The French middle-class mentality just doesn’t work in the United States. You’d better be aware of that simple fact before you take the values of your French family for a spin in the real world.
I won’t delve in the details of “why” because this is not my style nor the objective of this excellent and straightforward guide to making you rich. If you are interested in reading a full – probably approximate and boring anyway – account of the origins of French mentalities toward wealth, just go waste your time at the library or put your money in an blotted opus drawing from the ever convoluted field of intercultural studies.
The truth remains, though, that most middle class French families regard wealth as vulgar, trade as a foreign and petty occupation, success and fame as suspicious, obnoxious, almost reprehensible happenings. Yes. Happenings. Self-promotion is a sin, so is selling a product to a customer or selling self to a position. To say it bluntly, the average French perceive just about any ingredient of the recipe for success as obscene and impure. No French would mind getting rich and famous, but getting there for us is like trying to make a delicious meal out of foods we can’t even bother touching.
When I say that success is considered shameful and downgrading, I am not talking about the views of the ancient and well-to-do French aristocracy, I am indeed talking about the belief system of mid-level managers and simple employees toiling in the darkness of cubicles. They struggle to make ends meet since the beginning of times, promotions and pay raises might happen twice in a “career”, a change in their fortune is downright impossible: their fate is a lifetime at being a modest employee, and this remained true, and will remain true for the generations before them and the generations after them. Nevertheless, or because of that, they will still regard the making of actual money as something essentially dirty.
It goes basically like that: we value inspiration, the Americans value hard work. We love reflection, they love action. We value the lone and obscure genius, they value the connected businessman, we value the original, the quirky and the unique, they value standards.
Your mental habits are exactly what you need to change if you want to make it here. With that, you can start applying my 12 advice for the French in the American workplace.
Excerpts from chapter 8 – Work (Don’t Panic!) in How to Make it Big in the USA, Jean-Pierre Ledauphin, 2012. Translation by Wallace B. Thompson