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Cafe Society: Dispatch from La Rive Gauche

[A dispatch from La Rive Gauche, in the Sunday magazine.]

In Paris, you sit in the cafe, like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Sitting in a cafe is one of the main activities in Paris. It's what Parisians do instead of working or jogging. They have a natural talent for it, the way Americans are good at going to the pool, grilling meat or driving interstate highways.

The crucial skill in a cafe is the ability to gear down, from second to first, and then down yet again to a special, Gallic gear that is nearly paralytic. It's a bit like being dead, but with better coffee.

The chairs in the cafes are lined up in rows, facing outward, toward the theater of Paris street life. Or perhaps it is the patrons who are on display. Their posture says: Here, look at us, full in the face, as we sit in the cafe so brilliantly, thinking our big French thoughts.

Like the other day, I was nursing an expensive thimble of wine in a cafe on the Rue de Something, near the Avenue des Whatevers, and to my immediate left sat a Frenchman in a pose so relaxed he might have been modeling for Toulouse-Lautrec. He was doing nothing, and doing it with panache. Between two fingers dangled a cigarette that remained lit even though he never did anything so animated as puff. It was hard to tell if he was truly drinking his glass of red wine; the level went down so slowly it may have been merely evaporating.

Why did he not try to achieve something? The cafe advertised WiFi, but no one had a laptop. This was not Starbucks. There was no American compulsion to multitask, to use the cafe as a caffeination station and broadband platform for another increment of accomplishment.

Conceivably I could have spoken to the Frenchman, but the language barrier is significant; I am afraid to attempt anything in French in a cafe lest it be incorrect both grammatically and existentially.

Perhaps the Frenchman was dreaming up an elaborate sociohistorical theory, positing that human civilization has been in decline since the invention of the croissant. Or perhaps he was just enjoying the Latin Quarter, a section so old that I am pretty sure its residents still speak in Latin.

The nearby Notre Dame Cathedral was built in the Middle Ages, when the European idea of comic relief was a stone gargoyle. Parisian commerce is quaint, which is to say, hopelessly inefficient, requiring that shoppers pay the equivalent of a charm tax. You go to one little market to buy your cheese, another to buy your jalapenos, another to buy your corn chips, another to buy your salsa; only then can you make nachos.

I had an urge to blast the Frenchman out of his reverie. "Excuse me, I'm from Wal-Mart," I could say. "We're putting in a superstore right over yonder on the Rue Dauphine. Gonna kick some serious retail derriere, ya dig?"

Then, as though he could hear me thinking, the enervated Frenchman finally did something: He looked at his cellphone. Action in the cafe! He didn't make a call, let's be clear on that, but he studied the cellphone. It dawned on me: He was going over all the speed-dial listings of his mistresses.

Now we're getting down to business. Sure, he ponders the big Frenchy thoughts as he camps in the front row of the cafe, but he's also scoping out the Parisian femmes, who are tres magnifique! That is French for "bodacious." These women tend to be slinky and stylish and sophisticated, and they make American women look, by contrast, as though they just fell off a hay wagon. The femmes have an air of saucy liberation. You can imagine that they are writing Volume 4 of their projected nine-volume encyclopedia on les artes erotiques. They're on the chapter about the webbing between the toes. That lovely muscle tone in the upper arms? That's from all the time they spend on the trapeze. (Conceivably this is a projection from the tourist's subconscious: We've seen those subtitled films where a layabout Frenchman does nothing but smoke cigarettes and all the women take off their clothes.)

Eventually, I reached the obvious conclusion that the man beside me was a professional sensualist. It's a job that doesn't exist in America outside of certain Zip codes in California. For the sensualist there are long recessions, even depressions, as the economy of romance goes into a dive. One sits in the cafe and hopes for an upturn in the market.

I sympathize: It's hard work. A grind, at times. But it sure beats the heck out of doing nothing.

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 12, 2006; 10:15 AM ET
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I just call it as I see it.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 12, 2006 10:24 AM | Report abuse

So, Joel, in what way do American women look like they just fell off a hay wagon? There's a column in that question!

Posted by: Slyness | August 12, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

In France, "Merde" is the standard answer to something that you don't like. The word includes pride and defiance to those who are above you. "Dire merde à quelqu'un" ("to say merde to someone") means to challenge someone's authority even if that person or institution is stronger than you are.

Posted by: Loomis | August 12, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

joel, is your 10:24 an answer to slyness at 10:31? *soft twilight zone music*
or are you just responding to all possible umbrage in advance?

compared to the french, i think we all look like we fell off a hay wagon. but hey, we're "proud to be 'merican."

a recent discussion with former europeans about their 6-8 weeks of paid vacation, in france especially, ended with the disclaimer "if you can get a job, of course."

well, i'm glad that joel is back and looking forward to more french kits...

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 12, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Let's tackle Toulouse-Lautrec:

But more than this (the fascination, particularly for French physicians, to search for "Lautrec's" disease) comes from the belief that this gifted painter made his deformity part of his art.

There may be something to this. As one walks through the Musee d'Orsay in Paris or else the museum in Albi, not too far from Toulouse itself, which is dedicaed to his work, what strikes you are the nostrils. In painting after painting--of th dancer La Goulue, the actress Yvette Guilbert, the socialite May Milton, or many other anonymous Parisian demi-mondaines who inhabit Lautrec's art--what we see are nostrils, gaping, dark and cavernous. It is hardly a flattering view (I wonder what the nostrils of the man looked like whom Joel saw at La Rive Gauche?), but perhaps it is one that would have come quite naturally to the artist, for he was rather short. By the time he was full grown, Lautrec was only 150 centimeters (four feet eleven inches) tall. Critics have also argued that Lautrec's disorder had a more subtle effect on his art: a tendency after 1893 to truncate the limbs of his models so that only the heads and torsos remain in the frame, a device for excluding that part of his own anatomy that he would much rather forget: his legs.

"Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body," Armand Marie Leroi, Penguin Group, N.Y., 2003

(It's all about perspective. Lautrec called them, or painted them, as he saw them, too.)

Posted by: Loomis | August 12, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

You know Joel, you could make some serious coin teaching North Americans the fine art of cafe sitting.

You know, this might be one of my new life goals. To learn how to simply sit in a cafe.

Posted by: dr | August 12, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

dr, you must first spend a year just meditating on the concept of sitting in the cafe. Only then can you attempt it. It's like the Zen way of learning the bow-and-arrow.

I welcome umbrage. The more the better. Though I will probably be offline and unable to give the umbrage the full attention it surely will deserve. At the risk of being accused of backpeddling I will note that, historically, I have been partial to the all-American, corn-fed, just-fell-out-of-a-hay-wagon look.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 12, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Certainly sitting in a Paris cafe' sounds wonderful, except for that part about having to get on an airplace to get there! Also sounds better than another "honey-do" Saturday. Probably going to go house-looking tomorrow; trying to gear up for the sticker shock.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 12, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I think I'd be a natural at cafe sitting! OK, I'd probably have to have a book too, in case the view was not so interesting. As for French women with style, I'm sure it's true. And compared to American women, I look like I just came from plowing the field. When I studied Japanese, I felt like a clumsy oaf, next to my graceful, charming, impeccably dressed Japanese teachers.

Toulouse Latrec was an inch taller than me! Ha! Sometimes I think my mission in life is to make short people feel tall.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 12, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

This is mean, but I found this article about Paris (Hilton) quite amusing:

"I don't view kinkajous as aggressive animals. The same kind of thing could have occurred with a German Shepherd," Mintz said.

My reaction is, let's get her a pit bull! (That's definitely mean - on many levels -a thousand apologies.) Hahahaha.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 12, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

How very interesting, this very day, to have a look at...hmmm...mellow hardly gets it. But you get a hint of nostalgia for a breed that, while not perky, at least does not, like us, send cluster bombs to the savage Israelis for use on civilians. Nostalgia hardly gets it...

Posted by: social studies | August 12, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, French women. The men aren't bad either.

The impossibility of describing what makes the French special is illustrated by the number of French phrases we employ in the attempt. We say, she has that certain "je ne sais quoi." She is "soignee." French people exhibit "savoir faire" and "joie de vivre." None of that translates; if it did, we'd just say it in English.

When the movie "Le Divorce" came out, I thought it would be wonderful, but it turned out to be rather mediocre. Even so, it includes valuable information about French culture, in contrast to our own. For instance, there is a whole montage about the various ways that French women wear scarves.

And Thierry L'Hermitte, well, speaking in English I don't have the words to say how wonderful he is. I didn't like the movie, really, but I watched it a second time just to look at him.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 12, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Do you think the French sit at cafes because they don't have porches? Or do they?

Posted by: a bea c | August 12, 2006 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you have to keep in mind that the person sitting next to you might have been a foreigner aswel, another tourist.
Because the French I know talk a lot in cafés. They are hardly silent.

It is true that working on your laptop in a café is not done in Galic (France, Belgium) Europe. Bars are places for socialising or pondering the state of the world, not for working.

As for the women, I think the difference is the way make-up is applied. Over here it's done a little more subtily. They use less rouge and lighter colors on the eye lids. That gives women a more natural look.

Posted by: Eurotrash | August 12, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Joel's mention of Simone de Beauvoir got me thinking about Raymond Fosca (All Men Are Mortal). I can imagine he'd sit at a cafe and have that look of bored indifference down pat. I should read that book next week. Haven't read it yet this year.

Posted by: a bea c | August 12, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't know Joel, Either you were sitting in a different sidewalk cafe or things have changed a lot since my wife and I enjoyed the experience for about a week about 10 years ago. Then the cafes were pretty boisterous with everyone chowing down of steamed mussels and frits accompanied with quart sized ice cold mugs of Hienkins.
The street scene was watching slim French women dressed in slacks bustling past eating on the run those fantastic sandwiches made on a slim short french roll that are sold on the sidewalk from little square glassed in booths. My wife's observation was they stay slim by eating on the run and never setting down.
I think the Frence drink Hienkins because it isn't a German beer. Perhaps eurotrash can confirm something I heard that Hienkins can't be sold in Germany because it doesn't confirm to the German formula for beer.
With all the kit required for mussels, frits and mugs of beer, there isn't room for a laptop on the tiny tables at a sidewalk cafe.

Posted by: bh | August 12, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse


She has "that certain... special... something..."


At least I know my "raison d'etre"...


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 12, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse


I just had my first moules frites of the year today, so it's funny you mention them.
They are our national dish.
The Belgian version is better because we use different mussels. Ones that come from the estuary of the Scheld river. (just over the border in Holland) They are very big and succulent, and we Belgians buy the whole stock every year.
They have become very expensive. I noticed that the supermarket offered cheaper Greek mussels this year.
Verry invironmentaly friendly, flying those suckers in from the other side of Europe.

I think you meant Heineken beer. If it's not sold in Germany it's probably because it's realy realy bad compaired to the local beer. (or any beer for that matter.)
The French beer "par excelence" is Kronenbourg. It sounds German, but is from France. It think the Alsase region. One can find nearly everywhere.

Posted by: Eurotrash | August 12, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

And nobody does it better, Scotty.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 12, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse


But sometime you wish someone would??

*making sure my Union Jack parachute is properly packed while looking over my shoulder for any large men with metal teeth*


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 12, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

What I know of Paris is from French movies and French-esque movies like Linklater's "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset". In the latter case, things started out pretty leisurely, but didn't stay that way. Having encountered these illusions, it would be a shame to visit the actual city, only to be disabused.

Beside, I just figured out the Japan itinerary for October. Gotta watch "Le Samouraï" on dvd.

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | August 12, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Yes, my bad spelling. It's strange about Heineken being consider poor. I have read it's the largest selling beer worldwide. It was the featured beer in the hotel mini bars in Mexico City '81-'82. Probably because intense global marketing and distribution. Something like Bud here in the states. When I was working in Scotland '83 Bud had a big push on there and Scots I knew despised it. But I thought it was a lot better than some stuff they drank like "Shandy". I thought Bud was on par with the largest selling scottish lager "Tennent's". But maybe Tennent's was popular then because it came with a picture on the can of a different scantly clad young lady every month. Here in Northern Califorina and Oregon micro breweries produce some good stuff but it is expensive and usually can't be found in stores outside the local area.

Is Kronenbourg widely distributed?

While on a vacation to Florence, Italy we took a bike ride up out the west side of town to go up and return down the Roman highway. We stopped at a wayside and inn and tried to order a sample of an Italian beer. No such luck, only german was avaliable. We only found Italian beer in Sicily.

Posted by: bh | August 12, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

If its going to take a year of meditating to prepare for sitting in a cafe, I'd best go make a tidy corner in which to do it.

This is starting to sound like real work.

I am doing laundry today, and realized that my wardrobe only aspires to look like I fell off a hay wagon. The look is more akin early 20th century bum, so I think tommorrow I shall go shopping. My husband will no doubt thank you.

Posted by: dr | August 12, 2006 5:46 PM | Report abuse

We literary types were sitting in Gemini Ink, a writers' collaborative several weeks ago on a Friday night, when the emphasis was on three winners, women all, who had competed and taken top honors in the first "Celebrate San Antonio" writers' contest--poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. An august panel of writers, well-known locally, also read some of their works; the evening concluding with the published, the finalists, and the assembled all pondered the meaning of San Antonio.

One writer, African-American Sterling Houston, read a short story he had written, a moving and humorous piece about when he first became aware of race, specifically racial differences. Sterling's writing, more than the three others--a Chicana poet, a Jewish journalist, and an Anglo historian transplanted from the Northeast--piqued my interest.

I think the same could be asked of when one first realizes European-ness. The incredible taste of French mustard compared with the French's mustard you were served growing up. The British love of quality goods rather than quantity goods. The Germans' complete openness about their bodies--I first noticed at a large lakeside swimming pool, when the drape--a blanket or beach towel, around a swimmer changing clothes was held up casually and quite carelessly by his friends. The wholesome and naturalness attitudes of the Swedes with sex and sexuality.

Posted by: Loomis | August 12, 2006 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, you are absolutely right. Quality over quantity. That is not just the British. I noticed Germans are the same way. So, when they work less hours and get paid slightly less, they are fine because they don't need one hundred outfits in their wardrobe or a garage full of boxes of stuff they have not unpacked since they moved seven years ago (like my neighbor). So they have time to sit at the corner cafe and watch the world and let their blood pressure be normal.

Posted by: a bea c | August 12, 2006 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, is the short story available online? I'd like to read it.

Posted by: a bea c | August 12, 2006 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Back home from Myrtle Beach. It took an eight-hour drive to get here, but at least we could carry all the liquids and gels we liked without being hassled. The Myrtle Beach Experience, as always, consisted of lounging in the sun, drinking bizarre rum-based beverages, eating much fried food, and purchasing colorful shirts. In other words it was sequential damage to epidermis, liver, circulatory system, and bank account.

We had a lot of fun.

And in honor of Joel's French Adventure, I can report that a modest sand castle whose architectural motif was based loosely on the Cathedral of Notre Dame was recently constructed. It had eerily realistic gargoyles and buttresses flying all over the place. It was a thing of beauty, for my children are chock full of artistic talent.

Which is why I let them help.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 12, 2006 8:23 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: kbertocci | August 12, 2006 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Here is a guy that seems to "get it" where W and staff don't.

I'm sure he doesn't have any voice in the Pentagon or the State Dept.

Posted by: bh | August 12, 2006 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Bah. Enjoy fancing yourself as Sarte or de Beauvoir, and looking for meaning at the bottom of your glass of red wine.

Me, I'm hanging with the Dadaists, drinking beer and making high art out of armpit f@rt noises.

Hmph, just thought of a young lady I dated off and on in HS and college; one of those tres magnifique femmes you spoke of. That lady hadn't crossed my mind in a long, long time...


Posted by: bc | August 12, 2006 10:15 PM | Report abuse

I remember a French nurse named Marie who worked nights in the ICU. She was a very hard worker. But she always smelled bad because she ate a lot of garlic. Good for digestion she would say. Guess that's why she worked nights. I think she did just fall off the hay wagon. So there.

Posted by: Random Commenter | August 13, 2006 1:01 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. The French. The art of sitting, and doing absolutely nothing. Sounds wonderful. I know nothing about the French. Not even the language. But it sounds wonderful to be in this place, and see the sights, if only those mentioned in this kit.

Glad you enjoyed your beach trip, RD. Too many people at Myrtle Beach for me, and the too expensive for my pocketbook.

a bea c, sorry about getting overlooked in the job thing. Don't give up, you'll probably get an even better job.

I'm probably one of those women that looked like I fell off a wagon. As someone mentioned in the last kit, " bet you're fat", would definitely apply to me. But working on it.

Yesterday turned out to be a nice day, although it rained barrels full to start the day off. G-girl still here. Want to go to church this morning, and perhaps try to take in the park afterwards. It's been so hot, the playground equipment is too hot to get on, but I'm hoping that won't be the case today. G-girl gets so lonesome without other kids to play with. She misses her cousins, my grandsons.

I certainly hope your weekend is going good. Joel, I'm looking forward to other kits about the French. I'm glad you're back and not having to face that air travel.

May all come to know that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 13, 2006 3:25 AM | Report abuse

Round two of the dog show beckons. We took a subjective third yesterday, largely because of faults on the part of the handler (me). Today will be better as we have a legitimate chance at takig best of breed. Slyness and TBG: Have a great time at the inagural Southern Regional BPH.

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Good luck, jack! We're rooting for you and the dog!

Posted by: Slyness | August 13, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

It is Sunday! The kids have been looking forward to the Watermelon Festival all summer, and it is finally here. Hope everyone has a Sunday as great as I'm expecting mine to be.

Cassandra, have fun with the g-girl. How old is she? Maybe you can plan for a road trip with her and go to the Science Museum in Durham. How far are you from that? It is my son's favorite spot on Earth, other than Five Guys, of course.

Posted by: a bea c | August 13, 2006 7:55 AM | Report abuse

good Morning! It's Sunday and my goal, although impossible, is to do nothing today. I think that my religion forbids work, so for the first time in a long while, I'm going to put in a little effort practising my faith and remembering the Holy Sabbath, which got switched from Saturday to Sunday, but I went to church yesterday, and for Catholics, it "counts".

Earlier this week, the Almighty Boss tossed a lightening bolt my way and took out my router, hub and network card. I was lucky once again though. No damage was done that money couldn't fix. I was without power on tuesday morning, and the only thing that changed in my morning get-to-work routine was that I used the gas grill on my deck to boil water for my morning coffee. The whistling kettle woke up the neighbor's dog.

Rd, glad to see you back. Tomatoes? I'm getting over a pound a day, but my cucumbers and zucchini are barely producing.

Posted by: Pat | August 13, 2006 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Pardon me while I drift back to the vicinity of the day's topic:

Joel, you may be a little late to catch this trend, but books set in France (especially Paris)apparently are hot now:

From today's NYTimes:

"The most successful recent novel set in Paris is not at all serious and has been written by a man. Stephen Clarke's novel, first published in Britain in 2004, recounts the adventures of Paul West, a 27-year-old Englishman who comes to Paris to help open a chain of British tearooms. (The unprintable title refers to a French word for the ubiquitous dog excrement on Paris sidewalks.)"

[note for journalism geeks: the "unprintable word" is "merde" and in fact the New York Times has printed it on numerous occasions; my search of the site came up with 13 examples]

Posted by: kbertocci | August 13, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of the NYT and the difference between Europeans and Americans regarding terrorism, NBC raised this question of the timing of the arrests of the alleged liquid-bomb terrorists--both during its news broadcast last night and at its website:

NBC News
Updated: 7:13 p.m. CT Aug 12, 2006
LONDON - NBC News has learned that U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.

A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

NYT this morning follows the same angle:

The British, they say, are more willing to wait and watch.

Although details of the British investigation remain secret, Bush administration officials say Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, was for at least several months aware of a plot to set off explosions on airliners flying to the United States from Britain, as well as the identity of the people who would carry it out.

