The Good, The Bad, (But Not the Ugly…) Part I – The Good

As a French expat living in the United States, I have ambivalent feelings about both my country of origin and my country of adoption. Let me share with you what I really like about both the United States and France. In the next part of this two-part essay, I will tell you about what I do not particularly like about these countries.

Elisabeth Donato, 3/03/2012
One of the many Thanksgiving turkeys I have roasted since 1975!

Ten things that I really like (and would miss) about The United States (if I had to leave):

1. People are generally friendly – Where else do folks, whom you don’t know from Adam, smile and say “hi” to you when you cross their path on the street?

2. Americans tend to be informal – Social gatherings can be impromptu, and are often quite relaxed.

3. Everything and everyone caters to your convenience – Stores are open 24 hours a day, most days of the year. You need something fixed in your house, a workman will be there, and all will be in good order promptly. Returning things to a store or exchanging them is never a big deal. I once returned to a J.C. Penney’s store a set of bed sheets that I had received as a gift over three years earlier.

4. A somewhat amazing entrepreneurial spirit – Americans seem to like to start new ventures, and have the guts and wherewithal to do it.

5. Thanksgiving, and what goes with it – Thanksgiving dinner! Not only is the food awesome, but the idea of a holiday just to ‘give thanks’ is fantastic!

6. American football – I fell in love with that sport back in 1976 (bless Joe Montana’s awesome quarterbacking and good looks!). Go Steelers!

Elisabeth Donato, 3/03/2012

7. New York City – There is nothing like the Big Apple anywhere in the world. Paris may be the city of light, but New York is the city that never sleeps!

8. The very best backyard barbecues – The French never ever came close to doing this right.

Elisabeth Donato 3/03/2012Nothing like good food cooked on a barbecue grill!

9. The diversity of its people – OK, I live in an area that is none too diverse, but one cannot deny that what makes this country great is that you can find people of all ethnic backgrounds here, especially in big cities.

10. Americans think nothing of huge distances – Which is both exhilarating and scary. I have friends who, for example, will drive to New York City and back (about 800 miles round-trip) in just one weekend, and think nothing of it.

Ten things that I really like and miss (a lot!) about France:

1. The food – Its variety, and the fact that the government regulates it enough that people are not gorging themselves with preservatives, hormones, and genetically altered vegetables. I especially miss the bread, the cheeses, and charcuterie.
Elisabeth DonatoCheese stand at a market in Le Touquet

2. The French’s reverence for food and dining – A meal is an event. Period. I pray daily that the French never let this die.

3. The French art of conversation – Possibly due to the fact that most French folks also have a general erudition that is not easily found in Americans.

4. The leisurely pace of life – The French get at least five weeks’ vacation, and people seem (still, I believe) to know how to relax.

5. An intangible wit that I find lacking in America – Heck, France is not the country of Voltaire for nothing.

Elisabeth Donato, 3/03/2012

6. Great public transportation systems – Both within, and between cities.

7. The sense of history – It permeates landscapes and cityscapes.

8. The elegance of people – Especially of women, but a student of mine who is currently on a study abroad in France recently expounded on her travel blog on the stylishness of French men. Although France certainly has its slovenly types, I don’t think that French elegance is a mythical construct.

9. French children – They are, in my opinion, way cuter – and often better behaved – than American kids (not that I want to resurrect the Bringing up Bébé controversy … ).

10. The French are not as obsessed with political correctness as Americans are – They have a healthy sense of irreverence towards it.

Image credits:
2. This is the kind of New York City view that makes my heart melt. Image credit:
6. Seems like every French person has inherited Voltaire’s biting wit. Image credit:

About the Contributor

Elisabeth Sauvage-Callaghan

I am a native of France, and a retired French university professor living in the USA. I return to France every year and love discovering new places I have not yet visited. I am interested in issues of bilingualism and expatriate identity. I enjoy good food, great books, and all kinds of music.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Kristen Beddard Heimann Mar 21, 2012 at 11:45 PM - Reply

    go steelers indeed!!!

  2. Bethany Untied Mar 22, 2012 at 10:18 PM - Reply

    You know, I miss several things from America that you listed. Desperately. But what I found interesting was that I missed every single item you listed from missing France ! Even ones I wasn’t aware of missing- like the lack of being PC, which gets me into trouble everywhere except France…le sigh.

  3. Elisabeth Donato Mar 22, 2012 at 10:48 PM - Reply

    Thanks for your comment, Bethany. Are you an American living in France?

  4. Bethany Untied Mar 22, 2012 at 10:53 PM - Reply

    No, I’m an American who used to live in France and now lives in Australia- basically you’ve just written a long list of things I miss from my two other countries ! 🙂

  5. Otir Mar 25, 2012 at 5:06 AM - Reply

    Ah Elisabeth, apart from one or two (maybe three) little things, I do share your likes from here and there, I already knew it, but enjoyed reading your list a lot!

    Looking forward to the second part quickly!

    All the best to you, my friend!

  6. Amber Apr 25, 2012 at 12:16 AM - Reply

    Thanksgiving rules.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.