some familiarity for me personally. France isn’t quite so far from home despite what the miles (or kilometers, whatever floats your boat) might say.
A quick note to say that this doesn’t truly cover much of the American and French cultural diffusion. To do so would take pages and pages of writing and more scrutiny in observations. It extends into food, behaivors, products, fashion, etc etc etc. Perhaps that’s an issue that I will fully tackle on some point but today is not that day. Also, happy 4th of July, go ‘Murica!