British officials suggested that the arrests were held off to gather as much information as possible about the plot and the reach of the network behind it. Although it is not clear how close the plotters were to acting, or how capable they were of carrying out the attacks, intelligence and law enforcement officials have described the planning as well advanced. ...

The differences in counterterrorism strategy reflect an important distinction between the legal systems of the United States and Britain and their definitions of civil liberties, with MI5 and British police agencies given far greater authority in general than their American counterparts to conduct domestic surveillance and detain terrorism suspects.

Britain's newly revised terrorism laws permit the detention of suspects for 28 days without charge. Prime Minister Tony Blair's government had been pressing for 90 days, but Parliament blocked the proposal. In the United States, suspects must be brought before a judge as soon as possible, which courts have interpreted to mean within 48 hours. Law enforcement officials have detained some terrorism suspects designated material witnesses for far longer. (The United States has also taken into custody overseas several hundred people suspected of terrorist activity and detained them at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants.)

Posted by: Loomis | August 13, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

May be the man in the French cafe was wondering about the 34 pieces of information the U.S. government would want about him if he were to visit America:,,2087-2310626,00.html

Air delays grow as US demands more security
Dipesh Gadher

PASSENGERS on transatlantic flights from Britain are facing cancellations and severe delays after the American authorities imposed new security requirements in the wake of last week's foiled airliner bomb plot.

Ministers have been warned by airlines in Britain that the U.S. checks, which require 34 separate pieces of information on each passenger to be sent to America before a plane takes off, are "unsustainable" and "impractical."

They are likely to lead to further disruption this week following the travel chaos caused by raised security threat levels in Britain and America last Thursday.

It has also emerged that the government's ban on hand luggage has dramatically increased the time taken to screen hold baggage. ...

The additional US security restrictions, however, are of significant concern, with British operators fearing delays to transatlantic services this week of up to five hours.

The problem revolves around a system called the Advance Passenger Information System (Apis), which requires European airlines to send the US authorities 34 separate items of data for each passenger.

Until last Thursday, this information was sent when planes took off, and checked while they were in the air. America is now demanding to vet the data before planes depart.

Posted by: Loomis | August 13, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link to the NYT review of English-language books about Paris. Too funny.:

"This is cliché Paris," said Marie Babin-Burke, the buyer of new fiction for W H Smith, the English-language bookstore on the Rue de Rivoli. "People who read these books aren't interested in what really happens at different levels of society. They're into the fantasy Paris, the Paris of sophistication and magic and Champagne drinking." The display tables of W H Smith are filled with novels set in Paris, next to the guidebooks to Paris, histories of Paris and memoirs about Paris.

Alas, the plots may not surprise, the prose may not dazzle critics.

But, Ms. Babin-Burke said, "even clichés can be more than nice."

Posted by: Loomis | August 13, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

All this time I thought I was simply sinking in a morass of depression & lassitude and anergia.

It turns out I'm simply feeling my French genetics for lassiez-faire and sleeping in haystacks like a french peasant.

Like MostlyLurking, I'm shorter than Toulouse-Lautrec and I have NEVER been tempted to make nostrils a prominent feature in my portraiture. Actually from what I can see, he didn't, either.

What he does is either paint them on a nearly level perspective, or from a slight upwards angle (sometimes not so slight, in his spontaneous action paintings in which he could not have the pose held suitably. Lender dancing the Bolero is a particular case in point but even then her nostrils are not caverns.)

Mutations aside, the evidence of Goya's deafness influencing his artwork as he adapted to being deaf (he went deaf in 1792) is much more compelling, because you can see a change from his early mannered courtly paintings to a more and more bold approach to painting, using art to evoke emotion more than detail.

Even 1-2 years after he became deaf, you see a dramatic change in tone in some paintings, but it is not until past 1800 or so that I see the total abandonment of his old style.

Unfortunately the paintings here are not in chronological order.

Look at his early paintings and then the paintings from 1813 and afterwards (3rd of May and The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, the dog on the leash, Old Men Eating Soup.

You can see a wide ranger of experimentation, an narrower color palette to convey a particular mood more, and more of an emphasis on body language or facial expression. And yeah, he became really dark.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 13, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I love it. Eurocentrism in action. Anyone note that the Brits have, not once, but twice, suffered actual terrorist bombings in the last year, AND, not once, but twice, shot the wrong person in counterterrorism raids? And, that's with unrestricted wiretapping, the Secret Powers Act, and holding citizens incommunicado without charges domestically. And, my God, George Bush is checking caller IDs and toll records. The horror! The Brits are standup guys and gals, but, let's face it, US agencies do more with less and face unwarranted, withering criticism from partisan hacks for far, far less.

Posted by: Viva La Difference | August 13, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Viva, you illustrate perfectly why unrestricted police powers don't solve much when it comes to fighting terrorism.
And if US agencies always used warrants, they wouldn't get "unwarranted" criticism.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 13, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

If push comes to shove, Toulouse Lautrec painted from his studio in Montmartre--on Le Rive Droite! (NOT Le Rive Gauche...)

He's most famous for his paintings of prostitutes and the dancing girls of the Moulin Rouge. When he paints from the perspective of below stage level, the faces are moderately distorted, as they would be in a photograph, as well.

Posted by: Loomis | August 13, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Think of the business opportunities in this Kit...a bus tour for tourists of the professional sensualists of northern California--in zips 95521 and 96150.

Posted by: Loomis | August 13, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you can do better than this! I like your stuff when I come across it on the WaPo online, mate, but I cringe when a person with your sophistication falls into the "Aw shucks we're just bumpkins, us Merkins" schtick. I'm a Merkin too, even though my wife and I emigrated to Australia last year to escape fascism.

When we go to France, we don't feel second-class because we aren't Parisians. We sit at cafes sipping cafe or wine, looking at people and talking to ourselves, but doing so as un-self conscious Americans. You probably know this already, Joel, but even other Frenchmen and women feel outclassed by Parisians. They talk faster there, dress more chic-ly and have an air of superiority. (So our friends in the outlying regions tell us.) It's like the New York vibe to people from the rest of the country.

But Paris is filled with newcomers -- that's part of its atmosphere. Only a Parisian can pass for one. There's no point in trying to if you're not, but also no point in feeling bad if you aren't. Would you feel bad if you were in the Bronx and couldn't act like a native?

I say be proud to be who you are; a relatively suave example of your own culture. I am when I'm in other countries, even Down Under here. I'm not gauche and tackily dressed as per the American stereotype. And don't fall back on the "I'm a dumb American." Give us a column about how to be a good Yank overseas. I know you are!

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | August 13, 2006 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Some people spend their time doing nothing and some others think they do a lot more by watching them!

This article is just RIDICULOUS. I've been living in the US for almost 2 years now and I'm fed up with this systematic French bashing. Journalists are just good enough to spread prejudices whether French or American.

For those that still don't know yet, there is the same proportion of nice, intelligent, beautiful, ugly, lazy... people in France as in the US. And unfortunately probably the same proportion of stupid journalist in the US as in France ...

A French guy that loves American people.

Posted by: a French guy | August 13, 2006 8:46 PM | Report abuse

a bea c, I'm about two hours from Durham, perhaps two and half hours. We stayed in church most of the day. The g-girl got a chance to play with some kids at a friends's house. I think she enjoyed herself. She's knocked out now, so tired. And so am I.

If we're not bashing religion, we've got to bash something. Gee, folks take a break. Love the kit, Joel. I just want to know about the French, their everyday lives, what they do. It's interesting to me. And for me, it would be interesting if they lived on Mars. Remember people I live in a small town, I have not seen much of this big world. I know, check out a book.

The worms got my tomatoes. I have a few, but they're not producing much. Green peppers totally gone.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 13, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Back from the dog excercise in ameteurism. Our bench (female), to use our son's version of the word, finished third today and yesterday. From a judge's point of view, we had just fallen from the hay wagon. Makes sense to me, since we had not been in the ring for nearly six months. I was told that I need to loosen up. Lord only knows what that means. Our boy got a look, but not best of breed. We were told that we have some dues to pay before we can expect to achieve this award at competition. Merde.

Maybe the guy in the cafe was Hari Seldon...

As far as American women looking frumpy, one need look no further than LA and NYC. The west coast look is rather natural, but one may not realise it until travelling from LA directy to NYC. The women in the latter metropolis look overdone ala street walkers compared to those in the former.

As for bashing our worldly bretheren, that's hardly the case. Hang around the boodle and see for yourselves...then pechez la mouche.

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 10:02 PM | Report abuse

BTW, whilst travelling through Winston-Salem, my wife and I simultaneously commented on the large, pale, domed, skyscraper that dominates the city skyline, looking rather phallic as a result. We both concluded it to be the world HQ of all of male enhancement e-mails.

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

"Pay your dues?" Suck up, look professional, have your dogs look professional and not too goofy-friendly, and bribe a few judges?

The thing is, people who handle dogs in a subculture of the dog world do tend to evolve their own variation on what is proper handling, all the little bells and whistle, the liver-breath kiss and handshake that says you're in the "in group." Or so I like to hallucinate.

Transitioning from one subculture to another can be a major culture shock. For instance, service dog handling is like major nazidom to some pet dog trainers, they don't get why the handler makes a big deal over little things.

The top reason is the dog has to be a "show dog" in a sea of idiots who don't know that service dogs are still... dogs at heart.

Compared to the stress in SD handling, I'd probably find a show ring... stressful too because beauty contests are not MY THING.

"Oh your dog doesn't cross his paws when he sits, the judge likes paw-crossers. And you should have brought liver, the judge's allergic to peanut butter."

Later on you hear the judge saying 'That new guy, man, you can smell that liver breath a mile off. I couldn't focus on the dog, my eyes were watering. And that guy kept hissing "crossmph", too.'

Then you know you've been the victim of hazing intended to make you rattled enough to lose. Dogs are dogs and people will be people.

Glad you're back and none the worse for wear. I'll never learn the show dog subculture-- I saw "Best in Show" and that was enough for me.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 13, 2006 10:36 PM | Report abuse

This is so on the mark! If only you would have continued the story to say that after the cigarette and wine was gone he jumped into his Renault and drove as fast and as reckless as possible to the next cafe and did the same thing. It would have been my impression of most of the Parisians I observed when I visited Paris.

"Professional sensualist"...perfect coined PC term for lazy bastards. Bravo!

Posted by: kc | August 13, 2006 10:55 PM | Report abuse

It's summer, with only a promise of surf at the beach and it's too dry for the yard to look like a proper tropical paradise. The caladiums are going into hibernation. We Floridians are hiding in air-conditioned boxes. No wonder the local Target is adding a Starbucks.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 13, 2006 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod: We never dreamed that we'd sho dogs. The arena is sooooo political. In the passt, I've likened it to a Dead show, sober. The mix of people is that ecclectic. Luckily, the folks we're acquainted with are well grounded, at least in my book. IMHO, most of the judges we cross paths with interpret the standard for our breed a bit differently than we do. Our dogs are an extension of us (I refer to myself, my wife and our children). More often than not they cut up in the ring. Thanks to our handler (quite reasomnable, and very nice)we have a champion. We don't have to show the other two, and frankly, the dogs don't like it. Thus, our sho days in the future will probably be spent spectating and speculating about which dogs should have won. Best In Show is so close to the truth...BTW, the handler behind me this weekend, unbeknownst to me until after the fact, violated etiquette and kept running up on me and my female. Rattled my dog, as a matter of fact. He took winners b1tch both days and breed today. If I ever cross paths with him again, I'll ever so subtly let my feelings be known. I may simply blow my nose at him.

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

SCC's's late and my fingers have become clumsy from fatigue...must turn my attention back to the laundry

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 11:38 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I NEVER put bait in my mouth. That's the most vile thing I've ever seen. Dog germs...UGGGGGGGH

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'll assume the persona of Frankenturd: " Do dat again and I'm gonna stomp yur ba11s and make you eat yur feet"...

Posted by: jack | August 13, 2006 11:46 PM | Report abuse

You people are ignorant...
I am sick of reading stuoid stuff about french people or french cultures through media. The way we live in France is the way we live, period. You do not like it, fine. But let me clear on a poit, if you were living in France for as long as I did, believe me you would enjoyed every seconds of your life. Life is to be enjoyed, not to be multitasks. We like sitting in cafes, fine, you like watching TVs and do nothing but watch your stupid shows on those stupid machine. You like chatting on your computers from a cafe, fine, we do enjoy going cafes with friends to start non-virtual conversations.
Here is the difference, but once again you are just judging on what you see and not on what you are drowned into (your cultures).
Secondly, you said the our country is economicaly declining... Really? You are a journalist, maybe you should review your subject before writing erroneous stuff.
Believe me I read a lot of articles about France, but that is the most ridiculous one I ever read.

Posted by: Flo | August 14, 2006 3:41 AM | Report abuse

Your article is ridiculous, and I follow Flo way.
First, you're talking about wine. For sure, it's not California wine, so, don't forget where the wine comes from. For sure not from America.
Second if you look at him like this, it's mean you did same before he came right? You really had nothing to do? Nowhere to go? There is many things to do at Paris, it's a city with history, not same than all your cities without history... And you not even try to make conversation... Can't speak french? so some of yours should stop laughting when french try to speak YOUR language. We make effort. Do you really do?
And third, if you cannot apreciate simple life, relaxing, so don't come in my country, and watch your own problems. We can write many strange things american people do too!
One French guy, who's proud of be French.

Posted by: Cedric | August 14, 2006 4:38 AM | Report abuse

Joel, this is a short recipe to produce "animation" in a French cafe among plenty of French people "spending time doing nothing" :

1- Find a totally old-fashion French cafe in the "Quartier Latin" but a cafe where people are speaking Parisian-French, not Latin. (Remark: I am surprised that you cannot speak French, at least for ordering a coffee. Common American people are not as ignorant as you are hopefuly but it is another strory...)

2- Ask for a "Starbucks-type" viril drink such as a "double caramel macchiato, skim milk, double shot, extra hot..." something ... This kind of drink is preferred by workaddicted Wallstreet's pinguins (wearing the same suit) that I can see each morning speeding to be on time when the market opens or by overweighted American joggers running 5 minutes and spending 1 hour absorbing their carbohydrates...

3- Observe the reaction of the tenant...if he does not kick your American ass out his shop, you are a lucky guy or he is too polite for you.

4- So, next time you want to publish this p..o..s kind of article, please, think twice, and before to write it in English, try to write in French, for sure it will temper your ambition.

Posted by: Jerome | August 14, 2006 4:42 AM | Report abuse

Generally in France, people buys different components of a meal at different places because every shop has its own speciality :

The taste (the feeling french people have when they eat) is more important than the time spent to find the components. And it is not as longer as you should think to find all of these.

(btw, nachos is quite a pathetic example and good illustration of what frenchies think about US way of cooking...)

Posted by: manu | August 14, 2006 4:54 AM | Report abuse

Votre article est vraiment excellent! Nous avons beaucoup ri en le lisant.

Faute de temps (je travaille au moins 60h par semaine), je ne pratique l'«Art de ne rien faire» que le dimanche après-midi, après la sieste. Mon épouse, américaine, a mis des années à comprendre cette façon de ne rien faire qu'ont les Français, mais elle a fini par s'y mettre aussi. Comme quoi, même les Américains peuvent y parvenir...

Posted by: Remi | August 14, 2006 5:07 AM | Report abuse

Merci aux amis francais qui ont contribue aujourd'hui!

If M. Achenbach didn't love France, he wouldn't have spent his vacation there with his family. So if something seemed negative to you about his view of les francais, you have misinterpreted it.

Speaking for myself, I definitely love France and I like Parisians at least as much as I like New Yorkers.

French readers: please come back, and join in our discussion. I was really thrilled this morning to find these trans-Atlantic comments here.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 5:28 AM | Report abuse

I have one word for this article : "lamentable".

Posted by: frenchman | August 14, 2006 6:15 AM | Report abuse

i don't know how you've done it. you've ticked off the french and you've ticked off the americans. with one article. that's quite an achievement.
but i enjoyed the article. i think you're right.the french have a lazy sensuality to their movements that simply cannot be cultivated. i think they are born to it.
and doing nothing,is really an art. to be able to pause completely (not just physically)is hard to do.i've been doing yoga for a while now and that is my aim. although i must admit that a cafe in paris is a much better place to practise that,than my living room.

Posted by: sushmita | August 14, 2006 6:42 AM | Report abuse

Chill, folks! It's a HUMOR column. It's meant to be FUNNY.

Great time was had yesterday at the first Southern BPH. Hubby and I met the G's for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. TBG has a lovely family, and of course we laughed at each other's stories throughout the meal. Yes, I have a picture and will post it tonight.

Posted by: slyness | August 14, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

First I apologize for my english. Then, even if I think this article was very funny, I also think it's a little fast to extrapolate just ONE man at a cafe to ALL the French people. It's right to say that here in Paris, we can see a lot of people in the cafes, taking time to see the city goes by. But most of this people are tourists who try to live this cliché!
It's also right to say that, we, french people, are a real culture in the art of do nothing. But we work hard for doing it. I suggest you a good novel to 'understand' France, and Paris in particular. It's a novel from an Australian Girl who moves in Paris. The title is 'Almost French', the author is Sarah Turnbull. It explain a lot of our way of life .

Once again, I'm sorry for my english, but doing nothing means don't learn foreign language...
Have a good day

Coyote from Paris

Posted by: Coyote | August 14, 2006 7:51 AM | Report abuse

i'm parisian and I was amazed how this journalist believe that everyfrenchman live under the eiffel tower and that "wall mart" was an american idea.
OF what i know, "Carrefour" is the firt superstore ever opened and that was in 1959 in france. there is about 60 of those store around paris, 300 in france and more than 4000 around the world exept in the US where wall mart control the market. (there are forbiden in paris downtown to keep the charm of the city. For him, we are doing nothing? so how do we got one of the strongest economy on earth? with all those huge group? universal music, michelin, aibus, danon, l'oreal, virgin megastore, motel6, sanofi lab ( ambien, lexapro etc},Gemalto (microship maker including the american electronic passport)and many other company not only cheese and wine has americans like to believe. cheese and wine represent 0,3% of the french economy.
france is also slightly the same size than california but its highway network is twice longer...
however i cannot blame americans because most of the people in france are also ignorant about americans and think that everyone lives in skycrappers and that the US is a huge battle field for gang people. I know that its wrong idea cause i've been then.
whatever if you want to know more about france read this descriptive article here...
or pop me an email
I'd be happy to advice any one who want to visit and don't forget... if you have clichee you'll see what you are expecting to see...

Posted by: thierry | August 14, 2006 8:02 AM | Report abuse


It might be time to put "Daily Observations and HUMOR" back into the Achentitle...


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 14, 2006 8:16 AM | Report abuse

...and maybe add "a venue for civil discourse"...

Posted by: jack | August 14, 2006 8:27 AM | Report abuse

See, the French are such snobs that they can't take a joke at their expense. Even though they do that to themselves all the time--look at most French films!! Ah, well, maybe you had to be there. Spent most of yesterday laying pavers next to the carport so we could move the shed for the trash cans alongside to be accessible in inclement weather. The old saying about 2 or 3 trips to the hardware store still holds true!

Posted by: ebtnut | August 14, 2006 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Yes, we need a report on Carrefour, which seems to have been the inspiration for Oregon's Fred Meyer chain, whose stores typically have entrances on three sides, depending on whether you want groceries, clothes, or hardware.

Not to mention that Wal-Mart's hypermarkets are busy selling Président French-made Swiss cheese cheaper than the domestic US version.

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | August 14, 2006 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Ah yes, endless trips to the hardware are normal for me whenever I undertake such tasks, eb. I trust you tamped the floor beneath your pavers and sanded the joints for a proper DIY looking job...

