or Foe? by Polly Platt -- The all-time non-fiction
best-seller in English at W.H.Smith and Brentano's in Paris, and
ranked as the #1 book on French Culture on About.com... Over 200,000
copies in print. Now in its third edition and 13th reprint!
Perennial international best-seller since
Translated into French (Ils Sont Fous, ces Français, Bayard
Editions, 1997) and into Japanese (TBS Britannica, Tokyo, 1998)
Required reading in global companies and at U. S. universities
by American business families, tourists and exchange students
French or Foe?
is the essential reference -- as entertaining as it is instructive
-- for visiting France or dealing with and/or living among French
people in France or the United States.
"A LAUGH A PAGE...YET YOU LEARN WHAT YOU NEED!"
does the French greengrocer sell you rotten pears?
Why does your French boss never praise your work?
Why don't French people introduce you?
What should you know about the French to change this?
The splendors of France make it the most frequently visited country
in Europe -- 73 million foreigners in 2000, including 13 million
English-speakers -- and yet the French themselves provoke such angry
is it so hard to get things done in France?
What does it take to do business effectively?
Why are the French so difficult? Are they really so difficult?
Polly Platt maintains -- and proves -- that it's NOT hard to get
things done in France (though it takes longer) and that the French
are NOT difficult -- but different, very, very different....
In French or Foe?, Platt
takes you, step by step -- peppered with funny real-life anecdotes
-- through the things you have to know in order to interact comfortably
with French people and to do business effectively with them, from
explanations of the Six Politeness Codes to buying bread and dealing
with the bureaucracy to, finally, what happens in French companies
and why it happens, and why...
why French meetings don't end in decisions
... why you're better off not saying "tu" at the office
French or Foe? explores
the cultural hurdles to understanding French people...
When and why they might be late
-- Why they seem to be pushing you off the sidewalk
-- Why foreigners say they're rude and arrogant
You get to see Americans and other foreigners at work in France
and hear their tales...
You learn how to be an effective "trailing spouse" at the market
and at the bank...
The Six Codes, including the Magic Words, for dealing with the French:
the Ten Magic Words!
Add "Monsieur" or "Madame" after "bonjour," "au revoir," etc.
out at the door!
text no.1, pp. 64-65
One of Three Tales of Newcomer Bungles:
Bret at the Bakery
with author's comment on what went wrong:
was in a boulangerie, buying a loaf of bread," said
Bret Moran, a banker from Boston. "It was the first time I'd
ventured into a bakery on my own, with my dusty French. I
was very polite and said, 'Bonjour,madame,' the way
you told us last week, and ordered 'un pain de seigle,
s'il vous plaît.' The boulangère wrapped it up
in a tiny square of tissue paper, which she twisted together
at the ends, and thrust it at me. I asked for a bag. 'Un
sac, s'il vous plaît.'
"She refused! And snapped at me in a waterfall of French nastiness!
The bitch! To refuse me a bag!"
"I was so hopping mad when I got out to the sidewalk,
with this bare loaf in this ridiculous piece of tissue paper,
that of course I forgot to watch out. Someone knocked into
me. The bread fell down and rolled in the street, losing the
tissue paper on the way, and ended up -- guess where -- in
a dog mess."
Furious, Bret went back to the boulangerie and ordered
another loaf of bread. He refused to pay for it, claiming
that it was the boulangère's "fault" that the first
one was ruined, and again insisted on a bag: "Un SAC! J'ai
besoin d'un SAC!"
His anger triggered a French fit that made the first "waterfall"
seem like a love song. He not only did not get the bag, but
the boulangère screamed at him that she'd get the police
if he didn't pay. And added that he should never come back
to the store again.
At home he discovered that the loaf was three days old and
hard as rock. "At this point, I hated not only the boulangère
but all of France and everyone in it," he went on. "But not
as much as my wife did. She'd had to hang around all day waiting
for the plumber to fix the washing machine -- who never showed
up. She'd had to cart all the wash for a family of six to
the laundromat -- where she got in a row with the laundress
and had to wait for five loads before she could have it washed.
When I got home, she went for me -- a tantrum such as I'd
never seen. She was ready to dump me and the kids for good
and clear out of France right then and there. We were up half
the night roaring at each other."
After a moment he added, "The next day at the office I thought
my head would split open. Luckily nothing much was going on."
Bret may sound unusually bad-tempered. He's not. Lots of
managers with frayed nerves at the end of a day of frustrations
explode like this.
He didn't make himself known to the boulangère before doing
business with her.
He didn't grasp the inappropriateness of his request (for
the bag) and then devise a strategy for obtaining something
he was not entitled to.
He blamed the boulangère for something. This is always
fatal. See Chapter 6.
Sample text no.2, p.
Gallantry at the office
given by men to women at the office can surprise an Anglo-Saxon.
Mike Johnson, after his year in Paris as editorial director
for Groupe Teste, wrote in Management Today, "In the
office, it is always open season, at least verbally. Legs,
lips, bottoms, breasts, necks and knees are fair game for
the men's respectful consideration. Aside from cheek-pecking,
the fooling around rarely becomes physical. Only once did
I witness an exception. One of my managers playfully grabbed
the left buttock of an art-department mother-of-two... there
was a little yelp (more like a yes than a no) from the woman.
The man explained to me and to her that he was only expressing
his admiration for the roundness of the object, an unavoidable
impulse on purely aesthetic grounds."