Posted by: jack | August 14, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

At least we Americans know why *we're* the butt of jokes.

jack, I did get the Hari Seldon reference, though I don't think Hari spent any time in France between Helicon and Trantor.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Once again, don't put all the french people in the same bag (it's a french expression, I don't if it mean something in english, but whatever). It's not because SOME french answer here with a kind anger that none of us understand this article. Read some of the first comments post by french. There is even one in French !

So please, don't be silly, who cares about wall mart or Carrefour or Auchan ?

It's obvious french and american people are different on matter of spending time. But it's also what make us so charming

Posted by: Coyote | August 14, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Coyote, I think it has been fun to have all the comments from French readers and I hope y'all will drop in from time to time to give opinions on other issues.

Posted by: newkid | August 14, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

C'est vrai, Coyote. Vive la difference!


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 14, 2006 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Coyote, this is a very silly place. And you are more than welcome here.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

That's true. While parisians work for 50 hours in a week, even in August, Paris is full of lazy people sitting in café, doing nothing, but eating cheese and drinking wine. In paris, they are called TOURISTS.

Paris doesn't need all these tourists, even if they are welcomed, especially when they love our real culture and patrimoine (=litterature, philosophy, mathematics ..) more than the usual cliché "art de vivre" (wines, cheese, perfumes).
Selling airplanes, nuclear plants, or softwares is far more interesting for our treasury than managing millions of tourists each year.

Posted by: Tristan | August 14, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

yeah ebnut you must be right we are so snob...
no joke, I'm not angry an i do take this aticle with a smile ,but i also try to teach people to distinguished cliche and reality.

after what have nice day in Washington or in Paris.
un pti bonjour pour les Parigos...

Posted by: thierry | August 14, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I could have sworn that this column makes more fun of the Americans than of the French.

But it is great to hear the new voices. Maybe this is the first step in the globalization of the Achenblog.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 14, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

The column is full of ADMIRATION for the French.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 14, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Today London's Guardian and Times are reporting a new addition to the blogosphere--Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran!

One may post to Ahmadinejad's blog in any of four languages--Farsi, French, English and American. *w*

Scottynuke, just think of the possibilities of discussing nuclear (or nucular) arms and regulatory issues directly with the Iranian president himself. Forget layers of bureacracy--a one-on-one!

Posted by: Loomis | August 14, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

And we THANK YOU !!!


Posted by: Coyote | August 14, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Joel, the only truly funny American is Jerry Lewis.

You didn't mention him or say "Hey, laa-dy!" in this RD, maybe that's where all this FrancoUmbrage came from.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Joel - I hope you mean the first step in making your blog MORE GLOBAL! :)

Posted by: dmd | August 14, 2006 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Let's rent Daniel Auteuil movies.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | August 14, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

My previous comment was to Joel of course. I'm far from being a specialist in nucl(e)ar power source...

have a nice day.

Read you later

Posted by: Coyote | August 14, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

BTW, yes, I found this RD highly amusing, at my expense (being an American and all).


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Well, that pretty much shoots the notion of French subtlety, sophistication and savoire faire all to hell.

Two of my favorite things about Toulouse Latrec are that I'm waaaaaaaaay taller than him (also why I like visiting the Yucatan--at 5' 4" I'm often the tallest guy around, Gringos notwithstanding), and he painted lots of pictures of nude women. What's not to like? Now that Monet ponds?

(OK, that was just a joke, to arouse any still-remaining-and-lurking Frenchies who will write in some nonsense about Monet. Although I suspect most have left in a pique of l'umbragois.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Friday, the New York Times offered its readers a question in a blog format: Do you think the U.S. is more vulnerable after hearing news of a plot using liquids as bombs? While my comment was "awaiting moderation," I copied it. It never passed the moderator's filter. Darn, I wasn't moderate enough!

Googled over the weekend to find (but didn't) the story that I saw or heard about the alleged 24 terrorists apprehended at the end of last week in London not having passports, etc. Krugman, at the NYT this morning, mentions this as well as calls out NBC's reporting about the timing, politically, of the arrests and breaking the story to the press. Krugman also exposes that inconvenient fact that the U.S. was trying to cut $6M in funding for technologies to discover liquid explosives when just such a terrorist plot in London was being revealed for the alleged use of that type of explosive.


Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Do you think the U.S. is more vulnerable after hearing news of a plot using liquids as bombs?

I think the U.S. was just as vulnerable before hearing the news (broken on Thursday) of a plot using liquids as bombs. It's a joke, folks. [Bojinka plot]

Don't you think the old Watergate question applies in this latest spate of terrorism reporting: Who knew what when? --

especially in light of this reporting by MSNBC yesterday:

Meanwhile, in today's White House press gaggle, spokesman Tony Snow was asked directly whether the Administration knew of this terrorist plot beforehand (he said yes), and whether they knew the news about it would break today -- just after they had whacked Democrats on Lamont's victory. Snow's answer raised our eyebrows. "Let me put it this way, I don't want to encourage that line of thought. I don't think it's fully accurate, but I also don't want -- I know it's frustrating, but we really don't want to get too much into who knew what, where, when."

posted on August 11th, 2006 at 12:36 pm

Posted by: Loomis | August 14, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

It seems that The Boss's tongue in cheek description of the French has ignited a FrogStorm among some lurkers. I would have Hal the Schemer check the IP logs to see if this is some organized groundswell. I did babelfish Remi's remarks of 5:07 am and got this fairly serviceable translation:

"Your article is really excellent! We laughed much by reading it. For lack of time (I work at least 60h per week), I practise the "Art nothing to make" but Sunday afternoon, after the nap. My wife, American, spent years to include/understand this way nothing of making that the French have, but it ended up starting to it too. Like what, even the Americans can reach that point."

Someone got the point. Please post more, Remi.

Toulouse Lautrec is all the rage on the megashow art musueum circuit lately. I have seen two shows in the last year that have featured him prominently. One show had a secret final gallery of his portraits of Montmarte prostitutes and other ladies of leisure that looked rather farm fed to my contemporary tastes.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 14, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Say it ain't so, yj! I was so afraid someone would Babelfish that paragraph that I almost posted my own translation of it, but I hesitated, hoping that le gendarme de la grammaire might show up and do it correctly.

I guess, as a particular narrow form of humor, the Babelfish works, but as a translation tool, best stick to single words and not try for paragraphs.

It's a hallmark of the Achenblog that we care about the English language. Let's show the same respect to other languages, and when we can't do a competent translation job, just leave them in the original.

I'm submitting this, even knowing that I sound like a twit and will suffer the inevitable waves of self-loathing. I'm doing it for France! (*cue La Marseillaise*)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

bc pulling out the Dada reference (Sunday) is like Brando pulling a Land O' Lakes reference. It just comes natural.

As far as French Café life we have our own version of it in this country. It's called the sofa.

Posted by: db | August 14, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Sure, I try to be brave, but my subconscious sabotages my attempts. That is my patriotic post at 10:43 a.m.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Ooh, yellojkt dropped the Franco F-bomb, the one that tastes like chicken.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

db, I f@rt in your general direction!

Now get out of here before I taunt you some more.


PS. Yeah, I'm laughing at the Brando/Land 'o Lakes reference. See, it ain't always a terrible thing when Worlds Collide.

Could Joel's next Kit be called "Last Chicken Dance in Paris?"

Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

My battles with babelfish are well known in this venue:

My apologies to Remi for allowing the babelfish to butcher what is obviously a very cogent and witty reply in the original. Having no association with the French language beyond the ability to distinguish "boeuf" from "poulet" on the very helpful menu boards on the outsides of all Parisian restaurants (a practice I wish us Yanks would emulate more often), I dared not add insult to injury and try to make the translation more idiomatic.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 14, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Ha, dmd, I noticed the same thing.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. May the love of God shine brightly in your lives, and you come to know that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | August 14, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Right on, bertooch. Why, nobody has more respect for foreign languishes (such as languishing at an outdoor cafe on the Rue de Remarque) than I do. Or, as the kid once said to Shoeless Joe Jackson, Le Playeur avec la addidas sneacouers, (yeah, you're already ahead of me, aren't ya?), "Chez it ain't so!"

Jack, loved the Hari Seldon reference. Am seriously thinking about awarding it today's Dennis Miller Award, though. (That's not a bad thing, BTW.) Hari is one of my heroes.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Sacre bleu! "Avec" should be "sans," methinks. Mon dieu! Qu'elle....something or other. Dommage. Frommage. One of those.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, I thought you were just rewriting history a little to award Joe a shoe contract!

Posted by: dmd | August 14, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Valleywag has a list of 83 words not allowed to be used on the Verizon Wireless Text messaging network (and the vast majority are not safe for polite company many places, so you've been warned)

I notice that in the mild ethnic slur category, that "limey" is forbidden but not the vulgar reference to anurans. It must be a contextual issue.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 14, 2006 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I should have added that "Last Hokey-Pokey in Paris" may in fact be more amusing.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I would say that the american version of our guys in the cafe is the....couch patato

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I would say that the american version of our guys in the cafe is the....couch patato

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!


Posted by: Scottynuke | August 14, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I would say that the american version of our guys in the cafe is the....couch patato

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

yello, you made me look up "anurans." Good, but not what I was expecting.

I think I kinda like "qu'elle frommage," actually, now that I think about it. Better than the original, to my ear.

"Qu'elle frommage!"

Definitely. Most definitely.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Or in response to compliments regarding the kit: Qu'elle homage!

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I dind't mean to sent all those messages.
however...I hope americans understand my FRENCH
whatever, in england, but mostly in the US we have bad reputation,americans say that we are chikens...?!?! that always amazed me...french people don't know that americans think that. its moslty due to the fact that americans help us during the WW2.IN the other side, most french think that americans are weck, cause they let themself get push everywhere when they are tourist. so french people really think that americans have great army with great weapons, but weck guys. I think its also due to the way that english sound in general ( we have to say that it sound beat gay ...whatever its just weird that in both side we got this kind of ideas.

HELLO for all american girl that I LOVE

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

any thoughts on this...
- enjoy Wall Mart, I'll take the French Cafe
- eat the nachos, I'll eat the patisserie
- busy yourself of meaningless material pursuits, i'll rethink the world with my friends
... now if you could detach a quick and friendly american waitress to my cafe, that would be much appreciated!
not sure the French could live without all that American bashing and the reverse seems to hold true ;)

Posted by: pac | August 14, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

many thks Joel for this deep article about the French society! according to your bicultural skills, tell me: is it better to sit at a cafe, or to go to war?

Posted by: parisian | August 14, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

yeah i'm OK for the waistress, I love those smiley american waistress. they all say:
hello my name is XXXX and I am going to take care of you tonigh.
I feel that she is in my bed and she is saying that in my ears...

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

If this is a non-serious joking big American Blog ...i will give you a of the best article ever..if you are talking seriously think about that :

Wich one have the "Art of doing nothing" the french guy/girl sit in a cafe doing nothing or the Washington Post guy observing this guy/girl???

If you do not like the frogs , pls stay in the US cooking your Nacho wich are by the way a 100% American Difficult cooking meal or stay here doing nothing as we are and you'll see in 2 weeks you will never want to come back to the US.

God Bless America
Vive La France / Vive la Liberté.

Posted by: Frenchguy | August 14, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Poor poor poor Joel,

how awful to draw conclusions on French society just by desribing one person.
It is like it would say that all American are smart because I met one less stupid one.

Please before giving lessons, educate first your people

Posted by: cesmi | August 14, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Are you French people regular readers who are inspired by this subject to comment for the first time, or is this the first time you are here?

Any French commenters out there not from Paris?

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

heu... cesmi, je crois que tu es a cote de la plaque.
c'est une blagues et tout le monde la bien compris... pas la peine de s'enerver.
ils sont quand meme sympa les ricains, ils nous font des films et nous vendent des big mac. faut arreter de chagriner et vive l'amerique!!!!

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 11:58 AM | Report abuse

As a respectable (yes I'm) french man, I was doing nothing at work, drinking a coffee, reading news, looking in my nose something to improve my french way of life style, when I found on Yahoo portal this column. It is said how an US journalist feels uncomfortable about our Cafe culture.
The point is, I just don't understand why they (yahoo-journalist) speak about that.
Maybe they where coffee drinking, using their brand new laptop in a Wifi-spot cafe when they read your article.
Ten minutes later, they posted some words on that bad yankee you are ! Booooh Shame on you !
They were paid to do that. Maybe they should thank you for that.

Maybe you should dig in the following direction ?
i.e :
- On monday, write in an Us magazine :
"Mr. Smith tell you how bad french people are".
- On tuesday write for a french magazine
"Mr. Dupont tell you how bad Mr. Smith is".

You should be doing twice monney.
Maybe that is what you're doing yet !
Is this Marketing Mr Machiavel ?

My name should be Candide instead of Roland.
Merde ! My coffee is cold !
I feel stressed, I must go on vacation !

Posted by: RC | August 14, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

yes Kbertocci, I'm french I read the post often and I live in the US Currently...

Posted by: parigo | August 14, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

ok luigi,

je me suis emporté mais jái tellememt croisé d'américains pendant mes vacances que j'en ai plein le dos.
Tu as raison vive l'amérique, vivent ses burgers, vivent sa politique ... (j'ai du mal à me retenir de vomir)

Posted by: cesmi | August 14, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

RC--Thank you, that answers my question how all the French commenters found this Washington Post blog.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

To Curmudgeon and SonofCarl.

Due to your previous compliment to foreign languages, I have to tell you that what you write in french is not right. No offense but "Qu'elle frommage" doesn't mean anything. It's like you says "What she chease". There is just a "m" for "fromage". Then if you want to say "what cheese !" you have to write "quel fromage" (which sounds the same). No big deal,I know my english is full mistakes but I have to say it.

So here it's 6pm and I still have work to do before I can take time to do nothing...

Have a good day

Posted by: Coyote | August 14, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Ne rien faire, c'est commencer à exister ...
Et c'est un parisien qui vous le dit, naturellement ;-)

Posted by: lesyeuxsanspaupieres | August 14, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

your welcome !
Think about this business its million doing nothing.
You know what, I like so much people qui s'enerve (mais je sais pas le dire en anglais).
Oubliez les frontieres. Elles n'existent que pour se rassurer.

Posted by: RC | August 14, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

You, in the US are running all day around, like frustrated, selfish hens, which did not make you avoid to have twice the most ridiculous and dangerous president.
So you'd better sit down and drink some french café !

Posted by: Roland from Paris | August 14, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

TO cesmi
franchement la c'est de la mechancete, si ce n'est de la jalousie.
c'est vrai qu'ils ont de la bouffe de merde, mais ils font certain truc bien comme les burgers et ca marche dans les monde entiers. je pense qu'ils fat arretter de critiquer. et si on etait aussi bon que ca , eh bien , au lieu de critiquer on aurais fait mieux.
mais pour le moment touche pas une bille!

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

roland, tu pete un cable!!
pk ta la haine comme ca?

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

mais je ne veux surtout pas mieux faire que les ricains, je veux faire different,

Je n'ai pas pour exemple les chantres de la sous culture

Posted by: cesmi | August 14, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

c'est tres joliment dit.
mais en attendant ils controle le monde et nous on arrive meme pas a controler une cite de seine st denis...

Posted by: cesmi | August 14, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The humour of the kit does not translate into French. Joel is saying North American culture can learn some things about how we use our time from French culture.
He is saying that the fine art of sitting doing nothing specific is a wonderful thing.

No disrespect intended, only the highest reagrd for your lovely nation.

Posted by: dr | August 14, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how old people, writing here, are ?
There are so many serious topics to get upset about.
Because if loosing time doing nothing is something awful for all of you.
Well just think about what you're doing.

...Maybe I'm the only real person and you are all fake ? Or maybe you are actors paid to say silly things ?
Maybe I'm in the matrix !!!
Maybe I just imagine everything and you do not exist at all.
I'm going to switch off tis computer, and looking how to say enerver in english.
Putain ca ne me reviens pas !

Posted by: RC | August 14, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

yes i agree there is nothing that I foud disrespectful, but you know french are very taki...
whatever I enjoyed this articles even though it was overfloded with cliche

Posted by: luigi | August 14, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

A life like the Athenians, eaters of people...

Posted by: grellety | August 14, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I read through that Yahoo article, and it seems that the author did not realize that Joel's article was meant to be humorous. When you take the individual quotes out of context, in fact, it is not funny. The tone is so important, and humor is a delicate recipe, like a souffle, no?

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Dr, you're right, but I'm sad to see that some of people here (in particular some french one) can't make the difference between politic and comic. Thanks to RC who seems more like me.
Even if I'm still suprised to see someone who can't discuss whitout just criticize!

I thought we're here for humour. Maybe the world woult turn better with humour. 'Cause I think we can laugh at anything (unfortunatly not with anyone)

To kbertocci, I heard about the article on radio this morning, so I came to take a look at it.

Posted by: coyote | August 14, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse


s'énerver = to get irritated

Reprend un café, ça va passer....


Posted by: coyote | August 14, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

That's pissin' me off

Posted by: Texan turned do-nothing | August 14, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Sorry but I do not think so that every french people can afford to sit and do nothing. The problem with the jounalist is that they are not living in the country; they just stand there and observe. I have been leaving and workin in France and now in the USA. The thing is in France may be we work less as concerned the total amount of hours at the and of the end but we work MUCH more during the day - I never saw a french engineer leaving the office before 5:00 pm .
And if this little observation were right, I do not think so that France would have a TGV, woulf be able to lauch satellites and have doctors etc ... Sorry but France it is not only perfum, food, drinks and sex ... WThey have Pierre and Marie Curie, Pierre Gille de Genes and Carlos Goshn ( even if he is not french is a pur product of the french education)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

But the French humor translates for me.

Thank you all for helping us practice la francais belle.

What Joel did is called "people-watching" in America. Watching strangers, guessing at their lives and motivations and all.

It is a big hobby of Americans taking the Metro home, on buses and such.

Joel found it difficult avec l'homme que faire de rien. ;) Sacre bleu!

He would not cease with the > until he had solved the mystery of the Frenchman.

Sometimes, it is such trivial things that become of supreme importance, much as Proust and his little madelines.

That Achenbach is no Proust is only natural.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

This is GREAT.

I can't stop laughing.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm French, I live in the U.K, I have been many time in the U.S.and I can say that the American people in general are, very enthusiast, positive,devoted to their country and their President, courageous, and more, more!respect.....because we are not devoted like you are guys!

But one thing!!

What the Americans lack very much of is, "substance" , ...not all of course..., Joel!!, sorry mate, but I prefer reading a book on a terrace during my lunch break or my holidays, rather than reading the news about the super bowl on my laptop ,thanks to WIFI, and please, Joel, can you please do a survey on "how many people are able to read and write in North America...", please.....

Posted by: Fabrice | August 14, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Hi ! I'm french...

This is the beauty of being on holiday : doing nothing, enjoying the here and now..
Like joel did : this article is full of nothingness..

Posted by: julien | August 14, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

avec ce temps de m... sur Paris depuis quelques jours, je vais même pas pouvoir me faire une terrasse demain :)

Posted by: saperlipopette | August 14, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm French (and even parisian), and I really like this article: it's witty, funny... Look at yourselves, French people, and relax!
Very accurate, mr Achenbach!

Posted by: stephane | August 14, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I'd just like to add that often Joel's humor is not evident to native English speakers either! It can be rather subtle, verging on the non-existent, at times. Sort of an acquired taste.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 14, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Well good to read all those comments!
What always puzzled me is the way journalists can write on a subject they barely know about. I am press attachée I know plenty about that !
I've heard a writer telling me one day that he was not one to influence the opinion of his readers ! Crap !
You influence the opinion of your readers and most of them do not have enough background to take the necessary distance from what you write, they will take your words for it. And that's the part that upsets me the most in this article.
Even on a funny mode, you could have given people informations, but you serve them crap. Finding a coffee where you can talk latin..WHAT A LAUGH ! How can you even think about writing that !!
Well what we can notice here is that Blogging is a nice way of reacting at least it's not the reader's mail ! and second is that you should always take distance when you read/watch/listen to the media. But this is something all american people are aware of nowadays aren't they...
Good holidays !

Posted by: ontheroadagain | August 14, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Very good point, mostlylurking! I was going to bring that up yesterday, but never found the right phrasing. You said it perfectly.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

It's good to see how an american can see my country (I hope of course that this nice gut represents a minority)
What a bad awake after the american dream...
Of course i'm one more stupid french who do not understand what life is...
work+work+work+...=??? (i let you complete, i got to finished by cafe before it gets cold)
Hello to WB
Your faithfully,
Frederic F.
Supid French

Posted by: Frederic F. | August 14, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Paris c'est foundee a 52 BC et elle disat "Lutetia". C'est tres ancien!

Jamestown, c'est foundee a 1620. C'est tres modern! Le langue d'Anglais en 1620 n'est comprensible pas a l'American vulgare. "Marry, thou art merry?"

Le langue de "Lutetia", serait Latin, non?

Yes, my French is awful. It has been over 10 years since I wrote about French history in French.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Your article is racist. You freely depict the French as a whole people spending their time doing nothing, thinking about croissants ans the eiffel tower.
Ain't you smart enough to even think about people enjoy cafes because they're in vacations?
Moreover everybody on Earth nows that France is a museum country, with "old" what? What's the matter with that? You americans have "modern" 70's towers everywhere (not even the tallest in the world!). That's why France is the most visited country in the world.
As for the economy, everything's all right, thanks for your concern.

What you call "the art of doing nothing" is called here "douceur de vivre", "sweet life" in english.

Posted by: Le Parisien | August 14, 2006 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm surprised a little bit by you french guys. Relax, petez un coup !

I think this article is not a deep analysis of the french society. If you have ever been abroad you should remember how you remarked funny details about the local culture. Well it's the same here I guess.

Moreover, it looks like there's this fantasy with americans and english about doing nothing. My friends from the us or england always believe that life is sloooooooooow here in Paris. When I was living in London I didn't notice any difference with the pace.
The same with french women that american males want to have in their beds, and american women wished they could like them eat both patisseries and be skinny.

Well I think there is a lot of clichés that Americans will focused on if it's their first visit here but of course the parisian life is sometimes far from these fantansies.

Joel here's a tip.
Next time you go to Paris, don't stay in "Le quartier latin" since there is so much tourists there. Try the Oberkampf area which is a bit more authentique to me. However you'll probably see the parisian ne rien faire there too.


Posted by: leparisien | August 14, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Only the previous comment is mine, not the first one !

Posted by: leparisien the real one | August 14, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm correcting :

Paris s'est fondée en 52 avant Jésus Christ et s'appelait "Lutèce". C'est très ancien!
Jamestown, s'est fondée a 1620. C'est beaucoup plus contemporain! La langue Anglaise en 1620 n'était pas compréhensible a l'American vulgaire. "Marry, thou art merry?"
La langue de "Lutèce", est le Latin, non?

My question now : what is the meaning of that, what do you want to tell us there ?

Posted by: julien | August 14, 2006 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Attention, Citizens of France!

In the interestes of international peace and harmony, I propose a UN resolution terminating this conversation about Joel's little essay. Clearly, you folks didn't understand one word of it, nor its tone, and especially not its humor. Alors. So let's just let it go, shall we? Because many or your responses are as incomprehensible to us (and I'm not talking about the grammar and syntax) as Joel's essay was to you.

Coyote, I'm sorry I misspelled fromage (one m), but yes, I know "qu'elle fromage" doesn't mean anything to you, but it was a joke, see? Because it actually sort of means "It is the cheese." I know you don't get it, but it is actually a pretty good joke (in my opinion, anyway), especially for a people who like to call each other "my little cabbage." "Qu'elle fromage!" is EXACTLY what the French "might" say, and if you don't know that about yourselves, I'm sorry. But you would. Trust me.

So just kick back, take a chill pill (le pillule froide), and have a nice apertif. On us. We mean you no harm. We come in peace (we left Rumsfeld at home). (N.B. That was a joke, too.) Gort, klaatu berata nicto. We like your country. We like (love) your food. We like (love) your women (a lot). We love your city. We love your art, literature and music (Camus, Gide, Malraux, Anouilh--expecially Anouilh--, Giradoux, Piaf, Aznevour, Jane Birkin. OK, not Jane Birkin, who is English anyway. But definietly Anouk Aimee. Yes, I know she's an actress, not a singer. So sue me. I have this thing for Anouk Aimee).

You may now return to your sidewalk cafes. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

On behalf of the Boodle, I am

Shop Steward

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse

your article is on the first page of, so lots of people in France are aware of it.
I live close from one of those zip code in California. No Wall-Mart here. Does it surprise you that a big store like this cannot be found in the middle of the Quartier Latin? For the record, living in LA, I still need to shop in 3 different places if I want to cook something good! And I am probably lucky to be in the second biggest city of the US.

Posted by: djidji | August 14, 2006 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Ontheroadagain, J'ai curieux.

Pourquoi detestez-vous le Latin?
Aimez le langue de votre mere, mais detestez-vous le langue de votre grand-mere?

When Joel says "I am pretty sure..." He means a joke is coming up on how old the Latin quartier is. It is one of those things that escape translation.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

@ Curmudgeon : we're not angry of anything..
but ain't you fed up with all those clichés ? I certainly am with the traditional picture of the american cliché : redneck eating burgers, fat, sweaty, saying words we don't understand...

Posted by: julien | August 14, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Hi Joel,

When you don't understand something, please don't speak about it.

In usa you're prefer to work, normal, with all the fat ass than you have...

But when you are french, we're prefer to watch the beautiful (fine) french women, the (original) french architecture (not a american copy), eating a good food (not a MacPizzaHut with 11 000 calorie) and it's possible to speak politic without finishing at guantanamo.

The result is than French is not as hated in the world like American.

Good luck

Posted by: Misterfab | August 14, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, I think in the interest of rapprochement, we should keep talking. There's a new kit and everybody who wants to talk about televisions and football can go over there (although I see the conversation is veering towards Pluto as I type this).

I'm just having the most fun here with les francais. I'd rather read a wrong-headed opinion in French, I think, than a sensible statement in English. At least that's the way I feel about it today. I may be unduly influenced by coyote and luigi and RC and stephane and all the rest of these gentilhommes.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

As a french with some latin mixture. I can tell you that this is not typically french but rather latin way of life. Wherever you go around the mediteranean sea, you will see the same way of life. Religions doesn't make a different. We can be christian, orthodox, jew or muslim, we love to spend time doing nothing but taking time for ourself, socializing, discussing about politics, soccer, women, etc... I think American would love to do that but they are just afraid that other would consider them as lazy person ("faineant" or "glandeur" in french). This is why they need to do something (chating, e-mailing, surfing, smsing,...). Why don't you just relax ! Seat in the french cafe are not facing the "theater of Paris street life" but just facing LIFE !
"C'est beau la Vie" isn't it?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse

« Sois fainéant Tu vivras content »
[ Coluche ] - Paroles de la chanson Sois fainéant

Posted by: Marc[i1] | August 14, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse


Je suis tout a fait d'accord avec votre avis, mais, mais...

Personne ne vous insulte. Tout le monde ici a Achenblog admire votre pays, c'est vrai.

Alors, soyons amis!

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

When US journalists stop looking at the rest of the world with contempt and disdain, they will write more intelligent articles.

Posted by: Kumar | August 14, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Julien, then make up a new cliche.

I have never seen Paris, although I once had a map of Paris... in Latin, it was a copy of a very old map. BTW--Lutetia WAS the Latin term for Paris.

I am not so interested in visiting Paris anymore than I am interested in visiting New York City to sample America.

Many Americans live and die without ever once visiting New York City, despite the conceit of the people there that they are the hub of America. In addition, many people in New York City live and die there without seriously touring anywhere outside New York City or the local suburbs.

I do not know if the condition holds true for Paris and France, but I would not care to take the risk, especially since I see too much of Paris in French movies as I see too much of New York or Los Angles in American movies.

I would like to visit France itself outside of Paris. I have a list of places that also includes places in Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland that were under the rule of the French Crown when my ancestors came to the New world.

The only thing I want to know about Paris is about the fair de St. Ovide.

This Saint is not a catholic saint and as far as I can tell, St. Ovide is actually Ovid the Poet, supposedly converted to christanity in exile and thus honored with the title of Saint, despite his lecherous poetry.

Calvin objects to such false saints such as St. Ovide and makes some reference to his being a patron saint for deafness, but else I have not been able to find much about him.

Ovide is a traditional name in French Canada, hence my interest.
I have run dry on English-language sources here. How do I refresh my search?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, I don't know if you take my remark badly, it wasn't my point.
You're right, I didn't catch your joke. I'm sorry not to know it is a pretty good job 6000km away. Here too with have some "private jokes" which can't be understood by an american (or other non french citizen) who speak french
So I'm gonna make shorts sentences to be sure to be understood.
I like this article! I don't like the reaction of some french. Your post is the perfect example of lack of understanding because of the lenguage.
Most of the french who read the article think it's funny!

good night

Posted by: Coyote | August 14, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I read this article from the front page of too.
No offense to the journalist who wrote it, but I didn't think that his experience was really representative of the parisians and banlieusards way of life.

Posted by: From Paris | August 14, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Does anybody remember the song from "The Most Happy Fella" with the words "standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by..."? The French do it when seated, comfortably ensconced, and - as Joel presciently points out - they make a (national) pastime out of it, don't they? For the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine (which you can nurse as long as you like; nobody is plying you with a refill...), the gallic gallivanter has the world on a string... Just think of Sinatra's take on "Monique", "April in Paris".

Posted by: Jeffrey Arsham | August 14, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Misterfab's 1:12 PM deserves to be in the Best of the Boodle '06.

I have to look away, there are tears running down my cheeks from the laughter.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, another country heard from. Kumar, didn't President Bartlett wipe out you guys during the third or fourth season of West Wing? Give it a break, will ya? You clearly didn't get it. Just let it go...

Julien, it is precisely BECAUSE they were cliches that Joel was playing with them. That's what he does; in fact, that's what many writers do. The only problem with using a cliche is when you aren't aware of it, but Joel clearly was and is.

By the way Wilbrod, Jamestown was founded in 1607. It was Plymouth that was founded in 1620. Paris was indeed founded in 52 B.C., by Romulus, Remus and Gertrude Stein. (JOKE!! THAT WAS JUST A JOKE, MON AMIES! Please, don't go nuts over this!)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

You know what the best part of all this is.

No one seems to be reading what Joel says about American women versus French women. Considering Joel is a genetlman with 3 daughters, and a lovely wife, he says this tongue firmly in cheek. And just in casse it does not translate, 'tongue in cheek' means humour.

Posted by: dr | August 14, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Ah !!! American people finally find out that you can actually get wiser by just sitting in a nice cafe and looking at the world go by ! Thanks for your article which really had me laughing ! Beneath the surface of your comments - unfortunately misread as insulting (and racist ???) by some of my fellowcitizens - I can feel how envious you really are about our sweet way of life and cafes and markets and sensuality and all ;)

Posted by: laparizienne | August 14, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Il ne me semble pas que l'article soit insultant à l'égard des français. Joel se contente juste de décrire une façon bien française de passer du bon temps.

Inutile donc de se braquer et de monter sur nos grands chevaux de français plus intelligents que tout le monde.

Je trouve l'article sympa. Je crois que l'auteur n'est pas condescendant, simplement surpris (et peut-être même envieux).

Posted by: A french guy, again | August 14, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Probably because the café you mentioned was located on the Left Bank which is now virtually a Americano-Bristish colony. This piece of land is now almost entirely owned by some well-off people living on private or unearned income. The real Parisians can no longer afford to live there... Try "La Fée Verte", a very cool café on rue de la Roquette with wi-fi AND laptops on every single table.

But I do agree that the French have developed a Café culture which strangely has remained in some of its former colonies. See Casablanca (the business capital of Morocco) on a Tuesday afternoon: the cafés are full of men, sipping their sole "café cassé" or "thé à la menthe", contemplating life, telling unlikely stories to the next table neighbor, spying on each other.

Will be glad to tour you around in Casablanca and chichat about the tea culture in Asia!

Posted by: Leekei | August 14, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Calvin doesn't like Ovid? What does Hobbes say?

*sigh* I miss Watterson.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

"Misterfab" a le tort de présenter une vision ridiculement caricaturale des "Américains"; il pense viser une (grosse) cible facile, mais ne fait en somme que trahir, que souligner, que mettre en relief sa morgue d'homme ignare -- et fier de l'être. Quant aux discussions politiques qui d'après lui ont si peu lieu aux Etats-Unis, je me permettrai de préciser qu'en France, le "politiquement correct" tient bien trop souvent le haut du pavé; George Bush a mauvaise pressé; il importe par conséquent de l'exécrer; si l'on tente de nuancer à ce propos, on passe pour un pro-Bush (personnellement je suis tout sauf...); ce conformisme dans la condamnation en bloc et sans appel a quelque chose de proprement affligeant.

Posted by: Jeffrey Arsham | August 14, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Since I have been banned from using Babelfish in the Boodle, I went and blogged about the article and its translation myself.

Humor does seem to be tough to translate well. I hope our Francophones will read some of Joel's other articles and catch onto his subtle humor.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I was going to pose an open question here regarding use of the terms "racism", "racist", etc. but I think it's a misunderstanding.

Unless I misunderstand that some people think that the French are a different race?

Mudge, I spend about an hour reading Watterson's 10th Anniversary C&H book this weekend. Great stuff.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse


This is a cross cultural misunderstanding of biblical proportions. Two hours of angry French posting(aFp) and I can barely stop my shaking to type this.

Joel > pie

Nuff Said!

Posted by: db | August 14, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey, maybe Joel can now go to Morrocco, and the entire Mediterranean, to write up a series of articles on the cafe lifestyle. Maybe Natty Geo?

I sense travel in Joel's future.

Posted by: dr | August 14, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

You know, I think this might be the darkest day for FrancoAmerican relations since they started selling SpaghettiOs and RavioliOs under the Campbell's brand name.



Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

just to make things clear, it is Roma, the Capital of Italy, who was founded by Romulus and Remus in 753 B.C.
Paris was indeed founded by the Parisii, a celtic tribe, and well it was in 53 B.C.

For those who don't know Paris, you have to know that most us have very small apartments and that it's more convenient to meet friends in Café or in restaurant. The coffee or beer is not too expensive and we can stay a long time chatting with our friends.
Anyway, I found Joel's article very funny and post it to American friends living in Paris. Hope they will enjoy and react !

Posted by: SabFromParis | August 14, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm envious of our French boodlers.

How people can be so irate in such fluent and complex French is an matter of amazement to me.

I applaud Jeffrey Arsham for explaining MisterFab's error of thought to him so well. I'm going to have to save his post.

If it was me posting to MisterFab, I'd have been looking up how to say "up yours" in French.

Eh bien, this is why I am stuck speaking English.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

dr, based on the majority of the responses to this kit, the subtle wit that we all admire does not seem to travel well.

So if people from France, home to Voltaire and Balzac, don't get Joel's humour, he might not want to try it out on the calm, reasonable and self-deprecating Arabic speaking world. And if he does, I would leave the cartoonist at home.

Just a suggestion.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Except for public transportation workers who go on strike all the time, the French are not lazy. It's true that we have more vacation (6 weeks) but French executives work 70 or 80 hours a week. The 35-hour week only applies to non-executive people like secretaries etc..

Posted by: Jerome | August 14, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I think it is better to sit and relax, than invading other countries.
In USA, everybody is fat and works for the police. Is that right ?
I just call it as I see it !

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

the darkest days were in 2003, trust me.
Most people on both sides of the Atlantic do undertstand this is not serious.

Posted by: djidji | August 14, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Thin European, you're absolutely right.

Everbody in America (except for movie stars) are fat cops. Including me, and I'm ready to arrest you just for looking funny.

But first, a little roo-roo...

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

most people...

Posted by: djidji | August 14, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, thankfully I had finished my coffee when I read your 2:29.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

SabFrom Paris, I was just lyin' here in the tall grass waiting for somebody to come along and fall into the punji pit over Romulus and Remus. I even TOLD you it was a joke, son, and you STILL fell into it.

*walks away shaking his head*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

kb, thanks for the kind words - I hope Joel doesn't take umbrage! But how many times have we had to explain to the casual Achenreader, that he was kidding! Sheesh.

I'm enjoying all the comments, though - hope the French folks will stick around. French is one language that I have never studied - never could get the "r" sound right, or memorize the spelling rules. My sister taught French for a quite awhile, and one of my best friends in college started out as a French major, with a lovely accent (so I was told). She had spent time in Paris with her sister who lived there. And I listened to Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel (uh-oh, he's Belgium, I think). Anyway, I stand in awe of French culture and lifestyle. During the hot, dry summers here in Seattle, I imagine myself in the south of France, when I'm in my back yard with a glass of Washington state wine (mon dieu!).

dr, you're right - I think all of us North American women took the dig at us with perfectly good humor/humour.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 14, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod : you're wrong, I said USA not america....

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, the "fact" (thin european) that everyone in the USA is a fat cop clears up for me why Mel Gibson called that cop "sugar t1ts". Maybe he intended a compliment?

I think it is absolutely hilarious that the comments to this kit started with Joel getting in trouble for saying that American women looked like they fell off the hay wagon and ending with French people writing in after thinking they have been insulted and insulting Americans.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

hey ! I am joking !!! Laziness is not a question of nationality.

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

SCC - Jacques Brel was of course not the country, Belgium, but Belgian. A thousand apologies.

For the new folks, SCC stands for self-castigation club - Self-Castigation Club, "a means by which Boodlers correct their own typos and grammatical errors, but no one else's, except Joel's." The AchenFAQ is here:

Now, I must stop doing nothing, and get busy.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 14, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever looked up the definition of Ethnocentrism? This is my big French thought. It might improve your culture.

The main activities in terms of the French economy are energy, mass retailing (Carrefour), services, and telecommunications.

The GNP in France is 1557 Billion in 2003. In 2003, the French economy grew 0.5% in real compared to 3.1% in the US.

The French have an "art de vivre". Working conditions and the quality of life are very important in France. For example:

France has a national health care system; health care is not a benefit.

So, people don't have to worry about spending less on food in order to buy medication.

Congress men Joe Baca said:

"It's simply outrageous that during this time of prosperity and economic growth millions of America's senior citizens are being forced into poverty because of exorbitant prices for prescription drugs,"

French labor law requires people to take 25 days of paid vacation every year after having worked one year in a company.

The labor law in France is a 35 week (32 hours one week and 39 hours the next week for example) or 11 extra RTT(vacation) days.

So, French people have approximately 36 days of vacation. The French labor law requires that employees have 1 hour for lunchtime. The time to go to the cafe and discuss history, politics or sports.

Additionally, Employers in France offer the following BENEFITS:

French employees receive a bonus twice a year.

Employers offer vacation checks and discounts on vacation trips.

Employers offer free passes to museums, restaurant tickets 1/2 paid by employer, and gift cards to buy Christmas gifts.


US journalists should start learning about the rest of the world instead of looking at it with contempt and disdain.

Posted by: anne | August 14, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, this article is a summary of all the existing cliches on France. And it's so despising. I'm French and that's funny because the country you describe in your article I only see it in American media, and never at home... I guess Americans will never understand France, they have too many fantasies and prejudices when they come here. The strange thing is, they don't even loose them during their stay. Anyway...

To Loomis : you actually also use "Merde" to wish good luck to a friend (usually before an exam). Don't ask me why ! :-)

Posted by: Benoit, frenchman | August 14, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I just hope Paris will not have a Starbuck at every corner when I go back. Not that I don't like starbuck, but "Vive la difference".

Posted by: djidji | August 14, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Anne : if only it was like that... i work 50 hours a week with 16 days of vacation per year, have 30 minutes at lunch and I don't receive a bonus
Don't lie !!!! il y a la Loi et la réalité...

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 2:55 PM | Report abuse

anyway, it's better for an american not to come in europe, if he wants to stay alive...

Posted by: stockholmer | August 14, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

USA= United States of America. The people who live there call themselves Americans and say they live "In America."

In all the other countries in either North, Central, or South America, none of those people say they live "in America". Rather they speak of living in their own countries.

And Americans too talk of being in America as their own country.

Nobody says they are "In the united states of America".

Do you hear the French speak of "living in the Republique Francaise" instead of speaking of their "Belle France", and it is acceptable for the Spanish to speak of living in"España" instead of in the "Reino de España."

Or for the Greek to speak of living in Ellas instead of Ellinikí Dhimokratía.

If you must hate America at least understand what it means to be in America.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

anyway, it's better for an american not to come in europe, if he wants to stay alive...

Posted by: stockholmer | August 14, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

By the way, in Paris' Starbucks you may see tuxedo-wearing employees working with their laptops.
France is realy far from most americans think: a 19th century world heritage with lazy people, self centered and all art fanatics.
If you go to Paris, go to la Defense you'll see people in a hurry, skyscrapers, Mc Donald's and even americans workers.

Posted by: Krikri d'amour | August 14, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I love many things from America.. it is not a question of nationaliy... i am not that stupid.. i just wanted to say, that America is a continent.. (up north the USA, you have a country called Canada and down in the south, there is another one named Mexico...)

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Stockholmer, given how many terrorist acts have succeeded in Europe I would be tempted to agree with you on the dangers of visiting Europe.

But what is life if it is not to be enjoyed? A long life can be drudgery yet a short life, rich and full.

The law and the reality, indeed, Thineuropean.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, and I am trying to say that it's NORTH America that is a continent and when I said "In America" to stand for the USA that is correct usage in American English and I even think in British English.

Even us fat stupid cops in the USA know that North America is not just the USA ;).

Now I need my donut break, can't get too thin or I will lose my police job. But maybe I will order a crossaint or an eclair instead.

Nice chatting with you all.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

most of the terrorist acts on this planet are the result of a bad american politic

Posted by: Stockholmer | August 14, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

you're employer (the police) allows you to post messages on forum while you're working ?

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I read your article about "Cafe Society".
Did you ever travel in the world? I'm very surprised by your article. I spent 5 years in France and really enjoyed it. did you know also that the American society is the worst in the world...Regarding productivity per people, our country is rated number 4, after Germany, Japan and France. So even with 6 weeks of vacations in Europe we certainely have something to learn from the "old continent". our society is far from being good. We have the worst rate in obesity in the world, our education system for the youth is a failure and regarding our governement, there is no telling...
Instead of complaining about taking time around a cafe, may be we should focus a little more on what we call a free country.
Where are our values, of family and liberty?
I wish sometime America would be less aggressive, may be it will be easier for the world.
Or simply we don't understand what is different from us....and we don't accept it. America wake up!

Posted by: Nicholas | August 14, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

This article is such an accumulation of all possible clichés about France that the author probably wrote it from his downtown Washington office.

Posted by: Elena | August 14, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Dear Joel,
You've got such a sense of humor... Never read such a "cliché" about french people...

Posted by: Jennifer, french woman from Paris | August 14, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse


(We are french and happy to live in the most beautiful city of the world, Paris, to walk on the most beautiful avenue of the world, the champs elysées, and to have the most beautiful monument in the entire world, the Eiffel tower. Come and visit us !!!)

Posted by: A French from Paris | August 14, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

All my illusions of Paris are destroyed. All my illusions of cafe sitting, so earnestly established at the beginning of the kit, are being destroyed.

There was a yahoo headline a few weeks ago, that the French are the world's greatest bloggers and commenters. Significantly more blog in France than anywhere else. I'm curious as to why this might be?

Posted by: dr | August 14, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey Joel,

I am French and have been living in the US for over a year now and I think that your are rude, uncultured and jealous of us. Your comments about France, French people, and their way of living are the proof of that.

I am objective in the sense that I like to work in the US better than I like working in France. But here in the U.S., working is about all you do considering the wonderful medical system that we have here. So in resume your life will be working and paying for this inefficient system.

Another reason why you will spend you life working and not being able to relax in cafes is to pay for this lawyer that you may have to hire full time in order to appeal all these medical bills that your insurance will not cover, as their goal is just to get your money and make you work more.

In fact, being able to sit in a cafe is among the things I miss the most about France, not to mention that I miss being able to know my butcher, baker ( if there is a baker), fruit markets etc.. Here the only person I know is this student working at Starbucks, isn't that wonderful?

It is awful not to have a café to sit in. All that there is to do here is drive from Mall to Mall, from Home Depot to Wall Mart with a stop over at Target.

Home Depot is an important part of American Life as the houses are disposable. Yes, unlike in France a house in the US does not last several generations. Instead, by the time you have paid the mortgage off the house is ready to be turned down for a brand new disposable house. Unbelievable to be honest.

In France we do not live an anonymous life where nobody knows or care for anyone else but themselves. You probably have never known, at any time in your life, a store owner who knows you and what you like which way etc... going to your MALL or Wall Mart is certainly fast but so unbelievably anonymous. I feel so sorry for people who love to live like this, not to mention that all they get to buy is "made in China" ;-)

Going on the cell phone, the world has worked no problem before cell phones, and to be honest here in the US, the fact that the cell phone rings wherever you are (movies included) is pretty rude and is good proof of bad education and carelessness towards others.

As mentioned on another comment above, in France we can talk about politics, policies, salary etc... We are not scared of not being politically correct. Here in the U.S., to have everyone happy you will chat about Sports ( the baseball "world" series, can someone remind me how many countries in this??? ONE ;-))), TV reality shows (very cultural) and which Celebrity is driving under the influence (poor Mel Gibson) waooooooooo this is about it for headline news, or conversation at happy hour. One thing that is true about this type of politically correct banter is that it does not cause headaches.

One last thing I wanted to say, Joel, is that I am so sorry that the Post spent the money to get you a plane ticket to fly over to Paris. They should have just sent you to DC for some Congressional weekly news. Your talent is not even worth the Metro ticket to Congress.

Your Sincerely

Stephanie Friedman

Posted by: Stephanie Friedman ( Roswell GA) | August 14, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Dear French friends: Just fyi, next weekend I'll post yet another misguided, cliche-ridden, culturally myopic, Anglocentric (yankeecentric??) column about my wonderful vacation in Paris. And then one the following week, too. So please come back!!! We appreciate your comments, positive or negative or in-betwixt.

And just fyi: I was the slob in the tattered shorts and the sneakers sitting by the door of Cafe de Flore. The fact that they let a dork like me sit in the cafe is testament to French cultural tolerance.

Posted by: Achenbach | August 14, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I burst out laughing (no coffee thorough the nose, though -- drat! Missed the bonus points that way).

As for Stockholmer, jag resar rätt ofta i europa (och särskilt i Sverige) utan problem och än så länge vill inga döda mig. Åtminstone har de inte tänkt på detta. Inte ens hotad. Kanske p g a jag kan språket. Eller?

So, why can't people seem to take a joke?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 14, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we were behind the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Basque separatists too. And of course the muslims in France have nothing to riot about except for America. And Israel only has America to blame for its being created and the British mismanagement of Palestine beforehand.

And yes, America created India and Pakistan and that is why Pakistanis are behind much of the terrorism in India and other places.

And of course the tamil tigers started civil war in Sri Lanka thanks to America and it had nothing to do with how poorly treated they were by the Sinhalese.

And of course Cheneya is America's fault. And any ethnic group in china that does not want to lose their identity and watch their land be made Chinese also is a terrorist because of America.

Get some sense. There are hundreds or thousands of acts of terrorism over the world most of which never make international headlines. Some terrorist problems have their roots even before the Cold War.

I loathe the mistakes America has made in foreign policy since I was born and have never voted for any of those presidents that made the worst mistakes. I particularly am angry with the Reagan and Bush administrations for sponsoring counter-terrorism.

The one president I voted for intervened in Sarevejo when nobody in Europe would do anything.

America takes in refugees from civil wars from all over. After the Holocaust, we took in thousands of survivors. One such survivor from Poland joined my parents together in marriage.

The USA is not perfect and I wish we could oust our president and his crooked administration today. I don't like what we export as "culture" either.

But when I can see people from countries that hate each other learning the ways of America and treating each other like human beings, even friends...

Well that is something that the mongers of hate will always want to destroy.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: seule mule | August 14, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Stephanie Friedman : I think this article is only a joke... and I think South Park is a great american TV show
and don't forget that in France, there are tv channels named TF1, M6, France2 which are not better than baseball... (L'ile de la tentation, Star Academy, le journal de 20h, etc..., etc...)

Posted by: Thin european | August 14, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Dear Stephanie: I was on vacation. I used my own money to fly to Paris for 3 weeks. Paris is where I went on my honeymoon.

And guess what I named my first-born child?

Posted by: Achenbach | August 14, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Willbrod : you said :The one president I voted for intervened in Sarevejo when nobody in Europe would do anything

and then your president bombed Belgrad with blind faith in god !!!!
carlyle group rules !!!!

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

And what did YOUR leader do, ThinEwww?

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, now we've added a new "day" to Global Warming Tuesday and Fetal Position Friday: it's going to be lundi d'ombrage francois (French Umbrage Monday) for the next couple of weeks, I suppose. I think if Joel wrote a column espousing the bludgeoning of baby harp seals it would get less comment than this.

Er, you aren't in favor of bludgeoning harp seals, are you Joel? Drowning kittens? Kicking puppies? Putting BBQ sauce on your coq au vin?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Stephanie, get back to me when you name your first-born "Gainesville."

Posted by: Achenbach | August 14, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

our leaders (we got seven in my country) did nothing cause i live in a neutral country which doesn't care what happend out of it's border.
Anyway I think countries sux...

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, thin euro, there's no such thing as neutrality -- it's merely indifference dressed in an elegant chemise. Say, how about those Nazi collaborators???

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 14, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

yes, they were some nazi collaborators in my country, but in every countries of the world... (even in France !!!)
Did you know that Bush grandfather was a personal hitler banker ?
I think they were more jew refugees in switzerland than USA during second world war.

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Soon I plan to start a book outlining why Europe is to blame for all the world's terrorism.

Let's start with the Crusades and driving the muslims out of Europe (all Hail Charlemagne).
How about the endless colonies in africa, the Americas, and even in Asia? Heck, Europe is itself to blame for all America's sins. And who can say the anger caused by Napoleon and Alexander the Great in their callous conquests?

And let's not forget the Roman Empire, now that was one very unkind empire that spread a habit of causal brutality throughout Europe. The British Empire that the sun never set upon, the Dutch trading empire before then, and Spain raiding the New World for gold and its own wealth.

The Hapsbergs, the Ottomans, the Moors, endless political fightings, the hundred years' war, and so on.

And worse, the Europeans invented soccer, which is definitely a threat to the world from rabid fans and head-butting players.


Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree, european empires were mistakes... Napoleon = Hitler... we all know these things
But why the USA are doing the same mistake?

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

probably because they think they are right

Posted by: stockholmer | August 14, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I don't like where this is going.

C'mon, Wilbrod, let's just let it rest. You can't win, and now we've got Hitler and Nazi collaborators involved. No good can come of this. Just walk away, mon ami.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

stockholmer : but we're all wrong when it's about the others !
we do not have to decide for somebodyelse
that's what I wanted to say. I like many things from american people (please read NOFX's lyrics). The only mistake from the USA is to bombs other countries and think they are a superior race... but I m sure in Sweden you got some naziskinheads ? you may understand that they are fascits everywhere

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Any chance we can borrow Melissa Theuriau?

s'il vous plait? s'il vous plait avec une cerise sur haut?

I mean, Katie Couric is kinda cute and all, but Melissa... ou la la!

(please pardon my butchering of the language... it's been 20+ years since my very limited instruction in French)

Posted by: martooni | August 14, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

@thin european : I understand what you mean. There are good people eveywhere in the world. But don't you think there are more ignorants in USA than the rest of the world ?

Posted by: stockholmer | August 14, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Always the same poor new. Well, and if I say that a French worked is 30 % more productive than a US one. That perhaps why we have time for a cafe ( and not US black water )

Posted by: Frenchie | August 14, 2006 4:07 PM | Report abuse


These messages are the evidences that french people are differents from us people. I was sad to read this article of Mr Achenbach, but I think the joke is an other difference between you and our french people. Because I think you're laughing too when you say we'd better jogg !!
I'm happy that U.S. people are jogging, because there will be less fat persons in the future so....

So, I know we, french, are bizarre, but we are like that and it's make our "charme".

Please accept the differences in the world and accept that near of 200 other countries are existing in the world with different cultures and traditions. I like some part of your's : your creativity, your patriotism (but don't do so much), ...
I happy to see that france make speach US people.


P.S.: Sorry for my huggly anglish.


Posted by: Wil | August 14, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Because Bush is an idiot.

When terrorist act on the USA made the standard Republican strategy of trying to influence policies in the middle east by funding counter terrorists, he felt he must act openly instead of using subtler means.

The USA funding terrorism is by the way, how Saddam and Osama started-- we gave them money and arms and trained them to fight. We wanted Saddam to contain Iran. We wanted Osama to fight the Russians to keep them out of Afghanistan.

It was all part of the Cold War and keeping the world safe for Democracy and part of the "Domino doctrine" developed after the Korean war. That doctrine got us stuck in Vietnam, too.

Now the USSR is no more-- due to a contest of economies and arms race, and the Cold War is long over.

Bush Pere opted against invading Iraq and trying to oust Saddam because he knew it was a damn fool idea. But neither did "sanctions" work. They never work for long periods. I think sanctions keep dictators in power longer than otherwise.

The USA has had sanctions against Cuba for 50 years. Castro is still in power. When the USA had sanctions against Saddam he became richer, crueller, and more loony while his country went downhill.

The problem is that dictatorships LIKE restricting trade and free exchange of ideas. Having other countries help them with that never hurts the leaders, only the people.

As for sanctions-- we chosen to do sanctions against the Nazis, I'm sure every last European would be saying Heil Fuhrer to this day.

Had we chosen to blockade Germany and not even help them after WWII, you can bet that Germany would be as it is today, but rather a breeding ground for more trouble. In fact after Germany was devasted after WWI and forced to pay war reparations, the idiot leader had the brilliant idea of hyperinflating its currency.

People were ready to follow Nazism because it offered hope. From what I understand of the rate of hyperinflatation in Germany and it indeed was a very difficult time before the Nazi party took power. Nobody could count on their pay packet being enough to buy food before prices went up again.

It was only by helping Germany stay stable that we were able to guarantee that Germany has not started one war in 60 years.

I am very angry with how Iraq policy has been bungled. We should have stayed in Afghanistan and worked on stablizing the country better. Now our energies are divided and weakened by poor leadership.

The WMDs in Iraq -- utter nonsense!

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I think this is an interesting article. But I still can't understand why you say "You go to one little market to buy your cheese, another to buy your jalapenos, another to buy your corn chips, another to buy your salsa". We DO have supermarkets here in Paris! This is just another cliché.
Did you know Carrefour, a french company, is the second retailer in the world?
At least this article is funny. I can' t understand why some people get so nervous when Americans talk about the Frenchmen!

Posted by: Nicolas | August 14, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Mudge-- I was just being sacrastic, mon ami, to such an outlandish charge.

Walking away.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Gee, stockholmer, how many Americans each year get to take home the Nobel Prize?

Sure, there are plenty of ignorant people everywhere. I didn't vote for Bush twice! And plenty of other Americans didn't vote for him, either. Look for the good and you'll find it, look for the bad, you'll find that, too. Which would you prefer?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 14, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Why does anybody shop at Aldi? We had one open in my area and it did not look like the food was real but plastic, all packaged. Very austere. And to pay to use the shopping carts? Very strange. I went there once, and said "never again."

I checked out the company and it is international and has surprisingly many stores in Paris and elsewhere in France.

I can only hope Aldi offers better food in France than in America, for I was not impressed by the prices or quality of the food offered at all.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I understand what you're saying Wilbrod
But is the USA the world police ? like the movie Team America ;-)
When you count all the civils killed by the US army, I can understand terrorism against USA (even if I don't support it at all) .
for e.g. If a member of your family has been killed by Alqaida, you would get personnally involved ?
it is a "cercle vicieux"
Alqaida = terrorists for americans
US Army = terrorists for europeans, asians, africans, south americans and central americans

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 4:21 PM | Report abuse

By the way, a REAL american supermarket is far superior to Aldi, for you can get refrigerated and frozen food and fresh vegetables that are NOT wrapped in plastic. You can also visit farmers markets too in many towns to get local produce.

I do not know about Carrefour's stores. I hope they are as good or better.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

By the way, a REAL american supermarket is far superior to Aldi, for you can get refrigerated and frozen food and fresh vegetables that are NOT wrapped in plastic. You can also visit farmers markets too in many towns to get local produce.

I do not know about Carrefour's stores. I hope they are as good or better.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Nicolas, don't you think it's odd that Joel would fly to France, and then go shopping for Mexican food?


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I should add, Nicolas, that the very funny sentence that you pointed out is Joel making fun of we *Americans*.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

In Europe, you get your food where you want.. from farmers to hypergigamegastores.
The interressant thing about food in Europe is the diversity. Italian, greek, french, german, belgian, spanish, portuguese, swiss, austrian, etc etc... We all eat different
Maybe one country has big lack .. The united kingdom... burps .. I don't like to eat oil

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Dear French visitors, this is also possibly very horribly offensive to you:

Posted by: Achenbach | August 14, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

quizz for americans only :
1) from which country the name "Joel" is from ?
2) from which country the name "Achenbach" is from ?

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse

That's exactly why I was against the invasion of Iraq, ThinEur.

I do not like the idea of revenge, it's a vicious circle of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Counterinsurgency doctrine in fact says exactly this-- least force is the best.

Bush won the election by a narrow margin everytime, which mean nearly half of the people who voted disagreed with him.

Unfortunately 9/11 2001 was after Bush was already elected president.

I regret to say that my first thought was even he cannot mess this up bad enough not to serve a second term. It looked dubious the day before 9/11 anybody would care to re-elect him. After that it all changed. It was not the country I knew anymore, not entirely.

I remember the pressure to go to war with Iraq felt everywhere. The administration was practically implying they had red hot intelligence that made it crucial to go to war and just "trust us".

It's okay to criticize American politics, heck we all do it everyday here.

Just don't say all the world's terrorism comes from American politics. That is incorrect.

I tried explaining this concept of making more terrorists by invading Iraq to a Bush supporter who was not US born and she was like "you are talking nonsense".

Sigh. There are many people in the USA continually try and convince people to see reason and not just their emotions.

I knew from the minute Bush started his politics that it would be very unsafe to travel aboard as an American. Still I have done so twice since 9/11 anyway.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Joel, you naughty boy. Pour that gasoline on that fire! Go ahead, just dump that bucket right on the flames.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | August 14, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Quizz for Joel
1)did you know this ?

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Joel, quit trying to make them mad!

Pretty soon you're going to make them angry enough to stomp their feet and floridly demand that we give them the Statue of Liberty back. And maybe the Louisiana Purchase, too. Yikes!


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Joel is from the Hebrew meaning "JHVH is Lord". The book of Joel is in the Bible.

Achenbach-- the name is German but could also be found in other countries. My guess it means "Ash-brook" or something like that in English.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I've understood the meaning of Joel's sentence, and I've found it very funny by the way. BUT still, I think he's constructing this joke on a "cliché": in the United States, people buy their food in supermakets. In France, people go shopping in small, lovely shops, where you won't even find nachos!
I don't see this sentence as an offence. But it gives a strange picture of France. We DO eat horrible american food, we DO go to supermarkets, and these are just clichés about how French eat well, and how life is different in France. I don't see much of a difference with other Western countries.
I don't think I've made myself clear. It's urgent I fly back to the States..

Posted by: Nicolas | August 14, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod : I never said all the world's terrorism comes from American politics !
I say that Anti USA terrorism is because of the USA politic. (Stockholmer said something else). I think many people in your country have a good education (not the best of the world but over the average).
USA is from a country with clever people, but in the same time, it s the probably the country which is always fighting against another country out of its border!
And it seems there a lot of corruption in your country (from the medias to the bush election).
Do the revolution !!!

Posted by: Thin european | August 14, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

sorry, my english is getting worse & worse... it's good to practice here

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Thin European, now you've really gone and tossed my preconceived notions about Paris out the window. Plastic chairs? I could cry.

Just don't be telling me Esscoffier was not French, because then I really will break down and bawl right here at my desk.

Seriously though, I watched the Tour de France for the first time this year(I have a niece who is really interested). Beautiful countryside from the overhead shots they showed. I hope that people are as impassioned about the countryside as much as they are about the cities.

Posted by: dr | August 14, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey, The Lone Mule is back!

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 14, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

You American busy journalist cannot do more than piling up hackneyed clichés?
- Then take these advice from a French guy: stop acting hectic, have some rest... and maybe you'll get something interesting to say.

Posted by: Julien Piat | August 14, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

dr : I am not french and I don't live in France.

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

ThinEu... sorry to mix you up with Stockholmer.

Don't worry, we'll shame the B*** and vote them out. Much more effective to have them cringing for life and scorned as greedy and incompetent idiots, rather than serving as martyrs in the Bastille.

Look at how Nixon fell, and he didn't even START Vietnam.

We don't want to encourage politicans to be so paranoid after all, that they start stockpiling enough power to do a military coup before doing anything unpopular.

But yes, I was angry the media was slanted in its coverage. When the FCC decided to loosen its rules on media monoploies in various places, which would mean that one person, in some places, could have owned the newspaper, TV, and radio station there and controlled too much of the news.... well, the FCC was so stunned by the grassroots outcry that they did not change the ruling after all.

I prefer the Internet for my news, though. I read foreign newspapers on the internet once in a while to see what they consider important in the world that the local news does not.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 5:04 PM | Report abuse

You American busy journalist cannot do more than piling up hackneyed clichés?
- Then take these advice from a French guy: stop acting hectic, have some rest... and maybe you'll get something interesting to say.

Posted by: Julien Piat | August 14, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

dr : I am not french and I don't live in France

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod : Yes, in fact, we agree !

Posted by: Thin european | August 14, 2006 5:08 PM | Report abuse

You American busy journalist cannot do more than piling up hackneyed clichés?
- Then take these advice from a French guy: stop acting hectic, have some rest... and maybe you'll get something interesting to say.

Posted by: Julien Piat | August 14, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse


Your comment about having some rest reminds me of this recent article by Joel:

Thin European, you're Swiss, right?

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Hello people!
Essayons de ne pas trop polémiquer. Pour te racheter de ton article un peu "too much" pour ne pas dire politiquement correct ou encore "médiocre", je te propose une mission simple Joel. Va dire aux réalisateurs américains qui n'ont jamais mis les pieds en France de ne plus jamais représenter les français avec un béret, une baguette de pain sous le bras et une gitane maïs au coin des lèvres. Ce serait déjà un bon début.
Ensuite, je vais personnellement au "café" pour saisir un moment de vie. J'en profite pour créer quelques poèmes (comme Sartre ou Simone de Beauvoir ont pu le faire!). Un par jour en fait. C'est pourquoi je n'ai pas besoin d'artifice comme un livre ou un portable. Voici quelques preuves de ces "moments de pure oisiveté active":
I love America (lorsqu'elle évite la caricature, le cliché et la provocation blessante).

Posted by: Gaëtan | August 14, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Magnifique Gaëtan !!!
I love France (lorsqu'elle évite la caricature, le cliché et la provocation blessante). bref, ça marche avec tous les pays.

Posted by: Thin european | August 14, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Magnifique Gaëtan !!!
I love France too(lorsqu'elle évite la caricature, le cliché et la provocation blessante). bref, ça marche avec tous les pays.

Posted by: Thin european | August 14, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Nicolas, I'm glad you saw the humor in that sentence, but here's the trick you may have missed:

It's not about the French. Really.

Joel is painting a characterization of himself as a "dumb American" in the midst of all this wonderful French culture, unable to appreciate it fully and misunderstanding what he's seeing, because he cannot shake the context of his Americanness. He can't drop his American point of view even for one minute, and he sees a distorted version of everything, which he describes here for our amusement.

The character of "Joel" (not the real man), behaves and thinks like a cartoon American, and even *thinks* that he knows and understands French culture (with the faux sophistcation and references to Sarte, etc.), when he obviously does *not*.

Remember: Wherever you go, there you are.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl : yes, I am Swiss but where I live nationality has no meaning.

Posted by: Thin european | August 14, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse


That is a great comment. At least I assume it is because, it was poetic and witty even after I ran it through Babelfish.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 14, 2006 5:19 PM | Report abuse

yellowjkt : si j dis qu't'as une ptite bite ca traduis ? je blague, je plaisante, je suis bête.

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I suppose I should add that I do know Joel (the real one) a little bit, and he's not like the guy in the piece.

Well, not much.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

bc, well said. (your 5:14)

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 5:27 PM | Report abuse

bc : but the problem is this
french people are angry after reading this

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Mmm, I see a profitable WaPo lawsuit against Yahoo for the improper translation.

But Joel, if you get to retire like a king, steer clear of Paris ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

thin european, but if people don't go to the original before they fire off a nasty comment, that doesn't really say much for them, does it?

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 5:30 PM | Report abuse

the best in the article is :

- the Latin Quarter, a section so old that I am pretty sure its residents still speak in Latin.

I was "exploser de rire" when i red that... too funny

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:31 PM | Report abuse

at sonofcarl : I red the yahoo first.. and though it was real, you never know when you know these american things , Ann Coulter, , etc...
but then i red the article and i realised the first lines it was sarcastic. but i am sure some american won't understand it. Am I wrong ?

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Gaëtan -- Great piece. I even understood (I think) most of it, after forcing it through my 35-year-old French classes template. Made me think in Swedish, though (my real second language (used to live there ages ago)). But I think I got most of it.

Yeah, it's pretty scary over here for us civil libertarians. In fact, it's scary everywhere.

Remember, not all of us voted for him.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 14, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

bc : yes, if it was in a sarcastic way... I speak french and the yahoo article doesn't sound at all like the original one

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

thin european, re. 5:28.


The French being angry at an American making fun of Americans is like...the French being angry at an American making fun of Americans.

So there.


Posted by: bc | August 14, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Say, Mudge (or others who might know) -- when's the next BPH?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | August 14, 2006 5:38 PM | Report abuse

thank you for your explanations. I did understand your point. This is an article that should not be read by Frenchmen as it is exclusively American!
But still... I stick to my personal opinion. Because as a Frenchman, I'm always right!

Posted by: Nicolas | August 14, 2006 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Nicolas : t'as tort ! lol
j deconne (je suis suisse)... l'article est completement ironique le seul truc c'est que le ne sonne pas ironique...

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:43 PM | Report abuse

nicolas : donc du coup on s'dit, on va casser du ricain... lol
y a trop de democrates ici, c'est peace

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:45 PM | Report abuse

i am wish i could master the art of café sitting ....

Posted by: paris | August 14, 2006 5:45 PM | Report abuse

You've blocked your camera Mr Achenbach with all these cliches! Anyway it is still better and less adventurous than electing Bush...TWICE!! All the best

Posted by: Florent Riviere | August 14, 2006 5:46 PM | Report abuse

thin european,

why would you think my rooster is small? I've never even mentioned that I have male chickens. This babelfish stuff really messes up the meaning.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 14, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

thin european,

It's possible that an English speaker might not understand the humour and take offence - it's happened before - but if you read some of the other "recent posts" or archives, you soon realize that most are intended to be humorous.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

les francais sont frustrés d'avoir perdu la finale

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt : lol

SonofCarl : yes, i've seen and they are really funny. the prob is that on the french yahoo article they didn't gave the link... when i found the article on google and red it. i realised it was a joke... so i wrote a joke as well (americans are all fat people working in the police)
and I had many reactions... was funny

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt : try it in google translator

Posted by: thin europe | August 14, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Oui, et aussi les francais sont frustrés d'avoir perdu leur pilules de vigara.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 6:01 PM | Report abuse

et il sont tellement frustrés qu'ils viennent les acheter en suisse

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:02 PM | Report abuse

tout comme la marie-jeanne

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:03 PM | Report abuse

thin european, here's Joel's article on Zidane:

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 14, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Et oui, les français pratiquent à merveille l'air du repos au moment du café.
Mais que les américains essaient de leur conseiller de faire du jogging, ou d'être plus productif me fait sourire.
En effet, l'obésité légendaire des américains, leur nourriture a base de hamburger et le peu de vrai sportif sur le plan International (hormis les dopés ^^) me font dire que ce journaliste a dû se contenter d'un regard trop rapide sur cette nation.

Posted by: Eric | August 14, 2006 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Pauvres Francais!
Ils doivent manger moins de jambes des grenouilles et plus de beufs des vaches fous.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 6:11 PM | Report abuse

sono : lol I love this :
I personally had to change allegiance from France to Italy at that moment, which, who knows, may have influenced the outcome

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Eric : et toi tu as passé un trop court moment sur cette page... lis l'article et tu comprendras que c'est une blague... il se fout de la gueule des americains moyens..

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:14 PM | Report abuse

les cuisses de grenouilles c'est bon (serieusement)!!! par contre la vache folle c'est pas top, tout comme google translator

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:16 PM | Report abuse

what is a profanity ?
can you give me an e.g. ?

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Oui, j'ai mangé les cuisses de grenouilles. Le goûte c'est bon, n'est pas excellent. J'ai trop pitié pour les grenouilles boitelles.

(Imbecile! Vieux, vielles, donc...fou, folles. Merci beaucoup! Je n'oyez pas la français.)

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 14, 2006 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Too sad!!! encore un journaliste américain qui se moque des Français !!!Comme Ted Stanger!
Ah, c'est évident que c'est difficile de rester trainer à boire un café aux EU, vu que le café, heu, je ne voudrais pas dire toc, là j'ai été dure.
Monsieur , sachez que le Français fait tout au café. Très jeune, ses devoirs . Après,oui, il y réfléchit et y refait le monde. Et il y a encore beaucoup de boulot, faut pas croire!
However, it's a nice blog, I think!
Friendly yours from Tahiti

Posted by: marie | August 14, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Thin European, even though you may not be French, you must admit it is beautiful, yes? Would you agree that the inexpensive plastic chair should be banned worldwide? Thankfully Escoffier is still French.

I wish nationalities would not matter, but they do. They may not matter to individuals, but even it matters to me. That would be because I am not American, I am Canadian, and we already are insecure about our place in the world. (This is a really inside Canadian joke. Take it seriously, and I shall take umbrage.)

One would think I should speak French, but I am strictly uniligual. I can count in French and German, but only to 10 and I can read anything that may have once appeared on the back of a breakfast cereal box. While this is the truth, please feel free to laugh with me at my lack of knowledge of the french language.

Posted by: dr | August 14, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Monsieur le journaliste,
Puissiez-vous 1 jour savourer 1 café sans laptop, sans basket, et surtout avec beaucoup de plaisir... car votre vie semble bien triste sans les habitudes des Francais... vous auriez pourtant tant à dire sur vos compatriotes!!!

Posted by: doud 31 | August 14, 2006 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I ll go to sleep in europe it's late
good night ! et vive Joel Achenbach !!!

doud31 : t'as rien compris

Posted by: thin european | August 14, 2006 6:41 PM | Report abuse

To all you French-type people.
There have been many reasons to dislike America recently, but Joel Achenbach is not one of them. Any man who flies to a country with three women who like to shop should have a street namen after him. Joel's humor is ironic and subtle with an edge of self deprecation. He is not a mean guy. I think the best defense of his column is that if he really wanted to insult an entire culture, he would have done a much better job at it. He's a good writer.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 14, 2006 7:02 PM | Report abuse

hey joel!
maybe you should travel to Paris...TX, instead

Posted by: ester | August 14, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

You can not imagine how good it is to sit at a cafe and have nothing to do. We appreciate those small moments of
I think we, french, should export this concept, as say a famous french singer: "the happiness is not in ingots but in small coins".

Posted by: Pierre | August 14, 2006 7:59 PM | Report abuse

wouha !!!!!

I have read all yours comments and it's so crazy, take it easy folks !

I'm french, I live in Los Angeles and you know, american people love french culture so who cares about this columns ???
This guy try to be ironic but in the french translation it was so bad, so give up...
and enjoy your life !!
I take my time when I sip my white mocha in the starbucks and nobody write an article..
so sad !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: marie from LA | August 14, 2006 8:49 PM | Report abuse

hello there,
as a French person I found your article quite funny as it doesn't really reflect how most French people are !! it's true that some Frenchies are very lasy, but sitting in a cafe in France and doing nothing is a sign of relaxation not lasiness ! for us when you relax you do nothing. you should give it a try overthere you'll see how nice it is !

Posted by: lyonnaise76 | August 14, 2006 9:50 PM | Report abuse

My French compatriots,
Those of you who are angry about this entry need to get a sense of humor. You're embarrassing me.

Posted by: Arnaud H | August 14, 2006 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating. I go awol (absent without lurking) for several weeks and happen to come back in the middle of this international ping pong tournament. I wish I could remember the French I learned so long ago which is rusty from lack of practice.

Humor doesn't seem to translate, but it should since Joel painted a great word picture. I look forward to the next two Sunday postings about the Achenvacation in Paris. Meanwhile, I have some catching up to do on past kits and boodles.

I hope you French visitors tap into future issues of the Archenblog - to enhance your English humor appreciation.

bdl (formerly boondocklurker)

Posted by: bdl | August 14, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

First when i read this article translated in French, it sounds mean and most of french people who has read this translation are quite angry. Indeed the translation doesn't reflect the humor of the article.

However it's quite dangerous to joke (especialy when your are a journalist from a famous newspaper) with "cliché" and stereotypes.

I don't leave anymore in France since 2 years, but i must confess that i miss spending one hour sitting in a café, relaxing, reading a book or a newspaper, thinking about anything. I don't call it doing nothing... I believe some american people should sit down in a café, relaxing, thinking a bit, and wondering should i vote Bush a second time... after one hour of "doing nothing" the answer would be clear for them : "No i should not" (i'm joking)

One last thing : American women should put less make up, they would look more beautiful...

From a frenchman who lives in Bangkok, Thailand (here also the people love to do nothing sometimes)


Posted by: Mano | August 14, 2006 11:35 PM | Report abuse


Congratulations on yet another sophomoric commentary on Paris, in which we have learned absolutely nothing new about an incredible city that has you clearly overthrown. If you can find nothing more interesting to share with your readers aside from perpetuating a negative stereotype of life in Paris and the French economy, albeit based on your ignorance (of which there is undoubtedly more to come), then perhaps you should consider another destination.

You should not be surprised to find people relaxing in a café in Paris. It's a café, not an office. Perhaps you fail to see the difference. As someone who goes to Starbucks from time to time, I can attest that there is nothing too important being accomplished there either. Playing solitaire or surfing the internet on one's laptop does not constitute accomplishment, the last time I checked.

Perhaps you should learn to speak french and then you will be able to fully participate in the café experience, which can be interesting on a number of different levels.

The french are great communicators. Being afraid of your language abilities is no excuse not to attempt a conversation. I find this surprising for a journalist. So instead, you feel a bit inferior, and you attack the french and suggest that all they do all day is sit in cafés in an autistic state. Have you seen the price of real estate in Paris? Do you think they can afford to live there by doing nothing ??

This type of commentary is a subtile form a racism that is all too prevalent in this country and perpetuates cultural misunderstanding. Have a more open mind the next time you go to Paris. And who knows, you might just meet one of those fabulous women.

Posted by: marsha bousquet | August 15, 2006 12:20 AM | Report abuse

marsha, you might do well to read the comments above.

I humbly direct you to my 5:14 PM comment above. It may shed some light on this matter.

But if you'd like to continue to be angry about a poor translation of a newspaper column where an American makes jokes about himself and other Americans, by all means, do.

You have the right.


Posted by: bc | August 15, 2006 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Mano, thanks for the fashion advice. I certainly agree - I have never been one to wear much makeup, and it's nice to know that French women don't either. Apparently it makes it easier to fly on planes these days too. I think French women are very secure with how they look and dress, very confident. At least that's how it comes across to me.

And it's so interesting to know that you're in Bangkok. We have a frequent commentor here called "an american in siam" - I believe he's in the Bangkok area - and he always has intriguing things to say.

Believe me, we know the advantages of relaxing, only we tend to do it in our own homes. Joel calls it "porching" since it often takes place on a porch.

Posted by: mostlylurking | August 15, 2006 12:39 AM | Report abuse

mostlylurking, you're welcome.
My parents have welcomed american students in their home for 15 years now. I can see how those students change their habits within a year ! Living in town such as Toulouse which has a way of life much slower and cool than Paris, they tend to do as french people does. The art of doing nothing is not a french speciality. As many countries of the world, we have our own way to do that. In USA it's different (more TV or chatting on internet). We like to take a drink in a coffee and have a talk on different topics... Can we call it "doing nothing" ? i don't think so.

Anyway, I recon that in some cities of the US, some people do the same. Especialy in cosmopolite area such as New York. The way the latin European cities are built favorises this kind of habit. It's sure that in US cities, you are not able to do so... too big, need a car...

As for the fashion advices i believe the big difference between french women and american ones is also when they want to be well dressed : French women will wear different clothes (bottom differents from top, differents from accesories) and american women will wear plain color clothes, same bottom than top. I don't say it's better this way or this way. but it's sure it has more charactere to wear as french women do. I'm talking about well dressed, "chic" if you prefer. For casual it's another thing...

Anyway, everybody is welcomed in France, and if you want you can take a coffee in the Quartier Latin in Paris before going to a "Haute couture" défilé de mode. But this is not the true way of french life.

To know how lives people from a country, you have to spend time and live there. I think, it's not the case of Joel the author of this article. He has tourist eyes, in a very toursitic place. Make a funny article on french habits it's nice, but it's dangerous when it's only deals with big "clichés".
Be careful Joel, clichés are at ignorance what eggs are at chicken...

Salut à tous les francophones de ce blog. Et pour certains faut pas monter sur ses grands chevaux. Cet article n'est pas malin, bourré de clichés, mais se veut drôle... il n'y a pas de mauvaise intention et même les americains en prennent pour leur compte. D'ailleurs à le relire, je me demande bien de qui il se fout le plus de la gueule, nous francais ou plutôt les américains...

Posted by: Mano | August 15, 2006 3:36 AM | Report abuse

to those of you complaining about cliches -

the overuse of cliches is key to the humor, as bc mentioned. for example, the cliche about food shopping starts with the stereotype of french specialty stores and ends up with the cliche of american junk food. the humor is in the mixed cliche, with the second contradicting the first.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | August 15, 2006 3:37 AM | Report abuse

Ok just a little corection: aldi is not a French retailer brand but a German one. there are some aldi in France ,but they are actually considered to be hard discounter which means that they are generaly located in bad neigborhood. logically they are cheapper for the poorest people of the society. (unfortunately it's a reality)
I'm sorry if you did not enjoyed your trip at aldi.
I lived in the USA during a year and I can easily say that food in groceries is much much better in france than it is in the USA.
First of all, the groceries stores are bigger in France;therefore, there is more choice in France. I'm comparing publix, win dixie, alberston, target with auchan, carrefour, monoprix, supercasino.
Second of all, the food is way way better in french groceries.There is a better choice, hundreds different prepared meals frozen or cold. Nothing compare with the US groceries stores, 30% of the frozen food is cheese stuffed or its frozen pizza where you can read : MADE WITH REAL CHEESE ...
the only one "OK" frozen meal in the entire UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is the "lasagna by Stouffers" which is a brand owned by Nestle a swiss-french multinational.

To give you an idea, if you take a frozen meal in a french grocery stores, you can pretty much serve it in a top gastronomy american restaurant and I'am not kidding.
also I have to say that americans are much more organized than we are except for the roads and driving system.

whatever, I like details and I'm sorry for my English. let's share our best things in both countries and let's criticize our worst things in our societies and we will maybe get ride of them.

Posted by: Mohamed | August 15, 2006 3:37 AM | Report abuse

En tout cas les américains font tout en grand, même le nombre de commentaires sur un blog! on ne peut pas leur enlever cela, j'avoue que j'aimerais bien avoir ce trafic sur le mien.
En guise d'apaisement et de fraternité, je veux bien essayer d'apprendre l'anglais (ou même l'américain!) au lieu d'aller glander dans les "cafés"... Enfin si quelqu'un veut bien m'aider (Please?)
On se donne deux ou trois jour, j'apprends vite.

Posted by: Gaëtan | August 15, 2006 4:09 AM | Report abuse

Second Degree...
I also thought at first that the article was another French bashing article.
But reading it twice, I found it brilliant!
Mr Achenbach exactly pin-points, in an ironical manner, the way modern life is taking us away from simple things.

- Relax, wind down, start thinking, observe, learn...
How good is paying for weekly Yoga sessions if you gotta rush to fit it in your all too busy schedule?

Thanks Joel to make people react and think about their life outside work for 5 minutes!

Posted by: choufleur77 | August 15, 2006 4:14 AM | Report abuse

Loved that to:

Posted by: choufleur77 | August 15, 2006 4:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh dear oh dear, so many cliches....
unbelievable for a journalisy of the Washington Post.
Very disapointing.
Get a life

Posted by: Marie | August 15, 2006 4:34 AM | Report abuse

However humorous this article may seem at the first reading, the issue is not that an American should make fun of the Frenchies or of Americans. The problem is that the article is actually quite bad. Not witty. Being French (pardon the mistakes I most inevitably make in English, btw), I usually relish the reading of caricatures of French customs and habits. Whereas A Year in the Merde (Stephen Clarke) made me laugh a lot, this article did not. I am not saying that Achenbach should not write about the French. I am saying that he should consider not writing at all.

Posted by: Arthur | August 15, 2006 4:37 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Achenbach will tell us soon that :
- a briton drinks tea
- a jew is obviously rich
- a russian is a communist

This article is a long list of cliches tainted by racism.
And nobody does it better than Mr. Achenbach.


Posted by: fd | August 15, 2006 4:48 AM | Report abuse

Gaëtan says:
En tout cas les américains font tout en grand, même le nombre de commentaires sur un blog! on ne peut pas leur enlever cela, j'avoue que j'aimerais bien avoir ce trafic sur le mien.

I'm translating this for yellojkt:

"In any event, Americans do everything in a big way, even the number of comments on a blog! You have to give them credit where it is due: I'd love to have this much traffic on mine."

Posted by: kbertocci | August 15, 2006 5:55 AM | Report abuse

Hi everybody,

First of all, I don't live in Paris and I don't drink coffee (I don't like it). And also, I don't smoke.

One thing for sure about french people is that we are very worried about how the world sees us. We love to read about us, laugh and get angry at the same time about what we read. I think that we are very "touchy". That probably explains how I feel about this article.

I found it quite funny but didn't know how to take it...although, it was obviously written for american readers, not for french...As I said, it was quite funny(I smiled, I mean), but I was a little offensed by it at the same time.

The first time I read it, I thought it was scornful to french people. The second time to american people.
In the end, the author uses cliches on both part that, I think, are getting old. The french guy, drinking wine or coffee and lost in his thoughts, the sophisticated women, etc. The dumb american tourist, narrow minded, eating burgers, that goes to wal mart or sit on his couch all the time.

Who does find this still hilarious?

I'm sure I'm missing something.

Posted by: Another french guy | August 15, 2006 7:22 AM | Report abuse

What a poor article. I thought the Washington Post was a quality newspaper, not a pale copy of an english tabloid.
Behind the so called funny tone is a classic example of french bashing. You don't laugh or smile while reading this article because it is full a easy cliches and doesn't sound true. Stephen Clarke's book was sometimes tough with French habits but it was right and wasn't implying some kind of judgment on what is a good way to behave and what is a bad way.
French way of life is different from the American one and it shouldn't be an issue (at least for American people). Please forget about us ... and forget about the rest of the world as well : because if the entire world were livig according to the American standard, four planetes wouldn't be enough to cope with people who consume twice more than they produce and use twice the level of energy of a European for the same standard of living !

Posted by: Jean | August 15, 2006 7:31 AM | Report abuse

I thought the article was well written, and funny to a certain extent. To me, the only problem is that it is just one of the dozens of articles on the subject when it comes to how american journalists see us french.
I would just bet that the guy in the café was a tourist and not even a french one... parisians just don't go to saint germain anymore, that's for the tourists! but hey, you didn't know, you didn't talk to the guy!

Posted by: B | August 15, 2006 7:49 AM | Report abuse

BC - I'm not angry about the french translation. I read the column in english, which is my first language. It is the french-bashing, subtle in this case, but present nonetheless, in the press that is so tiresome. Yes, there was some humour in the article. I got it. The problem is that not everybody does get it and this stereotyping serves to perpetuate what is a real problem.

Again, there is nothing new or interesting about Paris in the article. How many times do we need to read about an american going to Paris and sitting in a café in the Latin quarter. Excuse me while I yawn.

Posted by: marsha bousquet | August 15, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

clichés clichés clichés clichés clichés clichés always with the clichés

Yeah, it's supposed to be humor. I get it.
Well, it's not funny.
We're sick and tired of Americans stereotyping us.
Just of curiosity are you of those americans who consider calling us cowards, humor ?

Why don't you spend some time in La Défense ?
Europes's biggest business district.
We're currently bulding 3 new skyscrapers.
How about writing about MODERN France for a change ?

Posted by: Flagg | August 15, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm a young French woman (living in the suburb of Paris) and I wanted to say that this article was really funny. If, after reading it, American people still want to come to Paris, then it's perfect for me !!

Thank you for this article Joel, and please don't take care of all the stupid comments about it... Keep loving France !! ;o)

Posted by: Sandrine | August 15, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Seems the guy doesn't like parisian little shops... He has forgotten (or maybe he doesn't know it at all) that the french company Carrefour invented the hypermarket (superstores mixing food and other wares). Now Carrefour is number 2 in the world. There are many hypermarkets in France and a lot of them around Paris. In Paris, you can find what we call "popular shops" or "city shops", like Monoprix. Quiet expensive but you can find every thing you need to do you nachos...

Posted by: Lionel | August 15, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Dear Joel,
I'm French, and to be frank I really liked the article, full of humour. When I don't work, I personnaly enjoy doing nothing, sitting on the "pont des arts" over the Seine and listening the time going. I also enjoy going to buy cheese, then change shop and buy vegetables, hopefully there are alternatives to ugly supermarkets. What do you want ? Time must be given time. Why do you want us to hurry ? In the long term, all of us are going to die, so take time. Life is not in the stock exchange performance, life is how your croissant tastes (good in Paris, obviously !).
And, please, next time, feel free to talk to French people doing nothing, who knows, you can have a very interesting discussion on, not the world decline since croissant was invented, but on the role of butter in croissant, as a root of this world decline :-)
Or may just learn some secret French lover tricks that a US man would not dare to think about...
See you next year ??

Posted by: Guillaume | August 15, 2006 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad to find out that we invented "supermarket" , and on an american blog.

Obviously Carrefour decided to employ bloggers to raise their profile.

Comment peut on etre fier de "Carrefour"?
non mais franchement ?

I guess the angry responses were partly motivated by not-as-subtle (I'll give you that ) french-bashing that seems to have gripped (parts) of the USA.

murdoch's Gibson , that genius in the senate (freedom kiss , anyone ?) and countless other examples.

France being the most touristic country on earth ,don't assume that everyone is French.

Posted by: Arturo | August 15, 2006 8:13 PM | Report abuse

martooni : We keep Mélissa and you keep Rita Cosby. ;-)

et les vaches seront bien gardées.

I can't wait to read columns about something else than Paris.
(i know it's convenient and practical to extrapolates France by looking at Paris)

80 % of the French actually lives Outside Paris (and its suburbs).

Sur ce , Bonsoir.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2006 8:33 PM | Report abuse

France is cool, and cafés also (and very good !), so'd prefer living in France than in North america, especially for the way of life.
I can do nothing, except watching cute girls on the street, drinking cafe, in France. Girls are cute and don't have to jogg all day. In US, most girls have to... :-(

Posted by: Graeme | August 15, 2006 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Et oui quand nous avons un moment, nos preferons ne rien faire, prendre le temps de se poser, chose naturelle que vous ne connaissez pas!! Sauf si c'est pour vous exiber sur une plage de Floride ou de Californie.
Un p'tit moment sur la terrasse d'un café est bien meilleur que d 'être sctoché devant la télé à regarder des emissions débiles comme il en passe en masse style "jerry truc" et autre! Ou bien encore être absorbé par les chaines d'info style CNN. La plupart des americains croient tout ce disent les medias. Une emission à la tv contre telle ou telle chose, la plupart (je dit bien la plupart) prennent directement parti. Nous, nous reflechissons avant!
Le taux d'obesité en france n'est pas élévé comme au états unis, donc nous avons moins besoins de faire du sport comme vous.
Et l'histoire de la France, peut on la comparer avec celle des Etats Unis? A part celle des vrais americains, les amerindiens.
Je me souvient qu'une fois on m'a demandé d'où je venais, je reponds "sud de paris" la personne me dit "ahhhh oui Nice" (bien la geographie)ou je veux encore dire à certains americains qu'il y a des frontieres en europe et que les pays ne sont pas des états !
Et pour terminer j'ai une amie mexicaine qui vit à miami, elle me dit souvent que les américains sont de vraies "savonettes" au lit et qu'elle prefer de loins les latins.
Mais j'aime quand même votre pays, j'y vais souvent car les paysages sont magnifiques.
Ce n'est pas par hasard que j'écris en français car comme les americains passent beaucoups de temps à étudier et sont très cultivés, ils n'auront donc pas de probleme pour me lire.
Vive la France et Vive les Etats Unis.

Posted by: Roger | August 16, 2006 3:44 AM | Report abuse

Hi !

After 3 days I'm still surprise of all the comment this article generate!
Gaetan : Cet article est humoristique sans aucun doute. Basé sur des cliché, mais c'est fais expres.
Unfotunatly, so many french people take it to seriously.
Joel, if you come back again in France, give me a call I have the best Nachos in here !

Posted by: Coyote | August 16, 2006 4:56 AM | Report abuse

SCC : clichéS
fait !


Posted by: coyote | August 16, 2006 5:16 AM | Report abuse

Roger : lol c'est vrai ils étudient bcp bcp nos amis d'amerique... ;)

Posted by: Ginzu | August 16, 2006 5:40 AM | Report abuse

hello the beach boys
(from a recent french dictionnary)
cliché: péjoratif "idée trop souvent répétée; lieu commun, banalité".
Un américain peut-il donner la définition exacte de son dictionnaire? (please!).

Question subsidiaire: Est-il possible que l'humour ne soit pas si universelle que cela?
je reformule L'humour est-elle orientée par la culture et l'éducation du pays d'origine?
mission subsidiaire (niveau difficile!): Trouver une blague qui fasse rire les français et les américains sans que celle-ci soit faite à leur dépend...
good luck

Posted by: Gaëtan | August 16, 2006 5:44 AM | Report abuse


From :
cliche = a trite or obvious remark = une remarque banale/évidente
Question subsidiaire : L'humour est forcément orienté par ta culture, comme disait Desproges, on peut rire de tout, oui, mais pas avec tout le monde hélas. Il est évident que ta culture, ton environnement social et même ton éducation oriente ton humour. Il n'y a pas besoin d'être de deux pays différents pour ne pas rire des mêmes choses.
Mission subsidiaire: J'abdique, je n'arrive déjà pas à faire rire tout mon bureau, alors passer les frontières.

I try in english:
Subsidiary ask: Humor is inevitably lead by culture. Desproges (a french humorist) said :"We can laugh from anything, yes, but not with anyone". Obvously, culture, social environment and even education turn our sense of humor. No needs to be from differents countries for not laughing at the same things.
Subsidiary mission: I give up, I can't even make all my partners laugh, so i don't manage to cross the borders.

Posted by: Coyote | August 16, 2006 6:30 AM | Report abuse

SCC (I learn quick, thanks to mostlylurking)

"laught AT anything"
thanks anyone who correct me


Posted by: Coyote | August 16, 2006 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for this editorial Joel! I don't know what's funnier, your article or the overeactions of some frenchmen here above!
As you can see, french pride in this time of globalisation is still alive and doing well! Anything that may look like a critic, especially coming form (gash!) a Yankee, is seen as a personal offense! That's one of those crazy things about us Frenchmen, the best in the World for autoderision but unable to accept any critic from the outside!

Posted by: olivier in France | August 16, 2006 7:02 AM | Report abuse

En tous les cas, merci aux Américains d'avoir été là en 44, sinon, faute de nachos, on mangerait de la choucroute à tous les repas :)

Mais ca ne m'empeche pas de continuer à penser que ma précédente réaction était justifiée.

D'autre part, je trouve ca super de polluer ce blog avec des messages en français.

Ami(e)s francophones, continuons la lutte !! :)

Posted by: Jerome | August 16, 2006 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Come on Joel, this article was funny, really funny. But the French are just afriad that your American readers don't get all the subtleties.Another we're a little bit annoyed with is that if you love France so much you spent 3 weeks in Paris, why don't you just write 'Paris, I love You' without painting French people as lazy dudes again. The French are a little sick with all this portrait of us in garbage TV such as FoxNews, or the way French characters are embodied in the movies.

And a little piece of advice to all the American readers to end this: come and visit the Loire Valley with all the fine wine, the good food, and enjoya all the Renaissance castles.

And Read Corinne Maier's book 'Bonjour Paress' which could be translated as "Hello Laziness" or "The Art of doing Nothing (at work)" and I'm really ashamed to reveal that it obviously turned out to be a bestseller in France. Sacrés Français !

Posted by: tchou | August 16, 2006 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Jerome, you stink!
At least your post.

Après avoir relu ton précédent post, je comprend que certains américains ne nous apprécient pas beaucoup. Et tu dois faire parti de la population qui ne fait rien pour arranger les choses. A l'image d'une partie de la population américaines j'imagine.

Rien de personnel dans ce que je dis, c'est un simple constat. Qu'un simple article si AUTO-dérisoire (lis le bien) puisse attiser des messages si vindicatif me surprend de plus en plus. Surtout quand je lis plus haut que "nous prenons le temp de réflechir avant de nous forger une opinion" (Roger 3h44am).

Elle est belle l'image de la France!

Posted by: Coyote | August 16, 2006 7:46 AM | Report abuse

OUI monsieur (coyote) l'image de la France est belle surtout par raport à celle que donne les etats unis à travers leur politique dans le monde. Quand je vois ça, je suis fier d'être français.

Posted by: roger | August 16, 2006 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry for american readers but it seems we are between french people here today.

Roger, je citais ton mail pour montrer le décalage entre ce que tu disais et la précipitation de la réponse de Jérome( celle du 14/08). Rien de plus, je suis moi même très fier d'être français. Et j'aspire à donner une image positive de mon pays sans nécessairement avoir à conspuer telle ou telle nationnalité. L'objet de ce blog est surtout l'humour. Un journaliste a écrit un article drôle (du moins à mon goût) à prendre au second degré et certainement pas mot pour mot. Cet article est paru dans la colonne humour d'une édition dominicale d'un journal (Ce n'est pas vraiment une étude sociologique des moeurs des français). Vous pensez vraiment que les lecteurs américains le prennent au pied de la lettre et imaginent les français glandants toute la journée en terrasse à siroter du pif en attendant que ça se passe et en discutant latin avec son fromager !!!! Si c'est pas de l'humour qu'on m'explique un peu ce que c'est ????

Rien de politique ici, du moins à ce que j'en ai compris (mon aglais étant loin d'être parfait). Mais je me suis peut être trompé de débat.

Bref, oui, soyez fier d'être français mais plutot que de vouloir bouter les touristes hors de non frontière, ouvrez leurs vos portes. En terme d'hospitalité, je pense que nous avons encore un peu à apprendre...(que cette dernière phrase ne soit prise personnellement par personne, je parle en général... et ne voudrais offenser personne. Je prends les devants, on ne sait jamais, si, par malheur, mes propos étaient mal interprétés)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 16, 2006 8:46 AM | Report abuse

oups again, I forget to sign my last post!


Posted by: coyote | August 16, 2006 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Droit de réponse:
Not only your article is a disgrace to journalism, it is moreover a piece of supercharged xenophobic cliché.
In turn, I use my xenophobic cliché droit de réponse:
The fact that, you pathetic fat burger eaters do not understand anything about taking time out and simply enjoying the 'joie de vivre'of life is no surprise. It clearly has to do with the fact that you simply can't use your brain for more than 30seconds (the average amount of time necessary for an American to have a wank while thinking it is Jessica Alba who is actually givin' him a head).
Multitasking you say? How does furiously gulping down coffee while checking your empty for the 4th time count as multitasking? At least the markets in France sell things in season, clearly an alien term to your supermarket nation with cardboard tomatoes and rails of non-fat (no taste) cookies.
Your attention to detail (or the lack of it - avenue whatever??) makes me wonder whether you have even been to Paris? Perhaps you are writing this article from Paris, Texas and confusing the two? Do you even have a passport? (70% of Americans don't) Before you throw extravagant comments on a country and culture you will never have the privilege to fully understand, may I suggest you read a book or two? Preferably not "The Idiot's Guide to France" - you are already that and you do it very well.

Piss off mate!!!

Posted by: Ginzu | August 16, 2006 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Calm down, Ginzu, the man is not that dumb...Moreoevr your answer is really not 'chic'.
I think a lot of people have been mislead by comments on this article, suggesting it was a frontal attack against French people. But Americans should understand Ginzu's anger though.
We've been pissed off so often by your media where there were the riots in the parisian suburbs, the demonstrations against CPE and our attitude towards the war in Iraq.
We've been so much despised that you can understand why some people take it with that violence.

The Jessica Alba was funny though !

Posted by: tchou | August 16, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Without offending anyone, I would like to specifically commend Monsieur le Coyote for an especially thoughtful analysis. I'm impressed at your ability to enter into the "esprit" of the Achenblog so completely and so quickly. Perhaps you and others could profit from a look at the Achendictionary, which contains definitions of special terms that are only used here (because Joel or one of his readers made them up):

(don't be overwhelmed--there's a lot of nonsense in it)

As Joel has said, he will be posting articles about his French vacation for the next two Sundays. So stick around to give your viewpoint. Other times, he writes about science and politics and everyday life (in America) and we would like to hear the French perspective on all that, as well.

Vous etes tous bienvenus ici!

Posted by: kbertocci | August 16, 2006 10:01 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, I greatly enjoyed my 11 days in France (8 in Paris and 2 in Etoge). I found the French to be gracious hosts and exceptionally civilized. Americans would find their lives enriched if they visited Europe, especially France, and saw how Europeans live with great simplicity, style, and elegance.

Posted by: CowTown | August 16, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse

But Jessica Alba, she isn't to my taste.

Why do you not send us a very chic french actress to Hollywood and raise our cultural consciousness while we wank, non?

Mohammed, very good point. I was really surprised that Aldi would have any purchase in France due to its reputation for liking the best food only. I did not wish to say only poor and crazy people would shop there but ahem...;).

I do not shop at any of those US supermarkets you named, but I do agree that frozen food in the US has too much of the cheese. Some americans cannot get enough of cheese, it seems. I do not buy any frozen dishes because they are very bad for the health.

Posted by: Wilbrod | August 16, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I thank you Kbertocci for the vocabulary. But please, don't call me "monsieur"

Posted by: Coyote | August 16, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Just trying to convey the respect, coyote!

That's a great handle, by the way.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 16, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Thin european,

C'est vrai, il y a pas mal du monde qui travaille bcp + que 35-39 heures par semaine. J'ai travaille en tant que comptable ou j'ai bosse 50 heures par semaine facile.

Apres, j'en ai eu marre. Je me suis mise a faire le metier d'assistante.

Aussi, meme si il y a bcp de personne qui ne peuvent pas beneficier des 35 heures, entre autres les cadre et les avocats/medecins, c'est quand meme une meilleure qualite de vie en comparaison avec les US.


Posted by: anne | August 16, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

bashing the Frenchs is a national game in the States...Joel Achenbach is just trying to piss u off and it's working pretty well.. don't get bent out of shape over this cute little French girls....

Posted by: pedro | August 16, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I had decided not to enter this fray originally, but I noticed that a few comments are still straggling in. One post in particular had nagged at me, so I had composed and saved a reply. I offer it for your perusal:
Posted by: anne | August 14, 2006 02:44 PM (excerpts follow)

"Have you ever looked up the definition of Ethnocentrism? This is my big French thought...

France has a national health care system; health care is not a benefit.

So, people don't have to worry about spending less on food in order to buy medication.

Additionally, Employers in France offer the following BENEFITS:

French employees receive a bonus twice a year.

Employers offer vacation checks and discounts on vacation trips.

Employers offer free passes to museums, restaurant tickets 1/2 paid by employer, and gift cards to buy Christmas gifts."

Wow, I'm stunned. The whackiness of this post is breathtaking to me. I'm not certain what fascinates/distresses me more: the lack of any evidence of fundamental economic analysis, the appearance of active dishonesty in the "evidence", or the ALMOST refreshing absence of a sense of irony.

For the record:

Which "politically correct" handbook should I consult to know the precise difference between a "governmentally provided service" [my phrase] and a "benefit" [Anne's phrase]? Whatever the phrase of the week, we ARE still talking about a gift from substantial taxpayers to less-substantial taxpayers, aren't we? Please understand, I am an uninsured less-than-substantial taxpayer who just took on a dental bill (the dentist is trusting me to make payments) that will amount to about six weeks worth of my take-home pay. Golly, I wish that money was growing on trees, or some benefactor would pay it for me! But that's not way that these things work. Anne DOES understand that the government doesn't, technically, HAVE any money, right? Unless they do things differently 'cross the Pond, the money still comes from working folks like you, me, Anne, and Bill Gates, right?
Ummm, actually, people DO have less money to spend on food because an allotment is already taken out of their paychecks to buy medication, right?
OK, I have to admit that I was creeped out by the "employers/bonus/twice a year" comment. If, in fact, all employees receive a larger-than-usual paycheck twice a year, then what we have here is a non-interest-bearing savings account. If some employees'"boni" are larger than all of the others' "boni", then, actually, only some folks are receiving a bonus, yes? And if they're all the same (proportianally), then nobody is receiving one.
"Vacation checks", discounts, passes & gift cards." -- What the heck? So, Anne is telling me that marketing gimmicks are a deeply appreciated aspect of Gallic culture? Gimme a break!
I wholeheartedly think that (I'm working under the assumption that Anne didn't choose to appreciate any humor in Joel's piece) Anne was trying to give a fair answer to what she/he/they/it (after all, names don't tell me much. "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog!", right?) perceived to be cultural differences/assumptions across the Atlantic divide. I'm just not sure that I understand what the answer(s) had to do with Achenbach's column, or with the reality of modern social economies.

(Bob S. - Aug 14, 2005 11:32 PM) [composed, but not posted] [[probably a good idea!]]

Posted by: Bob S. | August 17, 2006 2:27 AM | Report abuse

Having posted the older thought, here are some more recent ones:

For Benoit (Posted by: Benoit, frenchman | August 14, 2006 02:45 PM)

Re: "Merde!" I think that the stage tradition of, "Break a leg!" covers the same ground, with the same intent.
For Stephanie Friedman (Posted by: Stephanie Friedman ( Roswell GA) | August 14, 2006 03:17 PM)

I think that it's possible that you may need to observe a little more of the world (both in time and place) to appreciate the humor of playing with stereotypes & cliches. You seem (for the moment) to exhibit the mindset of the provincial: "Life is black, or life is white." As the wise old people of Paris or Atlanta would have told you (if you had consulted them), life is much funnier than that! When I was in the Sudan, in Saudi Arabia, in Japan, and in England/Germany/France/Spain/Panama/Mexico (I've got more, but this is getting old quick!), fun people had fun playing with stereotypes. Is it possible that you just need to practice?
For marsha bousquet: (Posted by: marsha bousquet | August 15, 2006 12:20 AM)

The French may well all be great communicators, but their apologists are definitely NOT all great receivers of communication! (I think that "subtle racism" is sometimes a term thrown out too casually by subtle racists! - and I'm just enough a jerk to point out that you probably actually meant something along the lines of "subtle xenophobia", since I don't think that "race" was actually in play here.)

Two back-to-back posts were both more and less perplexing!
(Posted by: marsha bousquet | August 15, 2006 10:50 AM)
(Posted by: Flagg | August 15, 2006 01:39 PM)

I'm not sure that I understand how (presumably intelligent) readers can comment on the use of "... french-bashing, subtle in this case, but present nonetheless, in the press that is so tiresome" without any apparent attempt to determine the context of the remarks. It's almost as if marsha & Flagg went to a cafe in a foreign country and then made snap judgements about the behaviors that were observed!

Posted by: Bob S, | August 17, 2006 2:30 AM | Report abuse

Last, shortest, and DEFINITELY not least:

Thank you, Coyote!! You have given me a quote that I shall be using for the rest of my life! (I'm disappointed that I hadn't heard this before now):

"We can laugh from anything, but not with anyone". (Desproges)

Beautiful!! Thanks again!

Posted by: Bob S. | August 17, 2006 2:31 AM | Report abuse

Allez faire de l'humour avec des douaniers americains, raconter une blague sur les avions par exemple et vous verrez si ils en ont!!!

Posted by: marc | August 17, 2006 2:41 AM | Report abuse

I think that the more comfortable-sounding English would be:

"We can laugh about anything, but not with anyone."

This is a great line!

Posted by: Bob S. | August 17, 2006 2:42 AM | Report abuse

marc - I'm not sure that's quite fair. I haven't heard many stories about light-hearted security officers in European airports recently. If you have some to share, please, feel free!

Posted by: Bob S. | August 17, 2006 2:47 AM | Report abuse

Pour les français qui ont écrit ci dessus:
A lire le nombre absolumment hallucinant de betises haineuses que vous ecrivez sur les Etats Unis il est assez miraculeux qu'un journaliste américain puisse écrire encore un éditorial plein de tendresse et d'humour sur notre pays comme celui de Joel Achenbach. En réagissant comme vous le faites vous donnez presque raison aux anti-français de l'aile droite du Parti Républicain et de leurs amis de Fox News...Quelle honte de vous lire!

Posted by: olivier in France | August 17, 2006 4:38 AM | Report abuse

Olivier, pourquoi l'ironie et l'humour serai seulement l'apanage des ricains? Désolé mais mon post est aussi espiegle que le sien... C'est pourtant trés clair

Posted by: Ginzu | August 17, 2006 5:43 AM | Report abuse

Olivier, tu vois, tu n'acceptes pas nos critiques toi aussi, pourtant nos post sont plein d'humour et de tendresse... ;)
Que disais tu plus haut deja?

" Frenchmen... unable to accept any critic from the outside!

Posted by: olivier in France | August 16, 2006 07:02 AM "

Posted by: roger | August 17, 2006 7:26 AM | Report abuse

ginzu, ton post plein d'humour espiègle? arrete un peu de te foutre du monde, ton post est simplement à gerber.
quand à toi Roger ton ignorance totale sur les Etats Unis n'a pas besoin d'etre démontrée elle transparait à chaque mot de ton post, alors tes "critiques" sont non seulement ridicules mais se retournent sur ta propre bêtise.

Posted by: olivier in France | August 17, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Olivier: Taking the piss is a fine art and it also appears to be my utmost pleasure.
you ain't o'er-crow me o sucka!!!!

Posted by: Ginzu | August 17, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

It is Pierre Desproges who said : "We can laugh about anything, but not with anyone."

Posted by: Lolo | August 17, 2006 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Olivier: arrete te t'exiter, t'es vraiment ridicule, prend un billet et degage la bas.
Tu verras tu seras bien reçu, deja à la douane. Quand au Etats Unis, j avais un pied à terre à fort lauderdale, alors les states je connais.Et depuis 2001 à cause de la sale mentalité de certains americains je n'y suis pas retourné. Et étant plus intelligent que toi, j'arrete de te repondre car repondre aux CONS ça n'avance à rien!!

Posted by: roger | August 17, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Xenophobic crap. Well-styled xenophobic crap, but xenophobic crap nonethless. As well the French might write about 400-pound Americans heaving themselves into their Hummers on the way to the megachurch. RIP, journalism.

Gregory Holman
Springfield, Missouri, USA

Posted by: Gregory Holman | August 17, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

For B S who travels a lot (Posted by: Bob S, | August 17, 2006 02:30 AM )

Bob I do not have the mindset of someone provincial as you seem to have thought. But I have read and usually appreciate well written books, articles or journals that use cliches and have sarcastic or fun observations of different countries or cultures. For example the Books "Paris Through the Moon" by Adam Gopnik or " Sacres Francais" by Ted Stanger are often making fun of real facts of the French society. But again they were observed by people living there and not by some sort of random journalist sitting in a cafe knowing nothing except what is to be found in tourist's books. Nor were they written by someone in not the best of moods, merely deciding to do his job fast to get it out of his way for the week - and not putting any positive thought to it.

I am very Impressed by the amount of countries you have visited, you must have a lot of miles ;-) United or Air France?? You have time to stay in this countries or just hang out around the airports and sit at coffee or cafes doing nothing ? Anyway if you can give us an idea of which are the safest airports nowdays , that will be honeslty more usefull than drawing conclusions on my mindset.

My mindset is that Humor is one thing and agressivity and lack of culture and knowledge are another, different thing entirely.

One subject that Joel touched on in his article that I think was really not funny or at least not well written was the part about local small markets. I have older members in my family and let me tell you that if they do not show up at bakery for example 2 days in a row, the owner of the bakery will tend to worry and to contact them - and I think it is great to have this kind of 'Human Relations' in the world. Human Relations in a balckberry world are entirely different, I know !!!

And yes, I talked to wise people and we all agreed that this article was silly and not well written - it could have been if there was a bit of sarcastic humor or humor in general, rather than "It is bad because it is not what I am used to."Anyway enough time waisted on the subject because my husband ( who is american), his family ,and all of our friends are proving to me that people like Joel are in the minority in this country - and it makes me feel much better about being a foreigner here. Not a single person has ever once said to me, "Oh you come from France where people are lazily sitting at cafes doing nothing, and are shopping door to door for two hours to get everything for a meal". They rather like the differences that exist in the world and love experiencing them.

Posted by: Stephanie | August 17, 2006 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Stephanie - Joel loves France, Joel loves the French. Joel was making fun of Americans.

This is the truth. Learn it, love, leave it alone, it just doesn't matter what you decide to do. It is still the truth.

Posted by: Bob S. | August 17, 2006 11:33 PM | Report abuse

I told myself that this conversation was too silly to continue, but I think that a broad point is worth addressing:

Even Stephanie is stepping back from her initial position that the article was a racist screed. I don't think that Achenbach would argue that it was great literature, but it has been strikingly bizarre to hear (presumably intelligent, well-educated, and well-intentioned) people state that they believed it to be ignorant and hateful.

I had cause to believe that Stephanie was taking a rather provincial view of the world because there seemed to be no evidence of awareness of the play with stereotypes which takes place in the great humorous literature of France, let alone the rest of the world (from Aristophanes to today).

Stephanie, I am pleased that you have decided that you think that Joel is not a very good writer, NOT that you actually believe him to be a racist bully.

I, however, am still not so sure about you! You seemed pretty quick to take a cheap shot about airports and cafe shops, rather than addressing the issue of "stereotype as humor tool". Only time and familiarity can answer this, I suppose.

(By the way, I was born at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, graduated from secondary school in DeKalb County, and attended Georgia Tech. Please feel free to post a humorous observation of Atlanta, and I promise that I will be happy to find a competent translator [if you should choose to post it in French], and I will enjoy it with a light heart!)

Posted by: Bob S. | August 18, 2006 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Gregory Holman - Duhhh... The French (& English & Japanese & Swdish & ...) DO write about exactly that sort of thing, as do many American writers who find it wa-wa-wadiculous!

Dude, what cruel, vicious SOB's took away your sense of irony?

Posted by: Bob S. | August 18, 2006 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Lolo, étant un grand fan de Pierre Desproges, sache que je ne me serai pas permi de le plagier si facilement. En fait j'avais déjà utilisé cette citation dans un autre sujet en le citant.

Rendons a César ce qui lui appartient et n'oubliez pas ma gomme qui s'appelle revient.

PS : cette fin de phrase est extraite (de façon récurrente) du livres 'Les étrangers sont nuls' de P. Desproges

Posted by: Coyote | August 18, 2006 3:27 AM | Report abuse

"prend un billet et degage la bas"

This sounds clever to me, but I can't translate it--I think it's like when we say, "take a chill pill" or "don't have a cow" or when the Brits say, "don't get your knickers in a twist"

Am I totally wrong?

Quelqu'un veut m'aider? Traduction literal, ou bien l'explication general, et voila, j'aurai appris quelquechose aujourd'hui.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 18, 2006 8:18 AM | Report abuse


I don't know if it is a canadian, belgium or swiss sentence, but I don't know it.
Literally, I translate it : "Take a ticket and go away".

I don't know ever (I don't really know anything) you're american/english expressions, but I think it can be translate by : 'va prendre l'air' or more agotic 'péte un coup' ('Go and take breath' or 'do a fart')

I hope I was helpfull.

Bye, have a good day

Posted by: Coyote | August 18, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

no guys, it is more like:
"take a token and queue there"
which I reckon basically means: "you're the weakest link, goodbye" :)

Posted by: Ginzu | August 18, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

At least, you prove that you became a FRENCHMAN like the man who were sat down besides you, as you were observing him in a café...

Posted by: Lucyle | August 18, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the information, y'all.

"Take a ticket and go to the end of the line" Or "take a ticket and wait there." It doesn't sound so clever in English. But I used to work at the Post Office with a really smart-aleck (disrespectful, but in a funny way) woman. She liked to tell the customers, "The complaint forms are RIGHT OVER THERE!"

This expression reminds me of her.

Posted by: kbertocci | August 18, 2006 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I think the "take a ticket" expression sounds kind of like, "Here's 35 cents; call someone who cares."

Posted by: TBG | August 19, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Julien | August 19, 2006 8:42 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Bar man | August 20, 2006 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Mort de rire ! La connerie humaine atteint un point fabuleux, entre les américains dont la plupart de leurs compatriotes ne savent pas placer la France sur une carte (ni même l'Europe pour certains), mais qui ont quand même leur avis sur la société française (souvent dicté par les médias en tous genres) (il suffit de regarder un Michael Bay pour être plié de rire)... et les français outrés de la couardise américaine de se permettre d'emettre un papier sur Paris avec humour (moyennement fin je trouve aussi), vous voulez bouter l'Amérique hors de France ? Courage...

Posted by: Maulusque | August 20, 2006 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Nice columns over the last two Sundays about visiting Paris. I remember thinking that the price of a cup of coffee (more like a thimble as you suggest) was exhorbitant. However, since I notice the waiter never even tries to get you to move for hours, I suspect that 80% of the coffee or wine cost is actually a real estate rental fee. At least it made me feel better about the amount.

Posted by: Barry | August 20, 2006 6:11 PM | Report abuse

For sure, this article is full of clichés but one has to be an idiot not to understand that Joel Achenbach is aware that he's playing with stereotypes. You might find it not funny but to treat it for a racist article about french people is a complete misunderstanding. I find this article more offending towards american women! As for me, even though I haven't read latin since I was at the university, as a native parisian, I must say I love to settle at the café terrasses and do nothing, if doing nothing means observing passers bye, thinking, dreaming... Having time to spend on all these non profit activities is, I think, one of the advantages of France, and it will cost a lot to me to leave this country where the fact of doing nothing has become an "art de vivre".
Sorry for my english, which might be full of latinism :)

Posted by: Pauline | August 20, 2006 6:22 PM | Report abuse

PS : Eh les french people, you could at least respect the rules and write your comments in english so that all the readers may understand (even though I'm not sure they'll enjoy the insulting and agressive tone of many comments).

Posted by: Pauline | August 20, 2006 6:34 PM | Report abuse

To Bob S
I have nothing yet on Atlanta I love it ,a bit hotlanta but still not rainy Paris weather ( which I do not mind but still), and it let me time to garden while missing sitting at cafe with a grand creme ;-)doing nothing
Ok Every street in My Paris is not peachtree this is the only confusing thing so far.

Posted by: Stephanie | August 21, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Stephanie - Aaahh, yes! The love for "Peachtree" street names! It wouldn't be quite so bad, except for the occasional habit of allowing one "Peachtree" to turn into another "Peachtree" without warning, while an entirely different "Peachtree" is quietly running parallel three blocks away!

Sickness, sheer southern sickness! - : )

Posted by: Bob S. | August 21, 2006 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Wow... Am I the only french guy who thought this article was ironic and not exactly an insult to French people nor Paris?

I thought it was very funny. Of course I've never spent a day in my life sitting in a café all by myself doing nothing, yet I'm 33 yo. I have yet to find out how you get that luxury. I've discussed with friends in a café, though not very often, I confess it's happened.

Anyway, I may be wrong but I felt this article was more what we call here "auto derision". A guy who has a laugh describing an exotic place with the most subjective look at it so that it feels absurd.

It's like an italian friend said to me : "France is the country of Crepes (a sort of thin pancakes), they're everywhere!"

I never realized that we had so many crepes sellers that some foreigners would look at them as being so typical of France. I don't see Crepes sellers. They're never around when I need them.

Anyway thanks for this article. It was very enjoyable, I'm going to read the others.

Posted by: | August 22, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I think i have an interpretation to the behaviour of this guy you mention "He didn't make a call, let's be clear on that, but he studied the cellphone. It dawned on me: He was going over all the speed-dial listings of his mistresses."
He was just blogging on his mobile phone while you took notes.
Each coffee i take, i post a photo on my mobile blog with my mobile (about 500 photos of coffee cups right now on
Sipping in the morning sun ... :-)
Compulsively yours

Posted by: Ben Rottembourg | August 24, 2006 4:15 AM | Report abuse

Dear Joel,

I've picked up your article by mere chance and truly enjoyed reading it. I'm pretty much of a cafe goer myself and your description is strinkingly accurate! (You may want to enquire on the French word 'révasser') One remark though, what you witnessed was one person. French and even worse, Parisians) are more talkative and agitated when taking a café as a group. There's the duet also, romantic or professional. Quite a separate discipline but the same principle: doing nothing, big silences, distant observation of the immediate neighborhood and actually anything you fancy provided it doesn't imply a significant move of your body.

Please keep it up, you've covered a bit less than a third of the French art of doing nothing while having a coffee. Oh, and my apologies on behalf of my high-nosed and overly sensitive and well, quite stupidly anglophobic fellow nationals.
A bientôt peut-être sur une terrasse, et encore merci pour ce bon moment de lecture.

Posted by: Benoit | August 25, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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